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.
For years we have been warned about the looming, profound impacts that the aging of the U.S. population will have on the country. Well, the gray wave has arrived. Since 2000, the senior population has increased 29% compared to overall population growth of 12%. The percentage of Americans in the senior set has risen from 12.4% to 14.1%, and their share of the population is projected to climb to 19.3% by 2030. There are two principal causes for this: the baby boom generation is reaching 65 years old, while the U.S.
Mayor de Blasio has his work cut out for him if he really wants to end New York’s “tale of two cities.” Gotham has become the American capital of a national and even international trend toward greater income inequality and declining social mobility.
There are things the new mayor can do to help, but the early signs aren’t promising that he will be able to reverse 30 years of the hollowing out of the city’s once vibrant middle class.
With public support for Barack Obama recently at low ebb, some might suggest that his will be a weak political legacy. But, in reality, the president’s legacy may prove profoundly important in having helped usher into power a new dominant political configuration whose influence will survive for decades to come.
In “The New Class Conflict,” I describe this alliance as the New Clerisy, which encompasses the media, the academy and the expanding regulatory bureaucracy. This Clerisy already dominates American intellectual and cultural life and increasingly has taken virtual control of key governmental functions, as well as the educations of our young people.
The current protests in Hong Kong for democracy reflects only part of the issues facing Chinese cities, as they grow and become ever more sophisticated. In just four decades, China has gone from 17.4 percent to 55.6 percent urban, adding nearly 600 million city residents. And this process is far from over: United Nations projections indicate that over the next 20 years, China’s urban population will increase by 250 million, even as national population growth rates slow and stall.
Any serious student of California knows that the state’s emergence in the past century reflected a triumph of engineering. From the water systems, the dredged harbors, the power stations and the freeway system, California overcame geographical limits of water, power and its often-unmanageable coastline to create a beacon of growth and opportunity.
That was then, but certainly not the case today. Indeed, since the halcyon postwar days of infrastructure-building under Gov. Pat Brown, roughly one-in-five dollars of state spending went to building roads, bridges, water systems and the like. Today, this investment amounts to less than 5 percent.