Once giants walked this earth, and some of them were Democrats. In sharp contrast to the thin gruel that passes for leadership today, the old party of the people, with all its flaws, shaped much of the modern world, and usually for the better. Think of Franklin Roosevelt or Harry Truman, John Kennedy, or California’s Pat Brown, politicians who believed in American greatness, economic growth, and upward mobility.
Much has been made of Japan’s latest relapse into recession. For the most part, economists have focused on the efficacy of the once much-ballyhooed “Abenomics,” the stimulus and structural reform program that was seen as the key to turning around the island nation’s torpid economy.
Here’s the bitter reality for business in much of California: there’s no cavalry riding to rescue you from the state’s regulatory and tax vise. The voters in California have spoken, and with a definitive, distinctive twist, turned against any suggestion of reform and confirmed the continued domination of the state by public employee unions, environmental activists and their crony capitalist allies.
Southern California, like the rest of America and, indeed, the higher-income world, is getting older, rapidly. Even as the region’s population is growing slowly, its ranks of seniors – people age 65 and older – is exploding. Since 2000, the Los Angeles metropolitan area population has grown by 6 percent, but its senior population swelled by 31 percent.
The trend is stronger in the Inland Empire, where senior growth was almost 50 percent, the 14th-highest among the nation’s 52 largest metropolitan areas and more than three times the national average.
Urban America is often portrayed as a tale of two kinds of places, those that “have it” and those who do not. For the most part, the cities of the Midwest—with the exception of Chicago and Minneapolis—have been consigned to the second, and inferior, class. Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit or a host of smaller cities are rarely assessed, except as objects of pity whose only hope is to find a way, through new urbanist alchemy, to mimic the urban patterns of “superstar cities” like New York, San Francisco, Boston, or Portland.
Perhaps nothing better illustrates the notion of urban revival in America than the comeback of many downtown districts. Yet if these areas have recovered some of their vigor, they are doing so in a manner that hardly suggests a return to their glory days in the first half of the 20th Century.
Instead what’s emerging is a very different conceptualization of downtown, as a residential alternative that appeals to the young and childless couples, and that is not so much a dominant economic hub, but one of numerous poles in the metropolitan archipelago, usually with an outsized presence of financial institutions, government offices and business service firms.
Southern California has long been a nurturer of dreams that, while widely anticipated, often are never quite achieved. One particularly strong fantasy involves Los Angeles abandoning what one enthusiast calls its “car habit” and converting into an ever-denser, transit-oriented region.
In this predictably difficult year for the Democrats, the party of the people is turning, of all people, to its plutocrats. However much the party stigmatizes right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers, a growing proportion of America’s ultra-rich have become devoted Democrats, giving them an edge in fund-raising. Indeed, an analysis of billionaire contributors this year by Politifact found that 13 supported liberals while only nine backed Republicans.
With his questionably Constitutional move to protect America’s vast undocumented population, President Obama has provided at least five million immigrants, and likely many more, with new hope for the future. But at the same time, his economic policies, and those of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, may guarantee that many of these newly legalized Americans will face huge obstacles trying to move up in a society creating too few opportunities already for its own citizens, much less millions of the largely ill-educated and unskilled newcomers.
In this difficult recovery, many of the strongest local economies have been those with a high share of educated people in their workforce, particularly areas where technology companies and other knowledge-based industries are growing most rapidly.
You are a political party, and you want to secure the electoral majority. But what happens, as is occurring to the Democrats, when the damned electorate that just won’t live the way—in dense cities and apartments—that you have deemed is best for them?
We know this was a harsh recession, followed by, at best, a tepid recovery for the vast majority of Americans. But some people and some regions have surged somewhat ahead, while others have stagnated or worse.
“If the 19th [century] was the century of the individual (liberalism means individualism), you may consider that this is the ‘collective’ century, and, therefore, the century of the state.”
Benito Mussolini, “The Doctrine of Fascism” (1932), translated by Barbara Moroncini.
Where goes the 21st century? Until recently, it could be said that, with the defeat of fascism, in 1945, followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union about a half century later, that we had seen the demise of what the Italian dictator Mussolini envisioned as “a century of authority.” But, now, liberalism’s global triumphal march, as was so brazenly predicted in some corners just two decades ago, seems to have slowed, and may even be going into reverse.
Americans have always prided themselves on being a nation of the self-made, where class and the accident of birth did not determine success. Yet increasingly we are changing into a society where lineage does matter—and likely this process has just started, threatening not only our future prosperity but the very nature of our society.
In some ways the emerging age of inheritance stems from the success Americans enjoyed over the past half century. Think not only of the wealthy entrepreneurs, but the vast middle class that purchased their homes, often for what in hindsight look like very low sums, and which now can be sold at massively higher prices.