Why New York City Needs a New Economic Strategy

Appearing in:

Newsweek

When Michael Bloomberg stood on the steps of City Hall last week to be sworn in for a third term as New York City’s mayor, he spoke in upbeat terms about the challenges ahead. The situation, however, is far more difficult than he portrays it. American financial power has shifted from New York to Washington, while global clout moves toward Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Even if the local economy rebounds, the traditional media industries that employ many of Bloomberg’s influential constituents likely will continue to decline. New Yorkers have long had an outsize view of their city; historically, its mayors have touted mottos that encouraged that view, from Rudy Giuliani’s “capital of the world” to Mike Bloomberg’s “luxury city.” But as Bloomberg begins his new term, New York needs to reexamine its core economic strategy. Read more

Don’t Give Up On The U.S.

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

If the U.S. were a stock, it would be trading at historic lows. The budget deficit is out of control, the economy is anemic and the political system is controlled by academic ideologues and Chicago hacks. Opposing them is a force largely comprised of know-nothings–to call them Neanderthals would be too complimentary.

Not surprisingly, many Americans have become pessimistic. Two in three adults now fear their children will be worse off than they are. Nearly 40% think China will become the world’s dominant power in the next 20 years, as indicated by a recent survey.

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The Green Movement’s People Problem

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The once unstoppable green machine lost its mojo at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. After all its laboring and cajoling, the movement at the end resembled not a powerful juggernaut but a forlorn lover wondering why his date never showed up.

One problem is that the people of earth and their representatives don’t much fancy the notion of a centrally dictated, slow-growth world. They proved unwilling to abandon either national interest or material aspirations for promises of a greener world.

The other problem is that divisions are now developing within the green camp. There are members, like Michael Shellenger and Ted Nordhaus, who recognize the serious fall out from the “Climategate” scandal, while others, including large parts of the media claque, dismiss any such possibility. There are the corporatists aligned with big business–who will live with any agreement that allows them to exact monopoly profits–and the zealots–like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Bill McKibben–who see Copenhagen as an affront to themselves and to our endangered planet.

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Nurturing Employment Recovery

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

President Obama’s quick exit from Oslo and late arrival in Copenhagen suggest he’s finally ready to shift focus from Nordic adulation and fighting climate change and diplomacy to fixing the American economy. About time. As former Clinton adviser Bill Galston observed recently, the president needs “to pivot and make 2010 the year of jobs.”

White House operatives, as well as the Democrats in Congress, know high unemployment could bring big political trouble next year. But in their rush to create new jobs, policy makers would do well to focus on the quality of jobs created over the next year and beyond.

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Capping Emissions, Trading On The Future

Whatever the results of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, one thing is for sure: Draconian reductions on carbon emissions will be tacitly accepted by the most developed economies and sloughed off by many developing ones. In essence, emerging economies get to cut their “carbon” intensity–a natural product of their economic evolution–while we get to cut our throats.

The logic behind this prediction goes something like this. Since the West created the industrial revolution and the greenhouse gases that supposedly caused this “crisis,” it’s our obligation to take much of the burden for cleaning them up.

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The World’s Smartest Cities

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

In today’s parlance a “smart” city often refers to a place with a “green” sustainable agenda. Yet this narrow definition of intelligence ignores many other factors–notably upward mobility and economic progress–that have characterized successful cities in the past.

The green-only litmus test dictates cities should emulate either places with less-than-dynamic economies, like Portland, Ore., or Honolulu, or one of the rather homogeneous and staid Scandinavian capitals. In contrast, I have determined my “smartest” cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals.

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It’s A Mall World After All

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

If Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants a taste of home during his visit to Washington this week, he might consider a trip to McLean, Va., home to the region’s largest indoor mall, Tysons Corner Center. After all, there are few groups more mall-crazy than India’s expanding affluent class.

Back here in the U.S., urban boosters and planners like to predict that malls are “vanishing.” But while consumer-deflated America may suffer from mall fatigue and a hangover from overbuilding, much of the developing world has experienced no such malaise. In 2000, for example, India was virtually mall-less. Today it has several hundred, with scores of new ones on the drawing boards.

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Boomer Economy Stunting Growth in Northern California

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

The road north across the Golden Gate leads to some of the prettiest counties in North America. Yet behind the lovely rolling hills, wineries, ranches and picturesque once-rural towns lies a demographic time bomb that neither political party is ready to address.

Paradise is having a problem with the evolving economy. A generational conflict is brewing, pitting the interests and predilections of well-heeled boomers against a growing, predominately Latino working class. And neither the emerging “progressive” politics nor laissez-faire conservatism is offering much in the way of a solution.

These northern California counties–which include Sonoma, Napa, Solano and Marin–have become beacons for middle- and upper-class residents from the Bay Area. These generally liberal people came in part to enjoy the lifestyle of this mild, bucolic region, and many have little interest in changing it.

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Obama Can Still Save His Presidency

Appearing in:

Forbes.com

A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as “Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine.” This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president’s charismatic talent–and the lack of such among his opposition–may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate.

If Obama wants to succeed as president he must grow into something more than movement icon, become more of a national leader. In effect, he needs to hit the reset button. Here are five key changes that Obama can implement to re-energize and save his presidency.

1. Forget the “Chicago way.” The Windy City is a one-party town with a shrinking middle class and a fully co-opted business elite. The focused democratic centralism of the machine–as the University of Illinois’ Richard Simpson has noted–worked brilliantly in the primaries and even the general election campaign. But it is hardly suited to running a nation that is more culturally and politically diverse.

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GOP Needs Economic Populism

Appearing in:

Politico.com

You would think, given the massive dissatisfaction with an economy that guarantees mega-bonuses for the rich and continued high unemployment, that the GOP would smell an opportunity. In my travels around the country — including in midstream places like suburban Kansas City and Kentucky — few, including Democrats, express any faith in the president’s basic economic strategy.

Ask a local mayor or chamber of commerce executive in Kentucky or Kansas City about the stimulus, and at best you get a shrug. Many feel the only people really benefiting from Obamanomics are Wall Street grandees, public employees, subsidized “green” companies and various other professional rent seekers. Read more