Middle Class

The Rise of the Executive Headquarters

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Headquarters were once a defining characteristic of urban economic power, and indeed today cities that can still brag of the number of entries they boast on the Fortune 500 list of largest American firms. Yet as urban centers increasingly lost headquarters, boosters started to downplay them as a metric, particularly with the rise of the so-called “global city” concept. Today the HQ is back into the urban mix, but increasingly as what I would call the “executive headquarters” which brings bragging rights to a city but not much in terms of middle class jobs.

The corporate headquarters in a downtown skyscraper took a beating during the 70s, 80s, and 90s as America’s inner cities went into decline. Why locate in a decaying, lawless, dysfunctional urban setting that seemed destined for the scrap heap when the shiny suburbs beckoned?   read more »

Focusing on People, Not Sprawl

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For seven decades urban planners have been seeking to force higher urban population densities through urban containment policies. The object is to combat "urban sprawl," which is the theological (or ideological) term applied to the organic phenomenon of urban expansion. This has come at considerable cost, as house prices have materially increased relative to incomes, which is to be expected from urban containment strategies that ration land (and thus raise its price, all things being equal).  read more »

Good Jobs Often Not Matter of Degrees

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If there's anything both political parties agree upon, it's that our education system is a mess. It is particularly poor at serving the vast majority of young people who are unlikely either to go to an elite school or get an advanced degree in some promising field, particularly in the sciences and engineering.  read more »

Where Inequality Is Worst In The United States

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Perhaps no issue looms over American politics more than worsening  inequality and the stunting of the road to upward mobility. However, inequality varies widely across America.  read more »

The Great Skills Gap Myth

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One of the great memes out there in trying to diagnose persistently high unemployment and anemic job growth during what is still, I argue, the Great Recession is the so-called “skills gap”. The idea here is that the fact that there are millions of unfilled job openings at the same time millions of people can’t find work can be chalked up to a lack of a skills match between unemployed workers an open positions.  read more »

Taking the Main Street Off-ramp

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To some, the $19 billion paid by Facebook for the Silicon Valley start-up What's App represents the ultimate confirmation of the capitalist dream. After all, these riches are going first and foremost to plucky engineers whose goals are simply to make life better for the public. Got a problem with that?  read more »

East of Egan: Success in California is Not Evenly Distributed

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The New York Times ran a Timothy Egan editorial on California on March 6.  The essay entitled Jerry Brown's Revenge was reverential towards our venerable Governor.  It did, however, fall short of declaring Brown a miracle worker, as the Rolling Stone did last August.  These and other articles are part of an adoring press's celebratory spasm occasioned by the facts that California has a budget surplus and has had a run of strong job growth.  read more »

The U.S. Cities Profiting The Most In The Stock Market And Housing Boom

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If anything positive can be said for the current tepid economic recovery, it has been very good to those who invest in the stock market or own real estate.

Property owners have been able to reap higher rents and sale prices, and the stock market has soared while the overall economy has registered only modest gains. However, only a precious few have benefited from the bull market on Wall Street.  read more »

Bubble Trouble in Silicon Valley

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Third-generation venture capitalist Tim Draper believes he has a solution for California's problems that will make the Silicon Valley safe for its wealthy: secession. In a recent interview, Draper suggested that California be divided into six states, including one dominated by the Valley and its urban annex, San Francisco.  read more »

Boeing’s Long Shadow

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The recent wrangling over decisions on where to build the next version of Boeing’s 777 has left a residue of bitterness and rancor around the Puget Sound region. Were the Machinists forced to give too much? Were the taxpayers squeezed too far? While views will differ on those questions, one thing is clear: jobs lost at Boeing are very difficult, if not impossible to replace.  read more »