President Obama’s recent “do it myself” immigration reform plan, predictably dissed by conservatives and nativists, reveals just how clueless the nation’s leaders are about demographics. Monday’s Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration crackdown also broke down along predictable lines, with both parties claiming ideological victories.
Yet the heated debates are missing the reality of immigration and its role in America’s future. In reality America needs more immigrants, but with a somewhat different mix.
Barack Obama’s political base always has been more “creative class” than working class—and his policies have favored that base, seeming to cater to energized issue and identity constituencies including African-Americans, Hispanics, gays, and greens, often at the expense of blue-collar workers.
They may not win their first championship against Miami’s evil empire, but the Oklahoma City Thunder have helped to put a spotlight on what may well be the most surprising success story of 21st century America: the revival of the Great Plains. Once widely dismissed as the ultimate in flyover country, the Plains states have outperformed the national average for the past decade by virtually every key measure of vitality — from population, income and GDP growth to unemployment — and show no sign of slowing down.
When Jerry Brown was elected governor for a third time in 2010, there was widespread hope that he would repair the state’s crumbling and dysfunctional political edifice. But instead of becoming a Californian Mikhail Gorbachev, he has turned out to be something more resembling Konstantin Chernenko or Yuri Andropov, an aged hegemon desperately trying to save a dying system.
Facebook‘s botched IPO reflects not only the weakness of the stock market, but a systemic misunderstanding of where the true value of technology lies. A website that, due to superior funding and media hype, allows people to do what they were already doing — connecting on the Internet — does not inherently drive broad economic growth, even if it mints a few high-profile billionaires.
In Madrid you see them on the streets, jobless, aimless, often bearing college degrees but working as cabbies, baristas, street performers, or—more often—not at all. In Spain as in Greece, nearly half of the adults under 25 don’t work.
Call them the screwed generation, the victims of expansive welfare states and the massive structural debt charged by their parents. In virtually every developed country, and increasingly in developing ones, they include not only the usual victims, the undereducated and recent immigrants, but also the college-educated.
The labor demonstrators, now an almost-daily occurrence in Madrid and other economically-devastated southern European cities, lambast austerity and budget cuts as the primary cause for their current national crisis. But longer-term, the biggest threat to the European Union has less to do with government policy than what is–or is not–happening in the bedroom.
In this still tepid recovery, the biggest feel-good story has been the resurgence of American manufacturing. As industrial production has fallen in Europe and growth has slowed in China, U.S. factories have continued an expansion that has stretched on for over 33 months. In April, manufacturing growth was the strongest in 10 months.
With Facebook poised to go public, the attention of the tech world, and Wall Street, is firmly focused on Silicon Valley. Without question, the west side of San Francisco Bay is by far the most prodigious creator of hot companies and has the highest proportion of tech jobs of any region in the country — more than four times the national average.
Yet Silicon Valley is far from leading the way in expanding science and technology-related employment in the United States.
The conventional wisdom is that the world’s largest cities are going to be the primary drivers of economic growth and innovation.
Throughout the brutal recession, one metropolitan area floated serenely above the carnage: Washington, D.C. Buoyed by government spending, the local economy expanded 17% from 2007 to 2012. But for the first time in four years, the capital region has fallen out of the top 15 big cities in our annual survey of the best places for jobs, dropping to 16th place from fifth last year.
Few states have offered the class warriors of Occupy Wall Street more enthusiastic support than California has. Before they overstayed their welcome and police began dispersing their camps, the Occupiers won official endorsements from city councils and mayors in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Richmond, Irvine, Santa Rosa, and Santa Ana. Such is the extent to which modern-day “progressives” control the state’s politics.
Barack Obama learned the rough sport of politics in Chicago, but his domestic policies have been shaped by California’s progressive creed. As the Golden State crumbles, its troubles point to those America may confront in a second Obama term.
From his first days in office, the president has held up California as a model state. In 2009, he praised its green-tinged energy policies as a blueprint for the nation. He staffed his administration with Californians like Energy Secretary Steve Chu—an open advocate of high energy prices who’s lavished government funding on “green” dodos like solar-panel maker Solyndra, and luxury electric carmaker Fisker—and Commerce Secretary John Bryson, who thrived as CEO of a regulated utility which raised energy costs for millions of consumers, sometimes to finance “green” ideals.
For generations New Orleans‘ appeal to artists, musicians and writers did little to dispel the city’s image as a poor, albeit fun-loving, bohemian tourism haven. As was made all too evident by Katrina, the city was plagued by enormous class and racial divisions, corruption and some of the lowest average wages in the country.