Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

What should a domestic Marshall Plan/21st Century New Deal look like?

A number of Midwestern mayors wrote an op-ed published in the Washington Post, "Eight mayors: We need a Marshall Plan for Middle America," about the need for an economic revitalization program for their section of the Midwest, the Ohio River Valley.  

(After WWII, the Marshall Plan was launched as an economic revitalization program for the war torn nations of Europe.)

Making the point that the region is forecasted to lose 100,000 jobs in response to the decline of the fossil fuel industry--oil was first discovered in the US in Pennsylvania, and the region is a leading producer of coal and oil and natural gas by fracking.

From the article: 
According to our research, taking advantage of our community assets, geographic positioning and the strengths of our regional markets can help create over 400,000 jobs across the region by investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades to buildings, energy infrastructure and transportation assets.

Then again, there is a similar piece from 2009, by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, but more broadly focused on the Midwest.   

But as far as cities go, the issues of Midwestern cities like Youngstown or Pittsburgh aren't different from those of Baltimore or St. Louis, Stockton, California or Tacoma, Washington. 

In short, a domestic Marshall Plan/New Deal needs to be applied nationwide.

To me, the much derided "Green New Deal" should be one leg of such a program ("What Is the Green New Deal? A Climate Proposal, Explained," New York Times).  From the article: 

Introduced by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, the proposal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions across the economy. It also aims to guarantee new high-paying jobs in clean energy industries.

Hoover Dam, Nevada, constructed between 1931 and 1936.

Speaking of the New Deal, it's a much better example and perhaps more relatable than the Marshall Plan, because it was a US-centric program.

Certainly New Deal programs like the Civilian Conservation Corps, WPA, PWA, the Tennessee Valley Authority and rural electrification initiatives--not just creating the ability to deliver electricity to individual homes and businesses, but the building of hydroelectric facilities in the west like Hoover Dam and the creation of the Bonneville Power Authority demonstrate that the nation has been able to act in the face of great need.

Note that the categories below are not mutually exclusive. 

Reorganizing the federal government's approach to both cities and rural areas.  After the Obama election in 2008, I wrote about reorganizing HUD and related programs, recommending the transformation of the agency into a Department of Cities and Regions as a better way to focus on the needs of cities, and about reorganizing USDA and related agencies in a similar fashion as a better way to focus on rural needs beyond "growing more food."

-- "Metropolitan Revolution (book review)," 2013
-- "Resurging cities, resurging metros, the impoverished and the Metropolitan Revolution," 2013

Poverty, the precariat, neoliberalism and globalization. Neoliberalism--the idea that the market is always more successful than government action--might have been an okay paradigm if it hadn't been accompanied by a reduction in government supports simultaneous with an increase in economic and social vulnerability.   

Instead of developing new supports in order to help people succeed in a neoliberal economic environment marked by Social Darwinism--survival of the fittest, we reduced the availability overall, and didn't develop new approaches to match different and more difficult circumstances ("The dangers of a 'winner take all' economy," Maize Magazine).

In short, when people needed more help, we provided less.

Globalization has limited intra-national labor market protections, pushing down the value of labor in high wage countries like the US reset towards the prevailing wage in low cost countries--India, China, Mexico, etc.

Manufacturers either moved their operations overseas, to lower cost or non union areas within a nation,  and/or have significantly reduced wages, like how Caterpillar bought a locomotive manufacturing company from GM, closed the higher wage Canadian plant, relocated all production to a plant in Illinois, reduced wages across the board, and later threatened to relocate the plant to a Southern non union state ("Electro Motive Diesel considering leaving La Grange facility," West Cook News).  Boeing's been doing the same thing, moving production from high wage Metropolitan Seattle to nonunion states in the south and midwest ("Boeing to move 787 production to South Carolina in 2021," Reuters).

Outsourcing is a related phenomenon.  Companies reduced the number of direct jobs by contracting out various functions and the labor necessary to perform those functions.

Replacing labor with capital.  Plus replacing workers with capital--machines, equipment, computers, software applications, etc.--also reduces employment more generally and depending on the business sector, can reduce wage income for many, while improving outcomes for some.

For example, microcomputers have eliminated secretaries, spreadsheet software has eliminated bookkeepers and accountants, and a typical automobile manufacturing plant has one quarter of the number of employees compared to 1970.

It bugs me to no end when Republicans lambaste cities and Democrats for failure, when those failures have been produced by economic dislocation having zero to do with the decisions of locally elected officials.  (Book review, When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson, New York Times, 1996).

What to do?  To assist labor in such conditions, we should have done two things.  First, create a national health care system independent of employment.  Second, invest in education at all levels.  Not just traditional "book learning" but trades too (our plumber in DC makes as much money as good lawyers).  Retraining.  Self-improvement, etc.  All types.  And less expensive access to education too.  I don't know if that should mean "free."  (More about "free" education in another proposal.)

Components of a New New Deal/Domestic Marshall Plan

1.  Real national health care and a public health system.  The pandemic is further proof that the way we organize and deliver health care is flawed.  Tying health care to employment fails in recessions, when unemployment rises catastrophically.  

It's even worse when government makes decisions based on ideology and politics rather than on science, evidence, and need ("Blaming the victim vs. blaming the system: Federal officials blame pandemic deaths on poor health practices of individuals").

2.  Responding to urban poverty.  I've written a bunch about equity planning, social urbanism, and new and integrated approaches to addressing multi-generational poverty in cities.  

Social urbanism is an approach, pioneered in Medellin, Colombia that invests in community infrastructure such as libraries, schools, parks, and transportation access as a way to (re)build social inclusion, public safety, and economic opportunity.

Co-location of programs and services should be a priority.

Slide from a presentation by David Barth and Carlos Perez.

3.  Investing in rural social infrastructure.  It happens that the field of community development is in part derived from the rural economic development function of agricultural extension programming ("Community development in America: A history," Sociological Practice).  I recognized in college that the work in community development is equally applicable to either rural and urban settings in most cases.

-- Downtown and Business District Market Analysis, University of Wisconsin Extension

Social "urbanism" isn't about urbanism so much as it is about investing in what sociologist Eric Klinenberg, in Palaces for the People, calls "social infrastructure," which are civic institutions like schools, libraries, parks, and other assets, complemented by programming.  This approach to community investment and reinvestment is equally relevant to rural areas.  

Although too often attitudes in rural areas, focused on "individualism" and fatalism when it comes to community and collective action can make this quite difficult ("In the land of self-defeat," New York Times).

4.  Urban and rural economic development.  Needs to focus on  entrepreneurship and business development, harvesting existing knowledge and material resources and transportation systems.  

A key element is leveragng higher education.  Spokane and Greensboro, North Carolina are great examples of how to do this ("Better leveraging higher education institutions in cities and counties: Greensboro; Spokane; Mesa; Phoenix; Montgomery County, Maryland; Washington, DC," 2016).

But it's not just any kind of education institution that has economic development potential ("Can a coal town reinvent itself?," New York Times, "Lessons from the CNN story on Allentown, Pennsylvania," 2020).  They have to be focused on productive outputs--engineering and technical colleges, scientific research, business development, etc.

And different forms of business including cooperatives and other forms of business organization that focus on keeping revenues and profits circulating locally.

For example, cooperative business ventures are a way to keep retail operating ("Economic development for small towns needs to include the development of cooperative stores," 2014; "The need for a new rural community cooperative movement," 2017) as populations shrink or in communities that have been abandoned by chain retail.

The multi-business Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland and the Push Buffalo and Green Worker Cooperatives in the Bronx energy conservation business cooperative are examples of business forms where the workers are owners.   The Mondragon Corporation group of over 250 worker cooperatives in the Basque Country of Spain is Spain's 10th largest corporation.  The National Co-operative Bank helps to fund cooperative enterprises.

But there needs to be a recognition that smaller communities in rural areas can be harder to help when it comes to economic development in the face of a more integrated world economy ("Small cities struggle," 2017).  

The Massachusetts approach to revitalizing "gateway cities," the once booming smaller cities across the state that had once been thriving manufacturing and business centers, which declined as industry consolidated and moved away, needs to be further developed and applied more widely. 

And there needs to be a change in business recruiting, which is often a race to the bottom in terms of tax incentives and competition between states and cities to land firms ("Tax incentives to attract businesses: Wisconsin's Foxconn debacle," 2020).  

5.  Investment in "Infrastructure."  The Trump Administration said it wanted to build infrastructure, although mostly it proposed loans, the sale of existing assets, and focusing on infrastructure with positive revenue streams ("Trump Administration Infrastructure Program Priority List," 2017). 

But even if the Trump Administration were serious (" How 'Infrastructure Week' Became a Long-Running Joke," New York Times), the anti-government, anti-investment philosophy of the Republican Party made such a program a long shot, because they completely uninterested in the government being a player in infrastructure investment..

But infrastructure shouldn't be seen as either a Republican or Democratic issue.  It just is.  And it's fundamental and foundational for economic success and growth.

While Oklahoma City is a "big city," it is in "flyover country," not coastal.  

Former Republican Mayor Mick Cornett's book, The Next American City: The Big Promise of Our Mid-Sized Metros, outlines a world class approach to a community social and economic infrastructure development program aimed at making the community better and more attractive for business and residential recruitment.  It demonstrates that urban success can happen anywhere and isn't limited to the East and West Coasts.

A domestic infrastructure program should address energy, roads, bridges, transit including ferries, ports, parks ("National Park Service delayed $11 billion in maintenance last year because of budget challenges," Washington Post) etc.

And unlike the Obama era ARRA ("Roads vs. transit and the stimulus package" and ""Chance" continues to favor the prepared road builders"), transportation projects should be multi-modal, whereas too often in the US, road projects fail to include transit, unlike in European countries like Denmark 

6.  Energy and climate change infrastructure. 
The proposed Green New Deal is a way to position an infrastructure agenda for energy and climate change.  

The challenge is the investment in legacy fossil fuel production and consumption systems (including sprawl), and the (un)/willingness of legacy companies and governments to shift to new paradigms ("Petrostate vs. electrostate," Economist).
  • Renewables are key.  
  • Improving the resilience and capacity of the electricity grid.  
  • Retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency.  
  • There's a lot of discussion about the opportunity of "green hydrogen."  
  • Transportation remains a ripe opportunity
  • Dams and hydropower (last summer's collapse of dams in Mid-Michigan, leading to the flooding of Midland, is an example of under-investment and failed regulation)
  • shifting from gasoline to electric and hydrogen powered vehicles ("California’s Ban on Gas Cars Could Go Nationwide — But Still Doesn’t Go Far Enough," New York Magazine/Curbed)
I am particularly intrigued by offshore wind power as a way to make electrification work.  For example, offshore wind off Maine is capable of generating 36x the state's current energy needs ("After Scotland Tour, Maine Hatches Offshore Floating Wind Turbines Plot," CleanTechnica).  Puerto Rico shouldn't be burning oil for electricity, but reaping renewable energy opportunities from the sea.  There are 20+ states with significant seacoast access.

(Better than e-vehicles are a shift to transit and other sustainable modes.)

7. Transit and transportation. There are so many opportunities. 
  • Expanding urban transit systems, especially strengthening and extending connections between stations, major trip generators (like airports), bus system improvements including busways, etc.
  • Expanding state and multi-state railroad and bus networks (Colorado's growing Bustang network is a model), with a focus on electrification of railroad passenger systems, powered by electricity generated from offshore wind.  (More on this later.  I've been strongly influenced by how railroad services are organized and delivered in Japan, and of course cities like London and Paris.)
  • Shifting shorter range airplane travel to railroads.  
  • Development of high speed rail passenger services.
  • Freight railroad system improvements, especially as a way to "expand" capacity on Interstate freeways by shifting trips from trucks, and to support rural economic development
  • Hydrogen fuel networks for long distance trucking.  
  • Expansion of ferry and water taxi systems.  
  • Opportunities at ports and inter-modal connections with railroads.  
  • Canals and barges.
  • Metropolitan scale bikeway networks, bicycle parking systems, payroll deduction and loan programs to buy bicycles, and active programming to shift people from the car to the bike
  • promotion of e-bikes as a way to support longer distance bike commuting
  • Implementing Signature Street urban design programs ("Extending the "Signature Streets" concept to "Signature Streets and Spaces""), low traffic neighborhoods, and pedestrianized districts ("Why doesn't every big city in North America have its own Las Ramblas?" and "Diversity Plaza, Queens, a pedestrian exclusive block") in cities
8.  Water and sewerage system improvements
. Many rural and urban water systems face massive upgrade costs to improve water quality and reduce stormwater and sewage discharges into rivers and lakes.  The GAO estimates more than $600 billion in needs over the next 20 years, while the American Society of Civil Engineers says over $1 Trillion over 25 years.

9.  TOD and affordable housing.  Transit oriented development builds higher density mixed use housing and other uses at transit stations.  This encourages transit use and reduces car trips.

Not only is there tremendous demand for new social housing as population continues to grow, as well as a greater diversity of housing types, including Single Room Occupancy, housing the homeless, etc., there is a tremendous backlog of maintenance needs for existing public housing, over $30 billion ("Fixing Public Housing: A Day Inside a $32 Billion Problem," New York Times).

In return for funding, communities should be required to agree to higher density.

Maybe a national program to help finance a wider scale creation of accessory dwelling units in cities.

10.  Broadband/Community broadband.  The pandemic and shift to online schooling has made very clear the existence of a digital divide in both urban ("What the coronavirus reveals about the digital divide between schools and communities," Brookings, "“The cruel irony of the digital divide” in Colorado: Urban poor are left behind even as access, technology improves," Colorado Sun) and rural ("No signal: Internet ‘dead zones’ cut rural students off from virtual classes.," NYT) areas.  

Plus rural areas need faster Internet access to support economic development.

It's possible to create community broadband networks to make signal more widely available, usually involving a mix of public and private resources ("The Dos and Don'ts of Community Broadband Network Planning," Government Technology,).

Relatedly, this Wall Street Journal article,  "Private 5G Networks Are Bringing Bandwidth Where Carriers Aren’t," discusses how businesses are creating their own private 5G networks to cover facilities at a cost as low as $5,000.

It's can be harder to do in rural areas, but still eminently possible, through electricity providers, municipalities, states ("Internet network set to beam into Md.’s rural areas won’t help students this fall," Washington Post), and other entities.  

Cities and nonprofits can seed such systems in lower income communities in urban areas ("Building the People’s Internet," Urban Omnibus).

-- Community Broadband Networks, Institute for Local Self Reliance

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At 7:15 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

I've been reading a history of the "gold default" during the 1st term of FDR; one of the highly specialized histories that makes you understand things differently.

(Likewise, been reading Fear City on NYC austerity, but absolutely did not change my views).

What you see from "gold default'" is how much FDR was concentrated on rural poverty and commodity prices -- trying to increase them, in particular cotton. he looked at it every morning.

Don't know if you saw this:

But after reading the FDR book it has a lot more traction.

Likeswise, the modern democratic party would rather burn the Ohio Valley down and depopulate it rather than your more constructive approaches.*

Likewise, if you view the new deal as Democrats going around NYC capital to bring money to new areas it was a fantastic successs -- albeit Texas, California, AZ and what turned turned republican.

Adam Tooze has a good idea - have the GSE explicitly set up funds for "green mortages" where you can get funded. Or rather remove the 30 year from non-green properties.

* Biden doesn't share those views, but he is old.

I have a bad feeling its going to be to a five year fight just to keep capital from fleeing cities, let alone places like Youngstown.

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I haven't read Robert Caro's books on LBJ. But I read his recent "memoir" like book and there is an amazing chapter on LBJ.

One of the things he mentions is how much people in his district loved him/forgave a lot, because of bringing about rural electrification, and what a difference it made in their lives.

Sure we've read Grapes of Wrath etc., but these days it's impossible for people like us to understand that level of poverty. (Haven't read _Hillbilly Elegy_ but I do think that multigenerational deep poverty beats you down in significant ways that the author doesn't fully appreciate.)

A couple months back there was an amazing windstorm. It lasted for at least half a day. Consistent winds of 50mph and higher. Our power went out, but only for about half a day. It was reasonably miserable. Many other people lost power for days.

... I have a couple pieces about the reasons to have farmers markets, and how the reasons you pick shape what you offer and how you operate (e.g., is it producer only like FreshFarm, etc.). One of the reasons is to build rural income and economies. (If one element is rural income, then you allow for seller consolidation--selling items from multiple farms, to multiple coverage and income, rather than requiring farmers only sell what they grow.)

... While preparing for the Eastern Market thing, I read a book called _Civic Agriculture_ and the author (who died relatively young) was very much into local economies. He cited some obscure work by C. Wright Mills, a report and testimony to a House Committee in the late 1940s, about a bottom up vs. a top down economy and a focus on strengthening regional economies and the multiplier effect. Of course that isn't the direction the country took.

The funny thing in JJ's Economy of Cities is she ascribes improvement in rural areas to innovations in cities, which some argue against.

I think the critics might be right, as adversity helps spawn innovation (hard to till fields helps bring about the reaper, and urban people like me aren't likely to invent a reaper, etc.).

But it is true that urban surpluses help fund rural improvements.

At 12:03 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

That point you made about capital and the New Deal is subtle and very important.

Ways to get capital back in the "flyover country" is really important.

I didn't want to go on and on and on, the entry is long enough.

But one of the things I thought about including in the infrastructure section was about capital, but I was thinking about the Bank of North Dakota. And I guess Rahm Emanuel created such a bank for Chicago.

(There is also the Farm Credit Administration as an example.)

As you know a big problem with this kind of financing is crony capitalism.

There are CDFIs. Here, probably because of the Mormons, there are scads of credit unions.

BUT WHAT I AM THINKING, based on your point is that there should be a whole other category on "Capital flows to the interior."

The thing is that I don't know much about this. What the issues are. Whether or not there is money out there.

Obviously there is. Is lack of access to capital what is keeping rural areas down?

If you have some suggestions, I'd appreciate it.

WRT the Democrats and the Ohio River Valley, you're probably right.

And frankly, even though I have a bunch of ideas, there is still gonna be a bunch of depopulation required. I mean, not all of those areas can recover in significant ways. Or can they?

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Didn't see the Tablet article. Thank you.

Did you see this?

Some really provocative points about the war within capitalism, and a point he calls the "pollution paradox," about toxic companies/wealth being more motivated to fund politicians to protect their businesses, in turn reshaping capitalism.

At 8:13 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

In terms of "re-directing capital":

1) If you go with the FDR look, you've got the raise agricultural commodity prices. A lot.

2) Likewise, the EU model which is massive rural subsidies which increase the price of rural land and and prevent suburbanization. Green belts and what not also work.

3) Again coming back to rural/urban -- well as I keep saying this is a very old fight about easy money/hard money. What has happened is despite what the fed is doing we're in a hard money period -- loans are not out there and money is not flowing. Trump understood this. Pre-corona the place with the highest growing wage was Kenosha, WI.

4) again I see zero interest by the modern democratic party in addressing this as they now represent the people who are benefiting from the current system.


6)RE your "pollution paradox" you clearly see that in the Koch (refinery, paper product) takeover of the R party. TX and OK now are the largest wind producers and if you want traction you've got the sell this differently that protecting the "climate".

At 8:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're going to depopulate someplace, best to depopulate places that repeatedly spontaneously combust or flood.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In college I had this idea about "extensive" (more) or "intensive" (better) use of resources.

Using resources more efficiently and cheaply -- renewables -- is the argument, even if climate change is not.

OTOH, if your economy is dependent on resource extraction, in this case fossil fuels, it's hard to win even that argument.

The thing in capitalism is that you have firms with different goals that aren't always congruent. A utility company, as long as it doesn't have coal plants as stranded assets, just wants to be able to deliver electricity, so they'll be open to wind.

In Europe you have utility companies like Iberdrola and E.On that have moved to the renewable paradigm. In the US, Southern Company is a lot more towards that perspective, although they still have plenty invested in traditional production systems.

But even so utility companies are like "big iron" in computing, they want "extensive" generation assets -- plants and their equivalent, rather than distributed assets like individual households wired for solar, and their having to pay a big fee per kwh back to the household.

In other words big iron or big production vs. microcomputers, tablets, Raspberry Pi, and smartphones. (Although the latter are backed up by massive cloud computing resources.)

If there were carbon taxes, this would facilitate and accelerate changes to more efficient production.

OTOH/2, it's going to massively dislocate those economies in Texas and Oklahoma, even if there are other winners.

Iberdrola is shifting, but can Exxon, Shell, BP etc. really shift to being "energy companies" (in a thought experiment along the lines of Ted Levitt's book _Marketing Imagination_ where he said GM should think of themselves as a transportation company, not a car company).

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

re flooding and fires. YES.

At least with flooding, if and as FEMA changes its flooding maps and policies about rebuilding, you slowly move people away from flood-able areas.

Canada does this. And Tulsa, over the past 30 years too has eliminated housing in its flood plains after a massive flood and deaths there.

The coasts are much harder, because there is so much property wealth tied up in coastal views, plus how big cities developed around rivers and ports.

2. Fires. Yes too. How you can rebuild a community like Paradise doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

The urban/wild interface in many western states seems nonsensical from a environmental stewardship point of view.

The kind of galaxian approach to stewardship of planets as discussed in the various David Brin science fiction books is far from where we are.

At 1:28 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt rural/urban and hard money/soft money, it's not just about commodity prices. The fact is you don't need a lot of people to run a farm. Although we should make it a lot less risky for them financially, for the "privilege" of growing our food.

So the problem is lack of work. Access to capital is an element.

2. WRT access to capital, it's an issue in cities too, as you know.

Interesting with the PPP loans, that it was community-like banks, rather than the big banks, that sourced significant numbers of loans.

It's like we need a parallel financial system, one focused on loans, but building the entrepreneurship support system (like CDFIs and others) to constantly support and monitor the business so that it has a greater likelihood of success.

Like the Korean Kyes, the Grameen microcredit model, etc.

I say parallel because the money center banks only lend money to people with superb credit.

One really bad thing about the pandemic is that it is wiping out the capital accumulation of small business that is oriented to hospitality.

Housing values remain high, and that is a source of small business capital. But without customers it doesn't matter. Especially if you run a current business that is forced to not operate.

E.g., I guess most of the businesses on the 800 block of Upshur St. NW have closed or will close. Not Timber--that guy has a well connected investor, Jeff Zients. The typical small investor lacks access to that kind of potentially patient and well heeled capital.

And all of the "community" and business district creation capital contributed by the business owners, in particular the woman who created the no longer extant Domku, the owner of Willow, the people who created the other businesses and contributed to community events and initiatives like the farmers market, community festival, and the holiday craft fair, has been destroyed.

At 1:31 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

In Salt Lake, obviously the hospitality business has been crushed. Many restaurants have closed permanently. Small groups are hunkering down, closing all but the most successful of their individual businesses.

one of the next pieces in "this series" will be about foreclosure and rental support programs for housing.

Haven't figured it out for commercial property.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

both as an example of rural issues and poverty, and the opportunity in funding water-related infrastructure as a New New Deal initiative.

At 3:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read an article somewhere, I think it was Mecklenburg County/Charlotte NC had a pretty effective program of acquiring properties that repeatedly flooded and adding them to the parkland stock along streams.

If I was tsar I would have some kind of once-in-a-lifetime resettlement incentive, whether it be a grant, tax incentive, etc. Move away from hazards, or move to opportunity whatever the case.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Might have to add this point to the "agenda" as a follow up post. Thanks.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Letter to the editor in the WSJ. Misguided out of a belief that Republicans in the Senate (or House) want to invest in infrastructure.

Biden and McConnell Can Agree on Infrastructure

Regarding William Galston’s “Where Biden and McConnell Can Agree” (Politics & Ideas, Nov. 11): I would add agreement on infrastructure funding. Manufacturers, chambers of commerce and labor all agree we desperately need to physically fix our crumbling country. Heck, Sen. Mitch McConnell’s spouse, Elaine Chao, is President Trump’s secretary of transportation and Joe Biden was a longtime regular Amtrak rider. Even President Trump agreed on Speaker Pelosi’s call for a nearly $2 trillion infrastructure package last year.

The rate of return on infrastructure investment is enormous, for example, generally 4 to 1 on mass transit. During the past decade in Illinois, over 50% of all new jobs and 85% of new commercial construction were within a half-mile of transit after Chicagoland began to revitalize our system, but we must do more and desperately need new federal capital investment. Many state governments, including often dysfunctional Illinois, have recently stepped up and done their part on infrastructure investment. These improvements help rural, agricultural, suburban and urban areas.

Infrastructure is ripe for agreement between America’s polarized political parties in Washington. Start now.

Kirk Dillard
Chairman, Regional Transportation Authority

At 1:50 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

This 1987 essay by Stuart Hall after Margaret Thatcher's third election victory is super relevant to our situation.

Makes points about how for the electorate politics is more about the personality, and images, and that policies need to be converted into images-messages in order to resonate and convince.

At 2:01 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

On CRE/support -there has been a huge push in the last six months for fed backstop. Hasn't happened. I am curious to know where developers are getting loans b/c you'd be insane to finance a new project in DC.

I've mentioned her before, your thinking often is on similar lines:

Not a great interview, some better ones in the FT.

RE: commodity prices; yes, absolutely, it just ins't about the low commodity prices or that the "us famers" has been reduced to basically soybeans/wheat/corn. But my point is just historical (FDR) and cross-cultural (EU does a lot more for ag price support than the US).

Also, lots of talk of Cleveland area congresswoman Marcia Fudge for Agricultural Secretary. Dear Ohio Valley : just go die.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There was an article about Marcia Fudge in the Times. I thought it was very interesting, because her focus (being urban) is on USDA's role in social service food programs. Opponents say that USDA should be focused on rural interest.

While her focus to me indicates she doesn't have a broad enough approach, I did think it could be an interesting nexus for a way to rearticulate common interests between rural and urban sections of the country.

I mean it should be "obvious" that people need to eat, and most of us in the cities get our food from the rural-based food production system.

Speaking of agriculture, did you see the article that adding a bit of seaweed to cow diets could significantly decrease their methane releases?

Obviously there are many potential nexus points.

There was a letter to the editor in the Post saying yes, helping the Appalachian region is a good idea.

I thought that was kind of funny since LBJ created such an effort, spurred by the Appalachian Regional Commission, decades ago.

I didn't really make the point vis a vis the op ed, that at least the mayors are thinking forward, about how the decline in production of fossil fuels within the region will further impact the economy in negative ways, and that rather than wait, they'd prefer to deal with it proactively.

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I guess I missed the Mazzucato interview. Thanks for calling it to my attention.

But yes, she's not the first to make this point. Although I do want to look into her work. (Suzanne got a Utah drivers license and once they open up the library again, "she'll" be able to check out books from the U of Utah library...)

For example, the government as a customer having such large needs (for the Census, Social Security) helped seed the computer industry both for big iron and services.

For all of H. Ross Perot's talk about the primacy of business, his EDS had as much as half its business from big IT contracts for state governments, running the computers for social and health services programs.

Of course, both the IT sectors in Boston and the Silicon Valley were seeded by Government (Saxenian).

Telecommunications by the demands of DOD.

The growth in the Sunbelt from military related bases and manufacturing/contracting (The book "Gunbelt").


At 1:40 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The Guardian: The Conservatives are hollowing the state and consolidating power: democracy is at stake.

About the UK, but analogous.

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Yeah, she's been saying what for years you have been making the point.

Very easy to forgot the point of urbanization isn't real estate development. I mentioned to you I'm reading 'Fear City" on the NYC fiscal collapse and what you see as differences is the existence of an actual chamber of commerce - and that in NYC in particular the public sector unions bailed out the city.

the post-thatcher article is pretty strong stuff, can't drink it at once, but like an overly strong drink leaves me with a headache. But always useful to remind ourselves that this has all happened before.

RE: utah, don't know if you've read cadillac desert and/or Four corners -- all make the good point the west as we understand it should be uninhabitable. Pretty amazing that LA is stealing water from the other side of the Wasatch Range (green river).

At 5:15 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Yes re the west generally although snowmelt fed rivers make small portions "naturally" habitable for small populations. Will try to check out those books.

Eg, years ago went to Sedona. There's a river there and back in the day there were spple orchards! Not what I expected.

2. Wrt the Hall article, yes, the same.

BUT, I haven't read much history about Reagan. This weekend Comcast has been doing open viewing of the pay channels and we've been watching The Reagan docuseries.

Wow in so many way

His campaign for California governor laid out the foundations of neoliberal approaches long before Thatcher. Of course, he was a tool of those very same business interests.

Although probably by the early 1980s he was on the downward slope if declune.

At 9:54 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

You might enjoy this[]=0111&display[]=7&display[]=24

Again you might remember I brought up the Bruce Sterling book "Distraction" a number of years ago.

Life is just a remix of the past.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I think about Distraction a lot. Ironically I had just read it before you mentioned it. My FIL had it (they got rid of all those books before moving here).

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Also this:

America, where we only can do microchips and pizza delivery.

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

wrt the journal article, THANK YOU. There is so much interesting and important academic work out there waiting to be mined, that can shed light on current issues.

E.g., don't know if you saw the American Experience PBS (produced independently) on "Milwaukee's Socialist Experiment."

1. Our system isn't set up for more than 2 parties.

2. As leaders age they become curmudgeons and don't flex when they need to.

3. the traditional parties "co-opt" third party ideas (this has always been so as we learn in American history even at the high school level).

But lately I've been touting Oklahoma City under Republicans. It's not a lot different than the Milwaukee socialists.

At 4:34 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Should internet be treated as a public utility:

Mention of the rural electrification program said it took 25 years of subsidy before it could function well without subsidy.

Susan Crawford, Harvard

SL Deseret News editorial says public private partnerships are the best, denigrates to some extent government.

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Maryland needs better broadband everywhere

At 2:12 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Los Angeles repositioned their Sustainability Plan as the "LA Green New Deal"

MacArthur Fellow addressing poor sewage system issues in the rural south as an environmental justice issue.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

"Broadband Promises Left Unfulfilled in Rural Areas"

WSJ, R6, 10/23/2020

At 6:07 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

While this shouldn't be a surprise, rural and urban areas have similar health issues, in addition to medical deserts, it's an element of a rural agenda.

"Beyond covid-19, rural areas face growing threat from chronic heart and lung diseases"

At 8:03 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Ground up fiber internet service in outcounty Washtenaw County Michigan

Ars Technica: Jared Mauch didn’t have good broadband—so he built his own fiber ISP.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

The Guardian: Biden cannot govern from the center – ending Trumpism means radical action.


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