305 (22 February 2017)

Welcome to week 305!  The articles below caught my attention this week.  Please note that what are intended to be relatively objective “briefs” are preceded by dashes (——–), whereas additional material or relatively subjective comments are preceded by asterisks (********).  The links to articles preceded by [SR] require a subscription to be read in their entirety, although complete articles may frequently be found by an Internet title search.

(16 February 2017): “Trump Hates Trade Deficits, But Which Ones Really Matter?” (https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-mexico-trade-deficit/)

********This article provides a clear, graphically-based discussion of U.S. trade deficits and surpluses with a variety of its trading partners.  It provides information about imports, exports, and deficits/surpluses in relative terms for a variety of U.S. trading partners.  Surprisingly, the U.S. runs its largest relative deficit with Ireland (65%), followed by China (60%); the relative deficit with Canada is 2% and the relative deficit with Mexico is 12%.  The U.S. runs its largest relative surplus with the Netherlands (42%).

********Aggregate figures only tell a part of the story.  Here are two articles that provide a more personal view:

“What happened when factory jobs moved from Warren, Ohio, to Juarez, Mexico” (http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-mexico-us-factories-20170217-htmlstory.html).  The article contains an eight-minute video which includes the voices of a worker in Warren who lost his job at Delphi and a worker in Juarez who now works for Delphi.

“With NAFTA in Trump’s crosshairs, Mexico’s border factories brace for the unknown” (https://wpo.st/G-Jd2).  The relationships between El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico will likely change should NAFTA be renegotiated.  Mattress manufacture provides an example.

Now that I think of it, I can’t recall having seen or read one article on cross-border movements of businesses between the U.S. and Canada in relation to NAFTA.  Why has there been an almost exclusive focus on movements between the U.S. and Mexico?

(17 February 2017): “How Economists are Fueling the Global Debate Over Refugees” (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-17/how-economists-are-fueling-the-global-debate-over-refugees)

********Reporter Michelle Jamrisko reviews and provides links to “A host of studies” that “aim to quantify how these outsiders integrate and impact the native born.”  If you are seeking a broad overview, but not a tidy summary, on the economic impacts of refugees, this is a good place to look.

(19 February 2017): “A Bee Mogul Confronts the Crisis in His Field” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/business/a-bee-mogul-confronts-the-crisis-in-his-field.html)

——–California-based Bret Adee “is America’s largest beekeeper, and this is his busy season.”  He has some “92,000 hives” that he rents out to provide bee pollination services across the United States.  Right now, his bees are focused on California’s almond trees.  Those services go for “$180 to $200 a hive . . . There would be no almond crop—not to mention avocados, apples, cherries and alfalfa—without honey bees.  Of the 100 crops that account for 90 percent of the food eaten around the globe, 71 rely on bee pollination.”  Colony collapse is an issue for Mr. Adee, as it is for virtually all bee keepers.  In the year “that ended in April 2016, 44 percent of the overall commercial bee population died.”  Although neonicotinoids have been implicated in colony collapse, it is generally thought that there are other factors at work, too.

********A nice, contextualized story about honeybee colony collapse.  This is a bit different than usual because it focuses more on the perspective of bee keepers and what they are going through.  There is a real and growing demand for the services provided by large-scale bee keepers and some of them are meeting that demand by purchasing the bees of smaller producers who see no future in the business.

(22 February 2017): “Kenneth Arrow, Nobel-Winning Economist Whose Influence Spanned Decades, Dies at 95” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/business/economy/kenneth-arrow-dead-nobel-laureate-in-economics.html)

********Kenneth Arrow, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1972, passed away Tuesday after a long and fruitful career.  The particulars for his Nobel Prize, which he shared with John R. Hicks, can be found at: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/1972/arrow-facts.html.  An overview of his work can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Arrow.  Arrow is one of the new economists who could have received multiple Nobels in economics had that been possible, his work was that influential and path breaking.  If I had to pick just one publication, however, as reflective of his importance, it would have to be Social Choice and Individual Values (https://www.amazon.com/Social-Choice-Individual-Values-Kenneth/dp/1614273456/), which was published in 1951.  By mathematically proving that individual preferences could lead to social preferences only under extremely repugnant conditions, i.e., dictatorship, his “Impossibility Theorem” shattered the dreams and redirected the thought of many who sought a firm basis for social decisions.

(22 February 2017): “How to Save a Dying Mall” (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-22/how-to-save-a-dying-mall)

——–The Hull Property Group of Savannah, Georgia “has spent the last decade bringing distressed malls back to life.  The company, which owns 29 malls across the U.S., sticks to a proven script that includes negotiating tax incentives with local governments, demolishing excess space, and reversing public perceptions that the property is struggling.”  Hull is “one of a small crowd of operators bucking the conventional wisdom that there are simply too many malls and that only those catering to wealthy shoppers will survive the death of legacy retailers.”  As one developer notes, if you can buy a mall “at 20 cents on the dollar, you can provide tenants with very profitable stores, because you can give them cheap rents.”

********The challenge of repurposing distressed malls fascinates me but one of the links of the article clearly indicates that it is a part of the more general problem of “distressed properties,” including such things as “landfills and abandoned chemical plants.”  Brownfield Listings (https://brownfieldlistings.com/) provides access to a list of distressed properties from across the U.S.  The listings can be searched by a variety of criteria (https://brownfieldlistings.com/search/moresearchoptions), including location.  For example, I search on North Carolina and a city-owned property of Asheville, North Carolina popped up!  Would you like to buy a brownfield property on Hilliard Avenue in Asheville?  I was especially intrigued by the Property Status criterion.  I wasn’t aware that, in addition to brownfields, there are also greyfields, greenfields, and redfields., among others.

May you have a good week!


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