09/15/2019

News

The Methuselah Annuity

The second-longest bull market in American history hasn’t stopped the deterioration of state and local pension funds, whose unfunded debt has almost quadrupled—by their own accounting—from about $360 billion in 2007 to $1.4 trillion today. Having relied on overly optimistic and inaccurate financial assumptions for decades, public pension administrators are now forced to acknowledge that […]

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The Tech Economy’s Untold Story

The decisions by Amazon and Google to expand into the New York area have led some pundits to claim that the nation’s high-tech economic future will be shaped in dense urban areas. “Big cities won Amazon and everything else,” proclaimed Neil Irwin of the New York Times. “We’re living in a world where a small […]

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Fast Train to Failure

The project’s troubles have been largely self-inflicted, starting with poor route choices. At the south end of the line, from the Central Valley to Los Angeles, rather than proceeding in a direct route from Los Angeles to the northwest through Tejon Pass, roughly along Interstate 5, the planned line takes a detour to the northeast […]

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Who Should Pay For a City’s Homelessness Crisis?

Big businesses want lower taxes. Cities—and many of the people who live in them—want lower rates of homelessness. Lately, the compatibility of these two desires is being tested, as local governments across the U.S. float a new strategy to help the growing number of unsheltered people on their streets: Asking businesses to pay a greater […]

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The Hollowing-Out of the California Dream

Its political leaders and a credulous national media present California as the “woke” state, creating an economically just, post-racial reality. Yet in terms of opportunity, California is evolving into something more like apartheid South Africa or the pre-civil rights South. California simply does not measure up in delivering educational attainment, income growth, homeownership, and social […]

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California’s Climate Extremism

Many of California’s “green” policies may make matters worse. California, for example, does not encourage biomass energy use, though the state’s vast forested areas—some 33 million acres— could provide renewable energy and reduce the excessive emissions from wildfires caused by years of forest mismanagement. Similarly, California greens have been adamant in shutting down nuclear power […]

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Brownout

The growth that so impressed over the past five years has masked a multitude of policy sins, and as California’s economic engine slows down, the underlying problems are becoming harder to deny. People are moving out in greater numbers than they’re moving in. Rates of job creation—and the types of jobs being created—vary widely according […]

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Finance Flies West, and South

Alliance-Bernstein notwithstanding, New York is not close to losing its hegemony over finance. With 472,000 employees in that industry, the city dwarfs all its competitors, including runner-up Chicago, where finance employs 264,000. Finance jobs in New York, according to Pepperdine University’s Michael Shires, have grown at a respectable 11 percent since 2009, though the pace […]

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California’s Energy Choice

Will any of it work? Is California setting an example that the world can follow? The short answer: no. Renewables alone cannot power the global economy. The latest data on global energy consumption by source show how dependent the world remains on fossil fuels. In 2015, oil supplied 33 percent of all energy consumed globally, […]

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Left and Lefter in California

Yet as California Democrats exult in what they see as a glowing future, they are turning away from the models that once drove their party’s (and the state’s) success—a commitment to growth, upward mobility, and dispersed property ownership. California’s current prosperity is largely due to the legacy of Governor Pat Brown, who, a half-century ago, […]

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Judgment Day for Public Unions

When it hears Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the Supreme Court will decide whether public-sector unionism violates the First Amendment rights of workers who refuse to join unions. The case will be one of America’s most consequential for government labor–management relations. If the Court rules for the plaintiffs, […]

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Playgrounds for Elites

The revival of America’s core cities is one of the most celebrated narratives of our time—yet, perhaps paradoxically, urban progress has also created a growing problem of increasing inequality and middle-class flight. Once exemplars of middle-class advancement, most major American cities are now typified by a “barbell economy,” divided between well-paid professionals and lower-paid service workers. As early as the 1970s, notes the Brookings Institution, middle-income neighborhoods began to shrink more dramatically in inner cities than anywhere else—and the phenomenon has continued. Today, in virtually all U.S. metro areas, the inner cores are more unequal than their corresponding suburbs, observes geographer Daniel Herz.

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A Scratch Card in Every Pot

Stockton, California, announced last week that it will try out a new anti-poverty program that provides $500 per month for a small subset of eligible residents. Earlier this month, the province of Ontario mailed its first monthly checks to 400 lucky Canadians. Advocates for a “universal basic income” (UBI) call these programs “experiments,” or “pilots,” and they hope that positive results will build support for their proposals. But these governments are not testing a UBI; they are running a free lottery. No one should be impressed or persuaded if its winners prove to be fans.

. . . Treating this program as a useful test of the UBI, however, is a marketing gimmick that borders on fraud. The experiments ignore the UBI’s disquieting aspects. It’s generally accepted that people in need should receive short-term support. But limited, means-tested government support is not the same thing as rearranging cultural expectations and economic incentives by making self-reliance optional, which would devalue work, weaken families and communities, discourage young people from launching their adult lives, and subsidize an expanding and idle underclass.

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California Squashes Its Young

In this era of anti-Trump resistance, many progressives see California as a model of enlightenment. The Golden State’s post-2010 recovery has won plaudits in the progressive press from the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, among others. Yet if one looks at the effects of the state’s policies on key Democratic constituencies— millennials, minorities, and the poor—the picture is dismal. A recent United Way study found that close to one-third of state residents can barely pay their bills, largely due to housing costs. When adjusted for these costs, California leads all states—even historically poor Mississippi—in the percentage of its people living in poverty.

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Take My Tax—Please!

Still, Bauman is deadly serious (sort of) about Washington State Initiative 732, which will appear on the ballot this November, thanks to the efforts of a group that he helped assemble. If it passes, it will impose a carbon tax on fossil fuels in Washington but reduce general taxes by about the same amount. It’s designed to cut consumption of carbon-based fuels in a revenue-neutral way without putting any additional financial burden on state residents. Behind the proposal is Bauman’s notion that our current approach to taxation doesn’t make sense. We tax things that we want more of, like profits and income, and wind up getting less of those things because taxation tends to make them scarcer. Instead, we should tax things that we want less of—and, for Bauman, that means taxing fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse emissions.

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