Thing a Week 25: A Proposal for the Redistribution of Megacities

It’s the year 2028 and the country’s divide that’s been growing for the last decade has only gotten worse. Now that we have a system that lets anyone propose political plans for people to vote on, I’m entering my proposal for a simple plan intended to reinvent America as a technological powerhouse, make our country greater than it’s ever been, and heal our political chasm.

The end goal is to redistribute our nation’s population more evenly across the country instead of letting parasitic Megacities continue to develop. While the divide we’ve seen looks entirely partisan on the surface, it definitely feels like it’s drawing from “city-dwellers vs country-dwellers” — and the numbers seem to back that up.

By indirectly addressing the divide through a series of underlying-but-unrelated problems instead of publicly tackling an ongoing “us versus them” civil war, the plan focuses on uniting people on both sides over improving seemingly unrelated problems that individually feel less partisan, but together help address the greater divide — and improve the lives of every citizen in the country.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at our next two years under this plan:

Immediate infrastructure improvements

To prepare for widespread distribution of our population more evenly around the US’s usable land, the following infrastructure investments will take effect immediately:

  1. High-tech highways. Between 1 and 100 billion dollars are spent on maintaining highway infrastructure every year. I recommend the immediate creation of a budgetary team tasked to investigate and catalog the highest maintenance costs, as well as identifying new solutions to bring those costs down, freeing up that money to be used on projects related to retrofitting highways with high-tech capabilities. See the attached proposal “High-tech high-ways” for more information.
  2. Inter-city public transportation. That is, inter-city — not inner city. Public transit as we know it is an amazing resource for all kinds of people to travel within a city. The construction of additional inter-city public transportation aims to better bridge the gap from city to city, enabling citizens to not only get around without a vehicle within their own city but also in neighboring cities as well, especially in more rural environments.

Immediate regulation changes

We all know megacities are where the jobs are, but they’re also where the entertainment, restaurants, big names, and niche storefronts naturally occur: businesses want to go where the people are and the availability of so many businesses are what draw people in — resulting in an infinitely-repeating cycle that’s produced the megacities housing most of America’s population today.

If this proposal is accepted, the following regulation changes will go into effect:

  1. Internet access will be designated as a public utility. The “last mile” problem is real and a large (if not the largest) factor preventing many citizens from moving outside of the megacities and to more rural areas. For most Internet Service Providers, it’s simply not profitable enough to extend infrastructure to rural communities where customer counts are

    For full details on this plan, see the attached proposal “Internet as a Public Utility”. Major changes include a change to profit taxation that inversely scales based on service coverage area and divides per provider in the area, a mandate to provide equal coverage speeds across their coverage area, and equal-opportunity bandwidth.
  2. Changes to business and housing construction. Remember when we could look up at the sky and see past the skyscrapers? I do. New housing regulations will end the construction of new skyscrapers, cloudflats, and highrise apartments, and provide incentives for new constructions to build in underdeveloped areas instead. Build out, not up.
  3. Transparency changes on moving companies. Obviously, in order to distribute the population across the country, many people living in megacities will need to move. Moving can be a big inconvenience to an established family, but regulation changes to companies that provide moving services aim to make relocation easy, painless, and significantly cheaper.

Year 1: The New Land

As we work to equalize the multifaceted contrast between Megacities and rural communities, I propose a first year focused entirely on improving the infrastructure and communities of the New Land.

Massive tax incentives for rural communities

As a part of the proposed tax restructuring for personal and business taxes, year one of this plan sees instant changes for communities in the bottom tenth percentile of population counts. (And, as outlined, these changes will go into effect using a sliding scale of an additional fifteen percentile each year for the next six years.)

This new tax plan scales personal and business tax rates based on the population of your surrounding area. For the ten percent smallest towns and communities around the country, this will be an immense federal tax break and significantly lower the cost of living for the area. This will directly put money into the pockets of citizens already living in those areas while also financially incentivizing people and businesses to relocate to less-crowded, soon-to-be-growing locations.

To estimate your tax rate each year based on the population of your surrounding area and several promising New Land locations, please use the attached Population Tax Calculator.

Federal funding to jumpstart rural communities

Small communities often struggle with the chicken and egg problem. Businesses don’t want to invest in small communities until they’re growing, and communities don’t start growing until they can attract more businesses to the area.

To assist with jumpstarting underdeveloped communities, communities between the fifth and tenth percentile in the population each year will receive zero-interest federal grants earmarked for building infrastructure in the area.

Year 2: Location Liberation

In the second year, a series of proposals meant to decouple employment with location will go into effect. These policies are intended to expand the jobs available to the average citizen to jobs outside of their immediate area; this puts less of a focus on moving to particular “hotspot” areas for a job while also ensuring that employment opportunities in the New Land can find the workers they need.

Remote employment stipend

To reward businesses for hiring and/or transitioning employees to remote positions, a small stipend in the form of a tax rebate will be available to claim on business tax returns based on their ratio of office-only, mixed, and remote-only employees.

Shared workspaces stipend

An additional stipend is available to businesses sharing an office space with other companies. This is primarily intended to provide cheaper, more modular physical office space opportunities to small companies that may not otherwise be able or willing to rent an entire building.

Additionally, this stipend will serve as a way for businesses to recoup potential losses in current, large office spaces that might otherwise empty out as they transition their current employees to remote roles.

Relocation stipend

For a limited time (to be voted on as a part of this proposal, but defaulting to a span of three years), citizens that move out of any qualified megacity and meet the requirements for a relocation stipend will be eligible for a one-time payment to assist with moving costs.

Implementing the Megatax

The Megatax is a multi-tiered tax system aimed specifically at raising taxes across the board on large cities. This is in addition to the Population Tax already in effect which strives for a similar goal but addresses the problem in a different way.

When a city is legally classified as a Megacity, the following changes will go into effect for the following tax year and all subsequent tax years until the city loses its Megacity designation.

  • All federal taxes levied on citizens and businesses living or operating within that Megacity will be increased at a rate of 1% per year, cumulatively.
  • All new construction costs within that Megacity will incur an additional 15% tax rate. Maintenance and improvements to existing buildings will be exempt from this tax.
  • A new tax break, the Park Space Deduction, will be available to claim. This deduction may be claimed against any Megatax levied against the city, reducing municipality taxes by an amount proportional to the square footage of parks within city limits.
  • For every Megacity citizen that qualifies for and receives the Relocation Stipend, the city will receive a separate stipend for one-fifth of the amount.

The Megatax is a scary name, I know. But we also live in scary times, and drastic measures are necessary to fix the mess we’ve backed ourselves into.

The Other Piece: Automation for our Future

Unemployment: it’s a word that has plagued our country for hundreds of years, instilling a base sense of fear in any change threatening more unemployment and rallying cries of support for anything that could potentially lessen it.

And, of course, unemployment is a problem. We’re proudly capitalist and that inherently implies we need more than just businesses providing food, shelter, and other services: we also need citizens with jobs and money to pay for those things. Unemployment is in direct opposition to this societal structure we’ve created and I think we can all agree that solving unemployment would solve a lot of problems many citizens are seeing day-to-day and month-to-month.

But not all of them.

New York City doesn’t scale. Los Angeles doesn’t scale. Chicago doesn’t scale. Houston doesn’t scale. In the current system, every new resident in every city adds a new burden on every other citizen in that city. This burden is complex, but observable in many ways.

At the forefront of the problem, we have jobs. More people in a Megacity doesn’t only mean those people are fighting over the limited amount of jobs in that Megacity — making it just a little harder for the average person to land a job for every new person that moves into the city. This system, as we’ve seen for hundreds of years, puts workers at a surplus compared to the demand for jobs. We have more people willing to do a job than we do positions for those people to fill.

Yes, this means those other people won’t get that job; and yes, it’s likely those people will find another job elsewhere — after beating out others who also want that job.

But it also means that employers have a significant advantage in negotiating with potential and current employees. It’s in a corporation’s best interest to get the best employees they can get — at the lowest cost they can get it. It’s in an employee’s best interest to get the best-paying job their skills can offer.

Again, these two goals are at odds. This pits employers and employees against each other as adversaries, each fighting to get a bigger piece of the pie than the other.

One might imagine a better system: one in which employers and employees have a common goal and symbiotically work together on an agreement that best serves both of their interests.

Unfortunately, such a better system isn’t possible to rectify with our current societal model, one in which both parties need more and more money to live a better life.

That is — unless one party is replaced with someone or something that doesn’t feel the need to fight for more money. Enter: automation.

Put employees aside for a moment — we’ll return to them shortly — and rethink the equation with employers and automation. It’s in a corporation’s best interest to get the best employees they can get — at the lowest cost they can get it. Automation is cheap (cheaper than human employees in many cases), works hard (more hours than humans), is reliable (and easy to “fix” when there’s a problem), and scales. Of course, there will always be things automation can’t do — and the human mind and body are currently and will continue to be the best employees in those situations.

With employers happy with their cheap, hardworking robotic workforce, we also need to address human employees. To do that, let’s loop back to the systematic problems of Megacities that make unemployment such a big problem.

We have more people than we have jobs, but we also have all of the problems inherent with having so many people packed in one place. We have more people than we have housing, spurring increased housing prices year over year. We have more people than we have groceries and goods for sale, leading to increased cost of living prices year over year. We have more and more people crammed into a constant geographical area, increasing traffic problems, pollution, and putting a strain on static public services meant to serve the ever-growing city.

And, as we’ve seen year over year, these increases in prices have left many of us behind. Those unable to get or keep jobs have struggled to keep up with rising prices, and even those with jobs but unable to win the perpetual fight with their employer over receiving raises often enough have struggled.

Contrast that with a hypothetical small town in which there are more jobs available than there are people willing to fill them. In this scenario, the employee has increased negotiation power relative to the employer, but the employer still has the final say in the hiring process. Employees have more room to negotiate but still need to reach an agreement with the employer within the financial constraints of both parties.

In such a city that has more jobs available than workers, we don’t see citizens simply unable to get one of the limited jobs before others do. We don’t see people getting left behind and struggling as the cost of living increases — both because people aren’t getting left behind, and also because the factors that significantly increase the cost of living in a Megacity aren’t present in a smaller city that has a more balanced assortment of citizens, housing, and products.

To that end, the ultimate goal of this proposal is to redistribute people from Megacities to smaller cities developing in the New Land, resetting the ratios of employers and employees to a more healthy proportion.

As we enable widespread remote working and the capability for any citizen to contribute their skills anywhere in the country regardless of where they live, I think we’ll very quickly find ourselves in a situation where people don’t feel forced to move to a Megacity for a job, and Megacities will feel more comfortable hiring people in the New Land instead of their immediate area.

When employers are able to expand their potential employee pool to those willing to work from across the entire country, we’ll see two major effects happening:

  1. The most appealing, best-to-work-at employers will continue to have a massive hiring pool of those wanting to work there, enabling them to be more competitive in their negotiating tactics.
  2. The typical employer will have a larger applicant pool from those around the country instead of around their immediate area, allowing for a slightly increased level of competitive negotiation.

On the other side of the spectrum, the power remains firmly in the citizens’ hands by also increasing the pool of companies they can work at from those they’re able to commute to, to those across the entire country.

These effects, together, will bring us closer to a society where we have a much closer balance of jobs available to workers and workers looking for jobs. With a more distributed population, we should see less cost of living growth each year and we should see more promising new towns with even lower costs of living that citizens will feel freer to move to.

In order to achieve this reality, we’re missing two major pieces of the puzzle:

  1. Remote working capabilities, regulations, and incentives; and
  2. A scalable system of automation that acts as a productive scapegoat for predatory hiring practices, simultaneously providing cheaper goods to citizens while also providing human workers the means to negotiate and find a higher-level job that suits their skills.

The latter piece isn’t part of this proposal, but it’s necessary to solve this puzzle. I highly encourage you to browse the available automation proposals on the White House website and vote for those you believe would save our country from the unsustainable spiral we’re on now.

Thank you for your time.

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