The U.S. Middle Class Is Turning Proletarian

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The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the 1970s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century into one marked by downward mobility.

The decline has less to do with the power of the “one percent” per se than with the drying up of opportunity amid what is seen on Wall Street and in the White House as a sustained recovery. Despite President Obama’s rhetorical devotion to reducing inequality, it has widened significantly under his watch.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Suburbanizing Mexico

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There is an increasing recognition – at least outside the academy, planning organization and urban core developer groups – that the spatial expansion of cities or suburbanization represents the evolving urban form of not only the United States and virtually all of the high income world but also across the developing world, whether middle income or third world.  read more »

Searching Out The Half-Full Glass

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There is a shiny, brittle skin to the economic recovery that conceals an unhealthy flesh underneath. It is tempting to call this condition a glass half empty. But seeking the healthy and the fit in nontraditional places has become a quest for more and more Americans who are leading us down a pathway that diverges, from the mainstream towards a new future. Out of earshot of the mainstream media and off of Main Street, there is a glass half full.  read more »

Has Scott Walker Really Turned Around Wisconsin?

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I’ve seen a few pieces in the conservative press lately boasting about Scott Walker’s performance as governor of Wisconsin. For example, the American Spectator ran an article called “Wisconsin Thrives Under Scott Walker“:  read more »

Life as a Second City

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Imagine someone writes a newspaper story about you and prints the picture of your older, well-known sibling next to the column. It is clear to you why this was done: your sibling is more famous and recognizable. But how does that make you feel?

Following the January 28th State of the Union address, PBS interviewed a number of civic leaders. One of those interviewed was the mayor of Tacoma, a city with many of the challenges and attributes of a second child.  read more »

Possible Sign of Trouble for Los Angeles

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A quarter century ago, the Los Angeles-Orange County area seemed on the verge of joining the first tier of global cities. As late as 2009, the veteran journalist James Flanigan could pen a quasiserious book, “Smile Southern California: You're the Center of the Universe,” which maintained that L.A.'s port, diversity and creativity made it the natural center of the 21st century.  read more »

How a Few Monster Tech Firms are Taking Over Everything from Media to Space Travel and What it Means for the Rest of Us

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The iconic view of tech companies almost invariably stress their roots in people’s garages, plucky individual entrepreneurs ready to challenge all comers. Yet increasingly the leading tech firms – Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and especially Google – have morphed into vast tech conglomerates, with hands in ever more numerous, and sometimes not obvious, fields of endeavor.  read more »

San Francisco Photo Essay: I Used to Live Here

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This is my old apartment in SF’s Mission District from way back when Mrs. UpintheValley and I were just dating.  My waystation before cohabitation and matrimony. I notice the curtains haven’t changed.  Flea market bedspreads and pillowcases were the order of the day then, and apparently still are.  Which means P. has kept the lease on the place and presumably lived in uninterrupted squalor with a revolving cast of characters from Roommate Finders all these years.  At the prices we were paying then, why would you ever leave?  read more »

America's Future Cities: Where The Youth Population Is Booming

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To identify economic hot spots in the making, we often look for where immigrants, young people or entrepreneurs are clustering. But perhaps nothing is a better indicator than those who truly make up generation next — America’s children.  read more »

The Illusions of Charles Montgomery's Happy City (Part 2)

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This is the second of a two-part series discussing Charles Mongomery's Happy City. Read part one here.

‘The system that built sprawl’

Montgomery faces the hurdle of explaining why, if low-density suburbs cause unhappiness, so many millions of people, over so many decades, across several countries, flocked to that way of life. As he writes, ‘since 1940, almost all urban growth has actually been suburban.’ He must account for this fact, even though it means little to him personally. For the green-tinged intelligentsia, working and middle-class people are pawns who rarely think for themselves.        read more »