To read the periodic house price reports out of California, it would be easy to form the impression that house prices are continuing to decline. Most press reports highlight the fact that house prices are lower this year than they were at the same time last year. This masks the reality of robust house price increases that have been underway for nearly half a year. The state may have forfeited seven years of artificially induced house price escalation in just two years but has recovered about one-fifth of it since March. read more »
Ever since Richard Nixon visited China in winter 1972—an event timed to play into that year’s presidential elections—American presidents have made the pilgrimage to the modern version of the Forbidden City.
Landing in Shanghai on Sunday evening, President Obama has two days of meetings with the Chinese leadership, not to mention a town hall event with Chinese students (as if they were eligible to vote in a New Hampshire primary).
As a stage-set for photo opportunities, China is hard to beat. American presidents can walk the Great Wall, toast a nation in the Great Hall of the People, tower over diminutive Chinese leaders dressed in gray Mao suits, and make sweeping statements about new world orders. read more »
The road north across the Golden Gate leads to some of the prettiest counties in North America. Yet behind the lovely rolling hills, wineries, ranches and picturesque once-rural towns lies a demographic time bomb that neither political party is ready to address.
Paradise is having a problem with the evolving economy. A generational conflict is brewing, pitting the interests and predilections of well-heeled boomers against a growing, predominately Latino working class. And neither the emerging "progressive" politics nor laissez-faire conservatism is offering much in the way of a solution. read more »
America is more polarized today than at any time since Reconstruction. A major quantitative analysis by social scientists Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal found today to be the most polarized period in 130 years.
If you want to understand how it is that the debate over — for example — global warming policies became so shrill, consider the recent pattern of behavior by the country's second-most read climate blogger, Joe Romm. read more »
People are expecting British house building to pick up. Sadly they will be disappointed, even as the housing market inflates into another bubble.
There have been declines and recoveries in British house building before the 2007 collapse in construction activity. Data is in abundance. The total number of homes built annually has more than halved since the late 1960s, as successive governments withdrew from publicly funding the post-war welfare programme of council house building. read more »
Once you understand what financial services are, you’ll quickly come to realize that American consumers are not getting the honest services that they have come to expect from banks. A bank is a business. They offer financial services for profit. Their primary function is to keep money for individual people or companies and to make loans. Banks – and all the Wall Street firms are banks now – play an important role in the virtuous circle of savings and investment. When households have excess earnings – more money than they need for their expenses – they can make savings deposits at banks. Banks channel savings from households to entrepreneurs and businesses in the form of loans. Entrepreneurs can use the loans to create new businesses which will employee more labor, thus increasing the earnings that households have available to more savings deposits – which brings the process fully around the virtuous circle. read more »
Canada is the largest high-income nation in the world without a comprehensive national freeway (autobahn, expressway or autoroute) system. Motorways are entirely grade separated roadways (no cross traffic), with four or more lanes (two or more in each direction) allowing travel that is unimpeded by traffic signals or stop signs. read more »
A pending bill in Congress to reduce carbon emissions via a “cap and trade” regime would have significant distorting effects on America's regional economies. This is because the cost of compliance varies widely from region to region and metro to metro. This is all the more important since such legislation may do very little to reduce overall carbon emission according to two of the EPA's own San Francisco lawyers. read more »
It has long been cultural sport to mock or to misunderstand the social life of suburbs. More recently, however, sport itself has been identified as a major arena for social decline in suburbia.
In his Bowling Alone, published with an almost apocalyptic sense of timing at the beginning of the present century, the esteemed social scientist Robert Putnam focused upon the decline of the American bowling leagues as symptomatic of a lost America. read more »
A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as "Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine." This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president's charismatic talent – and the lack of such among his opposition – may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate. read more »