Cap and Trade: Who Wins, Who Loses

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President Obama recently announced his plan for environmental protection and Congress took up the debate. Called “Cap and Trade” Obama explained it simply in several public appearances. The government puts a limit on the total amount of carbon emissions that are acceptable in the United States. Carbon emissions come, basically, from burning carbon-based fuels – natural gas, petroleum and coal – in the production and use of energy.  read more »

In California, the Canary is Dead

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Canaries were used in early coal mines to detect deadly gases, such as methane and carbon monoxide. If the bird was happy and singing, the miners were safe. If the bird died, the air was not safe, and the miners left. The bird served as an early warning system.

Domestic migration trends play a similar early warning system for states. California’s dynamism was always reflected by its ability to attract newcomers to the state. But today California’s canary is dead.  read more »

Unsustainable Transit: New York City

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When it comes to transit, as like many things in the United States, there is no place like New York City. The subways and buses of the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) carry more than 40 percent of the nation’s transit rides (unlinked trips). To account for 40 percent of the nation’s ridership is quite an accomplishment inasmuch as the city represents less than 3 percent of the nation’s population.  read more »

Lessons from Chrysler and the Nationalized Economy

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Economists and accountants could very likely have told us six months ago that Chrysler was doomed as a business and that the likely best course of action would be Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring. Doing this in a timely manner would have saved the taxpayers billions of dollars.

But the politics were not right to permit this to happen at that time. So instead we invested billions of tax dollars to save it, only to find ourselves right back were we started. Except now the clock is striking twelve and it is the right time to reorganize the automaker – politically speaking.  read more »

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 »