How’s the economy in your county?

Click on the map to get the Brookings Institute Report

…We consider five factors — population density, the degree of industry concentration, the manufacturing share of employment, the share of those without a high school degree, and the share of college graduates — that help explain both vitality and its change over time. In total, these five factors explain 71 percent of the variation in vitality across counties in 1980, and 66 percent of the variation in 2016… They are also helpful in understanding the change in vitality across counties over time.

Please RTFA. Well done, even with the conservative bent of the folks at Brooking. A chance to learn and reflect.

US car builders found Green and BTW got faster!

❝ Sometime in the next year or so, the U.S. auto industry will cross a once-unimaginable threshold: Average horsepower for the entire fleet will reach 300…

It is an absurd number—the stuff of drag-racing dreams. It’s also, almost entirely, a happy accident. The engineers tuning up the industry’s average sedans and dad-jeans SUVs have spent the past decade trying to lower emissions; speed was an unintended byproduct.

❝ As global regulators progressively tightened emissions standards, automakers were forced to do more with less. They built a mountain of relatively small, super-efficient four-cylinder engines to swap out hulking, thirsty V-8s. At the same time, they increasingly boosted those furious little powerplants with turbochargers and electric motors. These modern engines run like a pack of Australian shepherds—efficient, quiet and even drowsy, until something needs to be chased.

You can get the best of both worlds,” Ivan Drury of said. “If you really want it, the power is there.”

Folks talk about this as an unintended byproduct. Not in my mind. Automotive engineers understand the correlation between efficiency and power potential. With good sense in design, you can accommodate a pretty good range of economy and performance.

The Silurian Precursor World

❝ If an industrial civilization had existed on Earth many millions of years prior to our own era, what traces would it have left and would they be detectable today? The authors summarize the likely geological fingerprint of the Anthropocene, and demonstrate that while clear, it will not differ greatly in many respects from other known events in the geological record. They propose tests that could plausibly distinguish an industrial cause from an otherwise naturally occurring climate event…

❝ One of the key questions in assessing the likelihood of finding such a civilization is an understanding of how often, given that life has arisen and that some species are intelligent, does an industrial civilization develop? Humans are the only example we know of, and our industrial civilization has lasted (so far) roughly 300 years (since, for example, the beginning of mass production methods). This is a small fraction of the time we have existed as a species, and a tiny fraction of the time that complex life has existed on the Earth’s land surface (∼400 million years ago, Ma). This short time period raises the obvious question as to whether this could have happened before. We term this the “Silurian Hypothesis”.

I love this stuff. The dialectic between science fiction and scientific inspiration is healthy and well.

Brazil pledges the restoration of 85000 square miles of forest

Alstom Foundation workers in Brazil – doing it on their own

❝ Brazil will restore 22 million hectares of land in what’s being called “the largest restoration commitment ever made by a single nation.”

“We are a country of forests,” says Rachel Biderman, director of the World Resources Institute in Brazil. “The national strategy for the restoration of forests and degraded areas positions Brazil as one of the global leaders in the development of a forest economy.”

❝ Between now and 2030, Brazil plans to rehabilitate 12 million hectares of forest land that is degraded or deforested. The balance of the area will be restored and developed through the country’s Low-Carbon Agriculture Plan for crops, managed forests, and pastures. Brazil made the plan public at the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity in Cancún, Mexico, on December 3rd…

❝ Biderman said in a statement. “Restoring 22 million hectares — an area larger than Uruguay — will absorb huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, generate clean and plentiful water, and boost agricultural productivity.”

In addition, she said that the healthier, more productive landscapes will generate new jobs and boost Brazil’s economy. According to the WRI, Brazil’s Ministries of Environment and Agriculture teamed up to put together the deal.

Biderman added: “We have all the conditions — ecological, economic, and material — to be internationally competitive, improving technical knowledge and creating jobs.”

Regional collective action seems to continue apace in a number of areas on this planet with a healthy conscience – and an even healthier understanding of the economics of building a Green economy.

The whole American economy, region by region, state by state

Conventional maps, by their nature, emphasize sheer spaciousness even though many large areas can be relatively devoid of human beings or other forms of activity. This cool diagram from gives us a different way to visualize the entire US economy, depicting the whole thing as a big circle and then slicing it up by state, with each state’s area representing its share of total economic output:

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The basic news that California and Texas are really big shouldn’t come as a huge shock. But you also see here that Florida punches a bit below its weight in terms of population, in part because a large share of the state’s residents are retired.

There are also disparities related to wealth. New Jersey has fewer people than North Carolina, Michigan, or Georgia, but it contributes more to the national economy since the productivity per worker in New Jersey is much higher.

Now you can see how much or how little your state contributes to the nation’s whole economy. 🙂

Americans finally noticed climate change — even Republicans

Maybe it’s the pope. Or the freakish year in extreme climate records. It might even be explained by the United Nations climate talks and the bright lights of the presidential election cycle. Whatever the cause, U.S. views on climate change are shifting—fast.

Three-quarters of Americans now accept the scientific consensus on climate change, the highest level in four years of surveys conducted by the University of Texas at Austin. The biggest shocker is what’s happening inside the GOP. In a remarkable turnabout, 59 percent of Republicans now say climate change is happening, up from 47 percent just six months ago.

When public opinion shifts this much in a single survey, a bit of skepticism is justified…Yet these results are precisely in line with a separate survey published this month by the University of Michigan, which found that 56 percent of Republicans believe there’s solid evidence to support global warming, up from 47 percent a year ago. The Michigan poll also found bipartisan agreement with climate science at the highest level since 2008.

The changing views by Republicans could strand some of the leading presidential candidates in an increasingly unpopular position. Many in the party reject mainstream climate science, and not just at the margins. Republican leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and top presidential contenders Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio all articulate views that would be considered extreme in other countries.

Republicans will probably get what they deserve. Flat Earth fear of science fits in nicely with 1920’s economics.

The world is at a critical point in global climate talks, with leaders set to meet next month in Paris to hammer out final details of a plan to reduce the long-term trajectory of carbon pollution. Some of the biggest impediments to the talks have been removed in recent months: Significant commitments were made by China and India, and the prime ministers of Australia and Canada were replaced by leaders more sensitive to climate change…

Last year in the U.S., Bloomberg interviewed dozens of former senior Republican congressional aides, lobbyists, and staff at nongovernmental organizations. Many Republicans privately recognized the need to address climate change—in stark contrast to their party’s public stance—but saw little political benefit in speaking out.

After proving Republicans have as little backbone as Democrats, the realities of climate change – more apparent in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere – just may turn around some of the remarkable stupidity in conservative political correctness. Passing regulations which prohibit including descriptions of climate change in official documents is the height of Doublethink. Republicans have done that at the state and federal level.

Maybe it worked well when we changed the name of the War Department to Department of Defense over sixty years ago – as we embarked on decades of invading other countries. You can still line up beaucoup presidential candidates for that one. But, folks who have kinfolk in half the population still absent from Katrina’s New Orleans, a similar big percentage waiting to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy – even people who think patriotism is spelled O-B-E-Y start to change their behavior.

The Brownback Crash continues to sink Kansas

Menzie Chinn updates us today on how things are going in Sam Brownback’s Kansas. Answer: not so good.

The chart on the right compares Kansas to the rest of the country using coincident indexes, an aggregate measure of economic performance tracked monthly by the Philadelphia Fed. It consists of the following four measures:

Nonfarm payroll employment
Average hours worked in manufacturing
Unemployment rate
Wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index

The index is set to 100 at the beginning of 2011, when Gov. Brownback took office. Brownback instituted an aggressive program of tax cuts and budget reductions, promising that this supply-side intervention would supercharge the state’s economy. But the reality has been rather different. Kansas has underperformed the US economy ever since Brownback was elected.

Why is that? Is the Fed using the wrong employment data? Chinn says no: “The decline shows up regardless of whether employment is measured using the establishment or household surveys.” Is it the weather? “Drought does not seem to be an explanation to me.” How about the poor performance of the aircraft industry? “Evidence from employment data is not supportive of this thesis.”

So what is it? “I would argue much of the downturn especially post January 2013 is self-inflicted, due to the fiscal policies implemented.”

Surprise! I wonder if Kansans will ever figure this out?

It’s doubtful Kansans will figure out a damned thing as long as they continue to accept Republican ideology as rote supreme over anything learned in the United States about economics since the days of Herbert Hoover. Over 80 years ago.

Most of what Republicans pass off as economics isn’t anything more than ideological hopes, convictions rooted in bigotry, class fealty, ignorance. Which is why every time, anytime, they try to pass off the institution of stupidity as an “economic experiment” – it is doomed to failure.

The people who pickup the tab, as usual, are the working class families. Another premise of the conservative dream.

30 years of Reuters Pictures: Part three

Wander through this article and enjoy stunning photography, meaningful in so many ways. Personal, political, history recorded – sometimes just before it is forgotten. Check out the two preceding parts, explore the Reuters’ slideshows.

Here are a couple of samples:

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The Northern Lights are seen above the ash plume of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano…Reuters photographer Lucas Jackson.

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Staff members stand in a meeting room at Lehman Brothers offices in London. It is the beginning of the global financial crisis…Reuters photographer Kevin Coombs.