Meet the White House's next awesome economic pivot: "Promise zones"

The Obama White House, everyone: Attacking the symptoms instead of the underlying disease, one ultra-lame rehashed progressive ploy at a time.

Joined by local leaders at the White House, Mr. Obama will officially announce the administration’s first five “promise zones” — pockets of the country that will receive comprehensive federal assistance after being especially hard-hit by the recession. The five zones will be located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. The administration aims to ultimately assist 20 such regions. …

“There are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead,” Mr. Obama said in that speech. “Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where the chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that’s why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.” …

The administration is designating “promise zones” by looking for areas where local officials can make strategic, targeted investments. For instance, a “promise zone” may be interested in reducing violent crime with increased Justice Department funding for local law enforcement. Alternatively, a region may want to leverage Housing and Urban Development grants to attract private real estate investors to high-poverty neighborhoods. The president’s plan also includes tax credits for hiring workers and tax write-offs for capital investments within the “promise zones.”

This latest big-government stimulus initiative is undoubtedly going to formulate yet another front for Democrats’ big “income inequality” campaign they plan to wage year; Jim Geraghty has more on the politics of the move at NRO, and I imagine that the Obama administration supposes it will help them to blunt the types of conservative criticisms that Marco Rubio raised in his anti-poverty speech yesterday: That Democrats are full of expensive and ultimately unsustainable ideas for helping people temporarily cope with poverty (i.e., the welfare state), but are pretty much intellectually bankrupt when it comes to actually creating opportunities for people to lift themselves out of that poverty (i.e., economic growth and job creation). Income inequality is only one indication of much larger problem, not necessarily the problem in and of itself that Democrats so eagerly make it out to be — and the White House is evidently looking to cut those criticisms off at the pass by claiming that this “promise zone” initiative is an example of how to address that larger problem of economic mobility.

The only problem with that argument, of course, is that this “promise zone” initiative actually doesn’t address economic mobility in any real, lasting, or widespread way. The Obama administration is once again using the federal government as a tool to select winners and losers, using more bureaucracy — via the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Commerce, good grief — to create top-down faux-collaboration that bypasses the states and in which the feds will decide upon “targeted investments” that they should not be making in the first place with “free money” we do not have.

Instead of picking a few areas here and there that merit special tax credits and write-offs, why not lower taxes for the entire United States? What the whole country really needs to fight poverty are streamlined regulations, less red tape, fewer taxes, less prohibitive labor laws, less government spending, and less national debt at the macro level — not band-aids and spot treatment that will cost taxpayers even more money while leaving the infrastructure perpetuating our weaksauce economic recovery in place.