Policy

Blame Wall Street's Phantom Bonds for the Credit Crisis

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The “credit crisis” is largely a Wall Street disaster of its own making. From the sale of stocks and bonds that are never delivered, to the purchase of default insurance worth more than the buyer’s assets, we no longer have investment strategies, but rather investment schemes. As long as everyone was making money, no one complained. But like any Ponzi Scheme, eventually the pyramid begins to collapse.

For the last couple of months trillions of dollars worth of US Treasury bonds have been sold but undelivered. Trades that go unsettled have become an event so common that the industry has an acronym for it: FTD, or fail to deliver.  read more »

Pittsburgh Turns 250 Years Old Today

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But instead of a nice birthday card, my home town of Pittsburgh could use a sympathy card. It’s been a tough last 100 years for a once great and powerful city.

The first 150 years were not so bad. On Nov. 25, 1758 British Gen. John Forbes named the city for prime minister William Pitt after chasing the French from the militarily and economically strategic triangle of land where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio.  read more »

Island of Broken Dreams

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A The New York Times editorial wonders why foreclosure rates are so high in the two Long Island counties it rightly calls the “birthplace of the suburban American Dream.” After all, the area has “a relative lack of room to sprawl.” which in Times-speak should be a good thing, since “sprawl” is by definition both bad and doomed.

Yet it is precisely the constraints on new housing that has served as a principal cause for Long Island problems.  read more »

Up Next: The War of the Regions?

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By Joel Kotkin and Mark Schill

It’s time to throw away red, blue and purple, left and right, and get to the real and traditional crux of American politics: the battle for resources between the country’s many diverse regions. How President-elect Barack Obama balances these divergent geographic interests may have more to do with his long-term success than his ideological stance or media image. Personal charm is transitory; the struggle for money and jobs has a more permanent character.  read more »

The Case for Optimism on the Economy

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With the prospect of a long, deep recession staring us in the face, are there any reasons for optimism?

You betcha!

The central characteristic of the American economy – resiliency – is now being severely tested. But there are ample reasons to believe it will pass that test. Simply put, even after this crisis the US will still have the world's largest, most dynamic, most productive, most innovative, most technologically advanced, most competitive and most venturesome economy.  read more »

Toronto: The Action is Where You Make It

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You get mean-spirited when you feel left out of joy. Somebody else’s joy raises envy when you haven’t had any yourself. Cities are like that, jealously eyeing other cities as if there were more fun and delight and oh, “buzz,” to be had elsewhere.

In fact it’s an illusion that the party is going on somewhere else. The action is where you make it, and in a city you have lots of help doing it. In fact that’s what justifies city life – the signature of any great city. Self-rejoicing. It’s something more than plain pride, or confidence or superiority, or a call for “buzz,” excitement, or (yech) prosperity.  read more »

Will we be over-stimulated?

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Stimulus fever is in the air, and with the election of Sen. Barack Obama to become the 44th US president, it’s now reaching a fever pitch. US automakers have already made the rounds on Washington DC, meeting with Congressional leadership to generate political support for another $25 billion in government subsidy to avoid bankruptcy. Now, congressional leaders and some economists are clamoring for $150 billion to $300 billion in additional stimulus to goose the national economy – all this on top of the $700 billion financial services “rescue package” passed in October.  read more »

Sundown for California

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Twenty-five years ago, along with another young journalist, I coauthored a book called California, Inc. about our adopted home state. The book described “California’s rise to economic, political, and cultural ascendancy.”

As relative newcomers at the time, we saw California as a place of limitless possibility. And over most of the next two decades, my coauthor, Paul Grabowicz, and I could feel comfortable that we were indeed predicting the future.  read more »

Pittsburgh's Brain Drain Game

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Rust Belt communities are obsessed with brain drain. The demographic losers of economic restructuring, cities are employing a variety of strategies to stop the bleeding and keep the talent from leaving the region. Akron, OH recently voted down a proposal to lease the city’s sewer system in order to fund a scholarship program designed to plug the holes of out-migration. The voters balked at the initiative partly as a result of the 30-year residential commitment necessary to reap the full benefits of the funding for post-secondary education in Akron schools.  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 »