BOOK REVIEW

Transforming American Society

Transforming American SocietyWe can thank the Tea Party and affiliated groups for sounding the alarm about a dangerous effort to undermine local governance that is often disguised by nice-sounding names like “sustainability” or “live-able communities.” The effort is called regionalism and the aim is to eliminate our traditional system of government and replace it with a powerful federal bureaucracy that in turn is beholden to an international body. Regionalism emanates from the sustainablility movement, which, in turn, stems from the UN’s Agenda 21 program.

Following Radical-in-Chief, now Stanley Kurtz, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has come out with another carefully researched book, Spreading the Wealth: How Obama Is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, that exposes the little-known machinations at the White House between President Obama and his community organizing mentors. They are working with Building One America, “a network of community organizations and activist groups backing the regionalist movement’s efforts to abolish the suburbs,” which carries on the projects of the radical Gamaliel Foundation.

Obama has been careful to disassociate himself publicly from well-known names like Bill Ayers and instead has been working with radicals like Greg Galluzo, Mike Kruglik, john powell, (deliberately spelled with lower case letters), Myron Orfield, and Jerry Kellman. They are putting into place a three-part process: 1) a no-growth boundary line around each metropolitan area 2) forced economic integration of living patterns in neighborhoods, and 3) tax sharing between affluent suburbs and poor inner-cities.

This is a stealth plan to implement a centralized government of regional boards of unelected bureaucrats utilizing the global agenda of the UN, although Kurtz doesn’t make the connection directly. One of the primary means is through the Common Core education initiative, which “larded the stimulus with education expenditures that . . . ought to have gone through a separate congressional debate.” In order to win federal stimulus funds through the contest called Race to the Top, states had to commit to national Common Core standards. States, in economic crisis, signed on, sight unseen. Kurtz correctly describes this as “a stealthy way of imposing a low-quality, left-biased national curriculum. . . .” and an assault on the Constitution.

Of course, Bill Ayers does not have much presence at these education “reforms,” but his very close radical “pal,” Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond, does. (More, however, needs to be uncovered on Ayers’ role, as I note in my report.) The goal is to eliminate the distinctions between schools in curriculum and funding, thus denying parents the freedom to choose neighborhoods with good schools. Recently, some parent, teacher, and citizen groups have started to realize the full ramifications.

Kurtz’s focus on the suburbs is somewhat misleading, though, I think. In presenting this as a battle between suburb and city, he overlooks recent developments and hence potential readers. He makes his case as if we still lived in the 1950s, claiming that the suburbs are a product of “America’s distinctive spirit of freedom and enterprise,” reflecting a “widespread human desire to burst out of overcrowded cities” going back to ancient Rome. Regionalists, in contrast, deny that America’s suburbs are “an authentic expression of public choice” and argue that government policies, like single-use zoning and the mortgage interest deduction, lured Americans to suburbs.

One of the reasons Americans left inner-city neighborhoods in the 1960s and 1970s was violence and rioting, spurred on by community organizers.

The godfather of the radical community organizers, Saul Alinsky, whom Kurtz describes, had a lot to do with the decline of my own working class neighborhood in Rochester, New York. As his biographer Stanford Horwitt relates, Alinsky demanded $100,000 for his services to agitate and raise racial animus – and undermine efforts by the major employer, Eastman Kodak, to recruit and train blacks. The blue-collar ethnic neighborhoods, with their churches, small businesses, and good schools, in my old zip code of 14621, are now gone, replaced by boarded and iron-barred buildings.

Now the same far left community organizers who inspired the riots and whose policies led to the decline of inner cities across the U.S. want to force those who fled to move back or at least to share their tax dollars.

Kurtz correctly notes that the movement to the suburbs was something middle-class blacks and other minorities also participated in in order to escape their violent city neighborhoods. Now, many of the older suburbs, like the one I live in in the Atlanta area as well as the one my immigrant aunt and uncle settled in in Rochester, New York, in the 1960s, are in decline.

In Atlanta, since the 1990s and before, traffic gridlock has inspired citizens to move to gentrified, higher-end in-town neighborhoods. Many of those who choose to live in small cities, like politically liberal Decatur, which adjoins Atlanta in the metro region, are attracted to the sense of community. They like the small scale with sidewalks, bike paths, and neighborhood schools, parks, and stores. Contrary to Kurtz’s implication, this is a choice. Here in DeKalb County a movement is afoot to incorporate municipalities in order to maintain closer, more local control.

Perhaps it was felt that the message needed to be simplified to a focus on suburbs versus inner cities. But those who are looking for local control and escape from traffic-ridden developments are most vulnerable to the rhetoric of regionalism that hits on these points. The case needs to be made that in Obama’s second term these citizens will likely see a remarkable transformation of their neighborhoods. Mayors – conservative and liberal – will no longer be beholden to them, but instead will be under the thumb of an unelected-unaccountable regional board, who might decide that some of the charmingly restored historic homes should be occupied by those with low incomes – wealth redistribution at work.

The big message needs to get out: life as we know it, with the freedom to choose where we live – city or suburb – is under threat from the far left and their eco-agenda. During a second term, Obama will be freed up to implement the regionalist programs now quietly taking shape under his watch. Those concerned about this development will find valuable information in Stanley Kurtz’s latest book.


Mary Grabar, Ph.D., teaches English at Emory University in the Program in American Democracy and Citizenship. She recently founded the Dissident Prof Education Project, Inc., an education reform initiative that offers information and resources for students, parents, and citizens. The motto, “Resisting the Re-Education of America,” arose in part from her perspective as a very young immigrant from the former Communist Yugoslavia (Slovenia specifically). She writes extensively and is also a published poet and fiction writer.