Blame Wall Street's Phantom Bonds for the Credit Crisis

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The “credit crisis” is largely a Wall Street disaster of its own making. From the sale of stocks and bonds that are never delivered, to the purchase of default insurance worth more than the buyer’s assets, we no longer have investment strategies, but rather investment schemes. As long as everyone was making money, no one complained. But like any Ponzi Scheme, eventually the pyramid begins to collapse.

For the last couple of months trillions of dollars worth of US Treasury bonds have been sold but undelivered. Trades that go unsettled have become an event so common that the industry has an acronym for it: FTD, or fail to deliver.  read more »

Pittsburgh Turns 250 Years Old Today

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But instead of a nice birthday card, my home town of Pittsburgh could use a sympathy card. It’s been a tough last 100 years for a once great and powerful city.

The first 150 years were not so bad. On Nov. 25, 1758 British Gen. John Forbes named the city for prime minister William Pitt after chasing the French from the militarily and economically strategic triangle of land where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio.  read more »

Michigration: It's Not About Out-migration in Michigan

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Pertaining to brain drain hype, Michigan has no equal. So profound is the out-migration that a local broadcasting network coined a term: Michigration. This was in January of 2008. I did a little digging and discovered the fuel for the story was a United Van Lines study about Michigan’s net loss of residents.

Net population loss is often confused with emigration. Upstate New York, another brain drain case for a future article, is no exception. The Federal Reserve Bank branch in Buffalo issued a report that tried to clear up the confusion, explicitly stating the challenge is attracting more people instead of the assumed issue of retention.  read more »

King Bloomberg: New York City Mayor Run Amok

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When Mayor Bloomberg deployed his vast personal and political power to overturn the term limits law, he began to demystify the public relations image he had purchased at considerable expense.

It was only then that New Yorkers began to recognize the danger of making Gotham's wealthiest man its chief executive. That recognition is the reason his approval rating slipped by nine points in the latest Marist poll. The public chose a mayor; they didn't expect an elected monarch.  read more »

Understanding the Geography of the 2008 Election

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Scholars as well as pundits and politicians will study this remarkable election exhaustively. Many, including me, will use county data, because they are convenient and available. From a statistical point of view, counties are lousy units, because of huge variation in size and excess internal variability. But we can’t resist, so here are some at least suggestive findings.  read more »

California’s Inland Empire: Is There Hope in the Heart of Darkness?

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Few areas in America have experienced a more dramatic change in fortunes as extreme as Southern California’s Inland Empire. From 1990-2008, the Inland Empire (Riverside & San Bernardino counties) has been California’s strongest job generator creating 20.1% of its employment growth. The area also consistently ranked among the nation’s fastest growing large metropolitan areas. However in 2008, the mortgage debacle has sent this area, which had not seen year-over-year job losses in over four decades, into a steep downturn.  read more »

Urban Infill With Less Hype and More Serendipity

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By Richard Reep

Urban infill in cities of the Southeast follows typical patterns: assemblage of several blocks of older building stock at a low price; careful navigation through the zoning and public process to mix uses and increase density; and finally design and construction of parking, office, residential, and retail uses. The next phase is often marked by alienation and departure of the existing surrounding residents, concerns of safety and security within the development, and a socioeconomic wall between new and old.  read more »

In Ethnic Enclaves, The U.S. Economy Thrives

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Dr. Alethea Hsu has a strange-seeming prescription for terrible times: She is opening a new shopping center on Saturday. In addition, more amazingly, the 114,000 square foot Irvine, Calif., retail complex, the third for the Taiwan native's Diamond Development Group, is just about fully leased.

How can this be in the midst of a consumer crack-up, with credit card defaults and big players like General Growth struggling for their existence? The answer is simple: Hsu's mostly Asian customers – Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese – still have cash.  read more »

Island of Broken Dreams

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A The New York Times editorial wonders why foreclosure rates are so high in the two Long Island counties it rightly calls the “birthplace of the suburban American Dream.” After all, the area has “a relative lack of room to sprawl.” which in Times-speak should be a good thing, since “sprawl” is by definition both bad and doomed.

Yet it is precisely the constraints on new housing that has served as a principal cause for Long Island problems.  read more »

Influence of 'Creative Class' Ideas in Sweden

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By Nima Sanandaji, Johnny Munkhammar, and Peter Egardt

The American academic Richard Florida has gained international attention for his theories about the “creative class”. According to Florida, the key to urban success lies in attracting certain groups of people, such as artists, scientists and twenty-something singles. Florida insists that this can be accomplished through nursing a specific type of culture within a city: hip cafes, art galleries and other manifestations of indigenous street-level culture.  read more »