Middle Class

Rome Vs. Gotham

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Urban politicians have widely embraced the current concentration of power in Washington, but they may soon regret the trend they now so actively champion. The great protean tradition of American urbanism – with scores of competing economic centers – is giving way to a new Romanism, in which all power and decisions devolve down to the imperial core.

This is big stuff, perhaps even more important than the health care debate. The consequence could be a loss of local control, weakening the ability of cities to respond to new challenges in the coming decades.  read more »

The New Radicals

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America's ''kumbaya'' moment has come and gone. The nation's brief feel-good era initiated by Barack Obama's stirring post-partisan rhetoric--and fortified by John McCain's classy concession speech--has dissolved into sectarian bickering more appropriate to dysfunctional Iraq than the world's greatest democratic republic.

Yet little of the shouting concerns the fundamental economic issue facing the U.S. today: the decline of upward mobility and income growth for the working and middle classes. Instead we have politicos battling over two versions of ''trickle down'' economics.  read more »

The New Industrial City

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Most American urban economic development and revitalization initiatives seek to position communities to attract high wage jobs in the knowledge economy. This usually involves programs to attract and retain the college educated, and efforts to lure corporate headquarters or target industries such as life sciences, high tech, or cutting edge green industries. Almost everything, whether it be recreational trails, public art programs, stadiums and convention centers, or corporate incentives, is justified by reference to this goal, often with phrases like “stopping brain drain” and “luring the creative class”.

The future vision underpinning this is a decidedly post-industrial one. This city of tomorrow is made up of people living upscale in town condos, riding a light rail line to work at a smartly designed modern office, and spending enormous sums – with the requisite sales tax benefits – entertaining themselves in cafes, restaurants, swanky shops, or artistic events.  read more »

Nice Houses for Ducks

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During the long hot summer of the expenses scandal in British politics, one of the most bizarre stories concerned a Conservative MP who claimed from the public purse for a second home: a place for his ducks. It wasn’t any old duck house, however, but a ‘Stockholm’ floating model, valued at over £1,500. It is over 5 feet high.  read more »

Immigrants Are ‘Greening’ our Cities, How About Giving them a Break?

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Debate about immigration and the more than 38 million foreign born residents who have arrived since 1980 has become something of a national pastime. Although the positive impact of this population on the economy has been questioned in many quarters, self-employment and new labor growth statistics illustrate the increasingly important role immigrants play in our national economy.  read more »

Green Jobs Can't Save The Economy

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Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times. Over the past decade, we have turned from one panacea to another, from the onset of the information age to the creative class to the boom in biotech, nanotech and now the "green economy."  read more »

Forget Second Stimulus; We Need Economic Vision

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As the American economy slowly heals, the Obama administration will no doubt claim some credit for its $787 billion stimulus — and perhaps even suggest doubling down for a second stage. Republicans, for their part, will place their emphasis on the “slow” part of the equation and persistent high unemployment, blaming the very same stimulus program.

Whatever the politics, no new stimulus should be considered unless it deals with the fundamental illness undermining the country’s long-term economic prospects. Such a stimulus would address the country’s essential problem: persistent overconsumption amid underproduction.  read more »

Rating World Metropolitan Areas: When Money is an Object

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American metropolitan areas have been the subject of considerable derision. Often characterized as inferior to those of Australia, Canada, Europe and even of Japan by planners and politicians who travel abroad, there has long been a desire to reshape American cities along the lines of foreign models. Yet, despite this, American metropolitan areas generally provide a standard of living to their residents unmatched anywhere in the world. This is based upon the latest comparative economic data for the world’s most affluent metropolitan areas.  read more »

Salinas Dispatch: A Silver Lining in the Golden State

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From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.

Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose.  read more »

UK Green Path leads to Deindustrialization and Worsening Housing Shortage

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The First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and Lord President of the Council, Peter Mandelson, together with Ed Miliband, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, have published The UK Low Carbon Industrial Strategy. They are claiming it promises an "economic revolution” but is in fact an environmentalist retreat from industrial production It is a disastrous strategy that will result in further de-industrialisation, supposedly with the aim of addressing a rather vague threat of climate change.  read more »