From the very inception of the current downturn, sprawling places like southeast California's Inland Empire have been widely portrayed as the heart of darkness. Located on the vast flatlands east of Los Angeles, the region of roughly 3 million people has suffered one of the highest rates of foreclosures and surges in unemployment in the nation. read more »
The stealth Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire, the Indian fable of love, heartbreak and overcoming the odds set against the backdrop of one of the world’s biggest urban slums has won fans all over the advanced industrial world – but may be less popular in India. read more »
Race may be the thing that most obviously distinguishes President Barack Obama from his predecessors, but his biggest impact may be in transforming the nature of class relations — and economic life — in the United States.
In basic terms, the president is overseeing a profound shift from cowboy to what may be best described as collusive capitalism. This form of capitalism rejects the essential free-market theology embraced by the cowboys, supplanting it with a more managed, highly centralized form of cohabitation between the government apparat and the economic elite. read more »
The demand for housing in London has outstripped supply since the post-war period, making housing unaffordable to a majority of the city’s low and middle-income families. And although the house price growth of the last two decades has reversed itself recently, it is far from clear that London’s housing problems are in any way diminished. The opportunities for first-time buyers to get into the game may be worse than at any time in recent decades. read more »
Last week I wrote about the first part of my talk to the Bellevue Kiwanis Club on why our economy is in the position it is today. It is a story about good intentioned policies – like modifying credit scoring for Americans working in a cash-economy – that were bastardized in the execution – like some Americans using modified credit scoring to lie about their income. Just like there were superstar firms among the original “junk bond” companies, there were also firms like Enron and WorldCom.
In the first part of my story: banks wrote mortgages, their broker-arms sold them to the public in the form of bonds, they paid fees to Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s to get triple-A credit ratings, and they devised crazy default protection schemes which they also sold in the public capital markets. On top of all that, they screwed up the paper work so there was no relationship between houses and the ultimate financial paper that could be used to cover potential losses. read more »
Everyone knows that subprime mortgages lie at the root of our current financial crisis. Lenders originated too many of them, they were securitized amidst an increasingly complex credit market, and the bubble popped. The rest is painful history. read more »
The notion of a populist outburst raises an archaic vision of soot-covered industrial workers waving placards. Yet populism is far from dead, and represents a force that could shape our political future in unpredictable ways.
People have reasons to be mad, from declining real incomes to mythic levels of greed and excess among the financial elite. Confidence in political and economic institutions remains at low levels, as does belief in the future. read more »
Like so many others, I have long been a visitor to New Orleans. In my case, the first visit was 1979, when we studied the city to influence the design of the new town of Seaside. I have been back often – for New Orleans is one of the best places to learn architecture and urbanism in the United States. My emphasis on design might seem unusual, but it shouldn't be, for the design of New Orleans possesses a unique quality and character comparable to the music and the cuisine that receives most of the attention.
During those visits, sadly, I did not get to know the people – not really. The New Orleanians I met were doing their jobs but not necessarily being themselves. Such is the experience of the tourist. read more »
The great Central Valley of California has never been an easy place. Dry and almost uninhabitable by nature, the state's engineering marvels brought water down from the north and the high Sierra, turning semi-desert into some of the richest farmland in the world. read more »
Last month marked the 15th anniversary of the settlement of Plotkin vs. General Electric, the landmark “greenwashing” lawsuit I filed in 1993. At the time, GE was misleading consumers by selling phony lookalike energy efficient light bulbs that were in fact just old fashioned incandescent wolves in green packaging.
I took no money from the case. But I required G.E. to make labeling changes and to pony up $3.25 million dollars in consumer refunds and donations to environmental and public service groups. The labeling changes made it easier for the manufacturers of real energy efficient light bulbs, which were just then entering the marketplace, to distinguish their products on the shelves. read more »