Economic Engines

The Rage of Those Left Behind

The middle class has been getting a lot of attention lately. In May, The Atlantic described the “middle-class shame” of half of Americans being unable to come up with $400 in an emergency. A recent Pew Research Center study found the middle class in decline in almost nine out of 10 metro areas. And there is increasing talk of an America in which the upper 20 percent are doing well, while middle-income Americans, like lower-income ones, are under intensifying economic pressure.

The response of some is to deny that things are really that bad, to point to positive developments here or there, or to defend the same policies the parties have been pushing in recent years: more stimulus spending, more free-trade agreements, looser immigration control and so on. READ MORE

Immigration and Income Inequality

As a man of the left who sees fighting inequality as his central political mission, is it surprising that New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has made welcoming illegal immigrants in his city a top priority?

An estimated half-million undocumented immigrants in New York City, and 11 million across the country, work at generally low-wage jobs with few rights. Giving them some protection from deportation, along with quasi-legal status, will help them build lives in the U.S., even doing such things as “joining the PTA,” as one de Blasio aide put it to me. READ MORE

What Jane Jacobs Missed

This originally appeared on Common Edge, a nonprofit website about architecture.

Not far from Jane Jacob’s famed home on Hudson Street in Greenwich Village, and the White Horse tavern, and her famous street ballet, lies the West Fourth subway stop at 6th Avenue and 4th Street. It’s a massive thing, one of the largest in the entire system, with eight tracks across four platforms on two levels. Seven subway lines -- the A, B, C, D, E, F and M -- connect there, and the station pumps thousands of people per hour onto the streets of the quaint village. This stop, and the trains and tunnels it leads to, are crucial to how Greenwich Village functions. READ MORE

De-Industrialization and the Displaced Worker

In George O. Smith’s science fiction short story “Pandora’s Millions,” society collapses when the invention of a “matter replicator,” like the ones from Star Trek, instantly renders most of the economy, and money itself, obsolete. Being a short story, this is resolved quickly with the invention of a substance that can’t be duplicated, followed by rebuilding the economy and society around services. 

Real life doesn’t always recover so quickly from disruptions, as we are finding out. READ MORE

From 'Her' to 'Mr. Robot': Movies and TV Make Public Transit Hip

I recently pulled down from my bookshelves a battered old paperback, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, that ’70s classic by Robert Pirsig that attempts to bridge the chasm that existed in those days between science and technology on one side and art and spirituality on the other. This was a time before the Internet and billionaire nerds wearing T-shirts and colorful socks. Scientists wore crewcuts; only hippies had long hair.

This book gained much of its power by looking at the lines we draw and the categories we put things in, often unconsciously. It still reads well, except for one moment where Pirsig reveals an unexamined assumption of his own. READ MORE