"Race to Build California Bullet Train Shows Value of U.S. Market," says Bloomberg Business -- mainly because it's attracting some attention from foreign corporations. Shame it's come to that, but blame Republicans in Congress and in states, who not only refused federal stimulus money to build high-speed rail in America, but mocked it like doing so made them the funniest people in the world. The only way this economy gets moving again is if we envision and build the future the way we want it -- as we last did with the internet boom of the late 1990s -- and if a few of Our Glorious Elites have to make several billion fewer dollars, that's too bad.
Lydia DePillis at Wonkblog argues that our nation's ports are beset by far worse problems than their "labor problem." The ILWU has worked Western ports without a contract since July, but other problems doing more to affect port function include an increase in tonnage through ports and increased size of ships, which not only require more support from the ports (like deeper dredging) but which also result in increased confusion, since many different shippers might use the same ships and the sorting of what goes where becomes increasingly difficult. Boy it sure is a good thing we have "free" markets to figure all this out.
ProPublica takes us "Inside the Wild World of Charter Regulation," and it's even worse than it sounds: much of the time, states and municipalities don't even do the regulating, delegating the task to private entities who could well have conflicts of interest. If you're starting to think we wouldn't have any charter schools if our state and local governments just did the oversight they're supposed to be doing -- since charter schools do, you know, take public money -- you're not alone. If you think they're not doing the oversight because their cronies run the schools, well, you're not alone there, either.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof announces that he was "wrong" about the deleterious effects of labor unions, and says they've been a positive force in building the middle class. I hate to pile on a guy who actually says "I was wrong," since so many people wrong about so much more never say it, but this is clearly a bigger deal to him than it is to me, since his negative impression of unions seems to have been built on the kind of evidence (look, three examples! It's an unstoppable trend! Plus unsubstantiated generalizations that could just as easily be made about employers!) that more critical thinkers can see through.
WalMart has announced it will increase its base wages to $10/hour gradually over the next 12 months. I'm not going to quibble too much that they could do more, or that state minimum wage hikes have forced WalMart's hand, because progress is progress. I will mention, however, that when CEOs decide to hike wages due to popular pressure, they can always change their minds, which is why we need to keep the pressure up.
Finally, let me say that Scott Walker's refusal to condemn Rudy Giuliani's statement that "I do not believe that the President loves America" was actually fairly clever politically. "I'm in New York; I'm used to people saying things that are aggressive out there" reminds everyone he's a heartland boy, and though for a moment I hoped having to throw red meat to the far right in public would give Mr. Walker too much agita, I remembered that in 2000 George W. Bush had the sense to throw all his red meat in private. And imagining noted purveyor of political nonspeak Hillary Clinton castigating Mr. Walker for "talking like a politician" is almost enough to make me hope Jim Webb or Brian Schweitzer is the nominee. (In other news, if Mr. Giuliani needs that much reassurance that someone loves something, I bet a lot of women are glad they're not in a relationship with him.)