Public Infrastructure

The Rebirth of Middle America

March 16, 2012

This piece is authored by Jay Pelosky, Principal of J2Z Advisory. A version of this piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Can Long Beach Prove that Bikes Are Good for Business?

  • By
  • Mark Hertsgaard,
  • New America Foundation
January 11, 2012 |

Look out, Minneapolis and Portland. Long Beach is making its move, aiming to surpass you as America's Most Bike Friendly City. Does that sound odd for a city whose chief claim to environmental fame has been its massively polluting port and offshore oil facilities—not to mention a city that, like the rest of Southern California, has long been in thrall of the car?

Paving Paradise

  • By
  • Charles Kenny,
  • New America Foundation
January 9, 2012 |

It's just a guess, but I doubt concrete would rank high on a list of the world's most loved materials. From Belgrade to Brixton, the antiseptic, brutalist tower blocks of wannabe Le Corbusiers have become eyesores -- vertical slums infested with graffiti and gangs. Twenty-lane highways in Houston are not generally considered a thing of beauty to anyone but transportation engineers. And for each megawatt of electricity produced by China's enormous Three Gorges Dam -- the world's largest concrete construction project -- roughly 77 people were booted from their homes.

Obama's Populist Address Features Inequality, Mobility, and Fairness

December 9, 2011
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It’s a busy time of year. Perhaps you didn’t hear President Obama’s December 6thspeech in Osawatomie, Kansas. It’s worth a closer look—both for its specific language and general themes. The speech was a billed as a thematic statement of Obama’s vision for the economy and if that’s the case, we can expect to hear more in the coming campaign about inequality, mobility, opportunity, and even fairness. Given the state of the economy, we should expect these issues to attract attention, but still the speech sounded like a departure for a president who has often shied away from taking a populist stance. 

I’ll be honest and say that Osawatomie had not previously been on my radar. But the choice of using this heartland town as the site for a major economic address was not accidental. In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt delivered what’s been called his “New Nationalism” speech, a milestone for the progressive era, where he called upon government to regulate capitalism and elevate the public interests above those of money and property. The press reports piqued my interest and I tracked down TR’s address. Reading it, I was surprised by how contemporary it felt.

TR used his address to rail against the rising power of corporations and moneyed interests that “too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics.” The very triumph of America was at stake, which at that time held the hopes of anyone believing in the desirability of democratic and popular government. Property was to be respected and protected but not given undue influence – and certainly not “the right of suffrage.” (We should send this speech to the current Roberts Court.) TR believed that the unleveled playing field was tipping the scales of justice and the promise of America could only be realized with “practical equality of opportunity for all citizens.”

“…when we achieve it, will have two great results. First, every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies; to reach the highest point to which his capacities, unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others, can carry him, and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned. Second, equality of opportunity means that the commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable. No man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled.

I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the games, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of opportunity and of reward for equally good service.”

Pardon the dated gender language and my bolding of the passage, but for me all it would take to make this passage ring true today is a few new pronouns. Now, let’s see how President Obama picks up on these ideas in his speech delivered over a hundred years later. 

Explaining China’s Falling Current Account Balance

  • By
  • Samuel Sherraden,
  • New America Foundation
December 15, 2011

China’s surplus fell from 10.1% of GDP in 2007 to 5.2% in 2010.  Whether its current account will continue to decline or will return to higher levels seen in the mid-2000s is a subject of considerable disagreement.

Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) Evaluation: Is a story worth a thousand numbers?

November 23, 2011

Now that the rush toward implementation of BTOP-funded public computer centers and digital literacy programs around the country is turning into a rush to make long-term sustainability plans, partners are looking for effective program evaluation strategies. As it turns out, establishing community-driven metrics is proving to be a challenge.

Progress in India’s unique ID project

November 23, 2011
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Earlier this month, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) hosted a fascinating event featuring Ashok Singh, the Deputy Director General at the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The focus was on how these unique ID numbers, or Aadhaar numbers, which are issued after iris and fingerprint scans are employed to ensure each individual is unique to the system, can provide a means for financial inclusion for the poor. Remarkably, Singh, said, UIDAI is issuing Aadhaar numbers at the rate of 1 million a day, with a goal of 600 million over the next four years.

Follow-Up: The Darwin Economy

October 31, 2011
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Robert H. Frank spoke at New America last Thursday about the guiding principles of his book, The Darwin Economy, and the policy proposals that stem from his model of economic thought. Reid Cramer started the event off connecting Frank’s ideas to recent trends: tax policy is at the forefront of recent political debates and the Occupy Wall Street movement is focusing attention on rampant economic inequality.

Linking East, West Should Be the New California Story

October 19, 2011

(originally published at Fox & Hounds Daily)
Everyone in California knows that the state needs new, improved infrastructure. But there’s big narrative to explain our needs.

So let’s try one out here. When it comes to rebuilding the state, the overarching idea should be: East-West connection.

Most of California’s current infrastructure was built in an era when the main political divide in the state was between North and South. So that infrastructure naturally linked north and south – the 99 and the 5, water, our most traveled airplane routes, etc.

The Way Forward

  • By Daniel Alpert, Westwood Capital; Robert Hockett, Professor of Law, Cornell University; and Nouriel Roubini, Professor of Economics, New York University
October 10, 2011

Notwithstanding repeated attempts at monetary and fiscal stimulus since 2009, the United States remains mired in what is by far its worst economic slump since that of the 1930s.1  More than 25 million working-age Americans remain unemployed or underemployed, the employment-to-population ratio lingers at an historic low of 58.3 percent,2 business investment continues at historically weak levels, and consumption expenditure remains weighed down by massive private sector debt overhang left by the bursting of the housing and credit bubble a bit over three years ago.

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