Nashville’s Star Rises as Midsize Cities Break Into Winners and Losers – The New York Times

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.

Source: Nashville’s Star Rises as Midsize Cities Break Into Winners and Losers – The New York Times

Is the global economy just a giant debt scam? What the financial elite doesn’t want you to know | Salon.com

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.

Source: Is the global economy just a giant debt scam? What the financial elite doesn’t want you to know | Salon.com

An Infrastructure Plan That Would Actually Work by Willem Buiter & Dag Detter – Project Syndicate

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.

Source: An Infrastructure Plan That Would Actually Work by Willem Buiter & Dag Detter – Project Syndicate

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?

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/02/10/what-does-chinas-ecological-civilization-mean-humanitys-future

Opinion | A New Map for America – The New York Times

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

Source: Opinion | A New Map for America – The New York Times

Canadian report recommends nationwide retrofit strategy to cut emissions from large buildings | Proud Green Building

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.

Source: Canadian report recommends nationwide retrofit strategy to cut emissions from large buildings | Proud Green Building

Why cities should stop fighting big banks and create their own – Salon.com

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.

Source: Why cities should stop fighting big banks and create their own – Salon.com

GCR – News – Norwegian team to build world’s first autonomous electric cargo ship

The battery-driven carrier was created by technology group Kongsberg and fertiliser specialist Yara. It will initially be operated as a manned vessel before moving to remote operations in 2019 and performing fully autonomous operations from 2020.

Ship will replace 100 trucks per day – good for economy, good for company, good for environment, bad for drivers being laid off. Need to address the negatives, not just enjoy the positives.

Source: GCR – News – Norwegian team to build world’s first autonomous electric cargo ship

Who Are The True Builders?

You look in your history-books to see who built Westminster Abbey, who built St Sophia at Constantinople, and they tell you Henry Ill, Justinian the Emperor. Did they? Or, rather, men like you and me, handicraftsmen, who have left no names behind them, nothing but their work?

William Morris, “The Lesser Arts” (1878) quoted in “VISTA – the culture and politics of gardens”

Putting America’s ridiculously large $18T economy into perspective by comparing US state GDPs to entire countries – AEI | Carpe Diem Blog » AEIdeas

 

It’s pretty amazing how ridiculously large the US economy is, and the map above helps put America’s GDP of $18 trillion in 2015 into perspective by comparing the GDP of US states to other country’s entire national GDP. For example: 1. America’s largest state economy is California, which produced $2.46 trillion of economic output in 2015, just slightly above the GDP of France during the same period of $2.42 trillion. Consider this: California has a workforce of about 19 million compared to an employment ….

Source: Putting America’s ridiculously large $18T economy into perspective by comparing US state GDPs to entire countries – AEI | Carpe Diem Blog » AEIdeas

China smashes solar energy records, as coal use and CO2 emissions fall once again

In one sector after another, the US is falling behind. The US isn’t losing its global leadership, its walking away.

We are witnessing a historic passing of the baton of global leadership on technology and climate from the United States to China. The new U.S. administration has said it will abandon climate action, gut clean energy funding, and embrace coal and oil — the dirty energy sources of the past that experts say can’t create a large number of sustainable new jobs. At the same time, China is slashing coal use and betting heavily on clean energy, which is clearly going to be the biggest new source of permanent hig

Source: China smashes solar energy records, as coal use and CO2 emissions fall once again

Three Reasons Trickle-Down Tax Cuts Don’t Work

History shows that bad economic ideas almost never die, especially when they serve the wealthy and powerful. There’s no better example of this truth than trickle-down tax cuts. As we write this, the Trump administration is teeing up a tax plan that slashes taxes for the wealthy and the corporate sector, does little for everyone else (repealing the Affordable Care Act actually raises taxes on some with low and moderate incomes), and stiffs the U.S. Treasury to the tune of $6.2 trillion, according to the Tax Policy Center’s estimates.

Source: Three Reasons Trickle-Down Tax Cuts Don’t Work

Paul Krugman: Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan is one big scam – Salon.com

Paul Krugman: Donald Trump's infrastructure plan is one big scam

Trump’s plan to rebuild the country’s infrastructure is really a scheme to enrich wealthy people…..

There is also the fact that private investors will have no interest in building infrastructure that can’t be turned into a profit center. Privatizing these public projects is a gratuitous hand out to select investors, who would be aquiring public assets for “just 18 cents on the dollar, with taxpayers picking up the rest of the tab.

Source: Paul Krugman: Donald Trump’s infrastructure plan is one big scam – Salon.com

Fear Spreads of a Housing Crash in Canada | Alternative Economics

The reading marks a change from almost unbridled consumer optimism in a housing market that has carried the Canadian economy since the 2008 global financial crisis, even as policy makers warn price gains in some cities are unsustainable.

Source: Fear Spreads of a Housing Crash in Canada | Alternative Economics

The Global Real Estate Bubble Is OFFICIALLY Bursting | Seeking Alpha

Bubbly cities like Singapore and Vancouver have started punishing foreign housing investors that have pushed up property prices to unaffordable – and unsustainable – rates. Foreign investors are now being taxed in many of these areas, and as a result, their real estate markets have begun to tank.During this housing burst, the most high-end, desirable locations will be hit the hardest.

Source: The Global Real Estate Bubble Is OFFICIALY Bursting | Seeking Alpha (sic)

Big Wall Street Firms Make Lame Excuse for Volcker Rule Non-Compliance, Ask for Additional Five Year Extension | naked capitalism

Anyone who knows bupkis about finance knows if you can’t sell a financial asset in three years (or more accurately, seven), particularly with public and private market valuations at record levels, the problem is not liquidity. It’s valuation. These banks are carrying these holdings on their books at inflated marks and don’t want to recognize losses……..

“It’s laughable that the biggest, most sophisticated financial firms in the world claim they can’t sell the stakes year after year,” said Dennis Kelleher, CEO of non-profit Better Markets. “Everyone else in America has to comply with the law and Wall Street should also.”

Source: Big Wall Street Firms Make Lame Excuse for Volcker Rule Non-Compliance, Ask for Additional Five Year Extension | naked capitalism

The “New Housing Crisis” – Not Enough Rental Homes? | Zero Hedge

The point here is that while the housing market has recovered – the media should be asking ‘Is that all the recovery there is?’

With 30-year mortgage rates below 4%, we should be in the middle of the next housing bubble with prices and home ownership rising. The question the media should be asking is “why?” Furthermore, what happens if the “bond market bears” get their wish and rates rise?

The housing recovery is ultimately a story of the “real” unemployment situation that still shows that roughly a quarter of the home buying cohort are unemployed and living at home with their parents. The remaining members of the home buying, household formation, contingent are employed but at lower ends of the pay scale and are choosing to rent due to budgetary considerations. This explains why household formation is near its lowest levels on record despite the “housing recovery” fairytale whispered softly in the media.

Housing-NetHouseholdFormation-072516

While the “official” unemployment rate suggests that the U.S. is near full employment, the roughly 94 million individuals sitting outside the labor force would likely disagree. Furthermore, considering that those individuals make up 45% of the 16-54 aged members of the workforce, it is no wonder that they are being pushed to rent due to budgetary considerations and an inability to qualify for a mortgage.

The risk to the housing recovery story remains in the Fed’s ability to continue to keep interest rates suppressed. It is important to remember that individuals “buy payments” rather than houses, so each tick higher in mortgage rates reduces someone’s ability to meet the monthly mortgage payment. With wages remaining suppressed, and a large number of individuals not working or on Federal subsidies, the pool of potential buyers remains contained.

The real crisis is NOT a lack of homes for people to buy, just a lack of enough homes for people to rent. Which says more about the “real economy” than just about anything else.

While there are many hopes pinned on the housing recovery as a “driver” of economic growth in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 – the lack of recovery in the home ownership data suggests otherwise.

Source: The “New Housing Crisis” – Not Enough Rental Homes? | Zero Hedge

Meet the Middle Precariat | naked capitalism

The word Precariat was popularized five or so years ago to describe a rapidly expanding working class with unstable, low-paid jobs. What I call the Middle Precariat, in contrast, are supposed to be properly, comfortably middle class, but it’s not quite working out this way.

There are people like the Floridian couple who both have law degrees—and should be in the prime of their working lives—but can’t afford a car or an apartment and have moved back in with the woman’s elderly mother. There are schoolteachers around the country that work second jobs after their teaching duties are done: one woman in North Dakota I spoke to was heading off to clean houses after the final bell in order to pay her rent.

Many of the Middle Precariat work jobs that used to be solidly middle class. Yet some earn roughly what they did a decade ago. At the same time, middle-class life is now 30 percent more expensive than it was 20 years ago. The Middle Precariat’s jobs are also increasingly contingent—meaning they are composed of short-term contract or shift work, as well as unpaid overtime. Buffeted by Silicon Valley-like calls to maximize disruption, the Middle Precariat may have positions “reimagined.” That cruel euphemism means they are to be replaced by younger, cheaper workers, or even machines.

Source: Meet the Middle Precariat | naked capitalism