In the mid-1800s, Alexis de Toqueville, a French political thinker and historian, shared his thoughts about how Americans might lose their sovereignty if they became apathetic and lost their civic virtue. In his book called Democracy in America, de Toqueville describes man’s conflicting desire to be led while at the same time wanting to remain free from shackling rules and regulations.
“…they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians.”
De Toqueville coined the term soft despotism to describe a society which would gradually and peacefully mutate a free republic into an oligarchy.
“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Soft despotism is being manifested today through an evolving form of government in the United States known as Regionalism. Regionalism is a term that describes cities, counties, or geographical areas that create unelected official consortiums, with no oversight which often by-pass the local governments’ authority. Decisions and plans made by these regional boards affect large areas that cross multiple jurisdictions.
Author Stanley Kurtz writes about regionalism in his book, Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities. In a recent article adapted from that book and published by National Review on August 1, 2012, Burn down the Suburbs, exposes President Obama’s Sustainable Communities Initiatives (read The Birth of Smart Growth ) as nothing more than a scheme to “coax suburbs to slowly forfeit their independence” and to submit to regionalism, “the idea that the suburbs should be folded into the cities, merging schools, housing, transportation, and above all taxation.”
Kurtz also explains Obama’s history with the “anti-sprawl” movement and exposes his involvement with three of his early mentors: Mike Kruglik (Building One America), David Rusk and Myron Orfield. In a conference held at the White House in July of 2011, Rusk presented a power point entitled: Challenging the Rules of the Game: White House Forum on First Suburbs (cities). Kurtz extrapolates that their goal is “…income equalization via a massive redistribution of suburban tax money to the cities.”
Rusk’s power point reveals two guiding principles that will help with their goals of “Sustainability, Inclusion and Economic Growth.”
“Principle #1: Use regional opportunity map to allocate more federal dollars to medium, low, and minimum opportunity First Suburbs that are the most environmentally sustainable and racially & economically inclusionary.”
“Principle #2: Use regional opportunity map to shape Federal policies and incentives to slow/stop suburban sprawl and diversify high and maximum opportunity suburbs that are still racially & economically exclusionary.”
Kurtz explains in layman’s terms what this means…
“… force suburban residents into densely packed cities by blocking development on the outskirts of metropolitan areas, and by discouraging driving with a blizzard of taxes, fees, and regulations.”
“… move the poor out of cities by imposing low-income-housing quotas on development in middle-class suburbs.”
“… export the controversial “regional tax-base sharing” scheme currently in place in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to the rest of the country. Under this program, a portion of suburban tax money flows into a common regional pot, which is then effectively redistributed to urban and a few less well-off “inner-ring” suburban municipalities.”
The concept of regionalism is not new. In the mid 1960’s the Federal government created these regional boards or Municipal Planning Organizations (MPOs) in every state to provide local input for urban transportation planning and to allocate and disperse federal transportation funds to cities with populations greater than 50,000. MPOs were tasked with coordinating transportation projects that would affect multiple jurisdictions within a given region. Members of these regional boards are appointed and often have no accountability or oversight.
Southern California’s MPO is the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and is the largest of 700 such planning agencies nationally. SCAG has influence over six counties, 189 cities and 18 million residents and its region is comprised of smaller regional boards called Councils of Governments or COGS. These include the Arroyo Verdugo Sub Region, Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG), San Bernardino Associated Government (SANBAG), Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG), Orange County Council of Government (OCCOG), Gateway Cities Council of Government, San Fernando Valley Council of Governments (SFVCOG), San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCOG) and the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG). San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is separate from SCAG and oversees San Diego County only.
The role of MPOs has evolved since the mid-1960s from strictly managing multi-jurisdictional transportation planning to where it is today; overseeing and managing many other areas which previously were handled at the local level. California’s SB 375–California’s Sustainable Communities Strategies Planning Act–mandates that MPOs now coordinate Land Use, Transportation and Housing (affordable housing), and Air Quality including other areas of regional significance. This California legislation effectively removes the decision making capabilities of the local elected officials and subsumes their authority to appointed bureaucrats.
The SCAG Regional Transportation Plan 2012-2035: Sustainable Communities Strategy towards a Sustainable Future* implements all of the strategies necessary to achieve the goal of Building One America, as outlined by Stanley Kurtz.
One example of how SCAG is affecting local governments is in the City of Menifee. The City Council recently approved a draft document that would allow for at least 2700 new homes to be built in Menifee by the end of 2014. A recent article written by Jim Rothgeb in the North County Times, details this very important issue.
“The draft document, which will eventually be part of the General Plan, will be submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. After approval from that agency, it will be returned to the City for public hearings before the Menifee Planning Commission and the Council before the final document is written and approved.”
“State mandates […] ensure that the city council would have to approve the draft […]. If a city does not submit a housing plan to the state, it could lose state and federal grants and be subject to litigation.”
“Primarily these grants would come in the form of transportation,” said Carmen Cave, Menifee’s director of community development. “And the courts could also impose building moratoriums on residential and commercial development, which would take away our much-needed tax revenues.”
Councilman Wallace Edgerton has expressed concerns about the approval of the draft housing plan because he fears that it will “open the door to low and very low income housing, which he said Menifee residents don’t want.” Not only is Edgerton upset with the state mandates, he is angry that Menifee has to comply with housing numbers that were established by SCAG.
“I used to teach government in the Soviet Union and to me, this (draft housing element) looks a lot like their five plans,” Edgerton said. It’s central government determining what will be built at the local level. I don’t want to hear from the Association of Governments about what they want; I want to hear from the citizens of Menifee and what they want.”
Through funds allocation and the threat of lawsuits, State and Regional central planners are forcing the cities to comply with their vision of changing America one city at a time. According to a presentation held in New Jersey, by Build One America, sprawl equals segregation and “all towns must do their fair share” in spreading the tax base from the suburbs to the cities.
De Toqueville’s early warnings have been largely ignored and ‘soft despotism’ in America has emerged and is being implemented through regionalism.
“Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.”
Our founders told Americans how to defeat this usurpation of power in the Declaration of Independence.
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
SCAG Financial Plans include Innovative Financing and New Revenue Sources:
Bond proceeds from local sales tax revenue
State and Federal Gas Tax increase $.30 per gallon
Mileage based user fees Vehicle miles traveled tax – ACSC estimates this to be equal to a tripling of the gas tax
Private Equity Participation