Explaining Southern California's economy

Will California once again lead the nation as Medicaid is expanded?

Supreme Court Upholds Obama's Affordable Care Act

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Obamacare supporters and protesters gather in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to find out the ruling on the Affordable Health Act June 28, 2012 in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. California is already ahead of the curve on expanding Medicare. Will the nation follow?

One of the critical elements of the just-released Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," is the piece that gives states the option of saying no to money from the government that would have expanded Medicare coverage. This is from Josh Barro at Bloomberg:

Today’s Supreme Court ruling upheld the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. But it did strike down one part of the law—the provision that withdraws all Medicaid funding from states that do not expand eligibility to all people under age 65 living below 133 percent of the poverty line. States that do not expand eligibility will have to forgo only those federal funds that would have financed the expanded coverage, not all Medicaid funds.

I'm no legal scholar, but the debate over this piece of the law is a fairly straight-up case of federalism versus states' rights, that oldest of American Con Law dustups. Here's how it goes: The law as written would have effectively taken away all Medicaid money that didn't participate in the ACA expansion. That would represent a federal penalty imposed on the states for saying "No thanks" to the extra money. 


April Case-Shiller Index: Price slide could be slowing in L.A.

April 2012 Case-Shiller


L.A. home prices are down from last April, but they've been trending up modestly for the first part of 2012.

The April Case-Shiller Index came out yesterday and contained good news for most of the 20 cities that the index covers and some indications of a decent trend for L.A. in the first quarter of 2012. Home prices were still down in L.A. compared with this time last year — down 3.6 percent in fact — but over the past few months, prices have been edging up.

Not as much as in Phoenix, which rose by 8.6 percent from April 2011. But the decline wasn't as severe as in Atlanta, which dropped by 17 percent.

In L.A., February-March saw a tiny 0.1-percent increase after a January-February month-on-month decline. But the March-April uptick was better: 1.5 percent. This could mean that prices are gaining a footing and could start to build on their gains. Sales, after all, have been improving in L.A. But prices haven't yet caught up. This could change as foreclosures and short sales (when the lender agrees to accept a sale for less than is owed on the mortgage) move through the system.


Villaraigosa rolls out new Council on Innovation and Industry for L.A.

LA Mayor, will.i.am And Americans Promoting Study Abroad Announce Major Beijing Concert To Benefit Study Abroad

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hopes that a focused group of movers and shakers will help the city attract more startup investment. He says it's about much more than just job creation.

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rolled out his Council on Industry and Innovation at the Variety Venture Capital & New Media Summit. What does the mayor have in mind? He wants to turbocharge L.A.'s efforts to catch up to Silicon Valley — although it's unlikely the city will ever really close that gap.

The council’s membership is a who’s who of L.A. tech, finance, and entertainment leaders. It's been under construction since last year and includes six sub-committees that will focus on areas such as attracting investment capital to the city, improving education's role in innovation, and enhancing networking opportunities. 

Villaraigosa said that the council isn’t just about jobs and job creation. It’s about "creating a narrative about L.A. as an innovation center."

The mayor, who began forming the council last year, says that narrative has been unclear. And that’s no surprise because L.A. is know as the capital of the entertainment business. When it comes to technology and startup investment, it’s overshadowed by Silicon Valley, home to tech giants like Apple and Google. Silicon Valley has always drawn the bulk of venture funding, something like 70 percent over the past decade. That leaves L.A., New York, Massachusetts, and everyone else to fight over the rest.  


Hello Kiva! Villaraigosa welcomes microlending to LA

Kiva City 8

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The kitchen at Café 22 isn't large. But it is clean and efficient.

Kiva City 5

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Roberto Barragan (L) of VEDC, Kiva City LA's field partner, looks on.

Kiva City 7

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Right across the street from LA County USC Medical Center.

Kiva City 10

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The restaurant is all about healthy eating — and drinking!

Kiva City 11

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Open for breakfast.

Kiva City 13

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Bety Paleteria operates an entire fleet of these.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a stop in South L.A. this morning to celebrate a small business — Café 22, a healthy food eatery across the street from L.A. County USC Medical Center — and welcome a new financing opportunity aimed specifically at small business to town: Kiva.

Kiva is a non-profit service that connects donors with needy entrepreneurs around the globe. They don't make the loans; they facilitate the relationships. As its president (and former PayPal executive) Premal Shah said, they're like the Match.com of microfinance, enabling small-scale philanthropists to get money into the hands of businesspeople who have a tough time getting loans from big banks. 

To do this, Kiva works with "field partners" — lending organizations around the world. Kiva takes businesses, individuals, and often in the developing world, women's labor collectives, and posts their pictures and business needs online, along with a loan amount. People can then use Kiva's website to contribute money, which the lendees then pay back over time. In the developing world, these loans are typically very small, and they're funding by people making $25 donations which they have the option of "reinvesting" after payback — or re-loaning to a new business. 


Foreclosures continue to decline in California in May

Stop Foreclosures!

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Occupy LA supporters hold up a "Stop Foreclosures!" sign outside of the BNY Mellon Bank. The pace of foreclosures has actually been falling in California for the first half of 2012.

California is continuing a trend from the first quarter of 2012, as foreclosure rates fall year-over-year in cities throughout the state. For example, in the first quarter, foreclosure filings fell 24 percent in Los Angeles, according to RealtyTrac, a company that specializes in foreclosure data. In May, that figure was replicated: a 24-percent drop for the month, on more than 10,000 notices of foreclosure that were sent out in the city.

Why has the state's foreclosure rate been falling when the pace of foreclosures nationally picks up?

The state hasn't seen the same foreclosure backlog as much of the rest of the country. This is because California is considered a "non-judicial" foreclosure state. The process is streamlined here, to avoid a lawsuit. 

Ironically, this is supposed to make things easier on the homeowner, but the robosigning scandal that put the brakes on foreclosures by banks was largely confined to states where the foreclosure process is judicial. Borrowers who could seek legal recourse were a bigger problem than borrowers who couldn't, at least not as easily.