Politics

Bernanke: Junkmeister Hides the Truth

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the Senate Budget Committee on Tuesday (March 3, 2009), the day after it was announced that AIG would be back at the federal teat for another $30 billion. The generally subdued Senate was nonetheless forceful in getting Bernanke to admit several things:  read more »

Urban Inequality Could Get Worse

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President Obama's stated objective to reduce inequality, as laid out in public addresses and budget plans, is a noble one. The growing income gap – not only between rich and poor, but also between the ultra-affluent and the middle class – poses a threat both to the economy and the long-term viability of our republic.

But ironically, what seems to be the administration's core proposal, ratcheting up the burden on "rich" taxpayers earning over $250,000, could have unintended consequences. For one thing, it would place undue stress on the very places that have been Obama's strongest supports, while providing an unintended boost to those regions that most oppose him.  read more »

Democrats Could Face an Internal Civil War as Gentry and Populist Factions Square Off

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This is the Democratic Party's moment, its power now greater than any time since the mid-1960s. But do not expect smooth sailing. The party is a fractious group divided by competing interests, factions and constituencies that could explode into a civil war, especially when it comes to energy and the environment.

Broadly speaking, there is a long-standing conflict inside the Democratic Party between gentry liberals and populists. This division is not the same as in the 1960s, when the major conflicts revolved around culture and race as well as on foreign policy. Today the emerging fault-lines follow mostly regional, geographical and, most importantly, class differences.  read more »

The Panic of 2008: How Bad Is It?

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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

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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?

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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

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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

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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?

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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

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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 »