Japan's recent election, which overthrew the decades-long hegemony of the Liberal Democratic Party, was remarkable in its own right. But perhaps its most intriguing aspect was not the dawning of a new era but the emergence of the country's low birthrate as a major political concern.
Many Japanese recognize that their birth dearth contributes to the country's long-standing economic torpor. The kid issue was prominent in the campaign of newly elected Democratic Party Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised to increase the current $100 a month subsidy per child to $280 and make public high school free. The Liberal Democrats also proposed their own pro-natalist program with a scheme for free child day care. read more »
When the United States was in the money, the Congress grudgingly voted Amtrak a $1 billion subsidy every year, and then engaged in histrionics about how it might be cheaper to send most passengers to their destinations on private jets.
Then oil went to $140 a barrel, the United States dropped into recession, and one of the answers was to vote $12.9 billion in stimulus money, over the next five years, to Amtrak, the railroads, and state-supported transportation agencies. read more »
The title of this essay is taken from a book by Jim McManus about his adventures as a poker player. The lingo for Texas Hold ‘Em mirrors Vegas geography: three cards are placed face up – together called "the flop" – and betting ensues. Then comes the "turn" card, otherwise known as Fourth Street. Finally one gets to "The River", or Fifth Street, after which it is payday for somebody. read more »
Earlier this month the Alaska state legislature, in a special session, voted 44-14 to accept $28.6 million in stimulus funds that Sarah Palin had rejected in May. Sean Parnell, Alaska’s governor since Palin's resignation, says the money will be used primarily for energy efficiency improvements in public buildings.
The tale of the showdown between Palin, the state legislature, and the federal Department of Energy may ultimately reveal as much about state sovereignty under the current administration in Washington as it does about Alaska's internal politics. read more »
Changsha, Hunan (China): Over the past 30 years, China has eradicated more poverty than any nation in the world’s history. The reforms instituted by Deng Xiaopeng have not only created a large, new middle class in China, but have also produced some of the largest and architecturally most impressive urban areas in the world. There is still poverty in China, but the most extreme poverty is in the rural areas. The expansive shanty-town poverty found in Manila, Jakarta, Mexico City, Sao Paulo or Mumbai is absent in the large Chinese urban areas. read more »
For most of those which were great once are small today; And those that used to be small were great in my own time. Knowing, therefore, that human prosperity never abides long in the same place, I shall pay attention to both alike
–Herodotus, Fifth Century B.C.
If the great Greek chronicler and "father of history" Herodotus were alive today, he would have whiplash. In less than a lifetime, we have seen the rapid rise of a host of dynamic new global cities – and the relative decline of many others. With a majority of the world's population now living in cities, what these places do with their new wealth ultimately will shape this first truly urban century. read more »
1. Young people think and behave the same at all times. One generation is just like the one before it and the one that follows. False: Each generation is different from the one before it and the one that follows. Today’s young people, the Millennials (born 1982-2003), are a “civic” generation. They were revered and protected by their parents and are becoming group-oriented, egalitarian institution builders as they emerge into adulthood. Millennials are sharply distinctive from the divided, moralistic Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) and the cynical, individualistic Gen-Xers (born 1965-1981), the two generations that preceded them and who are their parents. read more »
“What the Western fantasy of a China undergoing identity erasure reveals is a deep identity crisis within the Western world when confronted by this huge, closed, red alien rising. There is a sense that world order is sliding away from what has been, since the outset of industrialization, an essentially Anglo-Saxon hegemony, and a terrible anxiety gathers as it goes.” – Adrian Hornsby, “The Chinese Dream: A Society Under Construction”. read more »
Late this spring, when voters in California emphatically rejected tax increases to close the state budget gap, they sent a clear message to state policymakers. They were tired of California’s high taxes, which according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, consumed 10.5 percent of state per capita income last year. This compared with a national average of 9.7 percent, making California the sixth most heavily taxed state in the nation.
But if Californians were tired of paying an additional 0.8 percent of their income in state and local taxes, what would they make of research by economists at the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis that estimated that the cost of living in California, based on 2006 data, was a whopping 29.1 percent above the national average? read more »
The search for ways to feed the hungry is as old as recorded history. Can an issue this long-standing and complex be adequately addressed on small, local level? A unique California program is trying, with surprising success. read more »