Mike DeBonis has an excellent piece in the Washington Post about the folly of holding partisan municipal elections in Washington, DC. If I have any disagreement it’s that the conclusion that “The problem in the District is that parties add no value to our politics” is too weak. Partisan elections subtract value from our politics by effectively disenfranchising the 10-20 percent of the population that registers Green or Democratic.
Partisan elections also subtract value from our politics by introducing an irrelevant heuristic into the mix. I remember when I told people that I was voting for a Republican for an at-large City Council seat a couple of years ago they were outraged—a Republican!—but of course the legal status of abortion or the merits of invading Iraq weren’t on the ballot in City Council race.
In general, I think political parties and partisanship are useful mechanisms for democratic mediation. So my ideal scenario would actually be for DC to have two-party politics with something like a “Growth and Development Party” pitted against a “Preservation and Community Party” which I think roughly captures an actual ideological disagreement that’s relevant to city government. But insofar as that’s not possible, it’d be best to imitate the many other cities (DeBonis cites Chicago, LA, and Houston) who go non-partisan for these offices.
What’s striking about Wuqi is just how serious its officials are about making this transition happen — and yet how difficult it nonetheless will be. The Wuqi International Hotel was as comfortable as most Marriotts or Hiltons in the United States, but the surrounding streets had the dusty feel of a backwater. The hardware, liquor and food stores down the block were each the size of a storage closet and about as well lighted. In the evenings, when Wuqi residents gathered in a public square to talk or perform exercises together, many of the stores were closed. The parents I met were thrilled that high school was free but were still saving an enormous portion of their modest incomes to pay for college or a new home. Those savings create a self-reinforcing cycle, in which stores don’t flourish because people don’t shop much and people don’t shop much partly because there aren’t many good stores. As Feng Zhendong, Wuqi’s reform-minded Communist Party secretary, says, “There’s only so much to spend on.”
Then there was the hotel itself. During my first night there, I don’t think I saw a single other guest — in the lobby, the restaurant, the elevator or on the 19th floor. After I used the hotel gym, the front desk called to ask if I would be using it the next morning as well. In that case, someone would make sure it was unlocked.
There’s so much right in here. One thing is that not only is consumption a low share of Chinese GDP, the productivity of the retail sector is lousy. Of course parts of China have fancy international chain stores, but the more “authentic” streets I saw not only had these tiny stores but on average they had zero customers at any given time. Then you have in the empty hotels the problems of an economy that’s still heavily planned. Over-investment in certain kinds of prestige projects? Or maybe it’s over-investment in things that don’t compete with incumbent firms. Wuqi doesn’t have a pre-existing Western-style business hotel that’s averse to seeing a new one open up. The whole thing is moving at an unprecedented speed, and I don’t think anyone really understands how to keep it going.
South Korea is training thousands of people, including children, as “dementia supporters,” to recognize symptoms and care for patients. The 11- to 13-year-olds, for instance, were in the government’s “Aging-Friendly Comprehensive Experience Hall” outside Seoul. Besides the aging simulation exercise, they viewed a PowerPoint presentation defining dementia and were trained, in the hall’s Dementia Experience Center, to perform hand massage in nursing homes.
“ ‘What did I do with my phone? It’s in the refrigerator,’ ” said one instructor, explaining memory loss. “Have you seen someone like that? They may go missing and die on the street.”
As is often the case, I think too much of the discussion in the United States about population aging is about the purely budgetary aspects of it. More elderly people plus a commitment to give money to elderly people = higher taxes or benefit cuts. True enough, but the harder questions concern real resources. More people with the distinctive problems of the elderly, and more need to find better ways of coping with them.
In an interview that aired last night on Fox News, Sarah Palin pushed the GOP’s anti-innovationmeme and attacked those in Congress who oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Palin called them “extreme politicians over on the left who want to buy into” arguments against drilling from “extreme environmentalists.” The former GOP half-term Alaska governor argued that the U.S. needs “to drill and fill up the pipeline again.”
But in a separate interview later in the program, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) noted that drilling in the Arctic refuge really won’t solve America’s energy problems, won’t have much impact on the price of gasoline, and most importantly, moves the United States away from the direction of moving to a clean energy economy. Then, appearing to borrow a phrase from his GOP colleague Rep. Bob Inglis (SC), Inslee noted that China will outpace the U.S. if it doesn’t focus more on a clean energy economy:
INSLEE: The fact of the matter is, if we’re going to grow our economy, if we are going to seize the jobs of the next century, we have to get busy focusing our national debate and our national investment on the new clean energy technologies, or China is going to eat our lunch.
China right now is preparing to roll out electric cars, lithium ion batteries, solar cells, cellulosic ethanol. This is where the future of energy is. We’ve a finite resource in oil, just like we had a finite resource in whale oil, and we made a transition. And we have to really focus our national energies in a bipartisan way, I would hope, on finding our way to compete with China to really build new energy sources of the future.
Not only is Inslee correct that oil drilling in the Arctic refuge will havelittle impact on the American economy, but he’s also right that when in comes to clean energy production, China “is going to eat our lunch.” The New York Times reported earlier this year that China is the world’s largest manufacturer of wind turbines and solar panels and new report out last month found that China “is a surprise leader in clean energy efforts“:
“The Chinese leadership have made a strategic decision that they missed out on the last two industrial revolutions and they don’t want to miss out on the third one,” said Erwin Jackson, director of the Climate Institute, of China’s “surprising” dominance.
“They are now commanding the largest market share of clean energy investment at a global level as a result,” Jackson told AFP.
China’s investment in clean energy topped 35 billion US dollars in 2009 compared with 11 billion in Britain and 18 billion in the United States, and Jackson said it was set to increase tenfold over the next decade.
“The race toward a clean-energy future is underway, and those nations that lead will reap enormous economic benefits,” CAP’s Kate Gordon noted in a report on clean energy this year, adding that “[b]y 2020, clean energy will be one of the world’s biggest industries, totaling as much as $2.3 trillion” and that China “has made a serious commitment to building that revolution with low-carbon, low-waste technologies and infrastructure.”
Insee’s office called ThinkProgress and noted that Inslee’s interview with Greta Van Susteren actually took place last August. As such, it is unclear whether Inslee borrowed Inglis’s phrase regarding China eating America’s lunch, which Inglis iterated in November.
I have many transportation-related schemes that involve robbing drivers of unjustly earned subsidies. But my scheme for more demand-responsive on street parking fees (i.e., more expensive meters) is really something drivers should embrace. Price controls are not a favor to buyers or sellers, they’re a favor to people who put an extremely low value on their own time and have no problem waiting on endless lines.
New York City has some of the most underpriced parking in the nation, and while there have been a few pilot programs (in the UES, the West Village, and Park Slope) to raise rates during peak hours, it looks like Bloomberg is finally pushing to implement Park Smart citywide. Residential metered hourly rates throughout the city will be bumped up to $1 (they were 50¢ just six months ago) and commercial rates will rise to $3 (they were $2 six months ago). Beyond this, peak on-street parking in the busiest commercial zones will cost even more.
The Post loads its article with driver outrage (headline: “Feed it and weep! Meter$ jacked up”; opening line: “Park your wallet right here, drivers.”), but at least towards the end they suggest a benefit of the program: “More than half of the business owners and drivers in the area said parking became easier once the more expensive pilot program went into effect.”
Right on. The point is that if you price on street parking appropriately, while it may be (more) expensive to park it should also be much more convenient to park. Which means that if a given space is expensive at a given time, that’ll be because some people put a really high value on having the right to occupy the space. Then on the back end this increases government revenue and reduces the need to rely on sales taxes or other regressive revenue measures.
With exclusive commentary by forest scientist Simon Lewis
We know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event.
“It takes some time for the team to come together,” Obama said. “There’s no ‘I’ in team. So no matter how good a player is, no matter how good a group of players are, if they haven’t played together before they are not going to be as good as a team that has played together a long time.”
This is an interesting theory, but as I recall it the 2007-2008 Celtics were excellent as soon as Kevin Garnett hit town. Similarly the 1998-1999 Spurs were great right when Tim Duncan arrived.
ABC News reports that the Congressional Budget Office this week released its latest report on the effects of the Recovery Act and found that it “raised the GDP, lowered unemployment, and increased the number of people with jobs.” According to the report, CBO estimates that the Recovery Act’s policies in the third quarter of the calendar year 2010 had the following effects (emphasis added):
– They raised real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP) by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent,
– Lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.8 percentage points and 2.0 percentage points,
– Increased the number of people employed by between 1.4 million and 3.6 million, and,
– Increased the number of full-time-equivalent jobs by 2.0 million to 5.2 million compared with what would have occurred otherwise (see Table 1). (Increases in FTE jobs include shifts from part-time to full-time work or overtime and are thus generally larger than increases in the number of employed workers).
At the same time however, the CBO said that the Recovery Act’s effects “on output peaked in the first half of 2010 and are now diminishing” and that its effect “on employment and unemployment are estimated to lag slightly behind the effects on output; they are expected to wane gradually beginning in the fourth quarter.” The Republican Study Committee and other GOP members of Congress picked upon this latter point on twitter today, presumably acknowledging that the Recovery Act did indeed have a positive impact on the economy?
By Climate Guest Blogger on Nov 26, 2010 at 8:42 am
A war is brewing among the right wing over the chairmanship of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which has jurisdiction over health care, climate policy, and energy policy. Brad Johnson has the story in this TP cross-post.