Middle Class

How Houston Will Weather The Recession

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In the past year or so, traveling the various geographies of this country has become increasingly depressing. From the baked Sun Belt suburbs to the green Valhallas of Oregon and the once luxurious precincts of Manhattan, it is hard to find much cheer--at least from entrepreneurs--about the prospects for the economy.

Until recently Texas, and particularly Houston, has been one of the last bastions of that great traditional American optimism--and for good reason. Over the past few years, Houston has outperformed every major metropolitan area on virtually every key economic indicator.  read more »

Sunbelt Indianapolis

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For decades, the overwhelming majority of population and economic growth has occurred in the Sun Belt – the nation’s South and West as defined by the United States Bureau of the Census. This broadly-defined area stretches south from the Washington-Baltimore area to the entire West, including anything but sunny Seattle and Portland. Any list of population growth or employment growth among the major metropolitan areas will tend to show the Sun Belt metropolitan areas bunched at the top and the Frost Belt areas (the Northeast and Midwest regions) bunched at the bottom.  read more »

Urban Inequality Could Get Worse

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President Obama's stated objective to reduce inequality, as laid out in public addresses and budget plans, is a noble one. The growing income gap – not only between rich and poor, but also between the ultra-affluent and the middle class – poses a threat both to the economy and the long-term viability of our republic.

But ironically, what seems to be the administration's core proposal, ratcheting up the burden on "rich" taxpayers earning over $250,000, could have unintended consequences. For one thing, it would place undue stress on the very places that have been Obama's strongest supports, while providing an unintended boost to those regions that most oppose him.  read more »

The Aging of Paradise in Ventura County California

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You could say that Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, represents what is best about California. Some people believe that its amenities – beaches, gorgeous interior valleys and parks – assure perpetual economic growth for Ventura County and California. They are wrong. There is trouble in paradise.

Ventura County has changed, and not for the better. It is aging, losing its demographic as well as economic vitality. This represents a relatively new phenomenon, the slow decline of even formerly healthy suburban areas.  read more »

Democrats Could Face an Internal Civil War as Gentry and Populist Factions Square Off

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This is the Democratic Party's moment, its power now greater than any time since the mid-1960s. But do not expect smooth sailing. The party is a fractious group divided by competing interests, factions and constituencies that could explode into a civil war, especially when it comes to energy and the environment.

Broadly speaking, there is a long-standing conflict inside the Democratic Party between gentry liberals and populists. This division is not the same as in the 1960s, when the major conflicts revolved around culture and race as well as on foreign policy. Today the emerging fault-lines follow mostly regional, geographical and, most importantly, class differences.  read more »

The Decline of Los Angeles

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Next week, Antonio Villaraigosa will be overwhelmingly re-elected mayor of Los Angeles. Do not, however, take the size of his margin – he faces no significant opposition – as evidence that all is well in the city of angels.

Whatever His Honor says to the media, the sad reality remains that Los Angeles has fallen into a serious secular decline. This constitutes one of the most rapid – and largely unnecessary – municipal reversals in fortune in American urban history.  read more »

What Does “Age of Hope” Mean in the Mississippi Delta?

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It was during the inaugural days that an article appeared in The Washington Post about the predominantly black Mississippi Delta going for Obama – no surprise! But juxtaposed in the same time period there appeared in a Kentucky newspaper the story of predominantly white Menifee County, my birthplace – deep in the heart of Appalachia – defying the red sea of Kentucky all around it and also going for Obama.  read more »

Death of the California Dream

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For decades, California has epitomized America's economic strengths: technological excellence, artistic creativity, agricultural fecundity and an intrepid entrepreneurial spirit. Yet lately California has projected a grimmer vision of a politically divided, economically stagnant state. Last week its legislature cut a deal to close its $42 billion budget deficit, but its larger problems remain.  read more »

The “To Do” List for Middle-Class New Yorkers

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This month, a new report from The Center For An Urban Future, Reviving The City of Aspiration, examines the squeeze on middle class New Yorkers.

The struggle to afford life’s basics—and a few indulgences, too—is nothing new to urbanites of modest means. A 1907 New York Times piece headlined 'Very Soon New York Will Be A City Without Resident Citizens' reported, “Life in the big city is becoming impossible to the average householder, living on an average income.” ‘Average’ necessities were identified as rent, home-cooked meals, servants wages, ice, and coal. Occasional luxuries included theater and restaurant visits.  read more »

Reviving the City of Aspiration: A Study of the Challenges Facing New York City's Middle Class

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For much of its history, New York City has thrived as a place that both sustained a large middle class and elevated countless people from poorer backgrounds into the ranks of the middle class. The city was never cheap and parts of Manhattan always remained out of reach, but working people of modest means—from forklift operators and bus drivers to paralegals and museum guides—could enjoy realistic hopes of home ownership and a measure of economic security as they raised their families across the other four boroughs.  read more »