Over the next four decades, American governments will oversee a much larger and far more diverse population. As we gain upward of 100 million people, America will inevitably become a more complex, crowded and competitive place, but it will continue to remain highly dependent on its people's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.
In this least good year in decades, someone has to sit at the bottom. For the most part, the denizens are made up of "usual suspects" from the long-devastated rust belt region around the Great Lakes. But as in last year's survey, there's also a fair-sized contingent of former hot spots that now seem to resemble something closer to black holes.
Is it time to bring back Ross Perot? Not the big-eared, chart-crazed egomaniac and his Texas cigar boat, but a nascent movement like his among independents that can transform today’s stale and essentially self-destructive debate between two equally bankrupt parties.
This year's "best places for jobs" list is easily the most depressing since we began compiling our annual rankings almost a decade ago. In the past--even in bad years--there were always stalwart areas creating lots of new jobs. In 2007's survey 283 out of 393 metros areas showed job growth, and those at the top were often growing employment by at least 5% to 6%. Last year the number dropped to 63. This year's survey, measuring growth from January 2009 to January 2010, found only 13 metros with any growth.
As the nonstop TV commercials have made clear, the U.S. Census Bureau really hopes you've sent back your questionnaire by now. But in reality, we don't have to wait for the census results to get a basic picture of America's demographic future. The operative word is "more": by 2050, about 100 million more people will inhabit this vast country, bringing the total U.S. population to more than 400 million.
For over a generation pundits, policymakers and futurists have predicted the decline of the American family. Yet in reality, the family, although changing rapidly, is becoming not less but more important.
This can be traced to demographic shifts, including immigration and extended life spans, as well as to changes of attitudes among our increasingly diverse population. Furthermore, severe economic pressures are transforming the family--as they have throughout much of history--into the ultimate "safety net" for millions of people.
One of the least anticipated developments in the nation’s 21st-century geography will be the resurgence of the American Heartland, often dismissed by coastal dwellers as “flyover country.”
Yet in the coming 40 years, as America’s population reaches 400 million, the American Heartland particularly the vast region between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi will gain in importance.
Health care lays behind him, financial reform and climate change ahead, but for President Barack Obama--and his opponents--there is only one real issue: jobs. The recent employment reports signal some small gains, yet the widespread prognosis for a slow, near-jobless recovery threatens the president and his party more than any major domestic challenge.
One of the most ironic aspects of our putative "Age of Obama" is how little impact it has had on the nation's urban geography. Although the administration remains dominated by boosters from traditional blue state cities--particularly the president's political base of Chicago--the nation's metropolitan growth continues to shift mostly toward a handful of Sunbelt red state metropolitan areas.
In Washington on Sunday, the tens of thousands of demonstrators demanding immigration reform looked like the opening round of the last thing the country needs now: another big debate on a divisive issue.
Yet Congress seems ready to take on immigration, which has been dividing Americans since the republic was founded.
But identifying immigrants as a “them,” as both their advocates and nativists do, misses the point. Immigrants — and their children — are the people who will help define the future “us.” They are also critical to the revival of the U.S. economy.
President Obama's last-minute decision to postpone his homecoming to Indonesia and a trip to Australia expands the list of friendly countries--which include France, the U.K. and most of Eastern Europe--that have received a presidential snub. Yet in putting off his Australia trip, Obama will also miss an opportunity to commune with the politician whom he most closely resembles.
The presence of 100 million more Americans by 2050 will reshape the nation's geography. Scores of new communities will have to be built to accommodate them, creating a massive demand for new housing, as well as industrial and commercial space.
This growth will include everything from the widespread "infilling" of once-desolate inner cities to the creation of new suburban and exurban towns to the resettling of the American heartland -- the vast, still sparsely populated regions that constitute the majority of the U.S. landmass.
An ongoing source of strength for the United States over the next 40 years will be its openness to immigration. Indeed, more than most of its chief global rivals, the U.S. will be reshaped and re-energized by an increasing racial and ethnic diversity.
These demographic changes will affect America's relations with the rest of the world. The United States likely will remain militarily pre-eminent, but the future United States will function as a unique "multiracial" superpower with deep familial and cultural ties to the rest of the world.
No Clear Majority
California is in trouble: Unemployment is over 13%, the state is broke and hundreds of thousands of people, many of them middle-class families, are streaming for the exits. But to some politicians, like Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the real challenge for California "progressives" is not to fix the economy but to reengineer the way people live.
To many observers, America's place in the world is almost certain to erode in the decades ahead. Yet if we look beyond the short-term hardship, there are many reasons to believe that America will remain ascendant well into the middle decades of this century.
And one important reason is people.