Kim Phillips-Fein

Kim Phillips-Fein is a journalist living in New York City.

Recent Articles

The Still-Industrial City

In Chicago, like most other big cities in America, manufacturing was once the core of the urban economy -- until recent decades, when most of it moved out to suburban areas and beyond. But while much smaller today, manufacturing still makes a vital contribution that cities should work hard to maintain.

It's "urban renaissance" time in the City of Big Shoulders. Suburban families are coming back to the city, yuppies are moving into renovated factories, and "empty-nesters" are buying weekend luxury homes in the Loop. Rising high-tech employment in Illinois has caused some to dub the region "Silicon Prairie," and gritty industrial neighborhoods -- Nelson Algren's playground -- are giving way to restaurants and galleries. Chicago's biggest daily, the Tribune , urges development of "luxury high-rises and townhouses" on the grave of South Works, U.S. Steel's old Chicago plant. This must have been what Mayor Richard M. Daley had in mind during his first mayoral campaign in 1989, when he urged the city to turn its back on industry and embrace services. "This city is changing. You're not going to bring factories back," he said in an interview with Crain's Chicago Business , the local business weekly. "I think you have to look at the financial markets -- banking, service industry, the...

Son of God, CEO

I n 1925 the publishing world was rocked by an up-and-coming advertising executive named Bruce Barton, who'd written a book called The Man Nobody Knows . The man in question was Jesus Christ, the "most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem," who had "picked up twelve humble men and created an organization that won the world." Jesus, Barton wrote, was a prototype of the modern executive. He knew how to write copy, how to schmooze the crowd. When Christ came on the scene, there was no shortage of religions, but through a careful study of "psychology," He was able to create demand for his new faith; He knew, like any good salesman, that "with anything which is not a basic necessity the supply always precedes the demand." Besides having a precocious grasp of public relations, He was a management guru with an uncanny ability to motivate and inspire his employees: "Every one of His conversations, every contact between His mind and others, is...

Imperfect Union

E ver since the McClellan Committee investigations of racketeering in the 1950s, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) has occupied a lurid place in the American imagination. From Jimmy Hoffa to "Tony Pro," from "Red" Dorfman to Jackie Presser, the Teamsters have been known as the id of the labor movement--a seething hotbed of greed, violence, and corruption. Recent Teamsters President Ron Carey and his aides were accused of laundering money from the union treasury for use in Carey's 1996 re-election campaign. The election was overturned, and Carey was banned from the union. This January he was indicted for lying to a grand jury about his role in the scandal. And when Hoffa's son, James P. Hoffa, ascended to the presidency of the union in 1999, it seemed at first as though nothing had changed since the bad old days. But in the two years since Hoffa became president of the Teamsters--one of the largest labor unions in the United States, with more than 1.4 million members--...

Housing:

G ary and Virginia have lived at Berkeley Place in lower Park Slope, Brooklyn, for the past 29 years, almost since moving to the United States from Trinidad in the late 1960s. It's a peaceful neighborhood of oak trees and brownstones, a neighborhood of middle-class homeowners near the park and immigrant renters farther west, families who shop together at the local food co-op and pride themselves on being a comfortably diverse and socially aware community. It's not the kind of place you'd expect to see old people and little kids being put out onto the street. But the times they are a-changin'. As the housing market just across the river in Manhattan has become unaffordable to anyone but the very rich, young stockbrokers, publishers, and doctors with money have had to look elsewhere to spend it. They've flocked to New York's outer boroughs, snapping up sleepy brick buildings in places like Park Slope (where about 25 percent of the neighborhood's housing stock changed hands over the past...

Deeper in Debt

Ben Franklin might seem, at first glance, to have little in common with Karl Marx. But when the German philosopher wrote in the Grundrisse that "the individual carries ... his bond with society in his pocket," the author of Poor Richard's Almanack might well have agreed. One of our most enduring American faiths is that how people spend money tells us something about their moral character. Thrift is a sign of virtue, profligacy one of sin, and filing for bankruptcy calls not only for a financial accounting but a spiritual one. About 1.4 million Americans wound up in bankruptcy court in 1998; the standard narrative explains the phenomenon in updated fall-from-Eden terms, with the Visa card playing the role of the snake. A generation ago, sociologist Daniel Bell decried the frivolity of the American consumer. He wrote in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism that "the greatest single engine in the destruction of the Protestant ethic was the invention of...

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