Tuesday, August 07, 2007


stream of consciousness to follow. not going to check for grammar. be forewarned.

without delving into a long, meandering, philosophical discussion/fight with my fiancee about getting to that "next stage" in life, which includes putting down roots, owning a home and having chilluns, let's just say that it became increasingly clear that doing such things in this part of the country is pretty much unattainable unless you're (1) pulling down a quarter million dollars a year, taking into account our current obligation of student loans and providing financial assistance to disabled family members (HAHAHAAHAAH!), (2) making what the fiancee and i currently make WITHOUT student loans and other financial obligations (this is moot of course), or (3) not doing anything fun, ever and eating ramen (doable, but totally unpleasant).

we looked at a one bedroom in jersey city. it was next to a housing project surrounded by barbed wire and dilapidated brownstones. we still couldn't afford it. that's right... an intellectual property attorney and a manager at an IT firm CAN'T afford a one bedroom condo in the 'hood in jersey city.

i thought my friend was insane when she told me a managing director at morgan stanley couldn't afford a condo in manhattan. i've decided to retract my diagnosis of insanity. the only thing insane around here is the nyc area condo market, which still hasn't gotten the memo from the rest of the housing market. get this - i was just given a link to an affordable housing lottery for people with incomes between $75,000 to $120,000. yes, this is a real program. when people making $90,000 need affordable housing programs, you know shit is fucked.

which leads me back to my original topic - how the hell is a young couple supposed to get their start and raise chilluns? our criteria - (1) gay friendly and generally progressive (2) cheap (3) not culturally bankrupt (4) good public schools (because they're FREE, dammit) (5) not cold (this rules out canada). urban centers usually have crappy ass schools and are ridiculously expensive. but suburbia is generally filled with strip malls and aren't terribly gay friendly. oh what to do...


let's see.

upsides. non-psychotic standard of living. gay friendly - had its own feature on LOGO. crime free. nationally ranked public schools. excellent public universities. laid back. great arts and music scene. close to the beach and mountains. the best gourmet food market in the country, natch. and believe it or not, a pretty good restaurant scene - had several features on the Food Network.

downsides. the north carolina bar, which is one of the quirkiest in the nation.

i can't believe i'm seriously considering this.


emily1 said...

i know. sad, isn't it. this credit bubble has fucked us all.

fucked. us. all.

emily1 said...

aren't the summers swampy hot like the rest of the south? i was tempted to convince dan to relocate to louisville, ky for all the reasons you want to leave the nyc metro area, but the sweltering summers make it a non-option. we're gonna try to settle down in or around providence, which truly is a lovely little city.

emily2 said...

yeah it gets pretty hot in the summer, but i find that nyc and washington, d.c. summers are equally disgusting, because all that asphalt just traps the heat, and the car exhaust and trash on the streets make everything smell like poo.

actually, i don't remember chapel hill summers being that awful. i *do* remember, however, the entire town shutting down if one snowflake fell. people go into a massive screaming panic every time one snowflake hits the ground. i remember being pleasantly surprised in first grade when we got snow days.

getting back to affordability, LOOK AT THIS. a 3-bedroom house for $250k. you can't even get a studio in hoboken for that price. and you get to go to the best schools in the southeast - read those stats - even i'm surprised and i went there! and "neighborhood lake"? shit, here we get neighborhood trash receptacles.

the funny thing is that people in north carolina call chapel hill the most unaffordable city in the region. WHAT? those folks have no concept of the idea of "unaffordable"!

anyway, if you're thinking of settling down somewhere relatively affordable, wingnut free (okay, there are one or two, but everyone in town knows who they are and makes fun of them in the paper) and full of quirky entreprenurial liberals i would suggest moving to chapel hill or carrboro.

emily2 said...

hmmm... now about providence...

that might be an option as well. do you know if the rhode island bar is as easy as the massachusetts or connecticut bar? i haven't heard much about it.

emily2 said...

Wait... SCORE! North Carolina has reciprocity with New York.

emily1 said...

i don't know how hard the bar is in RI. i don't know anyone who practices law there. it's far more affordable than the boston metro region, and it has culture, nightlife, and it's gay friendly. there is a foodie culture and lots of support for the arts. the only thing that sucks is that the public schools are pretty bad. lots of middle class parents send their kids to one of the various private schools in the area.

emily2 said...


i don't like being an adult. i'd like to be a four year old again.

why do public schools, by and large, have to suck? all of us pay for them already. why do middle class parents have to send their kids to private school just to ensure that their kids will be able to read? i thought private school was for rich people - or the last resort for parents when their kid just won't function is a public school.

ah, don't answer that question. i already know the answer, and it depresses me.

emily1 said...

well. i don't think that the quality of the education is the reason a lot of middle class people put their kids in private school. i think a lot of them don't want their kids attending school with racial minorities.

emily2 said...

i don't think it's fundamentally a race issue. it's more a class issue. and a lot of poor folks happen to be brown. but it's not the brown-ness that's the issue.

basically, the poorer the base, the less likely a school is going to perform well. i think it's because poor folks are resigned to the reality that "making it" is almost impossible for them, so they give up. it's a defeatist attitude, but i can't say it's incorrect. it IS extremely hard to get out of poverty. and if there is no one in your family who is stressing that an education is important, how would you even know college is a way to a brighter future? and what's the point of college if there is no way you can afford it anyway?

and we all know that throwing money at the problem won't help. they've been trying it in south jersey to no avail (fiancee's family are all public school teachers, and they're exasperated - they are trying to help these kids, but when they see their parents, who don't give a flying fuck, they realize that all they can do is plug their fingers into the dam like the little dutch boy). furthermore, in south jersey, taxpayers have funded really nice public housing to poor folks, and unfortunately, crime in those neighborhoods went up, and the school system went down the tubes, taking property values down with it. this actually happened. i'm not going to get into a debate about this; i'm just going to state things as they are.

so then we have the middle class folks who couldn't afford college / grad school outright. yet they did everything they were "supposed" to do, as defined by their parents by doing well in school and going to college. after college, they work for a bit, and then they take out mortgages. they invest in their kids all while trying to make their mortgage and student loan payments. they hope that their house value goes up, so they can take out a home equity loan to send their kids to college, because otherwise they can't afford it. each parent takes a job. they pray neither parent gets sick. all they hope is that they can own their house outright at some point, send their kids to college and be able to live on retirement. then they see the poor folks moving in on their dime and not appreciating the opportunities offered to them, like free housing and free schools, and they get resentful. furthermore, their house value depreciates because of the school system going PFFT. well, there goes the home equity loan. and their goes your life's investment. i guess it's time to ask your middle class parents for money - OH WAIT. they're living on retirement. you can't do that. so yes, middle class angst is understandable.

anyway, before anyone jumps down my throat... middle class people aren't evil. and poor people aren't at fault. it's just the inherent class conflict that will probably never go away.

the only people who are insulated from this nonsense is the rich (and to a lesser extent, the upper middle class). however, the likelihood of a middle class person becoming rich is about the same as a poor person climbing out of poverty. a middle class person can become upper middle class if the market is nice, but often times, it's not. so, basically, everyone is fucked except the rich.

the end.

(told you it was depressing.)

emily1 said...

race and class are not separable. to be poor is to be non-white in the american psyche. even though white welfare recipients greatly outnumber non-white recipients, the popular image of the welfare mom is a black single mother. poverty is racialized in popular culture and mass media. it is true that non-white people are represented among the poor out of proportion to their numbers in the population at large. however, this is largely due to racism as well. last hired, first fired long has been the reality for racial minorities seeking employment.

maybe the parental attitudes that your fiancee's public school teacher relatives are seeing as 'not giving a shit' really amounts to 'i work three jobs and i'm facing eviction anyway, so i can't really give a shit about my kid's failing grades.' the one thing that is vital for poor parents to have before they can guide their children to a good education is time. this country doesn't really prioritize good family values or strong family ties because america is largely okay with expecting single parents to work 60 hours or more a week to eek out an existence. the poor simply are not permitted to own very much of their own lives for themselves or their families.

was the public housing built in jersey mixed income? close to grocery stores? close to public transportation? close to schools? there are a million reasons why public housing fails to foster outcomes for those who need it. the fact that poor people live in them is not the only reason.

middle class people who get resentful at poor people who don't magically shed all their dysfunctional pathologies because they were accorded access to basic needs such as housing and education need to get off their high horses. not only do poor people have to cope with even greater economic insecurity and fear than the middle class, they also have to regularly face the stimga of being a poor person while not enjoying anything approaching middle class privileges. if anyone has any reason to resent anything, poor people do.

meeting our basic civic obligations to the poor in our society is no occasion to expect gratitude. i'm sick of that candy-ass attitude from people who've got it better than the vast majority of people alive today as well as the vast majority of people who have ever lived. the middle class and the poor should get angry at people who are profiting from this situation.

emily2 said...

here's the deal. we have 90% of the nation's wealth concentrated in the hands of the few. the rest of us are just fighting for the scraps.

i think the middle class should be taxed less, because one personal tragedy like cancer or even divorce can wipe out hope of ever breaking even. yes, they're better off than the poor, but this doesn't mean they should be further burdened so that they end up even further away from the american dream. taxing them MORE will just bring them down, with hardly any impact on the plight of poor people. remember, the middle class and the poor are both swimming in the bottom 10%. middle class people spend the majority of their lives in debt paying back rich banking institutions. i think the burden should be lifted for the middle class, especially with the rising costs of health care, real estate, and education.

we can agree to disagree here.

however, the hiltons, the cheneys, the [insert other massively rich people here] should be the ones coughing up the support, because they're the ones who can. i mean, they have 90% of the wealth! if even one tenth of that were redistributed, imagine the difference. (hey lurkers, if this sounds commie, fuck you. some of these fuckers don't do a damn thing with their money except snort white stuff up their nose, and i have no problem taxing the living bajeezus out of them.)

final note: the public housing in the particular neighborhood in south jersey i'm talking about is beautiful. right in the middle of a safe neighborhood surrounded by middle class apartment complexes (that are indistiguishable from the public housing) on a tree-lined street. basically, you can't tell it's public housing. it looks like a shiny modern suburban apartment complex. it is also three blocks from a (formerly top-performing) school. a convenience store is next door. yadda yadda. i know you want to poke holes in this scenario, but let me just say that i already tried to argue with the fiancee's family by summoning up my last vestiges of liberal guilt, and i failed miserably and ended up looking foolish. i now concede that throwing money at the problem doesn't work.

again, we can agree to disagree.

emily1 said...

i don't see where we're disagreeing. i didn't say anything about taxing the middle class more. i said that middle class resentment against poor people is misplaced and that it's a candy-ass attitude to expect anyone to be grateful for having access to those things that satisfy their basic needs: housing and education. the middle class of america is better off than most people in the world and better off than most people who have ever lived. acknowledging that doesn't mean that i'm arguing that they should suck it up and pay more taxes.

i mean they should stop riding the asses of poor people for not being grateful for their basic human rights. i never said anything about increasing the tax burden on the middle class. i criticized their racialized class bigotry. they are victims too, but they are particpating in their victimization by focusing their animosities on the poor for not being 'grateful' -- or rather, being unable to immediately shed dysfunctional habits that pose a barrier to joining the middle class just because they have a roof over their heads and an education largely paid for by other people.

no one should be 'grateful' for being allowed to live. there is nothing accidental about the growing class of people unable to earn the wages needed to provide for their basic needs on their own. the answer is not to resent the people who are unable to do this, but to resent those who are invested in keeping it that way. the only people who have had huge chunks taken out of their tax bills in the last six years are the upper middle class and the wealthy.

i am not 'trying to poke holes' in anything. i am unwilling to automatically take it for granted that one public housing development's failure means the endeavor to house those who can't afford to house themselves is pointless. poverty is a complex problem and public housing developments tend to warehouse a whole bunch of poor people together (not ideal) as opposed to mixing them into people of higher income levels.

how many adults are there in the typical household in the development? how many hours do the adults have to work in order to pay their living expenses? single mothers working 2 or 3 jobs aren't going to become PTA stars just because they get a subsidized apartment that keeps them from having to work 5 jobs and never sleep. they certainly aren't going to be inclined to kiss the ass of anyone in gratitude. they also don't have time to be a champion for their children's education. they only have time and energy to survive.

the poor are not deserving of resentment. if that's what we have to agree to disagree on, fine. i didn't disagree with anything else in your last comment.

emily2 said...

blegh. oops. you're totally right. i realized i didn't reference an earlier comment in an earlier post you made about taxes down to a certain income bracket.

all right, it's here:

i want a nationalized health care system that covers everyone, more government aid for higher education, a strong commitment to preserving social security, a clear plan for getting this country off fossil fuels, and some tax breaks for the members of the middle class who earn under 50000 a year. hell, that's under *my* annual income, so I'm practically volunteering to pay higher taxes to get the policies i want.

and FORGET IT. i didn't even remember it correctly - i had erroneously thought you said everyone above $50k should be taxed more. i'm on crack.

is it these 14 hour days, or am i getting pre-senile dementia...

all right, here's the deal. back to the topic. i don't think the resentment is right; however i understand it. not justifiable but explainable - and, unfortunately, probably not changeable.

oh and one more interesting tidbit. forget about white flight - in nj, we have asian flight. one public housing project goes up and the asians run screaming into the next town. the other middle class folks just grumble and go on about their lives.

emily2 said...

oh that comment i referenced was in response to my estate tax post, a post which i retract in its entirety, because i still had a ridiculously positive outlook at the time.

i now predict cloudy skies and a 90% chance of precipitation in the real estate market, which will drench the baby boomers as they retire.