Being Poor in the Suburbs.

Last month, Brookings released a report that showed poverty on the rise in suburbs, especially in the Midwest -- now, suburbs have the largest share of the nation's poor.

Suburbs often don't have the same same level of services that many cities do, and the absence of things like good public transportation alongside the collapse of boom-era housing are compounding the problem, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

Because the suburbs have not been accustomed to helping the poor, they lack the services to cope with issues such as homelessness. Emergency and social services, for instance, are traditionally concentrated in urban centers.

That's made things worse, says Brookings's Ms. (Elizabeth) Kneebone. Now that the suburbs have more poor people than the cities, she says, it's likely that "the safety net hasn't changed to catch up with these trends. So that is a concern – that there are gaps as needs grow in these communities."

At the same time, service agencies are already stretched thin with fewer resources and increased need. I wonder how all this feeds into the narrative that President Obama is at war with the suburbs. Last month, Joel Kotkin argued that Obama's "urban centric" policies aliented and angered suburban voters, hence the election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts.

But now, once again, things have changed. For the first time in memory, the suburbs are under a conscious and sustained attack from Washington. Little that the administration has pushed—from the Wall Street bailouts to the proposed “cap and trade” policies—offers much to predominately middle-income oriented suburbanites and instead appears to have worked to alienate them.

And then there are the policies that seem targeted against suburbs. In everything from land use and transportation to “green” energy policy, the Obama administration has been pushing an agenda that seeks to move Americans out of their preferred suburban locales and into the dense, transit-dependent locales they have eschewed for generations.

Kevin Drum acknowledges that Kotkin is going over the top, but notes that a failure to include goodies for suburban burghers could pose a real political problem for Obama. But if suburbs in reality are different from suburbs in our imaginations, then transit-oriented, job-building programs and expanded health care are really policies for suburbanites, too.

-- Monica Potts

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