Explaining Southern California's economy

Occupy Wall Street: Out of gas?

The Occupy Oakland protesters set a fire

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The Occupy Oakland protesters set a fire on trash to make a barricade as the police officers form a line to disperse the protesters on November 3, 2011 in Oakland, California. AFP Photo/ Kimihiro Hoshino (Photo credit should read KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)

At MarketWatch, Jon Friedman thinks so — and looks no farther than his ink-stained brethren for blame:

The media, serving as a proxy for the general population, are impatient and bored by what outwardly seems like a marked lack of progress.

No less an authority on American social movements than folk singer Joan Baez, a notable dissident during the eras of the Vietnam and nuclear protests, said: “I’ll be convinced when it develops a real direction. ... So far it’s hard to tell.”

The only time someone gets excited about the protests these days is when some external force intervenes, such as when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted (unsuccessfully) to clear the park, purportedly to clean it.

Bummer. Althought those involved with the Occupy Oakland wing of the movement might disagree, as protestors there clashed with police over an effort to shut down the city's port. 

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Poverty in America: In the Midwest, a forever recession

This has been provoking much discussion today. It's a Brookings Institution report on the "re-emergence" of concentrated poverty in America. In the video, Alan Berube lays it out in brief and makes one very interesting — and alarming — marco point: In the cities of the Midwest, "the recession that started at the beginning of the decade never really ended." 

The coasts have fared better. However, Berube also observes that concentrated poverty isn't just an urban phenonomeon any longer; it's moved into the suburbs. We've seen this in California. The UCLA Anderson Forecast that came out earlier this year indicated that the state is separating into two distinct regions or zones: the coast, where unemployment is moderating and growth is resuming; and the inland areas, where economic stagnation is setting in.

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What the MF Global bankruptcy means to you

MF Global Holdings Ltd Files For Bankruptcy

Mario Tama/Getty Images

MF Global: Lehman all over again? First victim of the European debt crisis? Or something even worse?

You may have heard by now that MF Global, a somewhat obscure Wall Street investment firm run by former Goldman Sacher and former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, imploded on Monday, declaring bankruptcy after failing to find someone to buy it. MF Global might also have illegally diverted money from client accounts to its own trading operations.

The firm is now being looked at as either (1) a sort of junior Lehman Brothers — which makes sense, as Corzine was trying to move MF Global into a spot in the much-reduced-by-the-financial-crisis firmament of investment banks — or (2) the first victim of the European debt crisis. 

At MarketWatch, Brett Arends goes a bit farther, pointing out that MF Global's abrupt meltdown will directly affect average investors, because those investors' mutual funds and pension funds were mixed up with Corzine's wannbe Goldman and its risky bet on European sovereign debt. 

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Long-term unemployment: Is education the solution?

Mercer 9197

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As the economy begins turning around, some CA local governments still struggle with high unemployment

An inquiry about job loss and the struggling economy sent out to our Public Insight Network prompted an interesting response from Scott Hutton, who has engineering training and management experience, but who has been out of work for a long stretch of time and is beginning to question his skills:

I have been debating whether to spend what money I have left on professional training courses and certificates to perhaps make up for the lack of advance degrees.  Or, pursue coursework in computer engineering to try to land a job in the IT field.  IT seems to still have some future here even in Los Angeles.  But, this would be an investment using the last bit of money I have.

The conventional wisdom says that Scott probably should invest in himself and acquire the skills he needs to remain competitive. He doesn't have the benefit of an employer to turn to for additional job training. So he needs to finance it himself, and history indicates that these kinds of investments, while somewhat risky, can pay off.

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Tweet of the Day: Income inequality in New York...and Los Angeles!

Today's Tweet of the Day comes from @TheEconomist and refers to this post, which analyzes a metric of inequality known as the Gini coefficient as it relates to income distribution in the U.S.

That sounds technical, the but the upshot is that if you are close to zero on your Gini, you're very equal, whereas the closer you get to 1, the more unequal you are.

The most unequal place in the U.S., in terms of  income, is the New York area, at 0.501 (tied with Santa Fe, NM, but representing a much larger population, obviously). That's why Occupy Wall Street picked Lower Manhattan as its first protest site. Although you could also say that they picked it because...well, that's where, you know, Wall Street is.

I know, I know, you're shocked. But wait! LA is also pretty unequal — and not too far behind New York, at 0.483. The point is that the worst places in the U.S. for inequality are also the best places to make a lot of money. The question is, Are the populations in the these regions becoming hoplessly divided into haves and have-nots? And is there really anything that we can or want to do about it?

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