Middle Class

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 »

The Heavy Price of Growth Management in Seattle


The University of Washington Study: Economist Theo Eicher of the University of Washington has published research indicating that regulation has added $200,000 to house prices in Seattle between 1989 and 2006. Eicher told the Seattle Times that “Seattle is one of the most regulated cities and a city whose housing prices are profoundly influenced by regulations.”  read more »

Our Exurban Future and the Ecological Footprint


‘How shall we live?’ is a question that naturally concerns architects, planners, community representatives and all of us. It is a question that turns on the density of human settlements, the use of resources and the growing division of labour.  read more »

The Death Of Gentry Liberalism


Gentry liberalism, so hot just a year ago, is now in full retreat, a victim of its hypocrisy and fundamental contradictions. Its collapse threatens the coherence of President Barack Obama's message as he prepares for his State of the Union speech on Wednesday.  read more »

The War Against Suburbia


A year into the Obama administration, America’s dominant geography, suburbia, is now in open revolt against an urban-centric regime that many perceive threatens their way of life, values, and economic future. Scott Brown’s huge upset victory by 5 percent in Massachusetts, which supported Obama by 26 percentage points in 2008, largely was propelled by a wave of support from middle-income suburbs all around Boston. The contrast with 2008 could not be plainer.  read more »

MILLENNIAL PERSPECTIVE: Vintage Fashion & The Twice-Around Economy

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One impact of the recession has been a fundamental change in consumer clothing purchase patterns. Luxury retailers’ losses have been second-hand retailers’ gains. Internet marketers have also been uniquely positioned to benefit.

Instead of buying new goods, more shoppers are turning to second-hand bargains. Thrift stores, with their low prices, are rising in popularity.  read more »

Denmark, and the US, in 2010


Denmark is a good microcosm. It holds lessons for us here in the States, good and bad. I felt that way when I first lived there in 1971, when I researched my doctoral dissertation there in 1977, and I feel that way now.

Denmark is a mixed-economy (free market competition with a large public sector), social welfare, multi-party democratic country that, because of its small size and international exposure, is affected more quickly and deeply by social, economic and political forces at work in the Western (and wider) world.  read more »