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 »

America's European Dream


The evolving Greek fiscal tragedy represents more than an isolated case of a particularly poorly run government. It reflects a deeper and potentially irreversible malaise that threatens the entire European continent.

The issues at the heart of the Greek crisis – huge public debt, slow population growth, expansive welfare system and weakening economic fundamentals – extend to a wider range of European countries, most notably in weaker fringe nations like Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain (the so-called PIIGS). These problems also pervade many E.U. countries still outside the Eurozone in both the Baltic and the Balkans.  read more »

The Transportation Community Braces for Continued Uncertainty


Recent game changing events — notably, the Massachusetts election depriving the Senate Democrats of a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority, and the projected record breaking $1.6 trillion deficit in the FY 2011 budget proposal — have introduced serious uncertainties into the President’s domestic agenda. The federal surface transportation program is no exception.  read more »

Atlanta: Ground Zero for the American Dream


The Atlanta area has much to be proud of, though it might not be obvious from the attitudes exhibited by many of its most prominent citizens. For years, local planners and business leaders have regularly trekked to planning’s Holy City (Portland) in hopes of replicating its principles in Atlanta. They would be better saving their air fares.  read more »

Who's Dependent on Cars? Try Mass Transit


The Smart Growth movement has long demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of rhetoric. Terms like livability, transportation choice, and even “smart growth” enable advocates to argue by assertion rather than by evidence. Smart Growth rhetoric thrives in a political culture that rewards the clever catchphrase over drab data analysis, but often fails to identify the risks for cities inherent in their war against “auto-dependency” and promotion of large-scale mass transit to boost the “sustainability” of communities.  read more »

The Gero-Economy Revs Up

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Green jobs? Great. Gray jobs? Maybe an even better bet for the new jobs bill. If there is a single graphic that everyone concerned with the nation’s future should have tattooed on their eyeballs, my vote goes to the one on your left. Here is its central message:

Forty years from now, one out of four Americans will be 65 or older.

Twenty million will be over 85.

One million will be over 100.  read more »

Reforming Anti-Urban Bias in Transportation Spending


State governments have to stop treating transportation like yet another welfare program.

Among urban and rural areas, who subsidizes whom?

It's methodologically difficult to measure net taxation, but the studies that have been done suggest that, contrary to the belief of some, urban areas are big time net tax donors. For example, a recent Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute study found that Indiana's urban and suburban counties generally subsidize rural ones.  read more »

Memo To Obama: Banks Are Beautiful

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In his search for what Theodore Roosevelt called “a good, safe menace,” President Barack Obama has settled on the nation’s largest commercial banks, which as late as last year’s bailouts were still considered the best hope for economic salvation.

At first Obama was content to rail about the filthy lucre of banker bonuses. Then he got the idea of maybe hitting the bonus babies with special taxes. But the reason that the Secretary of the Treasury is often the former chairman of Goldman Sachs is because the bank is one of the instruments that keeps the government afloat.  read more »

Connecting Facts to Forecast 2010


Anyone can figure out the State of the Union by taking a good look around. I mean, I was born in the afternoon – but not yesterday afternoon – I don’t need four days of press coverage and a long speech by the President to tell me that Americans are suffering.

This time of year, though, everyone is looking for some hint of what is to come. Even the most rational among us are tempted to seek out some prediction of the future. Economists often rate high on the list of seers sought out by most Americans – right up there with stock brokers, Dionne Warwick’s Psychic Friends Network, and Joan Quigley (White House astrologer to the Reagans).

In this article, I’ll give you a few of my own predictions and then invite you to tell me the subject areas you want predicted. When pressed for my vision of the future, I like to add up what I already know to arrive at what I think will happen.  read more »