Forty years ago, Nashville and Birmingham, Ala., were peers. Two hundred miles apart, the cities anchored metropolitan areas of just under one million people each and had a similar number of jobs paying similar wages. Not anymore. The population of the Nashville area has roughly doubled, and young people have flocked there, drawn by high-paying jobs as much as its hip “Music City” reputation. Last month, the city won an important consolation prize in the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters: an operations center that will eventually employ 5,000 people at salaries averaging $150,000 a year.
Birmingham, by comparison, has steadily lost population, and while its suburbs have expanded, their growth has lagged the Nashville area’s. Once-narrow gaps in education and income have widened, and important employers like SouthTrust and Saks have moved their headquarters. Birmingham tried to lure Amazon, too, but all it is getting from the online retail giant is a warehouse and a distribution center where many jobs will pay about $15 an hour.
Amazon’s announcement has been widely described as a rich-get-richer victory of coastal “superstar cities” like New York and Washington, regions where the company plans to employ a total of at least 50,000 workers. But the company’s decisions also reflect another trend: growing inequality among midsize cities.
Nashville and the other Amazon also-rans, like Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, are thriving because of a combination of luck, astute political choices and well-timed investments. At the same time, Birmingham and cities like it, including Providence, R.I., and Rochester, are falling further behind.
Let’s restate that, because it gets more shocking the more you think about it. The bailout money came from the European Central Bank and the IMF, largely meaning the taxpayers of France, Germany and other prosperous nations of Western Europe. Exactly none of it went to restore social services or repair roads in Greece. All of it was used to make payments on the Greek government’s existing debt — most of which was to banks in Western Europe. So Angela Merkel and François Hollande (then the French president) and other political leaders extorted money from their own taxpayers, on the pretense that they were helping out a small, struggling nation on Europe’s southern fringe, and siphoned it directly to the biggest European banks, largely in their own countries. It was a direct wealth transfer from ordinary people to the financial elite.
The total value of commercial assets owned by state and local governments is sure to be of the same magnitude, or larger. After all, local governments own and operate most airports and ports, as well as utilities such as water, sewerage, and electricity – all of which are in desperate need of funding. But real estate comprises the bulk of public commercial assets. By some estimates, publicly owned assets account for as much as one-quarter of the total market value of real estate in a city or county. At the same time, many localities need additional funding for affordable housing.
All told, this public wealth represents a substantial opportunity for investors, local governments, and society as a whole. If professionally managed, the yield from such a vast portfolio of commercial assets could fund not just critically needed infrastructure investments, but also any other public goods and services that are in demand.
What Does China’s ‘Ecological Civilization’ Mean for Humanity’s Future? | By Jeremy Lent | Common Dreams
China’s leader affirms an ecological vision aligned with progressive environmental thought. Whether it’s mere rhetoric or has a deeper resonance within Chinese culture may have a profound global effect
Propaganda or hope for the future?
From 2016 but even more salient today. Compare to Trump’s Infrastructure Plan once released and see where the plan misses the key points.
Congress was once a world leader in regional planning. The Louisiana Purchase, the Pacific Railroad Act (which financed railway expansion from Iowa to San Francisco with government bonds) and the Interstate System of highways are all examples of the federal government’s thinking about economic development at continental scale. The Tennessee Valley Authority was an agent of post-Depression infrastructure renewal, job creation and industrial modernization cutting across six states….
What would this approach look like in America? It would start by focusing not on state lines but on existing lines of infrastructure, supply chains and telecommunications, routes that stay remarkably true to the borders of the emergent super-regions, and are most robust within the new urban archipelagos…
Where possible, such planning should even jump over international borders. While Detroit’s population has fallen below a million, the Detroit-Windsor region is the largest United States-Canada cross-border area, with nearly six million people (and one of the largest border populations in the world). Both sides are deeply interdependent because of their automobile and steel industries and would benefit from scaling together rather than bickering over who pays for a new bridge between them. Detroit’s destiny seems almost obvious if we are brave enough to build it: a midpoint of the Chicago-Toronto corridor in an emerging North American Union.
To make these things happen requires thinking beyond states. Washington currently provides minimal support for regional economic efforts and strategies; it needs to go much further, even at the risk of upsetting established federal-state political balances. A national infrastructure bank, if it ever gets off the ground, should have as part of its charter an obligation to ignore state lines when weighing
A new report by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC) delivers a detailed roadmap for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from large buildings like office towers, recreation centers, hospitals, arenas and schools across the country. CaGBC’s A Roadmap for Retrofits in Canadademonstrates the critical role existing buildings play in realizing Canada’s low carbon future, according to a release.
The report provides recommendations to retrofit large buildings that will contribute to achieving a reduction in GHG emissions of at least 30 percent (or 12.5 million tons) by 2030, with the potential to reach 51 percent or 21.2 million tons. The roadmap provides government and industry with a targeted plan to yield the greatest carbon savings from buildings and grow Canada’s clean economy.
Frack-happy, Trump-supporting North Dakota probably isn’t the first place you would expect to find a working model, but since 1919, the state has used the Bank of North Dakota to finance everything from student loans to sewer upgrades and small business loans. The bank just posted its thirteenth consecutive year of record profits, earning more than $136 million in 2016. And unlike at a big private bank, that money goes right back into investing in the people, rather than into investors’ pockets.