From health care reform and transportation to education to the environment, the Obama administration has--from the beginning--sought to expand the power of the central state. The president's newest initiative to wrest environment, wage and benefit concessions from private companies is the latest example. But this trend of centralizing power to the federal government puts the political future of the ruling party--as well as the very nature of our federal system--in jeopardy. read more »
The Obama administration celebrated the anniversary of the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or economic stimulus, by pointing out the gradual recovery of the United States economy has resulted in “saving or creating two million jobs.” But young Americans continue to bear the brunt of what is still America’s worst recession since the Great Depression. read more »
There are those who believe that Sweden has a low level of unemployment. This is far from the truth. The combination of high taxes, generous government benefits and a regulated labor market has led to many Swedes to rely on handouts rather than work. The system does succeed in one thing: hiding the true unemployment. read more »
The rapid decline in public support for Democrats and President Obama represents one of the most breathtaking political collapses in modern times. Little over a year from a huge electoral triumph, President Obama’s level of support has dropped from around 65% to under 50%. The Democrats in Congress, who held as much as a 10% edge over the Republicans last spring, are actually losing a “generic” vote.
Many Republicans and conservatives may think this represents a confirmation of their values. Yet in reality, the Democratic meltdown has less to do with belated admiration for the GOP—their support as a party remains at historically low levels—than a question of a massive disconnect between the people in power and the large, middle-class majority. read more »
Free markets are out of vogue. The unfortunate lesson that policymakers have learned over the past two years is that a big, brainy government that supposedly creates jobs is superior to irrational, faceless markets that just create catastrophic errors. So Washington has seized on the financial and economic crises to enlarge its role in managing the economy—controlling the insurance giant AIG, for example, and trying to maintain high housing prices through tax credits and “mortgage modification” programs. read more »
Although I cannot imagine that it will have much appeal in the ratings beyond C-Span 2, a terrific new reality program, Euro Bomb, could be produced around the survival of the Greek economy.
The founder of both the ancient and modern Olympic games is in the midst of a debt crisis that threatens not just to send a few bondholders off the island, but has the potential to blow up the European Union’s currency zone. read more »
What if we achieved the urbanist dream, with people deciding en masse to move back to the city? Well, that would create a big problem, since there would be no place to put them. Many cities hit their peak population in 1950, when the US total was 150 million. Today it is over 300 million, with virtually all the growth taking place in the suburbs. read more »
We have recently assembled a special issue of the journal Cities with the title “The Suburban Question”, and we assume that many readers will assume the answer is “who cares”? The term ‘sub-urbs’ connotes a lesser form of urban life, and for decades it has been used dismissively to denote anything plastic, even hypocritical. Novelist Anthony Powell described one of his unsympathetic characters possessing a ‘‘face like Hampstead Garden Suburb”; the New York Times recently described architect Robert Stern as ‘‘a suede-loafered sultan of suburban retrotecture”. In the old days, record stores had ‘urban’ bins full of gangsta, but nothing marked ‘suburban’, although it is always easy to use the suburbs as a backdrop for duplicity, as in American Beauty, or the first series of Weeds (set in a gated community, a double score!). read more »
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 »
Many years ago, I wrote for a New York investment bank whose name has been semi-obscured by the epidemic of shotgun marriages on Wall Street in the intervening decades. Thus, the news that Goldman Sachs enabled the miserable financial accounting habits of Greece did not surprise me, nor, I feel sure, anyone who ever worked for one of the banks. As many characters on “The Wire” put it over five years of exquisite television, “All in the game, yo.” Or, in the words of a previous era’s television icon — JR Ewing, Texas oilman on “Dallas” — “Once you give up your ethics, the rest is a piece of cake.” read more »