Road Decay


These days, you'll have to get your kicks on Interstate 44.

US Route 66 - that road of legend and lore - exists mostly as a memory. Only in Oklahoma is the number posted intermittently along a road parallel to the interstate.

Now I'm not especially sentimental, and I'm a generation too young to have really gotten into the Route 66 shtick. As the older folks pass away, Route 66 will decay entirely.  read more »

Nurturing Employment Recovery


President Obama's quick exit from Oslo and late arrival in Copenhagen suggest he's finally ready to shift focus from Nordic adulation and fighting climate change and diplomacy to fixing the American economy. About time. As former Clinton adviser Bill Galston observed recently, the president needs "to pivot and make 2010 the year of jobs."

White House operatives, as well as the Democrats in Congress, know high unemployment could bring big political trouble next year. But in their rush to create new jobs, policy makers would do well to focus on the quality of jobs created over the next year and beyond.  read more »

Is Obama Separating from His Scandinavian Muse?


Barack Obama may be our first African-American president, but he’s first got to stop finding his muse in Scandinavia. With his speech for the Nobel, perhaps he’s showing some sign of losing his northern obsession.

On the campaign trail, Obama showed a poet’s sensitivity about both America’s exceptionalism and our desire to improve our country. His mantra about having “a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas” resonated deeply with tens of millions of Americans.  read more »

Fighting Spirit Lives On In Northern Montana


On a hot July day in 1923 northern Montana served as the unlikely backdrop for a boxing extravaganza on the international stage. There on the plains right outside the City of Shelby, Jack Dempsey defended his World Heavyweight Boxing Championship against the hard-hitting Tommy Gibbons – the only world championship fight that Jack Dempsey ever fought that went the full fifteen rounds.  read more »

Reducing Carbon Should Not Distort Regional Economies


A pending bill in Congress to reduce carbon emissions via a “cap and trade” regime would have significant distorting effects on America's regional economies. This is because the cost of compliance varies widely from region to region and metro to metro. This is all the more important since such legislation may do very little to reduce overall carbon emission according to two of the EPA's own San Francisco lawyers.  read more »

Obama Still Can Save His Presidency


A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as "Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine." This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president's charismatic talent – and the lack of such among his opposition – may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate.  read more »

Stimulate Yourself!


Beltway politicians and economists can argue themselves silly about the impact of the Obama administration's stimulus program, but outside the beltway the discussion is largely over. On the local level--particularly outside the heavily politicized big cities--the consensus seems to be that the stimulus has changed little--if anything.

Recently, I met with a couple of dozen mayors and city officials in Kentucky to discuss economic growth. The mayors spoke of their initiatives and ideas, yet hardly anyone mentioned the stimulus.  read more »

American Agriculture’s Cornucopia of Opportunity and Responsibility


A complex agriculture, along with urban culture, is one of the fundamental pillars of human civilization, and one of the fundamental bulkwarks of American prosperity. For families and communities involved in farming and ranching it’s also a way of life that is cherished, oftentimes passed on through generations, taking on reverential if not religious overtones.

At the same time in today’s overwhelmingly urban culture, cooking has become prime time entertainment, dining a social event, and what a person eats is increasingly associated with a healthy body and mind – sometimes a sort of spiritual well being. This elevates agriculture to an important issue even among those who have never spent a day on a farm.  read more »

Obama's Home Town


Hyde Park, in Chicago, is where President Obama called home before moving to Pennsylvania Avenue.

I once called 5118 S. Dorchester home.

Hyde Park is a college town surrounded by – but not really part of – a big city. The University of Chicago, founded in 1890, is the heart of the community. The campus was built of Indiana limestone, fake Gothic, and made to look old from its very inception. Some people like it.  read more »

When Thanatos Beat Eros, Mapping Natural Population Decreases


For an advanced capitalist society, the United States has a quite high birth rate, and substantial natural increase. Yet despite this, almost a third experienced natural decrease, an excess of deaths over births, over the recent 2000-2007 period. Some counties with natural decrease still grow in population because of sufficient in-migration, but more typically, natural decrease is associated with high levels of out-migration and with long term population decline.  read more »