Make us your home page
Instagram

Does economic meltdown have us caught in a Florida Ponzi scheme?

On the off chance you're in the mood for a sleepless night, fretting about the economic future of our state and region, I have a couple of choice reading recommendations.

The current issue of the New Yorker magazine features an exhaustively reported story on the social and financial devastation of the real estate bust, set in the half-built subdivisions of southern Pasco County.

Even more unsettling is the Atlantic magazine March cover story, a forecast of how a deep, long-lasting recession will reshape the country's economic landscape.

Winners will be cities with dense concentrations of educated, creative residents. The losers, representing a double-whammy for our part of Florida, will be the Sun Belt and the suburbs, with "low-density sprawl … ill-fitted to a creative, postindustrial economy.''

While profiting from the housing bubble, according to the writer, Mark Florida (a man with no loyalty, apparently, to his namesake state), these regions failed to build "sustainable, scalable, highly productive industries or services. (The bubble) was fueled and funded by housing, and housing was its primary product. Whole cities and metro regions became giant Ponzi schemes.''

If you're looking for a common theme, that is it: the title of the New Yorker article is "The Ponzi State.''

Yes, there's a hint of snobbery in both pieces, written by urban Northerners who probably wouldn't be crazy about Florida suburbs under any circumstances.

But if two respected national publications (three including last year's Time magazine article that described Florida's housing industry as a "human pyramid scheme'') come to the same conclusion, they're probably on to something.

It seems likely that time has run out on our bedrock economic strategy of attracting 1,000 new residents per day — that our history of sprawling development and low taxes has finally caught up with us.

What this means is that much of our current public debate is far off target. We should be figuring out how to build up existing communities (the new Hernando judicial center is not a bad start), attract industry and upgrade education.

We shouldn't be arguing about the swap of a relatively tiny parcel of bear habitat. We should be discouraging — no, shouting down — SunWest Harbourtowne, the development associated with this land swap.

A project as unnecessary as the "u'' in its "harbour'' and the "e'' in its "towne,'' it calls for building 2,400 houses, a marina, hotel and convention center in the coastal flood zone of northern Pasco.

We shouldn't be debating the fine points of transportation and wildlife corridors at the Quarry Preserve, a new city planned for a played-out mine 5 miles northwest of Brooksville. We should be telling the developers that a change in the comprehensive plan to accommodate such sprawl is out of the question.

The Hernando County Commission shouldn't waste another word discussing Blaise Ingoglia's idea to allow investors to use tax money (by the way, isn't he supposed to be a fiscal conservative?) to help buy foreclosed properties — all so builders can get back to work building more unneeded houses.

I certainly don't want to suggest anything criminal. But, to return to the Ponzi analogy, it seems a little like bailing out Bernie Madoff.

Does economic meltdown have us caught in a Florida Ponzi scheme? 02/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 14, 2009 1:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times

    Business

    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]