Do Home Energy Credits Need A Remodel?

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With the home building industry in peril, you would think that legislators would come up with immediate solutions to help foster new home construction. And there are now two well known Federal programs regarding housing: one is the $8,000 tax credit for first time home buyers, and the other is the 30% energy tax credit for a select few components of home remodeling.  read more »

Playing with the Big Boys: The Costs of Fruitless Passenger Rail Tours

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In these hard times the New Zealand public is somewhat excited about the travel costs incurred by our Government Ministers and MPs. Overseas travel attracts particular rage and fury.

A particularly galling example is a proposal by Christchurch City Mayor Bob Parker, his CEO Tony Marryat, and an urban planner, to visit the US to investigate the performance of light rail in Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Vancouver.  read more »

Online Neighborhood: The Front Porch Forum

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Last summer, Sharon Owens had a problem. The Burlington, VT mother of three was trying to satisfy the wishes of her soon-to-be 14-year old daughter who wanted to celebrate her birthday with a canoe outing with friends. The problem was that renting the necessary canoes would have cost hundreds of dollars. Interestingly, it seemed that nearly ever other house in Sharon’s neighborhood had a canoe in the backyard, or parked under a tarp next to a garage. But Sharon, like many of us, did not know her neighbors, and felt uncomfortable asking them.  read more »

Asian Manufacturers : Is Turnabout Fair Trade?

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When the British troops laid down their arms at Yorktown, Virginia, a colonial band played "The World Turned Upside Down," a popular air marking the absurdity of the occasion. Now the American economy is turned upside down, and the small businesses that once fortified it have exchanged places with Asian manufacturers that America once sought to protect. No man’s enlightenment is complete without the deepening amazement that comes with having seen such a reversal.  read more »

Vetting the Volt: Toward Meaningful Electric Car Fuel Consumption Ratings

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The 230 Miles per Gallon Claim: The General Motors (GM) announcement last week that the Chevrolet Volt would achieve 230 miles per gallon in city driving and a rating of more than 100 miles per gallon with combined city and highway driving sadly contains more hype than reality. The Chevrolet Volt is a plug-in hybrid vehicle that GM intends to begin marketing in 2010. GM has indicated that the car will be able without gasoline for 40 miles, on its rechargeable battery. After the battery is depleted, the car would begin to use gasoline. The 230 mile per gallon figure, according to GM, was calculated using a proposed but yet not revealed Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy testing procedure. Similarly, the details of the GM calculation were not revealed.  read more »

Hypocrisy? Conservative Anti-government Folks are Also at the Public Trough

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Frequent news stories tell of folks who protest and rant about “socialism” and government handouts, especially recently in the “debate” over health care reform, but who turn out to live on social security and depend on Medicare, and sometimes don’t even know they are public programs! This likely tells us about the astounding power of the religious right and of the economic illiteracy of much of the population.  read more »

The New Radicals

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America's ''kumbaya'' moment has come and gone. The nation's brief feel-good era initiated by Barack Obama's stirring post-partisan rhetoric--and fortified by John McCain's classy concession speech--has dissolved into sectarian bickering more appropriate to dysfunctional Iraq than the world's greatest democratic republic.

Yet little of the shouting concerns the fundamental economic issue facing the U.S. today: the decline of upward mobility and income growth for the working and middle classes. Instead we have politicos battling over two versions of ''trickle down'' economics.  read more »

California Disease: Oregon at Risk of Economic Malady

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California has been exporting people to Oregon for many years, even amid the recession in both states.

Indeed, the 2005 American Community Survey report shows that California-to-Oregon migration was 56,379 in 2005, the sixth-largest interstate flow in the United States. The 2000 census showed a five-year flow of 138,836 people, the eighth-largest over that time period. Until two years ago, Oregon was managing to absorb this population with mixed results, but generally as part of an expanding and diversifying economy. But that pattern has ended, at least for now.  read more »

The New Industrial City

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Most American urban economic development and revitalization initiatives seek to position communities to attract high wage jobs in the knowledge economy. This usually involves programs to attract and retain the college educated, and efforts to lure corporate headquarters or target industries such as life sciences, high tech, or cutting edge green industries. Almost everything, whether it be recreational trails, public art programs, stadiums and convention centers, or corporate incentives, is justified by reference to this goal, often with phrases like “stopping brain drain” and “luring the creative class”.

The future vision underpinning this is a decidedly post-industrial one. This city of tomorrow is made up of people living upscale in town condos, riding a light rail line to work at a smartly designed modern office, and spending enormous sums – with the requisite sales tax benefits – entertaining themselves in cafes, restaurants, swanky shops, or artistic events.  read more »

Nice Houses for Ducks

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During the long hot summer of the expenses scandal in British politics, one of the most bizarre stories concerned a Conservative MP who claimed from the public purse for a second home: a place for his ducks. It wasn’t any old duck house, however, but a ‘Stockholm’ floating model, valued at over £1,500. It is over 5 feet high.  read more »