Monday, May 09, 2005

McCarthy and Suburbia

This is a link from Charlie Hoyt, currently doing research on the Joint Committee Study and Investigation of Housing:

Choosing suburbia - "Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened"
Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen

Reviewed by Joan Fitzgerald

"The interests of the real estate community were advanced by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the post-war period. As chair of the Joint Committee Study and Investigation of Housing charged with identifying reasons for the nation's housing shortage, McCarthy stacked the hearings to discredit the proposed Taft Ellender Wagner Act of 1945, a comprehensive bill to facilitate expansion of the nation's housing supply. The bill identified adequate housing as a right of every American. Eager to roll back New Deal programs, the Republican-controlled House and Senate quickly painted the bill as one with Communist underpinnings. McCarthy and his supporters argued that the economic recovery should be led by private sector housing development.

After an absorbing description of the hearings and the coalitions built on both sides, Banandell and Ewen conclude, "The key to McCarthy's attack was to brand public housing with the stigma of poverty and remove it from the realm of average working- and middle-class Americans. Conservatives wanted public housing to be viewed as a last source of refuge for the destitute rather than as a guaranteed right for all. If government continued to build public housing, conservatives feared that housing would be perceived as a right similar to public education and everyone would demand it. From 1941 to 1945 the conservatives and their real estate allies used the media to campaign against the 'socialist dangers' of public housing. They operated on both the federal and local level, attacking public housing as a Communist conspiracy.""