Middle Class

Immigrants Key to Economy's Revival


In Washington on Sunday, the tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding immigration reform looked like the opening round of the last thing the country needs now: another big debate on a divisive issue.

Yet Congress seems ready to take on immigration, which has been dividing Americans since the republic was founded.

But identifying immigrants as a “them,” as both their advocates and nativists do, misses the point. Immigrants — and their children — are the people who will help define the future “us.” They are also critical to the revival of the U.S. economy.  read more »

America in 2050 -- Where and How We'll Live


The presence of 100 million more Americans by 2050 will reshape the nation's geography. Scores of new communities will have to be built to accommodate them, creating a massive demand for new housing, as well as industrial and commercial space.

This growth will include everything from the widespread "infilling" of once-desolate inner cities to the creation of new suburban and exurban towns to the resettling of the American heartland -- the vast, still sparsely populated regions that constitute the majority of the U.S. landmass.  read more »

Forced March To The Cities


California is in trouble: Unemployment is over 13%, the state is broke and hundreds of thousands of people, many of them middle-class families, are streaming for the exits. But to some politicians, like Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the real challenge for California "progressives" is not to fix the economy but to reengineer the way people live.  read more »

Scenario Two: An Optimistic view of the United States future


This is the second in a two part series exploring a pessimistic and an optimistic future for the United States. Part One appeared yesterday.

A positive assessment of US prospects rests on at least seven propositions. First, the current crisis is not inherently more threatening than many others, most notably the Civil War, the Great Depression, and two World Wars. Quality leadership, building on the resilient political and economic institutions of the country, will prove sufficient to bring about needed sacrifices and transformations. We have seen this many times in the past from the Progressive Era to the New Deal, the Second World War and the winning of the Cold War, which was a uniquely bipartisan triumph.  read more »

Scenario One: A Pessimistic Forecast for the United States


This is the first in a two part series exploring a pessimistic and an optimistic future for the United States. Part Two will appear tomorrow.

I’m an old (76) 1950s type liberal, and have lived to see the election on the nation’s first mixed-race president, as well as some remarkable social change in the general status of women and ethnic minorities. The United States has a remarkable heritage of entrepreneurship and resilience in its democratic institutions. Yet there are cogent reasons to be fearful and pessimistic about our capacity to maintain our preeminence, at least in the medium run (10-15 years).  read more »

Jerry Brown: Machiavelli Or Torquemada?


For more than one-third of a century Jerry Brown has proved one of the most interesting and original figures in American politics--and the 71-year-old former wunderkind might be back in office in 2010. If he indeed wins California's gubernatorial election, the results could range from somewhat positive to positively disastrous.  read more »

Obama's Middle-Class Meltdown


The rapid decline in public support for Democrats and President Obama represents one of the most breathtaking political collapses in modern times. Little over a year from a huge electoral triumph, President Obama’s level of support has dropped from around 65% to under 50%. The Democrats in Congress, who held as much as a 10% edge over the Republicans last spring, are actually losing a “generic” vote.

Many Republicans and conservatives may think this represents a confirmation of their values. Yet in reality, the Democratic meltdown has less to do with belated admiration for the GOP—their support as a party remains at historically low levels—than a question of a massive disconnect between the people in power and the large, middle-class majority.  read more »

Eminent Domain as Central Planning


Free markets are out of vogue. The unfortunate lesson that policymakers have learned over the past two years is that a big, brainy government that supposedly creates jobs is superior to irrational, faceless markets that just create catastrophic errors. So Washington has seized on the financial and economic crises to enlarge its role in managing the economy—controlling the insurance giant AIG, for example, and trying to maintain high housing prices through tax credits and “mortgage modification” programs.  read more »

What is the Answer to the Suburban Question?


We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!).  read more »

Welcome to Ecotopia


In this era of tea-partying revolutionary-era dress-ups, one usually associates secessionism with the far right. But if things turn sour for the present majority in Washington, you should expect a whole new wave of separatism to emerge on the greenish left coast.

In 1975 Ernest Callenbach, an author based in Berkeley, Calif., published a sci-fi novel about enviro-secessionists called Ecotopia; a prequel, Ecotopia Rising, came out in 1981. These two books, which have acquired something of a cult following, chronicle--largely approvingly--the emergence of a future green nation along the country's northwest coast.  read more »