Troutt (Law and Justice/Rutgers School of Law, Newark; The Importance of Being Dangerous, 2009, etc.) offers a controversial counter to the claim that social spending is an out-of-control government expense.
The author writes that “localism,” the autonomous local control of suburban communities, has increased costs of education and policing far beyond affordable levels and reinforced the economics of institutional racism. Troutt asks two important questions: “[W]ho really gets the most government subsidies?” and “[W]hy should I live near poor people?” He develops a convincing case that government subsidies are not just handouts to the poor, but in fact have subsidized middle-class lifestyles as well. Since the 1930s, these have been carried out through specially designed loan packages, tax deductions for mortgages and local property taxes, and the construction of the federal highway system. These subsidies have been under attack since the recent financial crisis. Troutt debunks as mere ideology the contention that suburban neighborhoods, considered to exemplify the American dream, have flourished only due to homeowner and community self-sufficiency and autonomy. He shows how, since the 1970s, Supreme Court decisions favoring local autonomy in zoning, land use and education have undermined the gains made by 1960s civil rights reforms. “By 1980,” he writes, “localism had trumped the equality principle to reproduce formal segregation but in a non-racial way. For all its benefits, localism has a fatal flaw, narrow parochialism…its most destructive aspect.” The author believes that subsidized suburban communities and poor, inner-city areas both need common interest solutions like those advocated 50 years ago by Martin Luther King Jr.; they should be based on interdependence instead of separation in economic and political relations. “Ultimately, this book is a rejection of our divisive assumptions, an argument about the profound interdependency of our lives,” writes the author.
A forcefully presented eye-opener sure to provoke controversy as well as interest.