Root Causes of the Financial Crisis: A Primer

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It is not yet clear whether we stand at the start of a long fiscal crisis or one that will pass relatively quickly, like most other post-World War II recessions. The full extent will only become obvious in the years to come. But if we want to avoid future deep financial meltdowns of this or even greater magnitude, we must address the root causes.

In my estimation two critical and related factors created the current crisis. First, profligate lending which allowed many people to buy overpriced properties that they could not, in reality, afford. Second, the existence of excessive land use regulation which helped drive prices up in many of the most impacted markets.  read more »

Industry, inequality and the middle classes

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The financial collapse dominates the news, but its unregulated rise is not unrelated to the relative decline of manufacturing over the last quarter century, and the outsourcing of much of industrial production. One consequence of this de-industrialization and financialization of everything has been an astounding increase in inequality, a massive concentration of wealth at the very top and the squeezing of the middle classes.

Places that remained strong in manufacturing tend to have had and still have lower inequality than places more dependent on services, lowly to professional, and experienced a smaller change in inequality.  read more »

American Elections Inspire Interest in Ghana

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There’s another presidential election just around the corner here in Ghana. Current President John Kufuor is stepping down after eight years in office that has seen the gold- and cocoa-exporting West African country expand its economy and solidify its democratic credentials. Another economic stride forward is expected when Ghana begins to pump oil in 2010 or 2011.  read more »

Subjects:

Knowledge Worker Migration: Going Where the Brains Are

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At a time when national unemployment is rising, Nebraska is working overtime to attract labor. At the inaugural Sarpy County Economic Summit, Governor David Heinemann (R) talked about the need to “market the state to 16- to 20-year-olds.” Nebraska, apparently, has more jobs requiring college degrees than it has college graduates. (Interested college students can call the Director of the Nebraska Department of Economic Development, Richard Baier, at 402-471-3746.)  read more »

Appalachia and Energy

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When I think of the energy crisis, I cannot help but think of the poignant story of Martin Toler. A victim of the Sago Mine disaster, he was found sitting alongside his 12 fellow miners in darkness. Deep in the heart of the earth he wrote a note to his family as air and time was running out: “Tell all that I’ll see them on the other side,” read the note found lying beside his body. “It wasn’t bad. I just went to sleep. I love you.”  read more »

The Opportunity City weathers all storms

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In the dark early-morning hours of September 13th, Hurricane Ike scored a direct hit on the Houston region with 110mph winds, a 13ft storm surge, and a gigantic eye 80 miles across. While Texas gets its fair share of Gulf hurricanes, this was the first direct hit on Houston since Alicia in 1983, 25 years ago.  read more »

Regulating People or Regulating Greenhouse Gases?

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It seems very likely that a national greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction standard will be established by legislation in the next year. Interest groups are lining up with various proposals, some fairly benign and others potentially devastating.

One of the most frequently mentioned strategies – mandatory vehicle miles reductions – is also among the most destructive. It is predictably supported by the same interests that have pushed the anti-automobile (and anti-suburban) agenda for years, often under the moniker of “smart growth.”  read more »

Obama’s Marketing Message

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By Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais

In less than two weeks, when Barack Obama’s lead in all the polls is likely to be confirmed in the voting booth by the American electorate, millions of words will be written about why he won and how John McCain managed to lose. Unfortunately, marketing executives and corporate leaders have ignored some of the most important lessons from the campaign.

Obama's success to date lies in his ability to blend his own persona as a messenger with a unifying and uplifting message that reaches the newest generation of Americans, Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003.  read more »

The Entrepreneur is the True Face of Capitalism in America

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“Joe the Plumber” has gotten a lot of media attention over the past week. Depending on which side of the political fence you’re on, he is either a phony who is not even a registered plumber or a symbol for the unintended consequences of wealth redistribution policies. A Rasmussen survey taken on October 19th showed “Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Democrats think [Obama] is right on [spreading the wealth], but 78% of Republicans disagree.”  read more »

The biggest issue remains undecided

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Unless something completely unexpected occurs, the presidential election has been settled, with Barack Obama the clear winner. Yet, except for the Republican Party’s demise, the most important issue of this era — the future of the middle class — remains largely unaddressed.

Indeed, even as social polarization has diminished — a change that is reflected in Obama’s electoral success — economic polarization has intensified. Globalization and the securitization of almost everything have created arguably the greatest concentration of wealth since before the Great Depression.  read more »