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The consumer technology boom, largely responsible for a resurgence in California’s economy after the tech wreck of 2001, seems to be coming to an end. The signs are widespread: slowing employment, layoffs from bell-weather social media companies, the almost embarrassing difficulty of finding buyers for Twitter, the absorption of Yahoo by Verizon and the acquisition by Microsoft of LinkedIn.
The stirring speech made by the openly gay tech billionaire Peter Thiel at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland marked a critical change in the nature of the Culture Wars in the US. Rather than boo him for talking about his sexuality, or using it as a convenient opportunity for indulging in prayer, the sometimes less than gay-friendly GOP greeted his affirmation of his ‘proud’ sexuality with cheers, not jeers.
From the earliest days of the Republic, banking and finance has largely been the purview of what one historian calls the “Yankee Empire.” Based largely in New York and Boston, later on financial centers grew along the main route of Yankee migration to Chicago and San Francisco.
Yet, if you look at where financial jobs are now headed, perhaps it’s time, as the Dallas Morning News cheekily suggested recently, to substitute Y’all Street for Wall Street. Finance, increasingly conducted electronically, is no longer tethered to its traditional centers. Large global financial companies like UBS, Deutsche Bank , Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are all committed to relocating operations to less expensive locations.
“Old in error,” writes historian Kevin Starr, “California remains an American hope.” Historically, our state has been a beacon to outsiders seeking a main chance: from gold miners and former Confederates to Midwesterners displaced by hardship, Jews seeking opportunity denied elsewhere, African Americans escaping southern apartheid, Asians fleeing communism and societal repression, Mexicans looking for a way out of poverty, counter-culture émigrés looking for a place where creation can overcome repression.
Yes, Jay Gould was a bad guy. But at least he helped build societal wealth. Not so our Silicon Valley overlords. And they have our politicians in their pockets.
In Sacramento, and much of the media, California is enjoying a “comeback” that puts a lie to the argument that regulations and high taxes actually matter. The hero of this recovery, Gov. Jerry Brown, in Bill Maher’s assessment, “took a broken state and fixed it.”
The information sector may have glamour and manufacturing, nostalgia appeal, but the real action in high-wage job growth in the United States is in the vast realm of professional and business services. This is not only the largest high-wage part of the economy, employing just under 20 million people at an average salary of $30 an hour, it’s also one the few high-wage sectors in which employment has expanded steadily since 2010, at more than 3% a year, adding nearly 3 million white-collar jobs.
Perhaps no sector in the U.S. economy generates more angst than manufacturing. Over the past quarter century, manufacturing has hemorrhaged over 5 million jobs. The devastation of many regional economies, particularly in the Midwest, is testament to this decline. If the information sector has been the golden child of the media, manufacturing has been the offspring that we pity but can’t comfortably embrace.
Over the past decade, Southern California has lagged well behind its chief rivals – New York and the Bay Area, as well as the fast-growing cities of the Sun Belt – in everything from job creation to tech growth. Yet, in what the late economist Jack Kyser dubbed “the creative industries,” this region remains an impressive superpower.
By creative industries, we mean not just Hollywood’s film and television complex, which remains foundational, but those serving a host of other lifestyle-oriented activities, from fashion and product design to engineering theme parks, games and food. We may be lagging Silicon Valley in technology and New York in finance or news media, but when it comes to entertaining people, and defining lifestyle, the Southland remains a powerful, even primal, force.
Arguably the most critical industry in the new economy, information is also often the cruelest. It is the ultimate disruptor of jobs and growth, blessing some regional economies but leaving most in the dust. Overall, the sector accounts for almost 3 million jobs, but it has only added a paltry net 70,000 jobs over the last five years.
Where is America’s tech and software industry thriving? In a new study conducted for the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp., researchers took an interesting stab at that question, assessing which metro areas have the strongest concentrations of software developers, spread across a broad array of industries, as well as the best compensation and job growth, and access to venture capital funding.
Yes, wealth concentration is insane. But the ways in which wealth is shifting are surprising—and give reason for a little optimism.
In an age of oligarchy, one should try to know one’s overlords—how they made their money, and where they want to take the country. By looking at the progress of the super-rich --- in contrast with most of us --- one can see the emerging and changing dynamics of American wealth.
The rising cost of housing is one of the greatest burdens on the American middle class. So why hasn’t it become a key issue in the presidential primaries?
There’s little argument that inequality, and the depressed prospects for the middle class, will be a dominant issue this year’s election. Yet the most powerful force shaping this reality—the rising cost of housing—has barely emerged as political issue.
Is California the most conservative state?
Now that I have your attention, just how would California qualify as a beacon of conservatism? It depends how you define the term.
Which cities have the best chance to prosper in the coming decade? The question is a complex one, and as the economy changes, so, too, will the best-positioned cities.