Politics

The Panic of 2008: How Bad Is It?

iStock_000007358300XSmall.jpg

Just how bad is the current economic downturn? It is frequently claimed that the crash of 2008 is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. There is plenty of reason to accept this characterization, though we clearly are not suffering the widespread hardship of the Depression era. Looking principally at historical household wealth data from the Federal Reserve Board’s Flow of Funds Accounts of the United States, summarized in our Value of Household Residences, Stocks & Mutual Funds: 1952-2008, we can conclude it’s pretty bad, but nothing yet like the early 1930s.  read more »

The Decline of Los Angeles

iStock_000002566834XSmall.jpg

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?

677px-Menifee_County_Courhouse,_Kentucky.jpg

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 »

Housing Bail Out Part Deux: Just Another Financial Con Job

iStock_000005487266XSmall.jpg

Last night I wrote about the Obama Administration’s housing bail out. But, I hate to say, there’s more to tell you – and it’s actually worse. In addition to the giveaways to mortgage holders, we also have to consider the federal government effectively offering to give a credit default swap (CDS, remember those?) to the banks.  read more »

Death of the California Dream

iStock_000003040219XSmall.jpg

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 »

Responsible Home Buyers, Why Be Frugal?

iStock_000007453370XSmall.jpg

I was laying in bed this morning, listening to discussions of the Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan, the 2009 version of a Homeowner Bailout. (The 2008 version was spent on the banks.) I listened closely because I had to decide if it was worth getting out of bed to earn the money to pay my mortgage or not. Like all those bankers that got a bailout, I was wondering if it might be worth more to me to default on my mortgage than to pay it.  read more »

A Tale of Two Blizzards

iStock_000005243438XSmall.jpg

January 1979 saw one of the worst blizzards in city history hit Chicago, dumping 20 inches of snow, closing O'Hare airport for 46 hours, and paralyzing traffic in the city for days. Despite the record snowfall, the city's ineffectual response was widely credited for the defeat of Mayor Michael Bilandic in his re-election bid, leading to Jane Bryne becoming the city's first female mayor.

In January 1978, a similar blizzard had struck the city of Indianapolis, also burying the city in a record 20 inches of snow. Mayor Bill Hudnut stayed awake nearly two days straight, coordinating the response and frequently updating the city on the snow fighting efforts through numerous media appearances.  read more »

Don't Politicize the Census Bureau

iStock_000006036685XSmall.jpg

The recent decision by the Obama Administation to place the Census under the control of the White House represents a danger – not only to the integrity of the process but to the underlying assumptions that drive policy in a representative democracy. It is something that smacks of the worst anti-scientific views of the far right, or the casual political manipulation of the facts one expects in places like Russia or Iran.  read more »

Fool Me Once, Geithner, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice...

geithner.jpg

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner revealed the new “Financial Stability Plan” on February 10, 2009. It’s thick with “why we need it” and thin on “exactly what it is.” He told Congress that he would open a website to disclose where all the bailout money was going. When asked if he would reveal where the first $350 billion went, he was a little vague on the details.  read more »

The Pleasure of Their Company

iStock_000000117689XSmall.jpg

Executives from banks including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Bank of America (who bought Merrill Lynch) have been called to Capitol Hill to explain what they did with their shares of the $750 billion bailout. (You can watch it live or read transcripts here.)

Here’s a good question to put to those executives: how much did you spend on whores?  read more »