America's (Sub)Urban Future

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Cities today have more political clout than at any time in a half century. Not only does an urbanite blessed by the Chicago machine sit in the White House, but Congress is now dominated by Democratic politicians hailing from either cities or inner-ring suburbs.

Perhaps because of this representation, some are calling for the administration and Congress to "bail out" urban America. Yet there's grave danger in heeding this call. Hope that "the urban president" will solve inner-city problems could end up diverting cities from the kind of radical reforms necessary to thrive in the coming decades.

Demographics and economics make self-help a necessity.  read more »

How Austin’s Rise Became a Tale of Two Cities

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Austin has enjoyed healthy growth during its 150-year history. As a rule of thumb, its population doubles every 20 years, and has done so since it was founded. It continues to grow at a healthy clip: from a population of 345,000 in 1980 to 656,000 in 2000; the Census Bureau estimates it had nearly 750,000 residents in 2008.

But if the city of Austin has grown briskly, its suburbs have exploded. Williamson County to its north was the sixth fastest-growing county in the United States between July 1, 2007 and July 1, 2008. Hays County to the south was the tenth.  read more »

New Towns and New Lives in the Country

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Back in the 1950s when I was growing up, pundits worried a lot about automation and the problem of leisure in a post-industrial society. What were the American people going to do once machinery had relieved them of the daily burden of routine labor? Would they paint pictures and write poetry? Armchair intellectuals found it hard to imagine.

It was the age of Ozzie and Harriet, when ordinary working and middle-class families could aspire to a house in the suburbs and a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids. Today, of course, that popular version of the American dream is a thing of the past, especially the part about a full-time Mom who stays at home with the kids.  read more »

The Draw of Dhaka

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In recent centuries, the principal migration of the world’s population has been from rural areas to urban areas. As late as 1900, less than 20 percent of the world’s population lived in urban areas. That figure has now risen to more than 50 percent. Urbanization occurred earliest in the first world, as the increased wealth produced by the industrial revolution attracted people from the countryside. In 1900, 40 percent of the US population was urban, a figure that had risen to 80 percent by 2005. Trends in Europe, Japan and other first world nations are similar.  read more »

The Republican Party, Pennsylvania and Arlen Specter

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Senator Arlen Specter switched parties. A five term Senator switching parties is certainly news, but it also represents a far greater statement about the challenges facing the Republican Party in Pennsylvania going forward.

Pennsylvania has been a dependable “Blue State” in presidential races since 1988. Currently, Democrats have a 1.2 million voter registration advantage. Less than a decade ago the margin was less than 500,000. What changed over the past decade?  read more »

Main Street Middle America: Don’t Get Mad, Get Ahead

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Like many on Main Street Paul Goodpaster is angry. Paul is my banker friend in Morehead, a retail, medical and education hub on the edge of eastern Kentucky. He observed that his bank was doing quite well – albeit hurt now by rising unemployment and an economy starting to have an impact even on those unglamorous places that had minded their business well.  read more »

Credit Cards Flash At The White House

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Back in the 1980s, Citibank CEO John S. Reed looked at the bank’s earnings and said, more or less: This is really a credit card company with six other lines of business. That is, the card portfolio was making lots of dough, and carrying the rest. Commercial lending, real estate lending, clearing, foreign exchange, branch banking — all of them were flat or losing money, while the card business was cooking.  read more »

Here in the Real World They’re Shutting Detroit Down

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Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a city at the heart of the American continent, General Motors produced cars, like Pontiac’s “Little GTO,” celebrated in Beach Boys songs that captured the thrill of driving Detroit’s latest creations. Today, as GM struggles to appease the government’s auditors just to stay alive, Kris Kristofferson, with a little help from Mickey Rourke, curses the financial wizards from Wall Street that are “Shutting Detroit Down” while “livin’ it up in that New York town.”  read more »

The Worst Cities for Job Growth

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One of the saddest tasks in the annual survey of the best places to do business I conduct with Pepperdine University's Michael Shires is examining the cities at the bottom of the list. Yet even in these nether regions there exists considerable diversity: Some places are likely to come back soon, while others have little immediate hope of moving up. (Please also see "Best Cities For Job Growth" for further analysis.)

The study is based on job growth in 336 regions – called Metropolitan Statistical Areas by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provided the data – across the U.S. Our analysis looked not only at job growth in the last year but also at how employment figures have changed since 1996. This is because we are wary of overemphasizing recent data and strive to give a more complete picture of the potential a region has for job-seekers. (For the complete methodology, click here.)

Germany's Green Energy Goals Are Potentially Unrealistic

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The world looks to Germany to be a leader in Green Energy. There’s been a great deal of hype surrounding Chancellor Angela Merkel’s very ambitious goals of dramatically reducing the county’s emissions by 2020.

Yet the German experience should also provide some pause to President Obama and others proposing such changes in the United States. It turns out that goals are potentially unrealistic, perhaps even dangerous, for numerous reasons.  read more »