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December 21, 2009

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Saddening.

You nailed it, Jon. Excellent column.

I almost mailed you Jaimee's piece this a.m. It was hard on the stomach to read. Thanks for providing true illumination.
As usual.

I'll start by addressing your snide comments on illegal invaders, though it is off topic from most of my remaining comments.

"What part of illegal do you not understand?", it is a valid question. Many have a DEEP seated belief that people should not be rewarded for breaking the law, and yes, a path to citizenship is a reward.

I understand that the politicians are deathly afraid of a falling population, and with 1.7 kids per family, we're stearing that in the face. Unless, of course, we can be saved by mass immigration.

And yes, the general population would not support 1-2 million legal immigrants a year, so the politicans were forced to try to get these immigrants by turning a blind eye to illegal immigration.

Sure, they took what they thought was the easy way. However, now they find, (in my opinion, rightly so)even less support for rewarding law breakers.

One of the fundamental foundations of a civilization is that crime should not pay. Path to citizenship for illegally entering, living in and working in this country is something I will NEVER, EVER support.

Let's let in 30-50 million new immigrants and kick out the 30 million here illegally. PUNISH CRIME, do not reward it.


Now, changing to the topic of decade of delusion.

The idea of turning the bentral core into New York was EVERY bit as much delusion as the endless growth of exurbs.

Why would someone pay 2x as much for 1/3rd the space of a house a mile away? Oh, no one actaully wanted to live in one of these condo towers. They just wanted to flip one for huge profit.

No one wants to work in the urban core with traffic jams and high cost of living.

No company wants to pay the higher rents that go with the tall buildings because it costs more to build and maintain.

New York is what it is because it in on rivers and has ports, it grew up pre-auto, because it is out of space for sprawl, because it has Wall Street, culture, history, etc. etc.

None of the things that created New York exist in PHX. In fact, quite the opposite. We have space. Out major trade hub is a freeway on which trucks can blow through town without stopping to transfer from ship to train to truck. We have no Wall Street, no Hollywood, no Pentagon, no Silicon Valley, no oil facilities, no manufacturing base. We're at the dead end of a rail line and most of our industries are being off-shored.

And the delusion that PHX can compete for high tech jobs. Sorry, but it isn't going to happen on a large scale. You aren't going to lure companies away from places like New York, Seattle, San Fran, L.A., Boston.... They have oceans, they have beautiful scenery, they have deep culture and histories, they have fun things to see and do. And... in summer when the kids are out of school, you can go outside wihout instantly dehydrating, bursting into flame, and being left as a smoldering pile of ash.

Phx, at its heart, is an ugly desert in the middle of an ugly desert with little to offer but lots of empty land. We have one thing and one thing only to offer.... CHEAP cost of living. Not much of a selling point for upwardly mobile in the high tech industry.


But, on another level, PHX is just a victim of what is happening on a national level. We're desperate to maintain our standard of living despite the offshoring of our economic base. We've done it with smoke, mirrors, and lots and lots of DEBT!!!!

For 30 years, business and consumer debt was increasing at a rate 3x the sustainable level based on inflation and population growth. Any economic downturn had one fix; more debt issued at lower interest rates and lent with looser lending standards.

The short-term result? Bubbles. Each bubble popped and a larger was created to paper over the losses and keep the economy growing. S&L, junk bonds... $150 billion. Tech Wreck... $1 trillion. Real estate and consumer debt collapse = $5 trillion.

Long-term? There comes a point where rates are 0% and can't go lower. There comes a point where lending standards are so loose that fraud is rampant and they must be tightened. There comes a point where the current debt load can't be supported, and people certainly can't take on more debt.

We're at that point. The old mechanism of getting out of a downturn... debt... won't wotk this time.

We have the federal government is plugging the gap by spending 180% of its income, but that is a bridge to no where. It is delaying the time when we'll have to pay the piper, but the piper must still be paid.

In short, the decade of delusion is actually 3 decades.... and it continues.

The core delusion is that we can maintain our standard of living while there are 2 billion people in China and India ready and willing to do our jobs for 1/100th the wage we expect. That we can somehow have a long-term stable economy despite multi-hundred-billion-dollar a year trade deficits.

The delusion is that we can ignore the loss of our economic base and mass trade deficits, simply by borrowing ourselves rich. That delusion has not ended.

I read through a couple of pages of comments to Jaimee Rose's article hoping to find a few glimmers of awareness about our collective denial. And there were a few; there was even a link to this blog in one comment! But for the most part, people still seem persuaded by the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Cut taxes, limit government, get rid of illegals, etc. You don't improve a state as brainwashed as this one.

In most respects, Arizona mirrors the country. If we seem marginally stupider, it's probably just a demographic variation. We ingest the same garbage, from cable TV to talk radio. We "feel" issues more than think about them. We like Obama but not his "socialism". We're sure other people envy us for our nice weather. And we're happy someone (Joe Arpaio) is doing something about the Mexicans.

The stewards are gone and what's left is a state wanting to be left alone. Republicans will continue to govern with bromides about tax cuts and "family values". The brightest kids will find good jobs out of state. And when they visit, we'll brag about the weather.

Jon, you write from the bitter heart of a jilted son. You love this city, was nurtured by her, and you hate seeing her pimped off to the Fat Cats. I too remember the cool evenings of summer.

One cannot look back over the past decade in Phoenix or most anywhere else without wondering how things would have been without the Bush presidency. In many respects he was the Delusionator in Chief.

Michael, your comment encapsulates my general reaction to Mr. Talton's blog. Unfortunately, my maturation in the Valley of the Sun has informed me that the pimping began long before my arrival here. As my career takes me to many other places in the Western U.S. to analyze economic development in those communities, however, I can't help but perform a comparative internal analysis of how well we in Arizona embrace the opportunities available to us and whether we do so justly in a relative sense..... The verdict is still out, especially in light of what appears to be a changing tone here regarding our community's place in the world.

But I still worry about our future, and this article offers a timely addition to the dialog I've had all too often recently with friends and family (in an apparently less cynical tone than usual, I might add--perhaps in the holiday spirit?). Last night, for instance, I reminisced with childhood friends in Tempe about how different the area now is than when we were younger, and the potential reasons for the change (no big question marks there, but still discussion-worthy). Then my wife walked in the door earlier today and commented on a great interview on NPR with G. Gammage, Jr. and some guy named John Talton. My first question: What was John's tone?

Mr. Talton, your critical view of local policy and outlook is needed now more than ever in the Phoenix area. Although I have lamented your tone in the past (and was harshly attacked by a fellow reader), I look forward to many more harsh articles on our current events. Perhaps you could even get paid for them and thus open up the conversation to a wider audience via one of our local treasure troves of information that we all so love. Well, even if the last part doesn't work, here are a few areas to get started: Arpaio/Thomas vs. everyone else, or Sal DiCiccio and his questionable life/work balance as developer and politician (more info on the latter on my blog, linked within Twitter).

Darrell, the usual estimate is 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, though I've seen estimates as high as 20 million. Similarly, at the height of the recent wave, the usual figure was 500,000 annually, though I've seen estimates as high as 800,000.

Your figures of 30-50 million total, and 1-2 million a year, therefore, seem well outside accepted estimate ranges. I wonder what your source is, and what methods they used to determine both the total number and the annual number?

Also, stopping that inflow -- if that's your policy -- is not going to be nearly as easy as you imagine.

And if you think that the recent wave was something, consider this: Mexico's two largest legal sources of revenue are oil exports and remittances sent by immigrants working abroad (mostly in the U.S.). Within ten years at the current rate of exploitation, Mexico's known and developed oil resources will be exhausted. No exaggeration. That leaves remittances.

(The main new oil field project, supposed to replace Mexico's failing big well, has been quite disappointing, with outputs far below expected: and the prospects for increasing that output to what was projected, may take so much money that neither the Mexican government nor private investors will be willing to provide it.)

I plan on writing an overview of the immigration topic, evaluating it both from conventional enforcement perspectives, and also considering the traditional "open borders" approach, while providing some historical background that might help inform policy debate and decisions. (You might not be aware that prior to the First World War, the only countries which required entering foreigners to have passports, were Russia and Turkey.)

I don't know if Mr. Talton is open to the possibility of a Guest Column on this topic: much may depend on the content of the article, which must both meet his own standards and be consonant with the general tenor of his blog; but if I ever get the online time to compose and research it, I plan on submitting a copy to him "on spec".

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