Policy

The Vote: Democracy or Disease?

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When the California polls closed on Tuesday, the most costly primary race in the state's history—thus far—came to an end. Like many high profile races for Senator and Governor nationwide, the spending attracted national attention.

Of course, this isn't the first time that California politics and political trends have captured the national imagination and spread like a virus. Given the particularly brutal economic meltdown in California, one would not expect the state's notoriously dysfunctional governance system to be a role model for others to follow. Alas, it unfortunately seems that it is. Three examples below from the Midwest show that California-style governance definitely has its fans.  read more »

Toronto's G-20 Conference: Financial Boon or Boondoggle?

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Ever since the ill fated 1999 WTO meeting in Seattle, there has been some debate over the merits of hosting meetings of international organizations in major cities. Some argue that there are economic spin offs from the tourism generated by these conferences, but others argue that the security costs far outweigh the benefits. In the lead up to the G-20 meeting in Toronto, scheduled for June 26-27, there has been a flurry of controversy over the price tag for conference security.  read more »

It is Time to Plant

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It is springtime in Kentucky – think foals and mares in the pristine meticulously fenced pastures. But, in another part of the state – the Appalachia region of eastern Kentucky – it is time to plant on those rocky hillsides. As my 90 year old father puts it, you plant your corn when tree buds are the size of squirrel ears. I confess to not having given a thought to whether squirrels even have ears or not ... but my father knows. He was born and raised in a part of the world where they know things like that, typical of the mostly Scots-Irish who settled there.  read more »

The Future Of America's Working Class

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Watford, England, sits at the end of a spur on the London tube's Metropolitan line, a somewhat dreary city of some 80,000 rising amid the pleasant green Hertfordshire countryside. Although not utterly destitute like parts of south or east London, its shabby High Street reflects a now-diminished British dream of class mobility. It also stands as a potential warning to the U.S., where working-class, blue-collar white Americans have been among the biggest losers in the country's deep, persistent recession.  read more »

An American History Post 2010: The Great Deconstruction

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There is a great battle brewing – the proverbial paradox of the immovable object versus an irresistible force. The battle lines are drawn. On one side is the Greatest Generation, Americans over 60, middle class and mostly white. Mainstream media calls them The Tea Party and worse.

On the other side is President Barack Obama and a younger generation of progressive Democrats who see the need for an ever more expansive government. The battlefield is spending and debt.  read more »

The Hong Kong Model for National Identity Cards

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“May I see some identification, please?” asked a retail clerk in my home town Seattle taking my check. I said certainly and handed the sales woman my Hong Kong identity card. She looked at it blankly for a moment then said, “Can I see some other kind of identification?”

Sometimes when I’m feeling cranky or mischievous, I hand over my Hong Kong ID card when I need to produce some kind of identification. Why not? It is a perfectly valid document. It has my photograph on it. I know of no law that specifies that my state driver’s license has become a national ID card. At least not yet.  read more »

Twenty-first Century Electorate’s Heart is in the Suburbs

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Even as the nation conducts its critically important decennial census, a demographic picture of the rapidly changing population of the United States is emerging. It underlines how suburban living has become the dominant experience for all key groups in America’s 21st Century Electorate.

While suburban living was once seen as the almost exclusive preserve of the white upper-middle class, a majority of all major American racial and ethnic groups now live in suburbia, according to the newest report on the state of metropolitan America from the Brookings Institute.  read more »

The Broken Ladder: The Threat to Upward Mobility in the Global City

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Since the beginnings of civilization, cities have been the crucibles of progress both for societies and individuals. A great city, wrote Rene Descartes in the 17th Century, represented “an inventory of the possible”, a place where people could create their own futures and lift up their families.

In the 21st Century – the first in which the majority of people will live in cities – this unique link between urbanism and upward mobility will become ever more critical. Cities have become much larger. In 1900 London was the world’s largest urban center with seven million people. Today there are three dozen cities with larger populations.  read more »

It's the Jobs, Stupid: Infrastructure Matters

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It may surprise you to know that some policy makers and academics believe that “nothing matters” when it comes to infrastructure -- the physical structures that make water, energy, broadband and transportation work -- and economic prosperity. The thrust of the idea that infrastructure doesn’t matter may have started with Larry Summers, appointed by President Obama as Director of the National Economic Council in 2009. The New York Times says he is “the only top economic adviser with a West Wing office” – meaning he is very powerful in Washington terms.  read more »

Houston: Model City

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Do cities have a future? Pessimists point to industrial-era holdovers like Detroit and Cleveland. Urban boosters point to dense, expensive cities like New York, Boston and San Francisco. Yet if you want to see successful 21st-century urbanism, hop on down to Houston and the Lone Star State.

You won't be alone: Last year Houston added 141,000 residents, more than any region in the U.S. save the city's similarly sprawling rival, Dallas-Fort Worth. Over the past decade Houston's population has grown by 24%--five times the rate of San Francisco, Boston and New York. In that time it has attracted 244,000 new residents from other parts of the U.S., while older cities experienced high rates of out-migration.  read more »