Is The Information Industry Reviving Economies?

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

For nearly a generation, the information sector, which comprises everything from media and data processing to internet-related businesses, has been ballyhooed as a key driver for both national and regional economic growth. In the 1990s economist Michael Mandell predicted cutting-edge industries like high-tech would create 2.8 million new jobs over 10 years.  This turned out to be something of a pipe dream. According to a recent 2010 New America Foundation report, the information industry shed 68,000 jobs in the past decade. Read more

California’s Demographic Dilemma: A Class And Culture Clash

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The newly released Census reports reveal that California faces a profound gap between the cities where people are moving to and the cities that hold all the political power. It is a tale that divides the state between its coastal metropolitan regions that dominate the state’s politics — particularly the San Francisco Bay Area, but also Los Angeles — and its still-growing, largely powerless interior regions.

Indeed, the “progressives” of the coast are fundamentally anti-growth, less concerned with promoting broad-based economic growth — despite 12.5% statewide unemployment — than in preserving the privileges of their sponsors among public sector unions and generally affluent environmentalists. This could breed a big conflict between the coastal idealists and the working class and increasingly Latino residents in the more hardscrabble interior, whose economic realities are largely ignored by the state’s government.

Read more

California’s Third Brown Era

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

Jerry Brown’s no-frills inauguration today as California governor will make headlines, but the meager celebration also marks the restoration of one of the country’s most illustrious political families. Save the Kennedys of Massachusetts no clan has dominated the political life of a major state in modern times than the Browns of California. A member of this old California Irish clan has been in statewide office for most of the past half century; by the end of Jerry Brown’s new term, his third, the family will have inhabited the California chief executive office for a remarkable two full decades since 1958.

Brown, at 72 the oldest governor in state history, may well determine the final legacy of this remarkable family. His biggest challenge will be to reverse the state’s long-term secular decline — a stark contrast to the heady days of the first Brown era, presided over by paterfamilias Edmund “Pat” Brown.

Read more

Hasta La Vista, Failure

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In his headier and hunkier days, Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke boldly about how “failure is not an option.” This kind of bravado worked well in the gym–and in a remarkable career that saw an inarticulate Austrian body-builder rise to the apex of Hollywood and California politics.

But Schwarzenegger’s soon-to-be-ended seven-year reign as California’s governor can be best described in just that one simple world: failure. It has been so bad that one even looks forward to having a pro, the eccentric Machiavellian master, Jerry Brown, replace him.

Read more

California Suggests Suicide; Texas Asks: Can I Lend You a Knife?

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In the future, historians may likely mark the 2010 midterm elections as the end of the California era and the beginning of the Texas one. In one stunning stroke, amid a national conservative tide, California voters essentially ratified a political and regulatory regime that has left much of the state unemployed and many others looking for the exits.

California has drifted far away from the place that John Gunther described in 1946 as “the most spectacular and most diversified American state … so ripe, golden.”  Instead of a role model, California  has become a cautionary tale of mismanagement Read more

California’s Failed Statesmen

Appearing in:

Orange County Register

The good news? Like most rock or movie stars, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with California. It’s still talented, and retains great physical gifts. Our climate, fertility and location remain without parallel. The state remains pre-eminent in a host of critical fields from agriculture to technology, entertainment to Pacific Rim trade.

California can come back only if it takes a 12-step program to jettison its delusions. This requires, perhaps more than anything, a return to adult supervision. Most legislators, in both parties, appear to be hacks, ideologues and time-servers. This time, when the danger is even greater, we see no such sense of urgency. Instead we have a government that reminds one more of the brutally childish anarchy of William Golding’s 1954 novel “Lord of the Flies.” Read more

The Golden State’s War on Itself

Appearing in:

The City Journal

California has long been a destination for those seeking a better place to live. For most of its history, the state enacted sensible policies that created one of the wealthiest and most innovative economies in human history. California realized the American dream but better, fostering a huge middle class that, for the most part, owned their homes, sent their kids to public schools, and found meaningful work connected to the state’s amazingly diverse, innovative economy. Read more

L.A.’s Economy Is Not Dead Yet

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

“This is the city,” ran the famous introduction to the popular crime drama Dragnet. “Los Angeles, Calif. I work here.” Of course, unlike Det. Sgt. Joe Friday, who spoke those words every episode, I am not a cop, but Los Angeles has been my home for over 35 years.

To Sgt. Friday, L.A. was a place full of opportunities to solve crimes, but for me Los Angeles has been an ideal barometer for the city of the future. For the better part of the last century, Los Angeles has been, as one architect once put it, “the original in the Xerox machine.” It largely invented the blueprint of the modern American city: the car-oriented suburban way of life, the multi-polar metropolis around a largely unremarkable downtown, the sprawling jumble of ethnic and cultural enclaves of a Latin- and Asian-flavored mestizo society.

Read more

The Worst Cities For Jobs

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In this least good year in decades, someone has to sit at the bottom. For the most part, the denizens are made up of “usual suspects” from the long-devastated rust belt region around the Great Lakes. But as in last year’s survey, there’s also a fair-sized contingent of former hot spots that now seem to resemble something closer to black holes.

Two sectors have particularly suffered worst from the recession, according to a recent study by the New America Foundation: construction, where employment has dropped by nearly 25%, and manufacturing, which has suffered a 15% decline. The decline in construction jobs has hit the Sunbelt states hardest; the manufacturing rollback has pummeled industrial areas such as the Great Lakes as well as large swaths of the more recently industrialized parts of the Southeast.
Read more

Forced March To The Cities

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

California is in trouble: Unemployment is over 13%, the state is broke and hundreds of thousands of people, many of them middle-class families, are streaming for the exits. But to some politicians, like Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the real challenge for California “progressives” is not to fix the economy but to reengineer the way people live.

In Lowenthal’s case the clarion call is to take steps to ban free parking. This way, the Long Beach Democrat reasons, Californians would have to give up their cars and either take the bus or walk to their local shops. “Free parking has significant social, economic and environmental costs,” Lowenthal told the Los Angeles Times. “It increases congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.”

Scarily, his proposal actually passed the State Senate.

One would hope that the mania for changing how people live and work could be dismissed as just local Californian lunacy. Yet across the country, and within the Obama Administration, there is a growing predilection to endorse policies that steer the bulk of new development into our already most-crowded urban areas.

Read more