Heartland

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 »

Agglomeration Vs. Isolation for Science Based Economic Development

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Earlier this month President Obama signed the reauthorization of the COMPETES Act, which provides federal funding for science initiatives aimed at enhancing economic competitiveness. In addition to shoring up agencies like the National Science Foundation, the bill called on the Department of Commerce to create a new program charged with supporting the development of research parks and regional innovation clusters. Unheard of before World War II, these entities today represent the cutting edge in what insiders call TBED: technology-based economic development.  read more »

Self-Employment Key to Expanding Rural America’s Revival

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In many ways, these are the best of times for rural America. Rising commodity prices for food, fiber and energy have revived the economy in much of the nation’s heartland. But still, many rural communities still are losing population, particularly among the young, and suffering unacceptably high rates of poverty. What accounts for this “best of times, worst of times” scenario?  read more »

Fuzzy Thinking by Famous Economists

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Edward L. Glaeser, in an end-of-year piece for the New York Times, claims that generous housing supply is the reason that Texas’s economy is performing so well. As he says in his final paragraph:

“Housing regulations, more than those that bind standard businesses, explain the Sun Belt’s population growth. If New York and Massachusetts want to stop losing Congressional seats, then they must revisit the rules that make it so difficult to build. High prices show that the demand would be there if the supply is unleashed.”

This can’t be true.  read more »

The Heartland Rises

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The change in congressional power this week is more than an ideological shift. It ushers in a revival in the political influence of the nation’s heartland, as well as the South.

This contrasts dramatically with the last Congress. Virtually its entire leadership — from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on down — represented either the urban core or affluent, close-in suburbs of large metropolitan areas. Powerful old lions like Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) of Harlem, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) of Los Angeles and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) of Newton, an affluent, close-in Boston suburb, roamed. The Senate was led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who loyally services Las Vegas casino interests while his lieutenant, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), is now the top Democratic satrap of Wall Street.  read more »

Education Wars: The New Battle For Brains

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The end of stimulus — as well as the power shift in Congress — will have a profound effect on which regions and states can position themselves for the longer-term recovery. Nowhere will this be more critical than in the battle for brains.

In the past, and the present, places have competed for smart, high-skilled newcomers by building impressive physical infrastructure and offering incentives and inducements for companies or individuals. But the battle for the brains — and for long-term growth — is increasingly tied to whether a state can maintain or expand its state-supported higher education. This is particularly critical given the growing student debt crisis, which may make public institutions even more attractive to top students.  read more »

The Rise of the Efficient City

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Smaller, more nimble urban regions promise a better life than the congested megalopolis.

Most of the world's population now lives in cities. To many academics, planners and developers, that means that the future will be dominated by what urban theorist Saskia Sassen calls "new geographies of centrality." According to this view, dense, urban centers with populations in excess of 20 million—such as metropolitan Tokyo, New Delhi, Sao Paolo and New York—are best suited to control the commanding heights of global economics and culture in the coming epoch.  read more »

The Toto Strategy: How Kansas Can Save Barack Obama’s Presidency

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Here’s an idea that could save Barack Obama’s presidency: Give up those troubling Chicago roots and get back to Kansas. If, as Dorothy observed in the Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore,” get the Wizard to send you back there soon.

Barack Obama owes much to Kansas–and the Great Plains in general–something he used to acknowledge often enough. Not only was he largely raised by products of that region (his mother and grandmother hail  from  the Sunflower State), but also his remarkable victory over Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries was built largely by winning first in the Iowa caucuses, followed by surprising victories in Kansas, North Dakota, Minnesota and Illinois.  read more »