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Via Talk Left. Reminds me of the Mummers. But better, so much better.

NOTE Wait 'til they break into "It's all over now..."

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BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Seems to be a topic on a number of blogs recently. Today, Mish has a post about what to do with abandoned cities. I disagree with him on many issues, and I don't agree with everything in this post, but he makes some good points here (and note the gardening reference):

Isolated lots would be of little commercial use but at least the gangs and drug pushers would be kicked out. Larger areas would have commercial use and could be sold to the highest bidder. Even the small lots would be of use for the neighboring houses as vegetable gardens. Anything to get the properties back on the tax rolls would be a good thing.

Bear in mind I am not a proponent of the broken window fallacy. Rather, I am proposing that razing these buildings is a better thing to do with money, and will have a better stabilizing effect on neighborhoods than most of the housing plans coming from Washington and elsewhere.

Cleaning up blight will do more to raise home prices in a non-artificial way than any plan I have seen to date.

What's interesting to me is the number of plans already on the books to take care of this blight but nothing seems to get done. The reason nothing gets done is these are not the homes banks or the wealthy care about.

Banks are far more interested in reinflating the price of $500,000 homes now fallen to $300,000 than taking care of urban blight. However, reinflating home prices cannot work because home prices needs to fall to levels that are affordable.

Homes in Flint and other such areas, have indeed fallen to their true value (less than zero). No one wants them at any price. Moreover there's little incentive for anyone to do anything about this. Thus the discussion involves "shutting down portions of Flint, officially abandoning them and cutting off police and fire service."

Our throw-away society has effectively reached a new level of efficiency: the throw-away city.

Again, I don't agree with everything, but it does seem like some cities - like Flint, MI - aren't "coming back" any time soon. Dealing with that honestly and constructively would do a lot of good for the people who still live there. Downsizing cities takes as much planning as developing them does. But, of course, there's not as much money in that.

Submitted by lambert on

We're on the same wavelength. See here for a reframing.

Also, amazingly, CD has been so fucking far ahead of the curve on this.

Sarah's picture
Submitted by Sarah on

and I blame a lot of the 'blight' in downtowns -- particularly small-town downtowns -- on not just Wal-Mart (which long ago moved on to blighting cities with populations of 100K or more because they could sucker in more 'consumers') but K-Mart/Sears and the whole "corporate state".

We'd be a better country without strip malls, especially abandoned ones; we'd be a better country without big-box cheap-import emporiums, too.

Most of you are, I wager, younger than me. Let me ask you what you remember of towns or neighborhoods you grew up in.

Tell me about the cafes. I remember when that wasn't something you found tucked inside a Barnes & Noble -- it was a standalone, usually locally-owned, eatery. Big chains had names like Dairy Queen, Shoney's, IHOP. The town where I went to elementary school, when I was that age, didn't have either a McDonald's or a Burger King. It did have a grocery store -- an IGA/Thriftway outlet.

Tell me about the grocery stores. That one sold comic books off a turnabout wire rack, and toys (things like yo-yos, kazoos, plastic harmonicas, "fashion dolls," "baby dolls," blister-pack doll clothes, "action figures" aka soldier dolls, water pistols and paddleball sets) off one on the other side of the Coke machine (10 cents for an 8-oz bottle of Hires Root Beer, Strawberry or Orange Crush, Nehi Grape, Coke, or Dr. Pepper. We had no notion diet soda would ever exist.) In a kiosk in a corner by the airlock-style door lived a lockbox and a TV tube tester; you brought in what you thought was the problem tube, set it in a socket on top of the box, and if it didn't light up you wrote down the numbers and took the dead tube to the clerk (not the cashier, that was a separate job) who unlocked the box and gave you a new tube to pay for; some stores took the old tubes for recycling, some didn't. Every grocery store would buy back soda bottles, though, and the "giant size" soda was a 32-oz Dr. Pepper bottle. A six-pack of those would last two weeks! You could buy some pop in (returnable! for a refund!) half-gallon bottles, like root beer. A four-color Superman comic (that didn't leave your fingers inky!) cost 12 cents and had two big stories, a letters-to-the-editors page, a contest and and ad in it, as well as one or two single-side 'short features.'

Transistors killed the tube tv, and chips have about killed transistors. Take a look on E-bay at what's under the hood of a '65 or '66 Ford, or Chevy, or Plymouth; recognizable wires, a carburetor (yeah, needle and seat and jets and tiny little springs, and it's damn hard to make it EPA-compliant but you can if you're patient, long enough to get your sticker, anyway), maybe even points and plugs (I'm a fan of electronic ignition, they're easier to fix and keep fixed; but if you ever learn to adjust 'em, points work fine). A flat-head six-cylinder motor was a BIG engine for its day (you find 'em in one-ton trucks sometimes).

Progress, you tell me. Not always forward, say I.

Transistor radios and tvs and stereos and vcrs started out in USA factories but ended up in Taiwan or India or Korea. So, nowadays, are cars (Tata, anybody?)

The bigger the outfit you're working for, the more they're interested in not paying you a living wage -- unless you're one of the owners. Not a shareholder, note; a chief-something-or-other of the corporation. CEO, COO, CFO, CIO; everybody else is a peon and needs to be constantly reminded of that. Except the sales force, of course (I'm not talking about retail here; retail floor sales folk, whether they work at Wal-Mart or a Ford dealership, are peons too, and constantly reminded of that), who have to be suitably remunerated for their success -- publicly, so their fellow peons will be inspired to try harder.

Meanwhile Monsanto owns monopolies on seed, ConAgra owns monopolies on BRANDS of food, not just the land and the processing plants, and American farmers are ... foreclosed. Gardeners? please. That's a hobby. The big corporations can scarcely be expected to ... wait. Hybrid seed. Seed saving is illegal in some states even for your garden, boys and girls.

So yeah. I have issues with 'progress.' Competition used to be the thing that drove innovation; now, there's no competition except in how much and how fast the corporations can slash their bottom line expenditures -- and any wastage that results, be it surplused steel cargo containers piled up to rust at the port 'cause that's cheaper than recycling them, or American workers laid off 'cause their benefits cost more than outsourcing their jobs, is just 'collateral damage.' Of course, a by-product of this is that you get what you pay for; that $1 set of plastic measuring cups from K-Mart finally needs to be replaced 'cause you've washed off all the markings? Oh, they don't make that model anymore; the Wal-Mart similar thing has no ink on its markings to start with, you're supposed to read it by feel; and the plastic is much flimsier, and it's not dishwasher-safe. Not what you wanted? Sorry, too bad; what you wanted doesn't sell well in Bentonville, and that's why we don't carry it. (What's the difference between this and "Moscow says you don't need that"? Somebody explain it to me, please.)

But Wal-Mart is open 24 hours every day except Christmas Day, and there's a McDonald's inside, so what else could you want?

Quality merchandise instead of 'lower prices every day', maybe?

Living wages for the families in my community, maybe? Benefits? You know, health insurance, pensions, safe work environments?

Products tailored to my local area, perhaps? Local-sourced and (gasp) inspected against contamination by melamine or salmonella or mold or corrosive outgassing?

If this be socialism, color me one. I'm an American citizen. I'm against giving corporations charge -- be they GE with the media, Monsanto with seed, Blackwater/Xe with "law and order" or AIG with the US treasury -- a free hand at the expense of ... everybody.