Prices, simply, work

For 40 years, the US has spent billions investing in transit systems hoping to get people out of their cars. We have obdurately ignored economists who note that pricing gasoline more appropriately with a gas price floor or carbon tax would raise the costs of driving, would give us revenues to invest in public transit, and would do what everybody wants everybody else to do—stop driving gas guzzlers and stop driving so much.

Instead, we’ve built and built transit that has underperformed for years simply because driving is still so cheap. But we haven’t invested probably enough to prepare for the demand for public transit because we don’t have the revenues to do so, partially because we’ve stuck to the policy of keeping gas cheap.


Stupid, short-term thinking.

The Financial Times has a series of very good articles recently on where we are.

Gasoline consumption shrinks vis-a-vis higher prices (what? REALLY?? HOW CAN THAT POSSIBLY BE?) as US Congress questions $2 billion in tax candy handed out Big Oil.

Gas prices spur inflation (of course they do, if everybody is getting around by car, everything from labor to other inputs are higher in prices)

And it’s not helping the trade deficit (again, basic math)

What to do with the City of Vernon?

Posting has been light around here lately, as I have been fighting my way to the end of the school year. However just to keep the fires on here, I thought I’d post about a story in the LA Times about a bill to disband the city of Vernon:

The bill’s author, Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), urged support for dissolving Vernon’s municipal government, calling it “a city whose corruption is the worst we’ve seen in the state.” He said the city, which has fewer than 100 residents but has 1,800 businesses, has for decades been controlled by a small group of people who have run it as a personal fiefdom.

The side against the move argues taxes and jobs:

Dozens of members of the coalition voiced their opposition at the packed hearing, saying that the bill would cause job losses. Without the advantages that Vernon provides — low tax and utility rates among them — many business owners said they would be forced to leave the state.

“This is real,” said Matt Wenzel, director of operations at a uniform company in Vernon. “If this bill passes, I am going to have to lay people off.”

Vernon is an interesting place here in Los Angeles. We should know a couple of things about it, as we consider the proposal. First of all, Los Angeles is the biggest manufacturing center in North America. The manufacturing in LA occurs in the center of the regional; there are thousands of acres, splitting east from west LA.

Secondly, these are heavy injuries, and the city of Vernon arguably hasn’t governed them particularly well, from the company-town nature of the place to its less-than-cordial relationships with the surrounding city of Los Angeles.

What do you thinK?

What I learned about democracy from Michael Neblo

USC’s Bedrosian Center has sponsored a nice series of Governance Salons, and this time out we had Michael Neblo, from Ohio State, in to discuss his experiments in deliberative democracy.

It was an absolutely wonderful discussion, and I learned a tremendous amount. Here is the deal:

The experiment consists of a control, obviously, and then running an e-town hall meeting with a member of congress. The subject: immigration policy. The team followed the participants from beginning to end and demonstrated that:

a) when subjects knew they were going to be participating in a controlled public debate–where civility was guaranteed–they studied up and learned more about the topic.

b) they stayed more involved politically even after a 4-month lag, being more able to identify mid-term election results after the event.