Middle Class

Financial Bailout Shortchanges Taxpayers and Does Little to Fix the Economy

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Last month, Congress gave the treasury secretary $700 billion, which he said he urgently needed to buy toxic securities from the balance sheets of some of our largest financial institutions that were in financial trouble.

The secretary said that the economy was in danger, and the bailout funds were necessary to prevent a collapse.

I agree the economy is in trouble. And I am anxious to support emergency measures that will give our economy a lift.  read more »

Young Voters Turn America Left

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Nothing made Barack Obama's victory potentially more historically significant than his overwhelming support from millennial voters, members of the generation born in or after 1982. Obama won voters under 30 by roughly two-to-one, compared with barely half for John Kerry, making some Democrats positively giddy with the prospect of long-term domination of American politics. Most of these voters also stayed with the Democrats down ticket, enhancing the mass slaughter of GOP lambs across the country.

Whether the Democrats keep this edge, however, depends not so much on the new president's personal appeal, but on whether he and his party can deliver economically for workers entering a very tough economy.  read more »

Obama: Making History but Not Ending It

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Barack Obama won a mandate among younger voters so large that it literally defies comparison, and with it, we're told, a mandate to retire tired old fights of little concern to this new generation. Yet in the long run, it may well be that his victory has only put on hold some enduring political conflicts and may even ignite new ones.

Obama’s 34-point, 66-32 percent win among the group that made up about 20 percent of voters and 60 percent of new voters was nearly four times the margin of John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Clinton in 1992.  read more »

Bringing Hope to Red America

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In the end Appalachia remained out of sync with much of America this year. West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and much of the hill country went for John McCain. Senator’s Obama’s message of “hope” did not play as well here as elsewhere.

This may seem a bit odd. The major targets of the election were Joe six-pack, Joe the plumber; Joe the ordinary man. Joe represented the disaffected males, the lost ones yearning for a simpler time and a better time. Enough Joes in other states voted for Obama to get him a spectacular victory in places like Ohio, Florida and Michigan.  read more »

No More Urban Hype

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Just months ago, urban revivalists could see the rosy dawn of a new era for America's cities. With rising gas prices and soaring foreclosures hitting the long-despised hinterland, urban boosters and their media claque were proclaiming suburbia home to, as the Atlantic put it, "the next slums." Time magazine, the Financial Times, CNN and, of course, The New York Times all embraced the notion of a new urban epoch.

Yet in one of those ironies that markets play on hypesters, the mortgage crisis is now puncturing the urbanists' bubble. The mortgage meltdown that first singed the suburbs and exurbs, after all, was largely financed by Wall Street, the hedge funds, the investment banks, insurers and the rest of the highly city-centric top of the paper food chain.  read more »

Industry, inequality and the middle classes

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The financial collapse dominates the news, but its unregulated rise is not unrelated to the relative decline of manufacturing over the last quarter century, and the outsourcing of much of industrial production. One consequence of this de-industrialization and financialization of everything has been an astounding increase in inequality, a massive concentration of wealth at the very top and the squeezing of the middle classes.

Places that remained strong in manufacturing tend to have had and still have lower inequality than places more dependent on services, lowly to professional, and experienced a smaller change in inequality.  read more »

The biggest issue remains undecided

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Unless something completely unexpected occurs, the presidential election has been settled, with Barack Obama the clear winner. Yet, except for the Republican Party’s demise, the most important issue of this era — the future of the middle class — remains largely unaddressed.

Indeed, even as social polarization has diminished — a change that is reflected in Obama’s electoral success — economic polarization has intensified. Globalization and the securitization of almost everything have created arguably the greatest concentration of wealth since before the Great Depression.  read more »

The middle class is key to any city’s future

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What are your favorite cities in the US and abroad? Chances are you like cities for their vibrancy, diversity, people, foods, smells, sights, sounds, and opportunities for work, learning, play and life.

These cities can only exist with vibrant middle classes to do the work, pay the taxes, and sustain life (including birthing the kids that are the city’s future).  read more »

Turns Out There's Good News on Main St.

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As the financial crisis takes down Wall Street, the regular folks on Main Street are biting their nails, watching the toxic tsunami head their way. But for all our nightmares of drowning in a sea of bad mortgages, foreclosed homes and shrunken retirement plans, the truth is that the effects of this meltdown won't be all bad in the long run. In one regard, it could offer our society a net positive: Forced into belt-tightening, Americans are likely to strengthen our family and community ties and to center our lives more closely on the places where we live.  read more »

The Geography of Inequality

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The global financial crisis has drawn greater attention to the world of the super rich and to the astounding increases in inequality since 1980, returning the country to a degree of inequality last seen in 1929 or perhaps even 1913. In the year 2006 alone, Wall Street executives received bonuses of $62 billion. Financial services increased from 10 percent of all business profits in 1980 to 40 percent in 2007, an obscene and indefensible development that now threatens the rest of the ‘real economy’.

Here’s what happened to income and wealth between 1970 and 2005  read more »