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Making the Middle Class Wealthier: A Conversation with Joel Kotkin

With: Walter Russell Mead
On: Hudson Institute

Join Hudson Institute for a discussion with Joel Kotkin about building middle-class wealth and housing opportunities. Described by the New York Times as “America’s uber-geographer,” Joel Kotkin is an internationally-recognized authority who has published reports on topics ranging from the future of class in global cities to the places with the best opportunities for minorities. His newest book, The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class, was published in May 2020. Hudson Institute Distinguished Fellow Walter Russell Mead will moderate the conversation.

For most of American history, housing has been the key to middle class prosperity. Starting with the original settlers, ordinary Americans have been far more likely to own their homes than their counterparts in other countries. Homesteaders on the frontier tended to own their own farms and urban workers began moving to the suburbs for inexpensive housing before the Civil War. As the Industrial Revolution brought more people to work in cities, suburban housing became vital for the working class. Today, concerns about “urban sprawl” and the environment have made some policymakers concerned about continued suburban growth, potentially jeopardizing the next generation’s pathway to homeownership and wealth accumulation.

This conversation is part of a series entitled, “The Future of the Middle Class” by Hudson Institute’s Center for the Future of Liberal Society. In this series, Hudson Distinguished Fellow Walter Russell Mead will moderate discussions with thought-provoking policy experts about some of the most pressing challenges associated with rebuilding the economy and promoting the prosperity of America’s middle class.

Click to Hudson Institute to Watch the Video Event

 

Related:

Beyond Feudalism: A Strategy to Restore California’s Middle Class
Preserving Opportunity for the Global Middle Class
The Two Middle Classes

Joel Kotkin talks with Rod Arquette About How the GOP Can Win Over Millennial Voters

By: Rod Arquette
On: The Rod Arquette Show at iHeart radio

Joel Kotkin joins the Rod Arquette show to discuss how the GOP can win over millennial voters. Upward mobility is a key issue for millennials, and problem solving at a local level (rather than a federal level).

 

 

Related:

The Coronavirus Means Millennials Are More Screwed Than Ever
Millennials Find New Hope In The Heartland
The High Cost of a Home Is Turning American Millennials Into the new Serfs

Will the Cultural Revolution Be Canceled?

It’s an article of faith among many conservatives, and some liberals, that we’re being swept by a Maoist cultural revolution destined to transform American society into a woke collective. Yet before surrendering basics like equality of opportunity, social order, and free speech to leftist authoritarians, we should consider whether they’re the ones who will wind up getting canceled.

Most Americans don’t favor defunding police or instituting race quotas; they are wary of the costs connected with the Green New Deal and of allowing Washington to control local zoning. Many are already voting with their feet, fleeing places that promote these ideas and seeking out areas aligned with more recognizable American values. Over the past 20 years, virtually all the most progressive large states—New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California—have suffered massive outmigration, while red or purplish states like Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, or Arizona welcome more and more Americans to resettle there. On the metropolitan level, even before Covid-19 accelerated the trend, a steady, largely unacknowledged, movement from the deep-blue core to the less progressive suburbs or exurbs has been underway.

Political correctness—the secular religion of elite liberal society—turns out to be enormously unpopular, something President Trump has exploited politically. Some 80 percent of Americans, notes one recent survey, including most millennials and minorities, see political correctness as “a problem,” not a solution for the future. Progressive social activists, a survey by the liberal research organization More in Common found, account for barely 8 percent of the adult population, less than a third of the number who identify as traditional conservatives.

The fact that most Americans—Democrat and Republican—fall between these two categories suggests that social attitudes may be far less polarized, and less susceptible to political correctness, than has been widely assumed. As seen in the reaction to the George Floyd case, most Americans generally back the police but also embrace the notion of police reform; they are increasingly hostile, however, to the wave of violence that has accompanied some of the protests. Rather than support growing attempts to limit free speech, almost four in five Americans, according to Pew, support protecting it. These attitudes extend well beyond the base of Trumpian conservatives to include most Americans, regardless of ethnic background.

The media epitomize the gap between the public and the nation’s dominant institutions. Subjectivity, notes a recent Rand study, has replaced the world of shared facts with approaches that lead to “truth decay.” Reporters once believed that their mission was to inform the public, but now many journalism schools, including Columbia, embrace progressive groupthink, openly advancing a leftist social-justice agenda in which reporters are advocates. Even Teen Vogue has taken a neo-Marxist tack. “Moral clarity” replaces objectivity. Free speech is somehow linked to white privilege.

These partisan attitudes have dramatically eroded trust in media, according to a new Knight Foundation study. Public trust in most large media has declined steadily over the past four years, with the biggest drops among Republicans; the New York Times, the publisher of the 1619 Project takedown of American history, is trusted by less than half of the public, compared with almost 60 percent in 2016. Gallup reports that, since the pandemic, the news media has suffered the lowest ratings of any major institution, performing even worse than Congress or President Trump.

Certainly, the shift leftward has not helped the progressive-dominated newspaper business. Between 2001 and 2017, the publishing industry (books, newspapers, magazines) lost 290,000 jobs, a decline of 40 percent. Endless partisan sniping and countless crises have boosted CNN, but the network lags well behind right-wing Fox. NPR has seen its ratings drop as many listeners gravitate to less predictable, livelier voices like Joe Rogan.

The new media also suffer from a credibility crisis. Controllers like those at Facebook, Google, Apple, and Twitter are increasingly determined to curate “quality content” on their sites, or even eliminate views they find objectionable, which tend to be conservative, according to employees. The idea that managers of huge social-media platforms aim to control content is more than conservative paranoia. Over 70 percent of Americans, according to a recent Pew study, believe that such platforms—as demonstrated in the case of Reddit, Facebook, and Google—“censor political views.” In California, the center of Big Tech, people express more trust in the marijuana industry than they do in social media, according to a 2019 survey.

Read the rest of this piece at City Journal.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo credit: City of St Pete via Flickr under CC 2.0 License.

Virtual Town Hall — Middle Class Survival Strategies

Join us October 17th for a live interactive webinar on how the middle class can survive and thrive during this time of social and economic uncertainty. Read more

Americans Won’t Live in the Pod

“No Bourgeois, No Democracy”
Barrington Moore

Protecting and fighting for the middle class regularly dominates rhetoric on the Right and Left. Yet activists on both sides now often seek to undermine single-family home ownership, the linchpin of middle-class aspiration.

The current drive to outlaw single-family zoning—the one protection homeowners possess against unwanted development—has notched bans in the City of Minneapolis and the state of Oregon, with California not far behind. Advocates have tapped an odd alliance of progressives and libertarians. Essentially, it marries two inflexible ideologies, in principle diametrically opposed, but neither of which see housing as a critical element of family and community. In its stead, the Left seeks to place the state in charge, while libertarians bow instinctively to any de-regulatory step they see as increasing “freedom and choice.”

Although couched in noble sentiments, both approaches are fundamentally hostile to both middle- and working-class aspirations. Without a home, the new generation—including minorities—will face a “formidable challenge” in boosting their worth. Property remains key to financial security: Homes today account for roughly two-thirds of the wealth of middle-income Americans while home owners have a median net worth more than 40 times that of renters, according to the Census Bureau. Equally important, a shift from home ownership would also weaken the basis of democracy. Since ancient times, republican institutions have rested on the firmament of dispersed property ownership.

An Odd Time for More Density

The push for ever-greater density and against suburban home ownership could not come at a less propitious time. Even before the pandemic, big cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago were losing population. Since 2010, despite all the talk of a massive “return to the city,” suburbs and exurbs account for about 90% of all metropolitan-area growth. Millennials, often seen as an urban generation, have fueled population growth in the suburbs since 2010.

Millennials have had a hard time buying homes—among post-college millennials (25-34), ownership has dropped from 45.4% in 2000 to 37.0% in 2016, a drop of 18% according to Census Bureau data—but three-quarters want single-family detached houses, according a 2019 report on home buyer preferences by the National Association of Homebuilders. A 2018 Apartment List survey found that 80% of millennials dream of home ownership. Among those under 35 who do buy homes, four-fifths choose single-family detached houses.

This shift has been greatly accelerated by the pandemic, and could gain even more momentum from the rising crime and disorder in many of our core cities. Pew reports roughly one in four Americans either moved on account of COVID-19 or knew someone who did so, with the largest percentages for young people under 30. Since 2018, according to Gallup, the percentage of Americans saying they want to live in cities dropped 55%, down to barely 13%. Rather than the much-ballyhooed “back to the city” movement, we are entering what Zillow describes as “a great reshuffling” to suburbs, smaller cities, and less expensive states. Even non-metro areas, for the first time in over a decade, are beginning to gain population.

The rise of online work is likely to accelerate the trend. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom projects we will see telecommuting increase from 5% of the workforce before the pandemic to something closer to 20%. More important still, most people now working from home express a preference—some 60% according to Gallup—to do so for the foreseeable future. Even when offices opened early this summer in New York, real estate brokers report, most workers refused to return. And now developers, like KB Homes, are adding home offices to their newest offerings.

These trends will be reinforced by shifts in job markets. A new survey by the Site Selectors guild suggests that only 10% of companies are looking to expand in large cities, one sixth as many as choose suburbs, and a third of those who favor rural areas. Meanwhile major office and residential complexes are being downsized, cancelled, or hit with major price reductions in cities from Chicago and New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Read the rest of this essay on the American Mind.


Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Photo credit: Taxiarchos228 via Wikimedia under CC 3.0 License.

Joel Kotkin talks with Vicki McKenna About “Blue” Policy Failure

By: Vicki McKenna
On: The Vicki McKenna Show at iHeart radio

Joel Kotkin talks with Vicki about his recent piece entitled Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow — how the “blue” left needs to reset toward addressing pragmatic issues. Joel and Vicki discuss how “blue” policies are failing the very minorities and working class people they purport to serve.

 

Related:

Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow

Joel Kotkin talks with Dan Proft: Blue Urban Leaders Failing Minorities and Working Class

By: Dan Proft
On: The Dan Proft Show on Omny Studio

Joel Kotkin talks with Dan Proft about his recent piece entitled Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow — how the pandemic is highlighting the failures of big urban — and typically “blue” metros to develop policies that actually benefit workers and minorities. Joel and Dan discuss how white progressives and the political class fail to address the pragmatic challenges with policies that minorities and workers need to pursue the “American dream”, and how minorites and workers are voting with their feet towards smaller metropolitan areas in order to realize homeownership and upward mobility.

Related:

Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow

Green Policies Won’t Keep California Truckin’

Joel Kotkin talks with Lars Larson: Progressive Policies Fail Working Class and Minorities

By: Lars Larson
On: SoundCloud

Joel Kotkin talks with Lars Larson about how progressive policies haven’t been helping blue-collar workers and minorities. The progressive movement has shifted from upholding the value of work, towards what Marx called the “proletarian alms-bag.”

Progressive politics is no longer about getting a job, moving up, buying a house, raising a family…
— Joel Kotkin

Related:

Blue Today, Bluer Tomorrow

Joel Kotkin talks with Madeleine Brand About the Future of Cities

By: Madeleine Brand
On: KCRW

People have been fleeing cities for months, reports show. A new NPR and Harvard poll out today shows the pandemic’s financial toll on America’s four largest cities: Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Houston. In LA, more than half of all households report serious financial problems. Black and Latino communities are disproportionately affected nationwide.

KCRW talks about the future of cities with Joel Kotkin, a professor and fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, and author of “The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class.” Also in the conversation is Annalee Newitz, a science writer and the author of the forthcoming book “Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age.”

The important thing is to understand that these trends existed before the pandemic. Over the last three-four years, LA, Chicago, New York all lost population. Migration has been moving a) to suburbs, b) to some smaller, more affordable cities. So I think we had a trend that was already developing that is now accelerating.
— Joel Kotkin

Related pieces:

Is the Big Cities Boom Over?

The Twilight of Great American Cities — how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting outmigration from large cities to smaller communities

Joel Kotkin talks with City Journal About California’s Neo-Feudal Future

By: Brian C. Anderson
On: City Journal’s 10 Blocks podcast

Joel Kotkin joins Brian Anderson to discuss California’s “increasingly feudal” political and economic order, the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the state’s lower- and middle-class residents, what Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris means for the Democratic ticket and U.S. politics, and Kotkin’s new book—The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. Read more