Reversing the general course of history, economics or demography is never easy, despite even the most dogged efforts of the best-connected political operatives working today.
Since the 2006 elections--and even more so after 2008--blue-state politicians have enjoyed a monopoly of power unprecedented in recent history. Hardcore blue staters control virtually every major Congressional committee, as well as the House Speakership and the White House. Yet they still have proved incapable of reversing the demographic and economic decline in the nation's most "progressive" cities and states.
When Michael Bloomberg stood on the steps of City Hall last week to be sworn in for a third term as New York City's mayor, he spoke in upbeat terms about the challenges ahead. The situation, however, is far more difficult than he portrays it. American financial power has shifted from New York to Washington, while global clout moves toward Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. Even if the local economy rebounds, the traditional media industries that employ many of Bloomberg's influential constituents likely will continue to decline.
Looking back at President Obama’s first year in office, this much is clear: Obama first enraged the right wing by seeming to veer far left, then turned off the left by seeming to abandon them. Even as Fox News fundamentalists rail against “socialism,” self-styled progressives like Naomi Klein scream about a “blown” opportunity to lead the nation from the swamp of darkest capitalism.
If the U.S. were a stock, it would be trading at historic lows. The budget deficit is out of control, the economy is anemic and the political system is controlled by academic ideologues and Chicago hacks. Opposing them is a force largely comprised of know-nothings--to call them Neanderthals would be too complimentary.
Not surprisingly, many Americans have become pessimistic. Two in three adults now fear their children will be worse off than they are. Nearly 40% think China will become the world's dominant power in the next 20 years, as indicated by a recent survey.
The once unstoppable green machine lost its mojo at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. After all its laboring and cajoling, the movement at the end resembled not a powerful juggernaut but a forlorn lover wondering why his date never showed up.
One problem is that the people of earth and their representatives don't much fancy the notion of a centrally dictated, slow-growth world. They proved unwilling to abandon either national interest or material aspirations for promises of a greener world.
President Obama's quick exit from Oslo and late arrival in Copenhagen suggest he's finally ready to shift focus from Nordic adulation and fighting climate change and diplomacy to fixing the American economy. About time. As former Clinton adviser Bill Galston observed recently, the president needs "to pivot and make 2010 the year of jobs."
White House operatives, as well as the Democrats in Congress, know high unemployment could bring big political trouble next year. But in their rush to create new jobs, policy makers would do well to focus on the quality of jobs created over the next year and beyond.
Barack Obama may be our first African-American president, but he’s first got to stop finding his muse in Scandinavia. With his speech for the Nobel, perhaps he’s showing some sign of losing his northern obsession.
On the campaign trail, Obama showed a poet’s sensitivity about both America’s exceptionalism and our desire to improve our country. His mantra about having “a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas” resonated deeply with tens of millions of Americans.
Whatever the results of the Copenhagen conference on climate change, one thing is for sure: Draconian reductions on carbon emissions will be tacitly accepted by the most developed economies and sloughed off by many developing ones. In essence, emerging economies get to cut their "carbon" intensity--a natural product of their economic evolution--while we get to cut our throats.
The logic behind this prediction goes something like this. Since the West created the industrial revolution and the greenhouse gases that supposedly caused this "crisis," it's our obligation to take much of the burden for cleaning them up.
In today's parlance a "smart" city often refers to a place with a "green" sustainable agenda. Yet this narrow definition of intelligence ignores many other factors--notably upward mobility and economic progress--that have characterized successful cities in the past.
The green-only litmus test dictates cities should emulate either places with less-than-dynamic economies, like Portland, Ore., or Honolulu, or one of the rather homogeneous and staid Scandinavian capitals. In contrast, I have determined my "smartest" cities not only by looking at infrastructure and livability, but also economic fundamentals.
If Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants a taste of home during his visit to Washington this week, he might consider a trip to McLean, Va., home to the region's largest indoor mall, Tysons Corner Center. After all, there are few groups more mall-crazy than India's expanding affluent class.
Back here in the U.S., urban boosters and planners like to predict that malls are "vanishing." But while consumer-deflated America may suffer from mall fatigue and a hangover from overbuilding, much of the developing world has experienced no such malaise. In 2000, for example, India was virtually mall-less. Today it has several hundred, with scores of new ones on the drawing boards.
The road north across the Golden Gate leads to some of the prettiest counties in North America. Yet behind the lovely rolling hills, wineries, ranches and picturesque once-rural towns lies a demographic time bomb that neither political party is ready to address.
Paradise is having a problem with the evolving economy. A generational conflict is brewing, pitting the interests and predilections of well-heeled boomers against a growing, predominately Latino working class. And neither the emerging "progressive" politics nor laissez-faire conservatism is offering much in the way of a solution.
A good friend of mine, a Democratic mayor here in California, describes the Obama administration as "Moveon.org run by the Chicago machine." This combination may have been good enough to beat John McCain in 2008, but it is proving a damned poor way to run a country or build a strong, effective political majority. And while the president's charismatic talent--and the lack of such among his opposition--may keep him in office, it will be largely as a kind of permanent lame duck unable to make any of the transformative changes he promised as a candidate.
For the past decade a large coterie of pundits, prognosticators and their media camp followers have insisted that growth in America would be concentrated in places hip and cool, largely the bluish regions of the country.
Since the onset of the recession, which has hit many once-thriving Sun Belt hot spots, this chorus has grown bolder. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently identified the "Next Youth-Magnet Cities" as drawn from the old "hip and cool" collection of yore: Seattle, Portland, Washington, New York and Austin, Texas.
You would think, given the massive dissatisfaction with an economy that guarantees mega-bonuses for the rich and continued high unemployment, that the GOP would smell an opportunity. In my travels around the country — including in midstream places like suburban Kansas City and Kentucky — few, including Democrats, express any faith in the president’s basic economic strategy.
With autocratic states like China and Russia looking poised for economic recovery, it's often hard to make the case for ideals such as democracy and rule of law. To some, like Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules, autocrats seem destined to rule the world economy.