Politics

The Truce That Could Save American Cities

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Some states, such as New York and California, are loudly proclaiming that they have returned from the fiscal abyss. Maybe for now, but the future doesn’t look so good when long-term debt and pension obligations are factored in. Taken together, our 50 states owe $1 trillion in unfunded pension obligations.  read more »

Public Unions for Private Benefits: Public Sector Unions Enrich their Members by Distorting State Finances

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Concerned citizens of California are already familiar with the undue political influence of California’s prison guard union. According to Tim Kowal of the Orange County Federalist Society, the union raises $23 million dollars per year and spends $8 million of it lobbying. As a result, the state has found it impossible to engage in meaningful reform of its correctional system.  read more »

The Hall of Gimmicks

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Occasional Urbanophile contributor Robert Munson has talked about how Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley was among the first to recognize that there was a “taxpayer strike” in America. That is, given the breakdown in the social contract in our cities, taxpayers were increasingly unwilling to pour money down a rat hole.  read more »

How the Left Came to Reject Cheap Energy for the Poor

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Eighty years ago, the Tennessee Valley region was like many poor rural communities in tropical regions today. The best forests had been cut down to use as fuel for wood stoves. Soils were being rapidly depleted of nutrients, resulting in falling yields and a desperate search for new croplands. Poor farmers were plagued by malaria and had inadequate medical care. Few had indoor plumbing and even fewer had electricity.  read more »

The Culture War That Social Conservatives Could Win

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For the better part of a half century, social conservatives have been waging a desperate war to defend “family values.” However well-intentioned, this effort has to be written off as something of a failure. To continue it would cause even more damage to many of the things that social conservatives say they care most about.  read more »

Subjects:

Cities Still Being Squeezed

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Recent announcements of state budget surpluses have led to the popping of corks across the deepest-blue parts of America, particularly here in California. In some cases, the purported fiscal recovery has been enshrined by an emerging hagiography about Jerry Brown's steadfastness in the face of budget debacles.  read more »

As the North Rests on Its Laurels, the South Is Rising Fast

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One hundred and fifty years after twin defeats at Gettysburg and Vicksburg destroyed the South’s quest for independence, the region is again on the rise. People and jobs are flowing there, and Northerners are perplexed by the resurgence of America’s home of the ignorant, the obese, the prejudiced and exploited, the religious and the undereducated.  read more »

No Solar Way Around It: Why Nuclear Is Essential to Combating Climate Change

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Nobody who has paid attention to what's happened to solar panels over the last several decades can help but be impressed. Prices declined an astonishing 75 percent from 2008 to 2012. In the United States, solar capacity has quintupled since 2008, and grown by more than 50 times since 2000, according to US Energy Information Administration data. In 1977, solar panels cost $77 per watt.  read more »

The Unexotic Underclass

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The startup scene today, and by ‘scene’ I’m sweeping a fairly catholic brush over a large swath of people – observers, critics,  investors, entrepreneurs, ‘want’repreneurs, academics, techies, and the like – seems to be riven into two camps.

On one side stand those who believe that entrepreneurs have stopped chasing and solving Big Problems – capital B, capital P: clean energy, poverty, famine, climate change, you name it.  I needn’t replay their song here; they’ve argued their cases far more eloquently elsewhere read more »

The Mad Drive to Subvert Democracy in Toronto

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Let me stipulate that I think Toronto’s Rob Ford is a terrible mayor. In fact, while I might not go so far as Richard Florida, who labeled Ford “the worst mayor in the modern history of cities, an avatar for all that is small-bore and destructive of the urban fabric, and the most anti-urban mayor ever to preside over a big city,” I’m willing to say he’s probably in the running for the title.

The roots of Rob Ford lie in “amalgamation,” the forcible merging of the city of Toronto government with various of its suburbs by the Ontario provincial government. The idea was cost savings, but of course costs went up.  read more »