The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the 1970s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century into one marked by downward mobility.
The decline has less to do with the power of the “one percent” per se than with the drying up of opportunity amid what is seen on Wall Street and in the White House as a sustained recovery. Despite President Obama’s rhetorical devotion to reducing inequality, it has widened significantly under his watch. read more »
There is a shiny, brittle skin to the economic recovery that conceals an unhealthy flesh underneath. It is tempting to call this condition a glass half empty. But seeking the healthy and the fit in nontraditional places has become a quest for more and more Americans who are leading us down a pathway that diverges, from the mainstream towards a new future. Out of earshot of the mainstream media and off of Main Street, there is a glass half full. read more »
This is the second of a two-part series discussing Charles Mongomery's Happy City. Read part one here.
‘The system that built sprawl’
Montgomery faces the hurdle of explaining why, if low-density suburbs cause unhappiness, so many millions of people, over so many decades, across several countries, flocked to that way of life. As he writes, ‘since 1940, almost all urban growth has actually been suburban.’ He must account for this fact, even though it means little to him personally. For the green-tinged intelligentsia, working and middle-class people are pawns who rarely think for themselves. read more »
The stock market is high, real estate prices have resurged, even the unemployment rate is dropping, yet Americans still feel pretty down about the future. A survey released in January by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research had 54 percent of respondents expecting American life to go downhill over the coming decades. In a December survey, 23 percent of respondents said things will improve over time. read more »
Income inequality is an increasingly dominant theme in American culture and politics. Data from the IRS covering mean and median income of filing households for 2012 by zipcode allow us to map and interpret the fascinating geography of income differences. Where are the richest areas, the poorest and the most unequal? read more »
This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.
Striking a pose of defiance, contemporary urbanists see themselves as the last champions of happiness in a world plunged into quiet despair, and Canadian writer and journalist Charles Montgomery is no exception. Drawing on the emerging ‘science of happiness’, his new book Happy City, subtitled ‘transforming our lives through urban design’, joins a wave of anti-suburban literature spurred on by climate fears and the financial crisis. ‘As a system’, writes Montgomery, the dispersed city ‘has begun to endanger both the health of the planet and the well-being of our descendants.’ read more »
Perhaps for the first time in nearly seven decades a serious debate on housing affordability appears to be developing in the United Kingdom. There is no more appropriate location for such an exchange, given that it was the urban containment policies of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1947 that helped drive Britain's prices through the roof. Further, massive damage has been done in countries where these polices were adopted, such as in Australia and New Zealand (now scurrying to reverse things) as well as metropolitan areas from Vancouver to San Francisco, Dublin, and Seoul. read more »
Much has been written, often with considerable glee, about the worsening divide in the Republican Party between its corporate and Tea Party wings. Yet Democrats may soon face their own schism as a result of the growing power in the party of high-tech business interests. read more »
Generally speaking, we associate the quest for central government control to be very much a product of the extremes of left and right. But increasingly, the lobby for ever-greater concentration of power – both economically and politically – comes not from the fringes, but from established centers of both parties and media power.
Recently, for example, an article by Francis Fukuyama, a conservative-leaning intellectual, called for greater consolidation of federal power, most particularly, the Executive Branch. Ironically, Fukuyama's call for greater central power follows a line most often adopted by “progressive” Democrats, who seek to use federal power to enforce their views on a host of environmental, economic and social issues even on reluctant parts of the country. read more »