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 »

Is That an Economic Light at the End of the Tunnel or an Oncoming Train?

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When it comes to the state of the economy, is the worst behind us or still to come? Informed opinion is all over the map. The optimists are citing such factors as accommodative Federal Reserve Bank policy (massively increased liquidity), bank profitability (and yes, banks are lending, but only quality loans), money velocity (trending up), a positive yield curve (long-term vs. short-term rates), housing starts (surging), favorable financial rule changes (abandonment of mark-to-market accounting, reinstatement of the short uptick rule to prevent naked short-selling), retail sales (recovering), commodity prices (rising due to increased industrial demand), used car prices (firming), and new vehicle sales (rising off their sickening lows).  read more »

Mr. Cloghessy Deserves Better – And So Do the Rest of Us

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The role of politicians in the corruption of our civic spirit – a national problem that has led us to the current economic mess – has me thinking a lot about Joe Cloghessy.

Mr. Cloghessy lived in my childhood neighborhood. He was big and strong and worked hard for a living, like most of the men in the neighborhood. He might have had more money than his neighbors, but that never came up. He did have a pool in his backyard – he built it himself – and that made his house a rarity in those parts.  read more »

Playing With Trains

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The Obama administration appears to have established the development of high speed rail (HSR) as the most important plank of its transportation strategy. The effort may be popular with the media and planners, but it’s being promoted largely on the basis of overstatement and even misinformation.  read more »