Middle Class

China’s Urban Challenge: Balancing Sustainable Economic Growth and Soaring Property Prices

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Today, Beijing seeks to balance strong economic growth and soaring prices amidst a severe global crisis and debt turmoil in advanced economies. The challenge is colossal – to provide urban space for more than 600 million people in the coming decades.

For months, the famous hedge fund wizard, James Chanos, has been predicting a severe Chinese property slump. As he puts it, “Dubai times 1,000 – or worse,” with the “potential to be a similar watershed event for world markets as the reversal of the U.S. subprime and housing boom.”  read more »

Planning’s Cultural Cringe?

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First it was Portland, Oregon, touted as a poster child for urban planning in Australia. Now, Vancouver, Canada, is the comparison, and are we seeing another incarnation of Australia’s infamous cultural cringe?

Advocates of higher density and the “brawl against sprawl” in Australia frequently cite overseas cities as model case studies. Portland, Oregon, was for a long time cited as a good example of pro-density housing strategies which sought to limit ‘sprawl’, to promote public transport by investing in things like light rail, and to promote cycling and a range of other planning ‘solutions’ that would sound remarkably familiar in Australia.  read more »

Time to Dismantle the American Dream?

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For some time, theorists have been suggesting that it is time to redefine the American Dream of home ownership. Households, we are told, should live in smaller houses, in more crowded neighborhoods and more should rent. This thinking has been heightened by the mortgage crisis in some parts of the country, particularly in areas where prices rose most extravagantly in the past decade. And to be sure, many of the irrational attempts – many of them government sponsored – to expand ownership to those not financially prepared to bear the costs need to curbed.  read more »

L.A.'s Economy Is Not Dead Yet

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"This is the city," ran the famous introduction to the popular crime drama Dragnet. "Los Angeles, Calif. I work here." Of course, unlike Det. Sgt. Joe Friday, who spoke those words every episode, I am not a cop, but Los Angeles has been my home for over 35 years.

To Sgt. Friday, L.A. was a place full of opportunities to solve crimes, but for me Los Angeles has been an ideal barometer for the city of the future. For the better part of the last century, Los Angeles has been, as one architect once put it, "the original in the Xerox machine." It largely invented the blueprint of the modern American city: the car-oriented suburban way of life, the multi-polar metropolis around a largely unremarkable downtown, the sprawling jumble of ethnic and cultural enclaves of a Latin- and Asian-flavored mestizo society.  read more »

An Awakening: The Beginning of the Great Deconstruction

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The federal debt climbed above $13 trillion this month. An easier way to define the national debt is to comprehend that we each owe more than $39,000 to the Chinese, Japanese, and Arabs of the Persian Gulf. The budget deficit will exceed $1.5 trillion this year and forty-seven states are running deficits. California has a $19 billion deficit and its legislature’s landmark response was to pass a law banning plastic bags. Our cities are in worse shape. The former mayor of Los Angeles, Richard Riordan, says that a bankruptcy by that city is inevitable.  read more »

It is Time to Plant

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It is springtime in Kentucky – think foals and mares in the pristine meticulously fenced pastures. But, in another part of the state – the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky – it is time to plant on those rocky hillsides. As my 90 year old father puts it, you plant your corn when tree buds are the size of squirrel ears. I confess to not having given a thought to whether squirrels even have ears or not ... but my father knows. He was born and raised in a part of the world where they know things like that, typical of the mostly Scots-Irish who settled there.  read more »

Can Europe’s Economy Turn Around If Its Great Cities Continue To Wither?

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Europe's Greece crisis has turned the world's attention to the continent's fundamental flaw: burgeoning public spending and sluggish growth in some of its national economies.

To the extent that Europe's more economically fragile countries cannot fix this flaw, Europe poses a global financial risk as toppling EU countries cannot meet their obligations and those left standing cannot prop them up. Only fiscal discipline and boosting growth can save Europe in the long-run.  read more »

The Future Of America's Working Class

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Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession.  read more »

Racing China: The Australia Housing Bubble

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"The writing is on the wall for the Australian dream," according to Professor Joe Flood at the Flinders University Institute for Housing, Urban and Regional Research. That was before recent predictions that Australia's overheated housing market may be headed for even higher prices. Real estate experts have recently predicted a doubling of house prices in all five of the largest metropolitan areas over the next decade.  read more »

Twenty-first Century Electorate’s Heart is in the Suburbs

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Even as the nation conducts its critically important decennial census, a demographic picture of the rapidly changing population of the United States is emerging. It underlines how suburban living has become the dominant experience for all key groups in America’s 21st Century Electorate.

While suburban living was once seen as the almost exclusive preserve of the white upper-middle class, a majority of all major American racial and ethnic groups now live in suburbia, according to the newest report on the state of metropolitan America from the Brookings Institute.  read more »