Forget Second Stimulus; We Need Economic Vision

Appearing in:

Politico

As the American economy slowly heals, the Obama administration will no doubt claim some credit for its $787 billion stimulus — and perhaps even suggest doubling down for a second stage. Republicans, for their part, will place their emphasis on the “slow” part of the equation and persistent high unemployment, blaming the very same stimulus program.

Whatever the politics, no new stimulus should be considered unless it deals with the fundamental illness undermining the country’s long-term economic prospects. Such a stimulus would address the country’s essential problem: persistent overconsumption amid underproduction. Read more

Tracking Business Services: Best And Worst Cities For High-Paying Jobs

Appearing in:

Forbes

Media coverage of America’s best jobs usually focuses on blue-collar sectors, like manufacturing, or elite ones, such as finance or technology. But if you’re seeking high-wage employment, your best bet lies in the massive “business and professional services” sector.

This unsung division of the economy is basically a mirror of any and all productive industry. It includes everything from human resources and administration to technical and scientific positions, as well as accounting, legal and architectural firms. Read more

Who Killed California’s Economy?

Appearing in:

Forbes

Right now California’s economy is moribund, and the prospects for a quick turnaround are not good. Unable to pay its bills, the state is issuing IOUs; its once strong credit rating has collapsed. The state that once boasted the seventh-largest gross domestic product in the world is looking less like a celebrated global innovator and more like a fiscal basket case along the lines of Argentina or Latvia.

It took some amazing incompetence to toss this best-endowed of places down into the dustbin of history. Yet conventional wisdom views the crisis largely as a legacy of Proposition 13, which in effect capped only taxes.

This lets too many malefactors off the hook. I covered the Proposition 13 campaign for the Washington Post and examined its aftermath up close. It passed because California was running huge surpluses at the time, even as soaring property taxes were driving people from their homes.

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Did Homeowners Cause The Great Recession?

Appearing in:

Forbes

The person who caused the current world recession can be found not on Wall Street or the city of London, but instead could be you, and your next-door neighbor–the people who put so much of their savings and credit to buy a house.

Increasingly, conventional wisdom places the fundamental blame for the worldwide downturn on people’s desire–particularly in places like the U.K., the U.S. and Spain–to own their own home. Acceptance of the long-term serfdom of renting, the logic increasingly goes, could help restore order and the rightful balance of nature.

Once considered sacrosanct by conservatives and social democrats alike, homeownership is increasingly seen Read more

Why The Left Is Questioning Its Hero

Appearing in:

Forbes

Much has been made by the national media and the markets about the emergence from our desiccated economic soil of what President Obama has called “green shoots.” But although the economy may already be slowly regenerating (largely due to its natural resiliency), we need to question whether these fledglings will grow into healthy plants or a crop of crabgrass.

The political right has made many negative assessments of the president’s approach, decrying the administration’s huge jump in deficit spending and penchant for ever more expansive regulatory control of the economy. Polling data by both The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal shows some growing unease about both the expanding federal role in the economy and the growing mountain of debt.

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Europe: No Longer A Role Model For America

Appearing in:

Forbes

For decades many in the American political and policy establishment–including close supporters of President Obama–have looked enviously at the bureaucratic powerhouse of the European Union. In everything from climate change to civil liberties to land use regulation, Europe long has charmed those visionaries, particularly on the left, who wish to remake America in its image.

“There is much to be said for being a Denmark or Sweden, even a Great Britain, France or Italy,” wrote political scientist Andrew Hacker in his 1971 book The End of the American Era .This refrain has been picked up again more recently by the likes of Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid and economist Jeremy Rifkin. Just last year, international relations scholar Parag Khanna shared his vision of a “shrunken” America lucky to eke out a meager existence between a “triumphant China” and a “retooled Europe.”

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Is Your City Safe From The Tech Bust?

Appearing in:

Forbes

A decade ago, the path to a successful future seemed sure. Secure a foothold in the emerging information economy, and your city or region was destined to boom.

That belief, as it turned out, was misguided.

In the decade between 1997 and 2007, the information sector–which includes jobs in fields from media, publishing and broadcasting to computer programming, data processing, telecommunications and Internet publishing–has barely created a single new net job, while some 16,000,000 were created in other fields.

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Can California Make A Comeback?

Appearing in:

Forbes

These are times that thrill some easterners’ souls. However bad things might be on Wall Street or Beacon Hill, there’s nothing more pleasing to Atlantic America than the whiff of devastation on the other coast.

And to be sure, you can make a strong case that the California dream is all but dead. The state is effectively bankrupt, its political leadership discredited and the economy, with some exceptions, doing considerably worse than most anyplace outside Michigan. By next year, suggests forecaster Bill Watkins, unemployment could nudge up towards an almost Depression-like 15%.

Despite all this, I am not ready to write off the Golden State. For one thing, I’ve seen this movie before. The first time was in the mid 1970s. The end of the Vietnam War devastated the state’s then powerful defense industry, leaving large swaths of unemployment and generating the first talk about the state’s long-term decline.

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Let’s Snooker The TARP Babies

Appearing in:

Forbes

Snook, Texas, a town of less than 600 souls, is best known for being the home of Sodalak’s Country Inn, the originator of country fried bacon. It may seem an odd place to launch a return to financial health, but that’s exactly what Dean Bass has in mind.

Bass, a veteran banking entrepreneur from Houston, in November bought the tiny First Bank of Snook as part of his plan to build a new financial powerhouse amid the worst economic downturn in a generation. The old bank, which also had a branch 15 miles away in College Station, home to Texas A&M, provided Bass with his charter, as well as access to a strong market on the far periphery of his home town.

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The Luxury City vs. the Middle Class

Appearing in:

The American

The sustainable city of the future will rest on the revival of traditional institutions that have faded in many of today’s cities.

Ellen Moncure and Joe Wong first met in school and then fell in love while living in the same dorm at the College of William and Mary. After graduation, they got married and, in 1999, moved to Washington, D.C., where they worked amid a large community of single and childless people.

Like many in their late 20s, the couple began to seek something other than exciting careers and late-night outings with friends. “D.C. was terrific,” Moncure recalled over lunch near her office in lower Manhattan. “It was an extension of college. But after a while, you want to get to a different ‘place.’” Read more