Of the top 15 fastest-growing U.S. metros, 13 are in Texas

by Ryan Streeter on September 30, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

WalletHub has ranked 515 U.S. metro areas according to 10 measures of socioeconomic growth. Of the top 15, 13 are in Texas. Austin is the top-ranked large metro area at #9.

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 10.00.56 AM

The weakness of the Congress is the foremost problem now confronting our constitutional system

by Ryan Streeter on September 28, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Lifting our eyes from the day-to-day media coverage of the frenetic assembly of the circular firing squad that is the Republican Party, Yuval Levin provides some perspective, as usual:

The weakness of the Congress is the foremost problem now confronting our constitutional system.

He continues:

For decades now, under presidents and congressional majorities of both parties, the Congress has willingly ceded power to the president and to judges and has abided the erosion of its primary position in our system of government. Congress has done this for a variety of reasons, though above all because its members (of both parties) would rather avoid responsibility for hard policy choices and because members of the president’s party at any given time incline to think their policy preferences would be better served by an assertive executive who shares them.

He has four proposals, all worth considering:

First, a reassertion of the power of the purse, not to be used as a weapon at midnight on the last day of the fiscal year but to be used as a means of constitutional control of the government.

Second, and relatedly, Congress needs to change the defaults in the budget process to avoid showdowns and crises that are structurally inclined to empower the executive.

Third, Congress needs to rein in executive rulemaking and insert itself more in the regulatory process.

And fourth, Congress should rein in discretion by better defining it in law.

He says more about each of these in the full post.

We are not as creative as the Victorians when it comes to solutions benefiting the middle class

by Ryan Streeter on September 28, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

I really enjoyed the Charles Moore essay in the WSJ Review section this weekend.

It’s a solid treatment of the middle class issue that so many people want to own even as they put forward uncreative thoughts on the matter. I liked how he framed it:

The Victorians were more imaginative than we are about principles of mutuality—credit unions, building societies, the cooperative movement. Such organizations feel creakier in an age when people want larger sums, faster. But is it really beyond the skill of our great modern business brains to develop these concepts and adapt them to modernity? Financial creativity, unfortunately, really has become the preserve of the few, for the few.

And here are some good thoughts that should provoke some debate leading toward creative solutions:

Too many advocates of markets have allowed themselves to be suborned into becoming apologists for business. And too many businesses now operate as if their responsibilities are only to themselves and not to consumers.

Why are so few companies owned by the people who work for them, and why do both liberal and conservative political parties not offer greater incentives, such as tax advantages, for this to change? It is extraordinary that the joint stock company, the foundation of modern commercial and industrial wealth, is still so little influenced by the views of shareholders.

This is perhaps most evident in the preposterous salaries paid, particularly in the U.S. and Britain, to top executives of public companies. If the owners of these companies truly exercised authority over what is theirs, this wouldn’t happen. If these enterprises had grown over the last 20 years at the same rate as pay for the men who run them (it usually still is men), no one would be talking of a crisis of capitalism.

The 2 most policy-rich graphs in the latest Census income & poverty report

by Ryan Streeter on September 18, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

Every year about this time, there is a ritual in Washington in which the Census Bureau releases its annual poverty numbers and the punditocracy debates whether the President is to blame for the fact that we are making no progress against poverty. It happens every year regardless of who’s President.

The more interesting debates are usually quieter, if they happen at all, about other figures in the report. The following 2 graphs in the Census presentation struck me as the most important in terms of what they say about current policy debates.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 12.55.07 PM


In a departure from the “makers vs. takers” rhetoric the GOP frontrunner deployed in the 2012 campaign, candidates of both parties in the 2016 race are decrying stagnant middle class incomes and the rise of the super-rich. Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders have said things on this topic that sound nearly identical. But as the foregoing graph shows, this growing gulf between the rich and everyone else is nothing new. It’s a trend with a long history, pre-dating Reagan. The gulf isn’t really any wider now than it was at the end of the Clinton years, and yet that doesn’t diminish the stark reality that the modest gains below the 50th percentile have emerged as the thorniest public policy dilemma of our generation. This is what the 2016 debates should be about, but somehow CNN’s moderators in the last debate couldn’t figure out how to squeeze questions about this issue into the 3-hour-long slugfest.

Screen Shot 2015-09-18 at 1.46.36 PM

This one shows the success we’ve had over time reducing elderly poverty. The Under 18 line isn’t just a measure of child poverty; it’s a measure of household poverty, since most kids who are poor are living with at least one parent or head of household. Entitlement reform isn’t as much of a topic in the current campaign, but it’s no less of an issue. The very programs that helped bring down that red line will play a role in keeping the blue and green lines steady or rising unless we figure out how to change them.

The most interesting thing I’ve read this week: HuffPo/YouGov poll on Trump turning Republicans into pro-universal healthcare enthusiasts

by Ryan Streeter on September 4, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

At one level this shocking. On another it’s totally predictable. Either way, it’s kind of depressing how much celebrity drives views on policy:

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 3.51.14 PM

Democratic support for universal health care dwarfs Republican support among respondents who were told Obama endorsed the policy. But respondents from both parties were about equally likely to agree with universal health care when they were told Trump supported it. Republicans were significantly more likely to agree with Trump, while the percentage of Democrats who said they weren’t sure how they felt about universal health care jumped from 8 percent to 33 percent when Trump was the one endorsing the idea.

This is from a recent HuffPo/YouGov poll.

Think shrinking cities suffer from brain drain? Think again

by Ryan Streeter on September 1, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

America’s shrinking cities are widely viewed to be suffering from a “brain drain”—the flight of highly educated residents to other, more hospitable locales—that is crippling these cities’ economic competitiveness. While such cities have many problems, brain drain as popularly conceived is not one of them. Indeed, the conventional wisdom on brain drain and declining human capital in shrinking U.S. metropolitan areas is largely a myth: brain gain, not drain, is the reality.

That’s from the executive summary of Aaron Renn’s new study on 28 shrinking cities. He found that only 3 cities could arguably be suffering from brain drain. The rest are “attacking the wrong problem” whenever they commit resources to try to reverse their cities’ putative brain drain.


Regulations matter more than taxes to small businesses in this survey

by Ryan Streeter on September 1, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

The author of Thumbtack’s survey, which rates the business-friendliness of cities and states based on business owners’ perceptions, writes that “labor rules were 88 percent more important in driving state friendliness scores when compared to tax rates.”

It turns out that business owners’ perceptions track pretty closely with other indicators of migration and business health. Northeastern cities don’t fare as well as Sun Belt and other southern cities:

Small businesses in Manchester, Dallas, Richmond, Austin, and Knoxville gave their cities the highest ratings. Providence, New Haven, Buffalo, Albuquerque, and Hartford were the survey’s worst­-performing cities as rated by their small business owners.

Economic liberty vs. economic security

by Ryan Streeter on August 28, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

In the Weekly Standard, I argue that GOP candidates could learn a thing or two from Trump and Sanders about tapping into the sentiments of voters who feel that large forces they cannot control have largely taken over their lives:

To many Americans, low wages and low-quality jobs are symptoms of a deeper problem in which, to use Elizabeth Warren’s words, the game is rigged. Banks and corporations, foreign governments, and our own government are profiting from policies they have shaped with politicians at the expense of ordinary people. Sanders’s promise to break up the banks or Trump’s promise to take on China (all by himself, apparently) strike a chord with frustrated voters who feel helpless and want someone to fight for them.

The feeling that the powerful are rigging the game against the rest of us runs deep. According to Gallup, the share of Americans who say they are satisfied with the freedom they have to choose the direction of their lives has dropped steadily over the past decade, while the percentage of Americans who believe the U.S. government is corrupt has grown. For nearly 50 years until 2000, more than 80 percent of Americans said the United States offers plenty of opportunity to get ahead, but that figure steadily dropped to roughly 50 percent in recent years. In Pew’s political typology study last year the vast majority of Americans, including steadfast conservatives and “young outsiders” who lean right on many issues, believe too much power is concentrated in the hands of too few companies. A smaller yet still significant share of people in the survey believes our current economic system favors the powerful. All of these trends stand against the backdrop of flagging confidence in institutions. With the exception of the military and small business, every institution Gallup tracks suffers from lower public support than its historical average, with the presidency, the courts, and Congress near the bottom along with banks.

You can read it all here.

On the progressive libertarianism of tech founders

by Ryan Streeter on August 1, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

There are a number of interesting charts in this post, but this one in particular raises some good questions about the future public policy and political influence of the tech community:

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 3.40.00 PM

It’s based on the author’s “novel representative sample” of Silicon Valley tech founders, so I have no idea how large or truly representative it is. But with that caveat, it expresses in chart form what most people who observe the political views and activity of tech entrepreneurs have found.

Everyone knows that the tech community leans heavily to the left in its politics, and yet as the post shows, it does so in ways at odds with traditional progressive politics (the rest of the post shows other ways, too).

And so, on the one hand, tech founders have a greater faith in government to do good than the general public, but have more in common with libertarians on infusing competition into government to disrupt its status quo manner of operating. And when it comes to change and new experiences, the tech community is – as expected – high on the chart but clearly more in line with libertarians than the general public.

This raises interesting questions about how their optimism about disruption and optimism about government will “get along” going forward.

Progressives “stand athwart history, yelling Stop!”

by Ryan Streeter on July 31, 2015. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

In The Hill I write:

When 3D food printing makes it possible for restaurants to produce dishes with items they formerly purchased from federally inspected manufacturers, how will progressives respond? If the online delivery of high-quality, low-cost education options grow to the point that traditional public schools lose too many students, how might progressives propose we change “No Child Left Behind”? What will progressives say about Pager, the new Uber-like app that dispatches doctors directly to patients’ homes?

These questions become especially important when we consider that the regulators in government agencies are biased, typically in a progressive direction. As a new Brookings Institution study finds, federal regulators impose rules in a manner consistent with their own views. The study’s authors found that regulators overestimate small risks, much like ordinary people. The EPA, for instance, engages in the “bizarre practice of treating as equal both real and hypothetical exposure risks”…

The arc of progressivism is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the disruptive technologies that benefit the middle class that progressives love to defend. Whether conservative and libertarian-leaning leaders can offer an alternative vision remains to be seen, but the progressive tendency to stand athwart history on these matters has given them an open door to try.

Kudos to those who get the veiled Bill Buckley reference at the end.