Demystifying housing shortages in NYC

The New York Times seems puzzled that the laws of economics insist on fulfilling their pronouncements:

East Harlem has been undergoing a resurgence for two decades, yet the neighborhood is still pockmarked with four- or five-story walk-ups where the ground-floor stores are bustling and the apartments above are devoid of life. Their windows are boarded up, blocked up or just drearily empty, torn curtains testifying to no one’s having lived there for years.

Although the vacancy rate in Manhattan hovers at 1 percent, at least some of the landlords of these sealed-up buildings — hundreds of them exist in pockets across the city — are deliberately keeping their buildings mostly vacant, content to earn income from first-floor commercial tenants rather than deal with the trouble and expense of residential tenants.

In some cases, city housing officials say, landlords are waiting for a revived economy to raise rents so that it makes financial sense to repair plumbing and electrical wiring. In other cases, landlords are “warehousing” apartments for the moment that a deep-pocketed developer comes along, as has happened in the blocks just north of 96th Street, East Harlem’s southern boundary. In still other cases, it is simply mystifying that apartments would be left vacant for decades, particularly since East Harlem has been a magnet for Mexican and other Latino immigrants, as well as young strivers looking for cheap space.

This phenomenon is hardly “mystifying” and can be explained almost entirely by basic economics:

Former Democratic Senator knocks Obama on regulations

Blanche Lincoln, a former Democratic Senator from Arkansas, criticized President Barack Obama last week for the anti-business regulations that his administration put in place over the last few years:

A key small-business advocate and a former Democratic senator are teaming up to fight regulations coming out of the Obama administration that they say are hampering economic growth.

Former Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Dan Danner, the chief executive of the National Federation of Independent Business, signaled Wednesday that taking some of the regulatory load off smaller companies would help in the current battle against high unemployment.
At the Wednesday event, Lincoln, the campaign’s chairwoman, and Danner rarely delved into specifics about which regulations were particularly burdensome for small businesses. Instead, the pair said they wanted the small-business owners who faced those regulations to tell their own stories, and signaled that the campaign would largely avoid discussing congressional legislation.

“The objective here is not to rifleshot and pick out things that are onerous. Our objective here is to encourage the administration to take the opportunity now to look at the ways that you can interject things that will create more efficient and effective regulations,” said Lincoln.

In all, businesses in six states — Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia — have joined the campaign.

McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner also called for Obama and Congress to cut spending and restructure the tax code in a way that encourages businesses to grow and is more competitive internationally:

Is this the best the GOP has?

I was at the Defending the American Dream Summit last Friday, put on by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. I was really there just for the Free Market Job Fair, sponsored by the Leadership Institute and ConservativeJobs, but I also managed to see the speeches by Romney, Cain, and Giuliani in the ballroom. (Fortunately, I left long before the OccupyDC nutcases appeared, but that’s another post.)

Sitting there in the back, the room illuminated only by the four gargantuan TV screens projecting the speaker’s face, and the light on the stage, I was awestruck by how cavernous the place was. No, really—you could have parked the Nimitz in there and still probably had enough room for a Space Shuttle or two. That feeling, however, was quickly replaced by awe at the candidates who graced us with their presence—and the fact that one old guy up in the front was really spry, to be hopping around like that.

Namely, though, the awe was, “This is the best the GOP has?”

To me, Romney’s biggest plus was he has a voice that belongs in nearly every commercial about life insurance and in cartoons. It has that deep texture that you look for in voice actors, and seriously—could you not imagine this guy being the voice of Skeletor? Aside from that, however, I was disappointed. He offered up the same conservative talking points of cutting government spending and working from one’s bootstraps (including a story about creating Staples in the back room of a warehouse with used Naugahyde chairs), but those are words: will they actually translate into action?

Occupy Wall Street is the fringe of the political left

Over at Reason, A. Barton Hinkle explains that the message being carried by Occupy Wall Street, though part of it may resonate with an American public weary of bailouts, is the carries the same anti-capitalist we come to know and roll our eyes at from the Left:

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement, obsessed with fairness, has benefitted from the lack of it. The protesters don’t think so—but that is because many of them have not thought enough.

The demonstrators resent disparity. So consider the disparity in coverage of OWS and the Tea Party. A single (still unsubstantiated) allegation that someone in the crowd at a 2010 Tea Party rally in Washington hurled a racial slur at Rep. John Lewis sufficed to prove the entire movement a kissin’ cousin of the KKK. But that “Google Wall Street Jews” guy? A lone nut. As for the signs calling for the “death of capitalism” and telling Wall Street bankers to “Jump, you [expletives]” and declaring “capitalism can’t be fixed—we need revolution”? Unrepresentative, surely. Ditto the 5:30 Oakland seminar on Marxism 101, and the dude in the Lenin T-shirt, and… .

GOP Presidential Power Rankings

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted the GOP Presidential Power Rankings. Honestly, I needed a break from the race. But with the first votes being cast on January 3rd in Iowa, we need to crank it up again.

The News

The Rankings

What is the Tea Party Debt Commission?

As you may have heard, the Tea Party Debt Commission has been looking for ways to trim back the federal budget. Dean Clancy, a policy adviser and Vice President at FreedomWorks, explains the idea behind the commission and what is being put forward to reduce federal spending:

Through our website,, we are employing state-of-the-art crowd-sourcing technology to learn about people’s priorities. And we’re getting incredible information that the Beltway simply doesn’t have, or hasn’t taken the initiative to gather.

More than 50,000 people have visited the site to date, and more than 8 in 10 of them have clicked through all the way to the end of the survey, an absolutely amazing “retention” rate for a web poll.

Here’s how it works. When you visit the site, you’re asked to choose between two randomly matched pairs of proposed spending cuts. You must choose one of the two items. After you’ve done this eight or ten times, the computer shows you how much money you saved over one and ten years. The 40,000 completed surveys so far have included 725,000 randomly generated budget cut matchups.

And the results? Here are the top 10 currently trending ideas (with the percentage of people who chose the idea over an alternative):

What’s more important, civil liberties or economic freedom?

While liberals traditionally are more concerned with civil liberties and Republicans with economic liberty, Aeon Skoble, Professor of Philosophy at Bridgewater State University, explains in this video from Learn Liberty (it’s a couple months old) that civil and economic liberties are equally important and inseparable:

Hey OWS: Where is the outrage over this?

While Michael Moore has been outspoken in his support of Occupy Wall Street — though he recently tried to play down the fact that he is part of the evil “1%,” the filmmaker took $1 million in film tax credits to make Capitalism: A Love Story:

Flint’s Michael Moore was welcomed at Occupy Oakland last week as a hero.

This is the same One Percenter - his conspicuous wealth includes a sprawling mansion on Torch Lake and a swanky pad at 200 Park Avenue in New York - who received a $1 million Michigan government handout to make his anti-One Percenter movie, “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
maybe Moore’s hypocrisy is a perfect symbol for the confused Occupy movement. The film-maker rallied the crowd in front of Oakland City Hall by urging them to expand their protests to leafy suburbs like Oakland’s middle-class Walnut Creek.

“That’s where all the money is, right?” he said.

Actually, Torch Lake is where the money is. Moore’s pad there is worth an estimated $5 million. In addition to taxpayer subsidies, Moore’s wealth comes from multinational corporations like Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment - a subsidiary of Sony that distributes his film, Fahrenheit 9/11 (box office gross: $222 million), on DVD.

I Think, Therefore I Read Libertarianism.Org

LorgFrontPageThis may come off as a shameless plug, but my friend Aaron Powell over at the Cato Institute has just launched a new project, This takes a different tack than Cato and most other places, even including United Liberty. What this new website is doing is talking about the philosophy of libertarianism, the intellectual foundation for this new idea that is gradually sweeping the globe. That’s something that isn’t touched on so much in the media and elsewhere, but is the real answer when hippies get in your face and scream “Think of the Children!”

The website has videos dating back to the 80s, biographies of famous libertarians, lists and samples of books and important texts, and of course, more essays than you can shake a Kindle at. It also has a list of those who are critical of libertarianism, which is something one must consider; it is not enough to merely know the libertarian canon, because if you’re going to get into a debate, you have to know your opponent’s silliness in order to get them with it.

On top of all this, it has a really slick design.

I encourage everyone who reads United Liberty to go over there and read the essays, maybe even buy some of the books. They are not only a good start to learning about liberty, but for those of us who have been libertarians for some time already, they deepen and enrich our points, and give us a better background and context to work from.

Support for Occupy Wall Street falls

While Occupy Wall Street enjoyed a brief moment of decent polling, their increasingly violent and hostile protests has started to turn public opinion against them, according to a new survey from Quinnipiac:

A sign that the Occupy Wall Street movement isn’t the best long-term vehicle for Democrats to connect themselves with: A new Quinnipiac poll, showing a plurality of voters viewing the group unfavorably.

The poll, released today, show 30 percent of voters surveyed view the movement favorably, 39 percent unfavorably, with an additional 30 percent not hearing enough to have an opinion. It’s one of the first national polls to suggest voters are growing skeptical of Occupy Wall Street- and it comes as police have clashed with protesters in several cities. Previous national polls have shown a plurality of adults supporting the movement.
Among independents, the Occupy Wall Street movement and Tea Party movement are now viewed equally unfavorably. Occupy Wall Street has a net -13 favorable rating with independents (29% favorable/42% unfavorable), while the Tea Party holds a net -11 favorable rating (34% favorable/45% unfavorable).


The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.