Tag Archives: Money

REVIEW | How to Speak Money by John Lanchester

how_to_speak_moneyREVIEW
How to Speak Money: What the money people say… and what they really mean
by John Lanchester

John Lanchester’s How to Speak Money: What the money people say… and what they really mean is a worthwhile read though the whole adds up to somewhat of a mixed bag. The first chapter, “The Language of Money” is a fabulous, broad-based read, mostly focused on telling the story of economics as a field and topic of study. The middle definition section, “The Lexicon of Money” is mostly thorough and informative but a lot of readers (for example, architects, urban designers, urban planners) will find some definitions more useful than others based on their own interests and life experience. This really isn’t Lanchester’s fault; it’s just the ‘nature of the beast,’ as some might say. The “Afterword” is really problematic as Lanchester tries to pull it all together into a more widespread, sweeping view of where we have been and where we are going after the Great Recession. In doing so, he strains to debunk what he describes as the Neo-liberalism economic policies of the last 30 years (what most people know as supply-side economics or Reaganomics) on the basis of inequality (i.e. gap between rich and poor). At the same time, Lanchester heralds the remarkable progress of developing and emerging markets over the same time period, especially in improving child mortality and education rates, lifting people out of poverty, etc. (i.e. reducing inequality). However, to accept Lanchester’s argument, the reader has to assume that these simultaneous events over the last 30 years are utterly disconnected, occurring in a vacuum independently of each other. It seems far more plausible that Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s promises to the middle/lower classes of a ‘trickle down effect’ that lifts all boats has not been realized in the developed Western societies such as the United States and United Kingdom but, through the mechanism of globalization, manifested on a worldwide scale in these emergent markets. This means Lanchester’s proposed solution, a return to the democratic socialist policies of the 60s/70s that is inevitably the default position of most Baby Boomers, is incorrect (and very old news). As I recall, Reagan/Thatcher never supported the concept of near-monopolies as part of their broader economic strategy, which has, in fact,  emerged in modern corporatism of the Western societies over the last 2-3 decades. This suggests that economic model we should be looking towards for a correction in the obvious abuses of the Neo-Liberal economic model (see bank fraud/credit crunch of the Great Recession) lies in the early 20th century ‘trust-busting’ model of Teddy Roosevelt. In this sense, the “Afterwood” serves its purpose by forcing anyone with a basic understanding of history and economics to draw to their own, more rational conclusions in order to reconcile the inherent contradictions of Lanchester’s argument. How to Speak Money: What the money people say… and what they really mean is worth the read but it should be read thoughtfully, not blindly. Grade: 3 1/2 stars

3-5-starshow_to_speak_moneyHow to Speak Money: What the money people say… and what they really mean
by John Lanchester
W. W. Norton & Company (October 6, 2014)
English
ISBN-10: 0393243370
ISBN-13: 978-0393243376

You can purchase How to Speak Money: What the money people say… and what they really mean on Amazon here.

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The Outlaw Urbanist at SSS10 |13-17 July 2015 | London

mark_v3UPDATE: Dr. Mark David Major is scheduled to speak at SSS10 on Tuesday, July 14th at 12 Noon during the “Urban Morphology” session in the Leolin Price Lecture Theatre.

Dr. Mark David Major, AICP, CNU-A, founder of The Outlaw Urbanist and author of the Poor Richard Almanac series for architects and planners, will be speaking at the 10th Space Syntax Symposium (SSS10) held in London from 13 to 17 July 2015 at University College London, Bloomsbury. Major was the Symposium Organizer for the inaugural 1997 conference in London and generally regarded as the founder of Space Syntax Symposia, which is now approaching its twentieth year.

Major will be speaking about “The Hidden Corruption of American Regular Grids: why space syntax doesn’t work in the United States, when it looks like it should”. Read the abstract below for a sneak preview:

ABSTRACT
Space syntax has made remarkable progress in practice and research around the world over the last 40 years. However, this is not the case in the United States. Space syntax remains on the fringes of the American planning and development process. This is odd since there appear to be several inherent advantages for the widespread application of space syntax in an American context, i.e. continuing large-scale urban growth, an established research programme at one of the country’s leading universities, and seemingly ‘natural’ allies in professional practice.

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The paper outlines the financial, institutional, and legal hurdles and pitfalls confronting space syntax in the American market, especially in the private sector. Using a series of ‘back-of-the-napkin’ financial calculations common to the American planning and development process, the paper demonstrates how these challenges can transform into a distinct advantage for advocating the cause of the space syntax in the United States. Given this, the paper concludes by discussing the enormous challenges and opportunities for space syntax in America today.

More information about SSS10 is available here.

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The Splenda Housing Market | To Be or Not to Be

To Be or Not to Be: The Splenda Housing Market
by Mark David Major, The Outlaw Urbanist contributor

UrbanLand reports we finally have a ‘real’ housing recovery (see below). Trulia Trends and The Atlantic Cities report housing prices are recovering at a more rapid pace in urban neighborhoods than in the suburbs (see below). However, CNN/Money and AOL Real Estate report McMansions of suburbia are making a comeback (see below) based on recent Census data instead of national homebuilder ‘wish fulfillment’ surveys (see The Outlaw Urbanist January 24, 2013 post, “McMansions Return“). Other media outlets are reporting an explosion in rental apartment construction. What gives?

Welcome to a Splenda Housing Market, where the modus operandi is a saccharine high of easy money, taxpayer-funded bailouts, and manipulated markets!

• The Fed continues to pump easy money into the economy at a rapid rate through its bond-purchasing program called Qualitative Easing (what number are we on now?). Despite what Paul Krugman and the American government tell you (“we only measure inflation on things people don’t want to buy”), there are real inflationary pressures out there, which are transmitted into every facet of the American economy including housing. The evidence lies in the year-to-year increase in housing prices from 2011 to 2012. The appreciation of property values in the Trulia Trends report range from 7.3% in New York to an astounding 33.8% in Las Vegas! This is patently unsustainable and highly suspicious.

• Eager to return to the “good, old days” as quickly as possible, realtors and landlords are shamelessly inflating prices for home/property and monthly rents to a level far above their real value, especially in light of the next item.

• The banks have a huge amount of inventory of foreclosed homes on their books, the majority of which lies vacant and withheld from the housing market. What does it mean? Housing prices never reached their true floor.

• For every home foreclosed, the banks not only get the home but also file an insurance claim on the mortgage debt, usually with AIG (i.e. the American {Insurance} Government). What does it mean? The banks get to have their cake courtesy of dispossessed homeowners and they get to eat it too funded by American taxpayers by double dipping on the value of the home and the mortgage.

• As home/property values continue to appreciate at a steady pace, the banks will systematically release their massive inventory onto the market to capitalize on rising housing prices. What does it mean? The value of your home/property is artificially suppressed as increased inventory enters the market;

• The longer home/property values appreciate and the more inventory released on the market by the banks, then the more the initial gain in the recovery rate of housing prices in urban neighborhoods touted by The Atlantic Cities and others will evaporate. These stable, urban neighborhoods tended to be the last to experience the crashing wave of falling housing prices during the Great Recession, so naturally they are the first to recover their real value. However, this is an ephemeral comeback for urban neighborhoods. The longer the Splenda Housing Market is in effect, then the more attractive becomes cheap land at the periphery of our cities and the ‘old way’ of doing things. Welcome back, suburban sprawl! We hardly could stand you the first time around!

What does it mean for you? The long and short is this: unless you possess the equity at hand to pay cash for a property/home now, then you’re totally screwed. Too bad, suckers. Remember friends: the only reason the shit rolls downhill is because of who is squatting at the top and taking a dump.

Excerpt from June 27, 2013 article, “Housing Recovery Strengthens, but Credit Remains an Issue” by Bendix Anderson on UrbanLand:

“The housing sector is finally helping the U.S. economic recovery, rather than holding it back. But more Americans than ever now spend more than half their income on housing, according to The State of the Nation’s Housing 2013, a report released June 26 by the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) at Harvard University. “Clearly, we are in a strong housing recovery now,” said Eric Belsky, managing director of JCHS.

Read the full article here: Housing Recovery Strengthens, but Credit Remains an Issue | UrbanLand.

Excerpt from June 25, 2013 article, “Home Prices Rising Faster in Cities than in the Suburbs – Most of All in Gayborhoods”by Jed Kolko on Trulia Trends:

Here’s the punch line: urban neighborhoods had faster price growth in the past year, while suburban neighborhoods had higher population growth. The median asking price per square foot was up 11.3% in urban neighborhoods, versus 10.2% in suburban neighborhoods. (The overall national increase, including urban and suburban neighborhoods, was 10.5%.) But despite faster price growth in cities, the suburbs are where people are moving: suburban neighborhoods had faster population growth than urban neighborhoods did, 0.56% versus 0.31%.”

Read the full article here: Home Prices Rising Faster in Cities than in the Suburbs – Most of All in Gayborhoods | Trulia Trends.

Excerpt from June 5, 2013 article “McMansions Are Making a Comeback” by CNN/Money on AOL Real Estate:

“As the economy recovers, America’s love affair with the oversized McMansion has been reignited. During the past three years, the average size of new homes has grown significantly, according to a Census Bureau report released Monday. In 2012, the median home in the U.S. hit an all-time record of 2,306 square feet, up 8 percent from 2009.”

Read the full CNN/Money article here: McMansions Are Making a Comeback | AOL Real Estate.

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The Editorial leftist Folio Weekly Was Too Afraid to Publish

Corporate Welfare Queens Bankroll Opposition to Amendment 4
The opposition to Amendment 4 is using taxpayer money to try and stop you from having a voice in the future of where you live, work and play: our neighborhoods and towns. They are trying to silence your voice about the future of Florida’s growth and development. Home builders and their vassals are principally responsible for bankrolling millions of dollars in opposition to Amendment 4. The only argument they have is fear because no one (not even the home builders) has the political courage to defend the morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt growth management process in the State of Florida over the last 30+ years. And the home builders are trying to scare you using your own money.

Do you want to talk about the audacity of audacity? Let’s follow the money.
At the beginning of this year, the Democratic Congress passed and President Obama signed into law an extension of unemployment benefits compensation. So far, so good: right? But the special interests in Washington DC successfully lobbied to insert something more into the bill: a tax loophole for the home building industry. The national home builders were able to claim losses over the last 2 years against federal taxes on their corporate profits during the previous 5 years. Basically, this means the federal government is using deficit spending (by borrowing mainly from China, Japan and the United Kingdom) to refund corporate taxes on national home builders’ profits during the boom years to compensate for their losses during the Great Recession. Of course, it will be left to this generation and future generations of unborn Americans to pay this debt.

Let’s be clear. This is a “backdoor” government bailout: nothing more, nothing less.
But wait, there’s more. After receiving their bailout, the national home builders report the tax refund as profit to Wall Street, thereby maintaining the value of their shares. Most home builder shares lost more than 80% of their value during the financial crisis, broadly dropping from $35-45 a share to around $10 or less a share. Even with this backdoor government bailout, home builder share prices had only remained stable more or less near their historic lows. So, not only is the federal government propping up the obsolete business models of the home building industry that planted the seeds of this Great Recession in the first place (especially in Florida, California and Nevada) and not only is it also the means to artificially inflate home builder share value on stock market to create another “bubble” but it isn’t even working all that well. To any common sense American, this is a waste of money on an almost unimaginable scale.

Oh, and the unemployed? At the same time the home builders are receiving billions of dollars in backdoor government bailouts, the federal government taxes as income the unemployment compensation payments for the unemployed. This is the anti-Robin Hood economics of the perverse. Steal from the future earnings of the poor to bailout the rich today. It is a house of cards waiting to fall all over again. And, once again, it will be left to the taxpayers to cover the bills.

In the early 90s, Welfare Reform was a major legislative achievement of President Clinton and Newt Gingrich’s Republican Congress. It rolled back one of the worst abuses of Johnson’s Great Society programs by getting people off the welfare rolls and back into the workplace. At its core was the idea there is dignity in being able to work and stand on your own without government assistance. Now, we have the new phenomenon of the Corporate Welfare Queens. The banks, auto industry and, now, the home builders are just some who have been caught red-handed sucking at the teat of the federal government. How are these Corporate Welfare Queens any different from the welfare queens President Reagan used to describe as both an abuser and victim of the system? Well, for one thing, we are talking about corporations that are too stubborn, too beholden to their quarterly profit reports to Wall Street, who possess obsolete business models they are too cowardly or dense to change in order to address the new economic realities. They would rather stick their fingers in their ears and hum really loud (and insert their heads with the fingers plugging their ears into the sand, for good measure) rather than adapt their business models and methods. Corporations like this should be allowed to perish in a capitalist society. The innovators will survive and thrive. The dinosaurs will finally become extinct, as they should. Instead, the federal government is using corporate welfare to pervert the marketplace and these obsolete industries are as happy as pigs at the trough. Today, what we clearly need is Corporate Welfare Reform.

So what does this have to do with Amendment 4? The home building industry has bankrolled 40% of the funds raised to oppose Amendment 4. The rest of the funds raised to oppose Amendment 4 largely come from businesses/organizations providing support services – and receiving income – from the home builders. Amendment 4 is a ballot initiative designed to give voters a say on major changes to their community’s future land use map; specifically, how our neighborhoods and towns in Florida will grow in the future. They want to deny you a voice in your future.

Many voters are old enough to remember the Watergate adage, “follow the money.” If you do, it’s easy to see they are using your money to tell you to shut up. But this is our Florida. They may have more money (even if a part of it was stolen from you) but there are more of us. Nothing can stop the power of The People when they decide to act (see the Revolutionary War against King George and the British Empire for a relevant example). Let your voices be heard loud and clear this November 2nd. Vote YES on Amendment 4.

Tea, anyone?

Mark Major, AICP is a certified planner of the American Institute of Certified Planners, a former planner for a national home builder and former Chair of the First Coast Section, Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association from 2005-2008.

This editorial was originally written October 26, 2010 and submitted to Folio Weekly for their back page editorial. It was never published and Amendment 4 was defeated by 67% of the vote in the November 2010 election. The scare tactics employed by the home builders, government officials, and real estate and planning professionals to defeat Amendment 4 was instrumental in driving up vote turnout and electing the current unpopular Republican Governor of Florida, Rick Scott. Today, the Florida real estate market remains vastly overbuilt with inventory on life-support. You reap what you sow. Don’t believe the bizarre rants and maniacal claims of real estate agents about a “hot” real estate market. They are lying to you.

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