People in our apartment building don’t have to guess the shape of my and my wife’s politics. A weathered NO WAR sign stands in front of our doorway and on one wall there’s a flag with an image of planet Earth, taken from space, on a blue field that’s hung there since 9/11. Hard to miss. So I was taken aback when a three-page printout from an NPR interview was anonymously placed under our doormat. The interview was with a self-described “venture capitalist” and fellow at a libertarian think tank.
This promoter of Ayn Rand’s philosophy argued that it was venture capitalists like himself who create jobs, not government. Like most of Rand’s ideas this is about half right. Actually, in this case, a third right. Ernesto Sirolli, who has probably helped more depressed areas of the globe produce jobs than any community developer alive, says it takes three elements to start a business: someone passionate about a dream,
One of my weekend pleasures is a morning with the Sunday New York Times. I used to feel reading it was disloyal to my hometown, Los Angeles. But as the L.A. Times dramatically shrank and its reporting focus narrowed, I found that there was a lot of news I ended up knowing nothing about. The New York Times, whose heft hasn’t diminished, makes me feel smarter, broadens my world perspective, has editorials that don’t leave me fuming and, as an added bonus, helps me stay abreast of the well-heeled residents of New York– the ones who buy $4.5 million, 6,000 square-foot apartments on the 20th floor of Upper East Side historic buildings; who pass on $20,000 watches to their sons; and who are in the market for summer mansions in the Hamptons or rural Connecticut.
However on a recent weekend an ad in the Times Magazine made me feel that by enjoying the paper I was deserting the American people.
I’m not in the habit of critiquing economic analytical methods in obscure reports—really, I’m not—but there’s something about this one that grates. City Hall’s bending over backward to pander (or at least, they were) to the Occupy L.A. people outside its door, and at the same time considering a tax break that will potentially further devastate the city budget.
The report in question is an analysis by USC Accounting Professor Charles Swenson, and the tax break is the proposed elimination of the city’s business tax. Swenson argues that if the city does so, forgoing $424 million in revenues, it will actually generate 131,000 jobs and generate an additional $263 million above and beyond what the business tax now brings in.
How this happens—other than voodoo – is entirely unclear from the report. Swenson simply presents a series of tables with a series of assertions,
A lot of people are talking about leadership these days. Different types of leaders. The need for visionary leadership. The excitement around new young leadership and ideas about when leadership begins.
In my case, I’ve been thinking about how to recruit and develop new leaders for over 30 years, even when I was a new leader. I’m 51 years old and co-founded the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE — the organization that sponsors this blog) in 1993; I have been the executive director ever since. I have recruited and developed hundreds of staff members for LAANE over the years, and many of these people have become some of the most inspirational leaders that I have ever known.
Which is why I have decided to step aside as LAANE’s executive director starting in February of next year.
We all know that there’s a massive jobs crisis in our country, but there’s a real debate about how to address it. In Washington, many supposedly serious people suggest that we can create jobs through cutting taxes for corporations, dismantling what’s left of the safety net and rolling back regulations to 2008 standards — not exactly a banner year for job growth. With the Tea Party firmly in control of the House and with elections right around the corner, the mantra for many lawmakers has become “let the market do its magic.” The question for this segment of the Beltway crowd isn’t what government should do, but whether government should do anything at all.
Here in the real world, things are a little bit different. The Occupy movement, which locally has a tent encampment at L.A. City Hall, is a sign of the times. In neighborhoods around the country, and particularly in low-income communities of color like South L.A.,
The symptoms began only four days into my month-long paternity leave. First it was a vague craving, and before long it had crystallized into a very specific need: I just had to find out what was happening back at the office.
Yes, the miraculous newborn in the other room should have offered more than enough fulfillment. But I was jonesing for something not even she could provide.
The problem went way beyond my Crackberry. Truth is, I felt compelled to check work e-mail and even send more than a few to affirm that, beyond my new identity as a dad, I was still relevant — i.e., a loyal, productive employee.
You might be tempted to view my behavior as a bizarre idiosyncrasy (some truth there), or as a natural response to the conditions of my employment — decent wages, extremely generous benefits, flexible schedule, a congenial work environment.
But the fact is,
“Given the current economic climate,” read this afternoon’s press release from Funny Girl producer Bob Boyett, “many Broadway producing investors have found it impossible to maintain their standard level of financial commitment.”
In other words, the revival of the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill Broadway blockbuster that had starred Barbra Streisand in 1964, and gave us the song “People,” is dead — as far as Los Angeles is concerned. The new show, starring Six Feet Under‘s Lauren Ambrose as comedienne Fanny Brice, was to open in downtown L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater in January — the springboard to an April Broadway run.
Dream on, with this economy, though.
As the New York Times noted, “Pulling the plug on a previously announced Broadway production is rare, especially when (as in this case) theaters have been booked and actors cast.”
Though I deal with economic issues all day, I am not an economist and I have no formal economic training. That’s one of the reasons that I really like NPR’s Planet Money podcast. Yes, it has a little too much of a free-market bent for my tastes, but it does a very good job of explaining basic economic issues in lay language and, even more important, it is intellectually honest (which you can’t say about some key business media).
Planet Money recently aired a provocative episode called “Will economic growth destroy the planet?” Their jumping-off point was ostensibly the (purported) trade-off between economic and environmental health, but I found the real lesson in an important insight about how economists think and talk.
Let’s assume that we all agree that economic growth is a good thing. Almost every day, we see some headline or another touting the promise of a government policy or tax incentive or corporate investment to create jobs,
Energy efficiency building upgrades have been widely hailed as the low-hanging fruit of the clean energy sector, easy pickings for energy savings that can help jump-start the green economy through job creation and cost savings
But what IS an energy efficiency building upgrade (or retrofit, as it is sometimes called)?
Buildings are improved so that they use less energy and are more comfortable, but without requiring anyone to change their behavior. Think about it: with old, poorly insulated buildings, we are basically paying to heat or air-condition the outdoors. With inefficient heating, cooling, or lighting systems, we are doing something equivalent to burning a paycheck right next to our appliances.
Here’s how an energy efficiency building upgrade works: Typically, a building is first inspected by an energy “auditor” (a horrid word – having an “auditor” come in before a “retrofit” sounds like someone from the IRS is prepping you for a particularly nasty medical procedure – but those are the terms).
I have been photographing the Occupy camps since the inception of Occupy Los Angeles. I’ve spoken to many people and have thoroughly visited each layer of the emerging strata in the Occupy movement. I have seen it evolve.
On Day One it was as if the raucous levity of Venice Beach had been transplanted to Los Angeles City Hall. But within several days, the occupation had matured. People were tired. For even the most hardy, nights of sleeping on the ground in a not-so-private atmosphere and sharing a rancid pit toilet with hundreds of others is understandably wearing. What is this movement to become?
There is no mainstream media outlet objectively reporting the story. The pushing and pulling of the facts to fit readership deny the true story. Admittedly, I come from a bias of support for the movement. However, there can be no greater support for the movement than holding a great big mirror in the direction of its errant ways.