Barcelona, Dublin, and Las Vegas — economic hellholes?

There’s a back-handed compliment buried in there.

If you’re a “think tank” dumping yet another new study on a jaded press and public, ranking cities from “best” to “worst” on some topic or other (and thus not-so-secretly lobbying for more government spending on your pet projects), there’s one sure way to make headlines. Highlight the high (or, usually, extremely low) ranking of the one town Americans never tire of hearing about …

Vegas, baby!

So how surprised should we be that the pro-big-government Brookings Institution, which is based in Washington but now has a local Nevada research arm, said Tuesday the Las Vegas Valley has the “world’s fifth-worst economy”?

The think tank ranked the region No. 146 on its Global Metro Monitor, which rates the world’s 150 biggest metropolitan economies on their economic strength before, during and after the recession.

The recommended solution? Robert Lang, director of Brookings Mountain West at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says Nevada should diversity her economy and spend more on educating her work force, presumably by handing more tax money to … um, you know … outfits like the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Now, no one denies a more diversified economy would be nice — I assume the Brookings folk and their sponsors will join me in encouraging more mining, cattle ranching, construction of coal-fired power plants and development of a big new oil refinery in Southern Nevada, along with legalized hashish bars, elegant bordellos, and large medical marijuana plantations.
But does this otherwise even pass the smell test?

Throw a few darts at any map of the world and then try saying aloud: “Yeah, we were planning on opening a new branch of our retail chain in Las Vegas, but the economy there turns out to be so bad, we’re going instead with the new site in Somalia. Wait, did I say Somalia? I meant North Korea … no, no, Tibet … um, Burma. No, I mean we’re moving to that international capital of bribery and corruption once called the Congo but now known as Zaire.
How about the Falkland Islands? Nice people, nice sheep, and the growth potential just sets your heart to singing, doesn’t it? Mali? Angola? Booming Bangladesh?

Remember, the esteemed leftist thinkers claim Las Vegas has the fifth worst economy in the WORLD.

Or did they?

To stack its rankings, researchers at Brookings considered each region’s “overall gross value added,” which measures the worth of goods and services produced in an area’s economy. They then report they “weighed gross value added per capita and changes in employment and population.” And since some statistics from 2008, 2009 and 2010 aren’t yet available, the group then “forecast some indicators to fill in the blanks.”

Which is nothing like “making stuff up,” you understand.

In its final result, the Brookings report’s assessment of Las Vegas is less a measure of economic torpor than proof of just how volatile the city’s economy is, admits Mr. Lang of UNLV.

“Places like Buffalo (ranked No. 120) look fantastic because they didn’t boom or bust,” Lang said. “What this shows is, given how high a flier we were, our conditions are dismal relative to that performance. Not only did we crash deeply, but we’re underperforming in the recovery.”

So the point is that Las Vegas, tourist dependent and hit hard by the real estate collapse, has been slow to emerge from recession?

Not exactly “stop the presses” news, is it? So the Brookings folks instead adopt a methodology which leads them to declare Buffalo, snow capital of the rust belt, ranks higher than Las Vegas as an economic investment target because Buffalo never boomed at all?

Presumably that’s how the emaciated villagers of booming Bangladesh beat us out, as well.

“The only major cities performing worse overall than Las Vegas in 2009 and 2010 were Thessaloniki, Greece; Barcelona, Spain; Dublin, Ireland; and Dubai, United Arab Emirates,” Brookings declares.

Now, Ireland’s bank collapse is a special case. (Solution? Let the banks go bankrupt; tell the EEU to go stuff it.) And I’m not recommending anyone model their economies on state-socialist Greece or Spain. But would the Balearic Islands be part of the “Metro Barcelona” economy? If things are as bad as the Brookings folks claim, why aren’t the think tank geniuses pooling their savings to buy Ibiza?

And Dubai? OK, oil and Persian Gulf real estate are both currently down. But Dubai, 33rd richest city in the world in terms of purchasing power parity, 37th of the top 50 global financial cities (and first in the Middle East) as surveyed by the Mastercard Worldwide Centres of Commerce Index, with an average per capita income in excess of $25,000, is now an economic hellhole? Banks and trading companies pulling out of there and relocating to Nigeria, Namibia, and Novaya Zemlya just as fast as their little legs can carry them?

In other words — for the benefit of the irony deprived — hogwash.

The Brookings Institution prescription, predictably enough, is to develop more “high-end, white-collar services or technology jobs,” thus making every city much more like their favorite, 37th-ranked market:

Washington, D.C.

A great place to live — if the government is offering you some armed bodyguards in exchange for giving up your personal self-defense rights, and you can afford to permanently rent yourself a private floor at the Watergate and $32,000 apiece to send your kids to the Sidwell Friends School.

Comments are closed.