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By LASN Editor Steve Kelly

Forget the Fiscal Cliff: Think Private Debt
If you're tired of listening to talking heads predicting doom and gloom ahead at the precipice ("fiscal cliff), you might want to read a new report out titled "How to Predict the Next Financial Crisis." This 29-page report hypotheses private debt is the real culprit in our economic travails. The authors charted the ratio of private debt (consumer, business and government) to GDP. This ratio, the authors believe, is the key to understanding the Great Depression and the current Great Recession. See graphic.

The authors are Richard Vague and Steve Clemons. Vague is president of the Governor's Woods Foundation and managing partner of Gabriel Investments. He was a cofounder and CEO of Energy Plus, Juniper Financial and First USA. Clemons is Washington editor-at-large at The Atlantic, and cofounder and senior fellow of the America Strategy Program at the New America Foundation.

"The Great Depression and the Great Recession were the only two periods in the past century that had a ratio of over 150 percent total private debt-to-GDP, and had very high growth in the private debt‐to‐GDP ratio in the preceding period--45 percent from 1920 to 1930 and 40 percent from 1997 to 2007. We believe that the combination of this 'red line' level of total private debt combing with large surges in the private debt‐to‐GDP level can be viewed as predictive. The U.S. today remains well above that 150 percent private debt-to‐GDP level."--"How to Predict the Next Financial Crisis," Steve Clemons and Richard Vague, 2012.

The authors assert, "The initial crisis of the Great Depression, like the Great Recession, was caused primarily by a massive private debt buildup."

In essence, the authors posit that because of the sheer size of our private debt to other factors, "private debt may be a more important determinant of economic trends than the money supply, government debt, trade, tax, reserve requirements and other factors."

For an explanation in the authors own words, visit The full report is available for download at

And Speaking of Debt
Detroit is exploring filing for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy protection. Stockton, Calif. is the largest U.S. city thus far to have filed bankruptcy. For the "Motor City" and Mayor Dave Bing, the former seven-time All-Star with the Detroit Pistons (1966-75), it's a last option that some predict would set in motion years of legal battles by creditors, threaten even greater cuts in public services and force the city to sell major city assets to help pay down its debts.

You're Invited Down Under

The New Zealand and Australian Institutes of Landscape Architects (NZILA and AILA) invite you to be a part of the 50th International Federation of Landscape Architects World Congress (IFLA50) April 10-12 in Auckland, New Zealand If you need more incentive, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper says New Zealand (called "Aotearoa" by the Maori) is the best holiday spot in the world.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas will include a native prairie habitat with a "floodplain forest," bioswales and a wildflower meadow. Native Texas grasses will be used on the north and south lawns.

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Home on the Prairie
The landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates is recreating a 15-acre Texas prairie of wildflowers (Indian paintbrush, evening primrose and bluebonnet) and native grasses at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. The project manager is senior associate Herb Sweeney IV. Laura Bush said she was "really excited" about the project, noting she and George W. had worked over the years to restore the native prairie at their ranch in Crawford.

The Bush Center aims to get LEED Platinum certification.

The Chateau de Bellevue, built in the 18th century, had a grand hall that could accommodate 200 guests.

Oops, I mean, Zut Alors!
Imagine the owner of a magnificent 18th century French baroque chateau de Bellevue in the Bordeaux wine region has commissioned you the landscape architect to be a part of the team to renovate the property. The first step of the work is for a Polish building firm to raze a small building on the side of the property. Now image the gray matter of the demolition crew is not properly connected, and instead of tearing down the small building, they reduce the chateau to rubble in a couple of days, including the sweeping exterior stone staircases and balustrades! No need to imagine. That's exactly what happened to the 140,000 sq. ft. Chateau de Bellevue in Dec. 2012.
Yvrac Mayor Claude Carty has ordered the "renovation" be stopped until officials investigate the matter.

The Russian owner of the chateau wants to rebuild a replica of the chateau, which he estimates will take two years.

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December 8, 2019, 7:40 am PDT

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