Financial Crisis

Reviving the City of Aspiration: A Study of the Challenges Facing New York City's Middle Class

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For much of its history, New York City has thrived as a place that both sustained a large middle class and elevated countless people from poorer backgrounds into the ranks of the middle class. The city was never cheap and parts of Manhattan always remained out of reach, but working people of modest means—from forklift operators and bus drivers to paralegals and museum guides—could enjoy realistic hopes of home ownership and a measure of economic security as they raised their families across the other four boroughs.  read more »

Obama: Only Implement Green Policies that Make Sense in a Time of Crisis

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With the exception of African-Americans, the group perhaps most energized by the Barack Obama presidency has been the environmentalists. Yet if most Americans can celebrate along with their black fellow citizens the tremendous achievement of Obama’s accession, the rise of green power may have consequences less widely appreciated.

The new power of the green lobby — including a growing number of investment and venture capital firms — introduces something new to national politics, although already familiar in places such as California and Oregon. Even if you welcome the departure of the Bush team, with its slavish fealty to Big Oil and the Saudis, the new power waged by environmental ideologues could impede the president’s primary goal of restarting our battered economy.  read more »

Housing Prices Will Continue to Fall, Especially in California

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The latest house price data indicates no respite in the continuing price declines, especially where the declines have been the most severe. But no place has seen the devastation that has occurred in California. As median house prices climbed to an unheard-of level – 10 or more times median household incomes – a sense of euphoria developed among many purchasers, analysts and business reporters who deluded themselves into believing that metaphysics or some such cause would propel prices into a more remote orbit.  read more »

Florida’s Tourism Addiction

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Remember those innocent days last summer, when the biggest worry was high gas prices? Florida already felt the pinch as tourism dropped dramatically. Then, as the financial markets collapsed last fall, Florida’s leaders woke up and began talking about diversification. Like deer caught in the crosshairs of a rifle scope, economic boosters darted around looking for new safe places in the knowledge economy, ways to revitalize agriculture, and even exploring private space development to supplement the stuttering NASA program.  read more »

Obama's Other History

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The coverage of President Barack Obama’s first days in office has been intense, to say the least. Yet it has still managed to overlook an historical comparison that is worthy of our consideration.

Obama took office just a few months after a stock market crash that left no doubt about the rugged shape of our economy. The ensuing decline has been swift and scary, leading some to talk about a possible fall into an outright depression.  read more »

Financial Crisis: Have We Hit Bottom Yet?

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These are not boom times for optimists. But I believe that – combined with knowledge of what has worked in the past – there are numerous signs that the economy may turn around faster than many think.  read more »

What Way for the Stimulus? Post-Industrial America vs. Neo-Industrial America

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As a result of the economic crisis, there is a broad consensus in favor of large-scale public investment in infrastructure in the U.S., both as part of a temporary stimulus program and to promote long-term modernization of America’s transportation, energy, telecom and water utility grids. But this momentary consensus masks the continuing disagreement on whether the U.S. government can legitimately promote American industries, and, if so, which industries. This is a problem for infrastructure policy, because different national infrastructures correspond to different national economic strategies.  read more »

Should We Bailout Geithner Too?

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This morning the Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination for treasury secretary of Timothy F. Geithner, head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Geithner is a Wall Street darling, but taxpayers may have a different take. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) reminded us at the Senate confirmation Hearing January 20 that Geithner was part of every bailout and every failed policy put forth by the current Treasury secretary. After you read this, you should begin to see why I’m so opposed to Geithner’s appointment – I don’t want the fox any closer to the hen house than he already is.  read more »

Solving the Financial Crisis: Looking Beyond Simple Solutions

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When presented with complex ideas about complicated events, the human tendency is to think in terms of Jungian archetypes: good guys and bad guys, heroes and villains. The more complicated the events, the more the human mind seeks to limit the number of variables it considers in unison in order to make sense of what it sees. The result is a tendency to describe events in the simplest black and white terms, ignoring the spectrum of colors in between.

This principle can be seen in the current explanation of the financial crisis.  read more »

The Leveling of Citigroup

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The idea that Citigroup could support the family by gambling didn’t begin with Robert Rubin. It’s part of a long tradition. What was different in the most recent go-round is that, this time, Citi didn’t invent the game. Of course, once it got to the casino it characteristically placed larger bets than anyone else.

Word that Citigroup is teetering on the brink of break up brings a certain wistfulness to this former Citibank speechwriter. Not because intensive care is something new for the old bank — it isn’t — but because it ended up on life support by following the crowd instead of leading it.  read more »