Greg LeRoy for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy: Amazon.com’s announcement of a 20-site “short list” for its second headquarters, or “HQ2” location, is provoking a public backlash that could reshape how economic development is done in the United States.
In one sense, Amazon is continuing to behave as predicted, staging a public-relations stunt apparently to extract the largest possible subsidies from its chosen site. Its so-called “short list” is nothing of the sort. The 20 U.S. bids come from 15 metro areas that include 28 percent of the nation’s population, including nine of the 10 largest metro areas.
But inadvertently, Amazon has performed a great public service. It has dragged the obscure site location process out of the shadows and into a harsh public spotlight. Many Americans are rightly aghast at what they see: a secretive process in which billions of taxpayer dollars are hastily offered to a large corporation with no public input.
This HQ2 auction marks a new era in economic development, one in which people expect more transparency and accountability. ...
The 20 localities named as remaining contenders should fully disclose their incentive bids right now and invite real public participation to revise them. Residents need to know if the proposed deals are structured to help them benefit in any way and to shield them from gentrification.
My message to the elected leaders of the 20 localities: This is not your grandparents’ site location deal. You should cooperate and communicate freely with each other, to avoid overspending and to strengthen your bargaining hand. By Amazon’s choice, this is a public auction, so you should conduct this deal out in the open. The other 218 locations that submitted bids should fully disclose, too.
Visiting New Hampshire in the middle of an epidemic
Laura Ryan, Matt Bennett and Jim Kessler for Third Way: The opioid epidemic is a profound undercurrent affecting every corner of life in New Hampshire. It is difficult to fully grasp the scope of its economic and social consequences, given the lack of comprehensive data and the stigma and shame around drug use. But nearly every person we spoke to had something to say about New Hampshire’s opioid plight — far more than on any of our other district visits. One didn’t even wait for us to get started before launching into a passionate, angry screed.
We took our seats and hadn’t even asked our first question when a local labor union leader interrupted us. He wanted us to know that the biggest problem in the region is opioids. “It’s stealing a generation,” he said. He said he'd already been to four funerals that year. “It scares the hell out of me. It’s harming [union] membership and community. It’s disgusting.” ...
“It’s touched everybody,” the union leader said. “There’s a high standard of living and education [in New Hampshire]. This isn’t Gulfport, Mississippi,” where he previously lived.
It’s a nefarious, furtive problem that cuts across class, geographic, generational, and demographic lines. Though everyone knows about it and many have been personally affected, much of it happens behind closed doors. “We have overdoses downtown, in bathrooms, but not out in public. It’s not in streets,” the firefighter said. “It’s out of sight, out of mind,” a sentiment echoed by a Portsmouth elected official.
What we heard about at ground zero is the stuff of nightmares. One person’s niece is an EMT in Manchester and has to make the life or death decision about who gets her limited supply of Narcan, the drug used to revive someone in the grip of an overdose. They don’t always have enough to handle the overdoses each day. Another man said heart surgeons are also having to make similar triage decisions — decisions that should never be asked of anyone — in the emergency room, because there’s only one of them and so many overdoses.
Vindication for the uber-bulls
Alex Pollock for the R Street Institute: The Dow Jones Industrial Average has surged past 26,000. Observing this historical stock price boom should make us recall a book and a forecast published in 1999, at the top of the tech-stock bubble: Dow 36,000, by James Glassman and Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett. As wildly over-optimistic as this book was in its day, does its forecast look less wild now, 18 years later?
How high can a price go? Higher than you thought. Also lower, of course. A price has no physical reality, but is the interaction of human expectations, strategies and emotions, naturally including periodic irrational exuberance.
Can you remember now how you felt about the stock market just two years ago? On Jan. 19, 2016, the Dow Jones closed at a little more than 16,000. On that day, what odds would you have set on its closing more than 60 percent higher than that by today, as it has done? Not high odds, I’ll bet.
I would take another 38 percent increase from the current level to get to 36,000. Your odds on that, say in the next two to three years?
Speaking of prices, used copies of Dow 36,000 are available from Amazon for as little as $1.99. If the Dow Jones Industrial Average does continue its amazing ascent, I predict that the book’s secondary market price will rise accordingly.