Explaining Southern California's economy

Storifying the Eurozone crisis

My colleague Tony Pierce, our new blog editor here at KPCC, has got me messing around with Storify, which he believes will lead us to a glorious future in social media and blogging. I have to say, I think I agree with him.

Anyway, the title (below) says it all, now that Italy looks like it might be the next victim of the euro's meltdown. What will save it? Silvio Berlusconi must step down, and a government of "technocrats" — sort of like management consultants, only they're with...the goverment — will fill the political void and fix Italy. Here's what a sampling of my @DeBordReport Twitter feed thinks.

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The Cal State faculty strike highlights every single problem with higher education

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Slobodan Dimitrov/California Faculty Association

Elected officials and members of the Screen Actors Guild supported a faculty and student protest of budget cuts at CSU Dominguez Hills. Rally organizers oppose an administration process underway that could lead to cutting entire programs or majors.

You can't say that faculty members in the California State University system aren't patient. Since they gained the right to collective bargaining in 1983, they've...never staged a strike. Until now. Next week, the union will strike at Cal State Dominguez Hills and Cal State East Bay, two of the 23 campuses that make up CSU, which sits just below the University of California system in the state's educational hierarchy.

This is from the LA Times:

The group is protesting a decision by Chancellor Charles Reed to withhold pay raises negotiated for the 2008-09 and 2009-10 academic years. The raises, which would total about $20 million in the first year, stalled when the state cut education funding.

Sounds fairly straightforward, but it isn't. Here's why:

  • Both CSU and UC are trapped in the budgetary morass that is California. They're already been hit with $650 million in cuts and will suffer even more pain if revenue projection continue to disappoint.
  • Tuition has been hiked by 23 percent. That sounds like a lot, but CSU is still a relatively good deal in higher education, with tuition and fees of around $6,000 per year. However, enrollment has been axed, by 10,000 students — so fewer kids have access to that good price.
  • The faculty wants "pay parity" — existing faculty would be paid at the same level as new hires, who are getting paid more. In this context, what's rankled the faculty is that high-level administrators are increasingly being paid more than their predecessors. The new CSU San Diego president will get $100,000 more than the guy who preceded him.

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Can Google Reader be saved?

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KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Google Plus challenging the social media dominance of Facebook and Twitter

Bloggers have traditionally been core users of Google Reader. We need the tool to keep track of the blogosphere and have a single interface through which all posts flow. However, outside the blogging world, Google Reader is being displaced by a deluge of social-media products, like Facebook, Twitter, and Google's own Google Plus.

Meanwhile, Google has been rolling out a comprehensive redesign of all its interfaces. Reader got sucked in, much to the displeasure of the blogging community. Nobody seems to like it, but then again, those nobodies are all old-fogey bloggers who ruled the realm in 2007 but are now ready to be put out to pasture. 

The biggest complaint is that all sharing is now being bent to the will of Google Plus. Gotta get those fossils out of the second George W. Bush administration!

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Paul Krugman gets Solyndra slightly wrong

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Solyndra

A Solyndra solar rooftoop installation.

In a great column titled "Here Comes the Sun," the New York Times' Paul Krugman argues that we are on the brink of a solar transformation of our energy economy. Maybe he's right. During the course of proving his point, however, he has this to say about the controversial solar startup Solyndra, which recently went bankrupt and whose funding has brought the Obama Administration under fire:

These days, mention solar power and you’ll probably hear cries of “Solyndra!” Republicans have tried to make the failed solar panel company both a symbol of government waste — although claims of a major scandal are nonsense — and a stick with which to beat renewable energy.

But Solyndra’s failure was actually caused by technological success: the price of solar panels is dropping fast, and Solyndra couldn’t keep up with the competition. In fact, progress in solar panels has been so dramatic and sustained that, as a blog post at Scientific American put it, “there’s now frequent talk of a ‘Moore’s law’ in solar energy,” with prices adjusted for inflation falling around 7 percent a year.

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Inequality in America: The 'Great Divergence' explained

Sometimes, it's just so simple. What is the Occupy Movement protesting? That income and wealth gains have gone disproportionately to the top 1 percent. And how did this come about? Well, according to this recent paper from the San Francisco Fed, you can blame the "Great Divergence," which took place after the Great Convergence of the war years. And what caused the divergence? A failure of education:

Economists Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin argue that the educational system has failed to produce an adequate supply of skilled labor to keep up with the pace of technological change over the past 30 years. In contrast, remember that the Great Compression that took place in the early 1940s was essentially a reversal of this situation, where skilled labor was plentiful at a time when unskilled labor was in demand, flattening wages across the labor market. Today, employers are competing to hire highly skilled workers from a limited pool, creating a wage premium for those with better training and education; the result is the widening income gap across education groups. In addition, consider the impact of educational attainment on employability; in September 2011, the unemployment rate for those without a high school degree was 13 percent, but for those with a bachelor’s degree, the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent.

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