Explaining Southern California's economy

A Patagonia jacket that will never pay off its debt to the environment

A colleague here at KPCC passed this full-page New York Times Black Friday ad along to me. It's from Patagonia, and the title says it all. Well, OK, it's not that Patagonia doesn't want you to buy its products. But it does want you to know that the R2 jacket shown is like "all the things we can make and you can buy" because "it comes with an environmental cost higher than it's price." 

What I'm wondering about this conclusion — which Patagonia lays out very convincingly in the ad's copy, confessing to gobbling up 135 liters of water and generating 20 pounds of carbon dioxide creating and marketing just one R2 jacket — is whether Patagonia has done a truly full lifetime analysis of the garment.

And here's why (this is where I go anecdotal): Patagonia products are of ridiculously high quality. Patagonia says the R2 is "exceptionally durable, so you won't have to replace it as often" — and even then they'll take it back and recycle it — but what if you...never replace it? 

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Visual Aid: Why fiscal responsibility may cost the U.S. money

The above chart is from the U.S Treasury's Treasury Notes blog (Cute, right?). It was written by Jan Eberly, who argues that this is not a good time to be pulling back on support for the economy, even though we're running up some significant deficits in the aftermath of the financial crisis. 

What it all boils down to is a question about what we should do in the short term:

While there is a nearly complete consensus among economists and budget analysts that deficit reduction sufficient to stabilize our debt would have significant long-run economic benefits, the literature also cautions that fiscal consolidation is contractionary in the short run. Though under certain conditions the withdrawal of fiscal support can be partially offset by economic and policy changes, those conditions do not prevail in the United States today. Interest rates are currently at historic lows, leaving little room for them to go lower, and though exports have grown at a healthy pace recently, they cannot be counted on to grow enough to offset substantial near-term cuts.

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Eurozone Crisis: How do you solve a problem like Germany?

Merkozy-Getty

Eric Feferberger/Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) give a press conference after a working lunch at the Elysee palace on December 05, 2011 in Paris. France and Germany want summits of leaders of eurozone states to be held 'every month, as long as the crisis lasts,' Sarkozy said.

UPDATE: Well, that was brief! Reuters is reporting that S&P is back in sovereign-credit-downgrade mode. The agency has threatened to pull an America on the six eurozone countries currently in possession of an AAA rating — including France and Germany. We'll see how long this rally holds.

The latest surge in hope the Europe will be able to manage its debt crisis has caused the markets to rally over the past few trading sessions. However, the latest kinda sorta deal also reveals the schizophrenic situation that Germany keeps backing itself into. 

On the one hand, Germany doesn't want to throw its weight behind a plan to make the eurozone work more like the U.S., where the Federal Reserve can function as the (nearly) undisputed central authority on matters monetary. On the other hand, Germany wants to call the shots of fiscal issues, compelling everyone else to act more like...Germany! 

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California budget: If you think this year looks bad, just wait until 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown Unveils State Pension Reform Program

Max Whittaker/Getty Images

California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars.

It's unclear what sort of unicorns-and-moneybags fairyland that officials in California were living in when they projected a $500-billion surplus in the 2011-12 budget. Against 12-percent unemployment and exposure to the housing crisis that ranks right alongside Nevada and Florida, any surplus at all was political and economic wishful thinking. So now come the trigger cuts — $2 billion of 'em.

Education will bear the brunt of this, if lawmakers can't figure out how to dodge the cuts. Not that education hasn't already been pummeled: according to Education Week, K-12 statewide has endured $18 billion is cuts over the past five years. The University of California and Cal State systems will also take it on the chin. Education Week says that some districts are in better shape than others, based on budget planning. But there are some time bombs out there, such as San Diego Unified.

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The Future of Wealth in LA: How LA stacks up

The above chart is from the a new report, "The Future of Philanthropy in L.A.: A Wealth of Opportunity," which I blogged about yesterday. The red line is LA County's projected transfer of wealth from 2010-2060, plotted against other counties (and cities, such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, Brooklyn). The growth rate is anticipated to be 8.7 percent yearly. That's a pretty torrid rate and, as you can see, will enable LA to outpace other major metro areas by a wide margin.

Growth always sounds great, but it can create challenges. For example, when countries grow too fast, they can have problems with inflation: too much money becomes available too fast to buy too few goods or services. Governments can get headaches trying to manage this.

In terms of the looming transfer or wealth in the LA region, the challenge is for non-profit organizations to get ready for it to happen. If your philanthropic metabolism is based on the present levels of wealth transfer, it's going to need to evolve to deal with wealth transfers that will be, as the report points out, 1,303 percent higher than Philadelphia, at an extreme.

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