Economics

The State of Silicon Valley

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Every year, the top officials, policy wonks, and business managers convene at the annual State of the Valley conference to discuss and debate the health of the region. Over a thousand attendees trekked to San Jose, Calif., on Feb. 18 for the release of this year’s report. Published since 1995 by Joint Venture Silicon Valley Network and distributed for free, the new 2011 Index of Silicon Valley reported bleak indicators and a gloomy outlook.  read more »

Mortgage Meltdown: How Underwriting Went Under

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The White House remedies for the mortgage meltdown were presented on Friday. Congress will debate the life extension, death, or rebirth of federal mortgage entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac during the coming weeks.

When the noise has died down, don't expect substantial change. But those who hope for genuine financial reform should, nonetheless, listen carefully not only to what Washington says, but to whom it says it.  read more »

A Leg Up: World's Largest Cities No Longer Homes of Upward Mobility

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Throughout much of history, cities have served as incubators for upward mobility. A great city, wrote René Descartes in the 17th century, was “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could lift their families out of poverty and create new futures. In his time, Amsterdam was that city, not just for ambitious Dutch peasants and artisans but for people from all over Europe. Today, many of the world’s largest cities, in both the developed and the developing world, are failing to serve this aspirational function.  read more »

Why Duany is Wrong About the Importance of Public Participation

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One of the news stories circling lately is an interview with Andres Duany where he asserts that public participation requirements are too onerous to enable great work to be done.   Early in my career I worked as a public historian and historic preservation specialist, so rather than launch immediately into my opinion, let me tell you a true story.  read more »

Brown’s California Budget Proposals: a Big Step in the Right Direction

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I admit it. I had low expectations for Jerry Brown’s third term as governor. After seeing his budget proposal, I’m ready to reconsider my expectations. I think it is a great effort, and it deserves the support of all of us tired of seeing our state reduced to laughing stock.  read more »

The Death of Earmarks

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Record deficit spending in Washington has many faces: Defense, Medicare, Social Security. But none has received more criticism in recent months than the infamous and notorious earmark. Conjuring up images of “Bridges to Nowhere” or “Teapot Museums”, earmarks, or Congressionally Directed Funding, have become the poster child for irresponsible, out of control, big government spending. But is the earmarking practice by Congressional representatives really pushing our country to the brink of bankruptcy?  read more »

The Midwest: Coming Back?

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Oh my name it is nothing
My age it is less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest

–Bob Dylan, “With God on Our Side,” 1964

For nearly a half century since the Minnesota-raised Robert Zimmerman wrote those lines, the American Midwest has widely been seen as a “loser” region–a place from which talented people have fled for better opportunities. Those Midwesterners seeking greater, glitzier futures historically have headed to the great coastal cities of Miami, New York, San Diego or Seattle, leaving behind the flat expanses of the nation’s mid-section for the slower-witted, or at least less imaginative.  read more »

Why Affordable Housing Matters

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Economists, planners and the media often focus on the extremes of real estate — the high-end properties or the foreclosed deserts, particularly in the suburban fringe. Yet to a large extent, they ignore what is arguably the most critical issue: affordability.  read more »

Personal Income in the 2000s: Top and Bottom Ten Metropolitan Areas

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The first decade of the new millennium was particularly hard on the US economy. First, there was the recession that followed the attacks of 9/11. That was followed by the housing bust and the resulting Great Financial Crisis, which was the most severe economic decline since the Great Depression.  read more »

Middle America: Problems and Prospects

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Undoubtedly, America is a middle class nation. But are there problems in the middle? It would certainly seem so: reduced employment, income and wealth (more worryingly, reduced employment, income- and wealth-building opportunities); reduced prospects for generational advancement (kids are supposed to do better than their parents, right?); general feelings of stagnation, “on the wrong track,” pessimism, frustration and anger.

Are these cyclical or structural changes? What are the causes, and what are the cures?  read more »