America’s Burgeoning Class War Could Spell Opportunity For GOP

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Forbes.com

Last week’s disappointing job reports, with unemployment rising above 9%, only reinforced an emerging reality that few politicians, in either party, are ready to address. American society is becoming feudalized, with increasingly impregnable walls between the classes. This is ironic for a nation largely defined by its opportunity for upward mobility and fluid class structure.

According to the latest data, the current unemployment rate is the highest it has been so deep into a recovery since the 1940s.  Even more troubling, over 6 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months — the largest number since the feds have begun tracking this number decades ago.

That’s not the worst of it.  The pool of “missing workers” — those who are unemployed but are not counted as such — has soared to over 4.4 million. And under the first African-American president the employment rate for black men now sits at a record low since the government started measuring the statistic four decades ago.

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Energy Policy Reset: Forget Nuclear Reactors and Mideast Oil

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Politico.com

The two largest crises today — the Japanese nuclear disaster and the widening unrest in the Middle East — prove it’s time to de-fetishize energy policy. These serious problems also demonstrate why we must expand the nation’s ample oil and gas supplies — urgently.

The worsening Japanese nuclear crisis means, for all intents and purposes, that atomic power is, if not dead, certainly on a respirator. Read more

Obama’s High-Speed Rail Obsession

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Forbes.com

Perhaps nothing so illustrates President Obama’s occasional disconnect with reality than his fervent advocacy of high-speed rail. Amid mounting pressure for budget cuts that affect existing programs, including those for the inner city, the president has made his $53 billion proposal to create a national high-speed rail network as among his top priorities.

Our President may be an intelligent and usually level-headed man, but this represents a serious case of  policy delusion. As Robert Samuelson pointed out in Newsweek, high-speed rail is not an appropriate fit for a country like the U.S. Except for a few areas, notably along the Northeast Corridor, the U.S. just lacks the density that would make such a system work. Samuelson calls the whole idea “a triumph of fancy over fact.”

Arguably the biggest problem with high-speed rail is its extraordinary costs, which would require massive subsidies to keep operating. Unlike the Federal Highway Program, largely financed by the gas tax, high-speed rail lacks any credible source of funding besides taxpayer dollars.

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The Next Urban Challenge — And Opportunity

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Forbes.com

In the next two years, America’s large cities will face the greatest existential crisis in a generation. Municipal bonds are in the tank, having just suffered the worst quarterly performance in more than 16 years, a sign of flagging interest in urban debt.

Things may get worse. The website Business Insider calculates that as many as 16 major cities — including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco — could face bankruptcy in the next year without major revenue increases or drastic budget cuts. JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon notes that there have already been six municipal bankruptcies and predicts that we “will see more.”

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Here Comes Barack Cameron?

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Forbes.com

President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were so “like-minded,” according to one Los Angeles Times writer, that they brought new meaning to the U.S. and England’s “special relationship.” Blair’s later embrace of George W. Bush, however, was less satisfying, leading to widespread ridicule that the PM was the Texan’s favorite “lap dog.”

President Barack Obama shares little of his predecessors’ Anglophilia; he even unceremoniously returned Blair’s gift of a Winston Churchill bust loaned to Bush after 9-11. Yet however much Obama may detest the old Tory imperialist, he might find in Blair’s successor David Cameron a role model for his troubled administration.

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The Heartland Rises

Appearing in:

Politico

The change in congressional power this week is more than an ideological shift. It ushers in a revival in the political influence of the nation’s heartland, as well as the South.

This contrasts dramatically with the last Congress. Virtually its entire leadership — from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on down — represented either the urban core or affluent, close-in suburbs of large metropolitan areas. Powerful old lions like Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) of Harlem, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) of Los Angeles and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) of Newton, an affluent, close-in Boston suburb, roamed. The Senate was led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who loyally services Las Vegas casino interests while his lieutenant, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), is now the top Democratic satrap of Wall Street. Read more

California’s Third Brown Era

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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.

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The Poverty Of Ambition: Why The West Is Losing To China And India – The New World Order

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Forbes.com

The last 10 years have been the worst for Western civilization since the 1930s. At the onset of the new millennium North America, Europe and Oceania stood at the cutting edge of the future, with new technologies and a lion’s share of the world’s GDP.  At its end, most of these economies limped, while economic power – and all the influence it can buy politically – had shifted to China, India and other developing countries.

This past decade China’s economic growth rate, at 10% per annum, grew to five times that U.S.; the gap was even more disparate between China and the slower-growing  E.U.,  Yet periods of slow economic growth occur throughout history — recall the 1970s — and economies recover. The bigger problem facing Western countries, then, is a metaphysical one — a malady that the British writer Austin Williams has dubbed “the poverty of ambition.”

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Hasta La Vista, Failure

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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.

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Demography vs. Geography: Understanding the Political Future

Appearing in:

The American

In the crushing wave that flattened much of the Democratic Party last month, two left-leaning states survived not only intact but in some ways bluer than before. New York and California, long-time rivals for supremacy, may both have seen better days; but for Democrats, at least, the prospects there seem better than ever.

That these two states became such outliers from the rest of the United States reflects both changing economics and demographics. Over the past decade, New York and California underperformed in terms of job creation across a broad array of industries. Although still great repositories of wealth, their dominant metropolitan areas increasingly bifurcated between the affluent and poor. The middle class continues to ebb away for more opportune climes.

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