Posts tagged ‘bubble’

“Tysons Corner, the Bubble Inside the Beltway Bubble”

Tysons [Corner, in McLean, VA] is an easy target for anger, with its combination of ostentatious wealth and its utter lack of coherent planning or design. It is the very archetype of ugly American sprawl: neither truly suburban, in which a leisurely drive or stroll down a sidewalk is at least in theory possible, nor truly urban, with all of the cheek-by-jowl rough-and-tumble life and character of a city. Tysons Corner instead consists of miles of grim concrete big-box stores, parking garages, flashy towers, garish office blocks, and decaying mid-century kitsch, all lining an expanse of 10-lane expressways that will kill you instantly if you crane your neck toward the dismal view for more than a second. It is the visual equivalent of putting a Beethoven symphony and a Metallica concert in a blender and piecing them back together at random.

But what should draw more attention is the fact that the greater Washington area now boasts one of the highest concentrations of wealth anywhere in the United States, much thanks to the ginormous federal bureaucracy and National Security State which has grown exponentially since the 9/11 attacks. As of 2015, fully half of the top 10 highest-income counties in the nation are in Maryland and Virginia, within an hour of the capital. There are probably as many Teslas in Fairfax County as there are in Silicon Valley.

None of this, of course, negates the reality that there is plenty of poverty, some of it desperate, right in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. For example, there are the inner-ring suburbs of southern Maryland, largely decaying time-capsules of the 1950s which might be largely abandoned if not for people left behind by the 2008 financial crisis, low-wage workers who likely spend their days servicing their wealthy neighbors, and a deluge of poor immigrants, not all of them legal. These pockets of poverty only make the bloat and waste of the government—and its symbiosis with the sprawling, ever-increasing network of contractors, consultants, lawyers, and establishment media organs—more shameful. It is not as if these counties are rich through a roll of the dice: it is rather through what James Howard Kunstler calls “asset-stripping”—the matrix of financialization, offshoring, and an ever-increasing “Deep State” bureaucracy.

If the government should ever shrink, if the financial system should ever truly collapse, or if the military industrial complex stopped turning, this whole region would be depopulated. The “Alexandria” of The Walking Dead might prove prophetic. Without the steady flow of federal dollars, the 10-lane superhighways, luxury apartment towers, those kitschy mid-century diners, not to mention most of Loudoun and Clarke counties, would make Detroit look like a boomtown.

Tysons Corner, the Bubble Inside the Beltway Bubble


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Debt and Risk Aversion

Our debt has a way of focusing us on downsides, because debt turns a continuous income curve into two discontinuous lines: “solvent” and “insolvent.” More generally, debt has a way of magnifying life events. When things are going well, debt can help them go better: You can buy a house and a car, or you can buy a bigger house and a nicer car. But when things are going badly, debt can turn a slight income loss into a major disaster.

Most Americans now have a lot of debt, whether they’re ordinary workers or commercial landlords. Which means that most Americans have to be extraordinarily sensitive about letting their income cross the line where they can no longer support their debt payments. Which in turn means that already sticky prices may become positively glue-like.

Too Much Debt Is Making Us Sticks-in-the-Mud

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The DC Bubble (DC is Boomtown)

Eighteen Starbucks shops can be found in the three-mile walk from DuPont Circle to the U.S. Capitol. Not one of them had a line less than seven people deep on a recent Wednesday afternoon.

Twenty-one construction sites filled with workers on girders and cranes towering over whole city blocks can be found on the same walk.

Commerce bursts from every angle of this city: small businesses packed with shoppers, hair salons charging more than the monthly mortgage payment on my first house for a cut-and-blow-dry, and main as well as side streets clogged with traffic.

America’s capital seems bubble-wrapped in its own vibrant economic boom, while great chunks of the nation struggle with uncertainty about how to keep the engine going.
. . .
The centralized power and wealth in our nation’s capital are becoming so disconnected from the rest of this country that it is palpable to everyone except those who live in Washington.

In most people’s lives, the driving issue is economic security. Washington’s obsession is with social and cultural issues that drive bigger wedges between Us and Them.

It’s only a matter of time before the rest of America’s complaints will burst Washington’s bubble.

When Will America Burst D.C.’s Bubble?

It used to seem shocking that five of the ten richest counties in the United States were part of the DC Metropolitan Statistical Area, but the 2011 American Community Survey numbers released yesterday show that the DC suburbs now account for seven of the ten richest counties in America.

Loudon, Fairfax, and Arlington in Virginia lead the way followed by Hunterdon County, NJ then Howard County in Maryland; Somerset, NJ; Prince William and Fauquier in Virginia; Douglas, CO; and Montgomery County, MD.

DC Suburbs Now Contain 7 Of America’s 10 Richest Counties


Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline. However, we do need a Revolving Door Tax (RDT), learn what Members of Congress pay in taxes, and prosecute politicians and staff and their “family and friends” who profit from insider trading.

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The best and the brightest…. Tech bubble.

As a 23-year-old math genius one year out of Harvard, Jeff Hammerbacher arrived at Facebook when the company was still in its infancy. This was in April 2006, and Mark Zuckerberg gave Hammerbacher–one of Facebook’s first 100 employees–the lofty title of research scientist and put him to work analyzing how people used the social networking service. Specifically, he was given the assignment of uncovering why Facebook took off at some universities and flopped at others.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” [Hammerbacher] says. “That sucks.”

This Tech Bubble Is Different,” by Ashlee Vance, April 14, 2011


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Bull Market vs. Bubble vs. Muddle

Bull Market–An asset class that has experienced considerable appreciation in which you currently have a significant investment.

Bubble–An asset class that has experienced considerable appreciation in which you currently have no investment.

–David B. Collum, 2010 Year in Review: Fugly Gives Way to Muddling

2006 U.S. Army Year in Review
Creative Commons License photo credit: familymwr

The Crash Course seeks to provide you with a baseline understanding of the economy so that you can better appreciate the risks that we all face. By Chris Martenson

King World News podcasts – Eric King

Econtalk podcasts – Russ Roberts

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