By Way of Introduction

James has graciously asked me to guest-blog at OTB for a few days and I accepted with joy. I’m a constant reader and frequent commenter here.

I have an advanced degree in my field and have owned my own small business for more than 25 years.

I’m a Democrat but I think my politics are best described as eclectic. I opposed the invasion of Iraq, the Bush tax cuts, Medicare Part D, and the privatization of Social Security. I favor a balanced budget and maintaining a substantial military presence in Iraq until asked to leave by the elected representatives of the Iraqi people or until the Iraqi government is able to maintain order in the country.

I think that major Social Security and Medicare reform are necessary and inevitable but I despair of that being done before the catastrophe is already upon us.

I think that the most dangerous law in the history of the Republic was the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956.

I think that, like fire, government is a useful tool and not intrinsically evil but, again like fire, we should be wary of it and keep it under control.

I’m an associate poster at Dean’s World and I edit the Carnival of the Liberated, a (mostly) weekly round-up of posts from Iraqi and Afghan bloggers which you can check out most Tuesdays there. This Tuesday was a rare exception because I was tied up all day working as an election judge in a Chicago precinct.

I have my own modest blog, The Glittering Eye, and I hope you’ll drop by occasionally. I usually have something to say.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    Dave, could you briefly tell us why you think the Eisenhower Interstate highway bill was so dangerous? That’s one I haven’t heard before. I couldn’t find anything you may have written about it earlier.

  2. Triumph says:

    Dave, could you briefly tell us why you think the Eisenhower Interstate highway bill was so dangerous?

    I don’t know what Dave’s response would be, but this bill was largely responsible for the subsidy regime that artificially lowered prices in the housing market, spurred inefficient and environmentally-problematic suburbanization, and exacerbated racial segregation in housing.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    Sure. It was the bill which, along with its successors, subsidized the building of the Interstate Highway system. IMO this subsidized automobile companies, oil companies, real estate developers, and purchasers of single family homes at the expense of the environment, our foreign policy, farms, and cities.

    I have no problem with the people in Alaska building bridges to nowhere, the people of Hawaii or California or Massachusetts or Illinois covering their entire landscapes with highways or digging tunnels that collapse, or people moving 50 miles away from the center city to have a single family home. I just think they should do it with their own money rather than getting subsidized from the federal government’s purse.

    But, most importantly, it provided a sure-fire mechanism for Congressmen to get money to spend in their districts, ensuring their re-election. It would be excessive not to expect Congressmen to do this. Their instincts in this regard are natural and understandable. But the FAHA was like giving a loaded gun to a drunk.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    Thanks for mentioning the racial segregation aspect of this, Triumph. An important point. I also think it’s tended to undermine the public education system which, like it or not, has been the gateway to a better life for lots of poor people for more than 100 years.

  5. Tim (Overworked) says:

    Dave,

    Interesting discussion…. but what do you think could have happened of the Eisenhower Interstate System had not been built under federal control? It’s hard to imagine the 50 states (OK, the 48 contiguous that really count in this) coordinating correctly with their neighbors to create a good transportation system.

  6. Tim (Overworked) says:

    Oh, but I do totally agree with your comments about the abuse of the system by elected officials. I just wonder if a state-run system would have just redirected the abuse to a more local level.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Tim, I think that there are lots of possibilities for what might have happened had we not built a national network of highways. The states might have built their own highways. We might have reformed and refurbished the rail system. Light rail for commuting and intercity traffic. A different kind of air transport system than the one that evolved.

    I think that most of those would have been both fiscally and ecologically sounder solutions than the Interstate Highway system.

  8. Dave Schuler says:

    Also Tim, I think that if their hadn’t been a Federal Money Machine building highways we’d have been paying more attention to state and local governments than we have for the last 50 years so maybe they’d be a little less venal.

  9. Steven Plunk says:

    I don’t want to sound like a smart ass but didn’t that highway act create the America we have come to love? Sure there are some down sides but freedom to travel and trade between states has been a good thing for many (I’m in trucking so obviously I have a an interest in the highways).

    I don’t understand the the racial segregation part of it. Wasn’t our society already segregated in 1956? In fact many moves were being made away from that segregation at that time. Wouldn’t increased mobility and economic opportunity help minorities reach equality?

    I too see problem with the highway act but more along the lines of the federal government becoming bigger and more powerful, congressional corruption, and wasteful spending.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    Sure, Steven, America was segregated before 1956. But take here in Chicago. The city and close-in suburbs are very heavily minority (African American and Hispanic, mostly) while the more distant suburbs—those that followed the bulding of roads with aid of federal money (for no particularly federal purpose)—are largely white.

    Would there have been white flight without the highways? Probably but I doubt there would have been quite so much because it would have been more expensive.

  11. Triumph says:

    I don’t understand the the racial segregation part of it. Wasn’t our society already segregated in 1956? In fact many moves were being made away from that segregation at that time. Wouldn’t increased mobility and economic opportunity help minorities reach equality?

    If you read my initial comment I said EXACERBATED segregation. Take a look at the neighborhood dissimilarity indicies from 1940 until 1990. In each decade, neighborhoods became more and more segregated. This trend lightened up between 1990 & 2000.

    Remember, highways spurred suburbanization and the Fair Housing Act–which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race–was not passed until 1968, years after highways spurred suburban growth.

    Many suburbs had long-standing racially-restrictive covenants. In the years after 1968 local governments substituted restriction by zoning as a proxy–primarily through restricting the amount of land zoned for multi-family homes. Blacks tended to have lower incomes, could not afford the costs to purchase homes, and were stuck in communities with a supply of rentals.

    None of this would have been possible without high federal subsidies in the form of the Highway Act (as well as other housing and tax legislation) that allowed suburbanization to happen.