Middle Class

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 »

Moving to Reloville, America's Cross-Country Careerists

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Peter T. Kilborn’s Next Stop, Reloville: Life Inside America's New Rootless Professional Class documents an important piece of social history: the lives of relocating corporate executives. These modern-day ­nomads—overwhelming white, well-educated and middle-class—maintain the business machine of large companies. They include the technicians, marketing executives and professional managers who accept a rootless life in exchange for handsome remuneration.  read more »

The Next Culture War

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The culture war over religion and values that dominated much of the last quarter of the 20th century has ended, mostly in a rout of the right-wing zealots who waged it.

Yet even as this old conflict has receded , a new culture war may be beginning. This one is being launched largely by the religious right's long-time secularist enemies who are now enjoying unprecedented influence over our national politics.  read more »

Who Killed California's Economy?

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Right now California's economy is moribund, and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not good. Unable to pay its bills, the state is issuing IOUs; its once strong credit rating has collapsed. The state that once boasted the seventh-largest gross domestic product in the world is looking less like a celebrated global innovator and more like a fiscal basket case along the lines of Argentina or Latvia.

It took some amazing incompetence to toss this best-endowed of places down into the dustbin of history. Yet conventional wisdom views the crisis largely as a legacy of Proposition 13, which in effect capped only taxes.

This lets too many malefactors off the hook. I covered the Proposition 13 campaign for the Washington Post and examined its aftermath up close. It passed because California was running huge surpluses at the time, even as soaring property taxes were driving people from their homes.  read more »

Lessons from the Left: When Radicals Rule – For Thirty Years

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Contrary to popular notions held even here in southern California, Santa Monica was never really a beach town or bedroom community. It was a blue-collar industrial town, home to the famed Douglas Aircraft from before World War II until the 1970s.

When I first lived there in the early ’70s, the city was pretty dilapidated, decaying and declining (except for the attractive neighborhoods of large expensive homes in the city’s northern sections). I remember a lot of retirees, students, and like me and my wife, renters of small apartments in old buildings. The tiredness of the place was incongruous with its great location and weather. But then the first of several spectacular rises in real estate values took off.  read more »

Did Homeowners Cause The Great Recession?

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The person who caused the current world recession can be found not on Wall Street or the city of London, but instead could be you, and your next-door neighbor--the people who put so much of their savings and credit to buy a house.

Increasingly, conventional wisdom places the fundamental blame for the worldwide downturn on people's desire--particularly in places like the U.K., the U.S. and Spain--to own their own home. Acceptance of the long-term serfdom of renting, the logic increasingly goes, could help restore order and the rightful balance of nature.  read more »

Why The Left Is Questioning Its Hero

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Much has been made by the national media and the markets about the emergence from our desiccated economic soil of what President Obama has called "green shoots." But although the economy may already be slowly regenerating (largely due to its natural resiliency), we need to question whether these fledglings will grow into healthy plants or a crop of crabgrass.

The political right has made many negative assessments of the president's approach, decrying the administration's huge jump in deficit spending and penchant for ever more expansive regulatory control of the economy. Polling data by both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal shows some growing unease about both the expanding federal role in the economy and the growing mountain of debt.  read more »

How Can Cities with Unaffordable Housing be Ranked Among the Most Livable Cities in the World?

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The Economist magazine's "Economic Intelligence Unit" (EIU) has published its most recent survey of the most livable cities in the world.

Vancouver, Canada, ranks number one, Vienna, Austria number two, Perth, Australia number five, Geneva number 8, Zurich, number 9, (both in Switzerland) and Auckland, New Zealand, number twelve.  read more »