Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times. Over the past decade, we have turned from one panacea to another, from the onset of the information age to the creative class to the boom in biotech, nanotech and now the "green economy." read more »
My father owned and operated a junkyard in Tucson for a number of years, and I learned a lot about the auto recycling industry helping around the office and as a delivery driver. So as a junkyard enthusiast, the “Cash For Clunkers” program naturally caught my interest lately. Though it looks to be the product of good intentions, I don’t think the legislation understands that junkyards already comprise an efficient, well developed recycling system for salvaging vehicles, with a beneficial result for the environment overall. read more »
I went to Hollywood one night last week to watch my favorite film of all time, Koyaanisqatsi (released in 1983). It was being shown on a big screen at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by orchestra playing the original score, conducted by its composer, Philip Glass. Oh, I didn't go to the Bowl; I watched it at my daughter's apartment about half a mile away (hi def DVD and digital sound system turned way up, thank you). read more »
As the American economy slowly heals, the Obama administration will no doubt claim some credit for its $787 billion stimulus — and perhaps even suggest doubling down for a second stage. Republicans, for their part, will place their emphasis on the “slow” part of the equation and persistent high unemployment, blaming the very same stimulus program.
Whatever the politics, no new stimulus should be considered unless it deals with the fundamental illness undermining the country’s long-term economic prospects. Such a stimulus would address the country’s essential problem: persistent overconsumption amid underproduction. read more »
From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.
Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose. read more »
During the recent financial crisis, I didn’t meet anyone else who was invested in stocks and bonds. I guess I was the only one. Everyone else was holding “cash,” as they often quietly boasted. But even if your money is kept under a mattress, cash is best understood as a zero-coupon bond, in most cases drawn against an overdrawn nation-state.
Cash may be king, but the sovereign looks more temporary than a Romanov heir living in a rented villa in the south of France. read more »
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a critically important hearing on July 21 titled "Following the Money: Report of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP)." Sadly the mainstream media under reported the meeting. read more »
On the surface this should be the moment the Blue Man basks in glory. The most urbane president since John Kennedy sits in the White House. A San Francisco liberal runs the House of Representatives while the key committees are controlled by representatives of Boston, Manhattan, Beverly Hills, and the Bay Area—bastions of the gentry. read more »
The living room of my electrician friend Harry Gres was filled with solar panels which were destined for his roof to demonstrate the advantages of his new eco-business venture. In the spirit of Herbert Hoover's campaign pledge of a car in every garage, Harry envisions solar panels on every roof (including garages). read more »
The cloud of the global financial meltdown has not even cleared, yet another crisis of massive proportions looms on the horizon: global sovereign (public) debt.
This crisis, like so many others, has its root in the free flow of credit from the preceding economic boom years. The market prices of assets were rising steadily. Rising valuations, especially where they were based on improving revenues from robust economic activity, led to rising income streams for governments. This encouraged governments to borrow more, perhaps often to expand services – and the bureaucracy required to offer services – although sometimes to improve infrastructure. read more »