The Other Half of New York City

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

Related Post Roulette

105 Responses

  1. NewDealer says:

    This is a very good post.

    NYC and San Francisco seem like extreme examples of what is happening in cities all over America. They are becoming for the very rich and very poor with a transient middle-class made of young, professionals who build careers and party before settling down and moving to the suburbs.

    One thing that struck out to me is how and who we talk about as being poor. This has come up several times in the past few years. There was an essay on The Billfold or the Hairpin by a youngish, educated artist on food stamps. She wrote about how people felt she should not be on food stamps because she was white and her level of education. Never mind that she was barely supporting herself as a waitress.

    This transient middle class tends to be educated and upwardly mobile but they often live with many roommates and might be interning and/or underemployed and/or not making much money from their jobs. Yet I think we consider them to be “not poor” because they don’t have children and because of their educations. There might be a point that they might not see themselves as poor. But I think you could make an argument that the city poor extends beyond working class families. It should include recent college grads who need to roommate up with friends or random strangers in order to get a little bedroom in an apartment somewhere.Report

    • Not to make it seem like a quid pro quo but… great comment!Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        In some ways our cities are becoming more European/Continental. Central Paris is where the rich people live. The poor live in the suburbs.Report

        • Yes, I always think of Paris, too, when it comes to this dynamic.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Elias Isquith says:

            I think the American scenario is worse than whats happening in Paris. The public housing in Paris isn’t all that great but at least the French government is aware that government intervention is necessary in order to provide affordable housing for the poor. The French welfare state is also a lot more generous than the American one by leaps and bounds and the Parisian suburbs are better connected to each other and Paris by the RER system.

            There isn’t much in adequate or affordable housing for the poor in the cities or the suburbs, our suburbs are much more car dependent than the ones in European cities, and our welfare state a lot less generous.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

              There isn’t much in adequate or affordable housing for the poor in the cities or the suburbs,

              I guess it depends on where you are. Affordable housing in the suburbs is less a problem in most of the places I’ve lived. It’s one of the big advantages of the suburbs.

              You’re right about car-dependency, though.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

                But are there enough jobs in the places you lived? Companies prefer to put their offices in certain metro locations. Nothing is going to make Silicon Valley move itself to Wyoming. The upper and middle income employees of these companies need services so poor people are attracted to these expensive metro areas because of the jobs in providing services. Even if housing is affordable, people still need some sort of work to pay for it.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Some more than others. Keeping in mind, I’m not talking about the sticks, I’m talking about the suburbs. Jobs are harder to come by in the former than the latter.

                Nothing is going to make Silicon Valley move itself to Wyoming.

                No, but Austin, Provo. Both of which have quite affordable suburbs if you’re a geek. Granted, if you’re a programmer or something you can maybe rise higher in SV than anywhere else, but high-drive programmers aren’t precisely who we are worried about here (they’ll be okay regardless).

                Ultimately, though, there are basically a select few reasons to live in a really expensive place: You’re in a limited range of career tracks, you are really ambitious, you have family there, or you just plain want to live there. Beyond that, there’s a good chance you would prosper more in Kansas City. There are plenty of places with jobs (insofar as there are jobs, in the current economy of course) and affordable housing. I still consider NYC, SF, Seattle, and Chicago to be more the exception than the rule. (And to be honest, I’m not sure about Chicago).Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

                I think that if companies move to places like Austin or Provo than places like Austin and Provo are going to start having the same cost of living problems that New York and San Francisco have. Part of the reason why Austin, Provo, St. Louis (which is actually a very charming) have decent costs of living are the less than stellar economies.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I mention Austin and Provo precisely because IT companies are setting up offices there. Both have quite strong economies (and IT sectors in particular). Austin isn’t restricted by geography the same way that Silicon Valley is, so they can keep sprawling to keep housing affordable. Ditto Houston, Dallas, and OKC. Provo does have mountains, and potentially some serious water issues, but it’ll take a lot to meet the COL of the coastal metropolii. Ditto SLC.Report

              • Lyle in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Except that for Austin and St Louis and Kansas City (less so for Provo) there is lots of land to build houses on. Austin can extend east for a long ways, (although the desirable areas are to the west), St Louis can build east of the river, and KC has lots of room to grow. So one element of the other big cities is not there geographical restrictions on where you can build, ranging from the rivers and bays of NYC to Sf Bay and the Mountains in the Bay Area.Report

              • Qub in reply to LeeEsq says:

                I think that if companies move to places like Austin or Provo than places like Austin and Provo are going to start having the same cost of living problems that New York and San Francisco have.

                If they move there, the rent’s too damn high and people can’t afford to live there. If they don’t move there, there are no jobs, and people can’t afford to live there.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                Austin has affordable /city/ just like pittsburgh does.
                Most of the people I know from there live in town.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                car-dependency is directly tied to unaffordable housing in the suburbs. Gas prices have tripled since the last time I drove seriously, and will go up from here.Report

            • Elias Isquith in reply to LeeEsq says:

              No arguments here. Strictly speaking about the counterintuitive-to-Americans reality of suburbs = lower-end of socioeconomic ladder.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                When they were building the NYC subway, they decided for a flat fair (this was in the early 20th century before WWI) because they knew that the center would quickly become the abode of the rich or upper-middle classes and the poorer inhabitants would relocate to the outer edges where rents were lower. The still needed to get to their jobs so it was decided to keep the fair the same regardless of distance travelled.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Car dependency is a long term problem that we should be addressing now.
              It is a TREMENDOUS drain on our economy.

              Thinkaboutit: Gas Prices have tripled since many people bought houses in the suburbs. That’s all money down the drain — and people tend to buy the closest house that they can “afford” (after the money pit that is a car, of course).Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Kimmi says:

                As I point out too often, the region of the US that’s doing the most relative to its population is the West. Seattle, Portland, Northern and Southern California, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Denver — every major metro area except Las Vegas — has light rail systems operating now and expansions under construction or in the detailed planning stage.

                Those systems aren’t going to eliminate car dependency, but they are going to make it possible to change the cars’ characteristics. Once people realize that the car they own shouldn’t be designed for the extreme 5% of their trips (eg, enough horsepower to pull a trailer once a year, big enough to plow through on the six days per year where the snow is deep, make the 500-mile drive to Grandma’s with four people and their luggage), but rather for the less-demanding 95% of their trips (a ten-mile loop to the train station, the grocer, the dry cleaner, the library), small light electric cars become viable. And the technology to build a small light car with a 15-20 mile range already exists — no new miracle batteries needed.

                I claim it’s a viable strategy in the West; certainly more so than trying to rebuild the housing stock in a way that eliminates cars entirely. It’s also easier to do broadly in the West, because there are far fewer rural towns and small cities to deal with.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

                I can get on a bus in Port Angeles and ride to Seattle for a handful of bucks. Ya can’t do anything close to that around here.

                … I guess this is yet another reason to be a libertarian, and blame zoning for why the east hasn’t gotten its act together yet.

                I thought the strip had a light rail? (granted that’s not city proper…)Report

              • Mostly agree. There is a lot we could do before redesigning our cities. I expect to see more of that explored. Our modes of transportation are a lot more inefficient than they could be, even if we stick to the one driver, one vehicle m0del. Electric cars, motorcycles, scooters, etc.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                Motorcycles are hella dangerous things. Maybe if we get the “self driving” motorcycle…

                (and I agree, we really ought to build some infrastructure for single person transportation).Report

    • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

      “Yet I think we consider them to be “not poor” because they don’t have children and because of their educations.”

      is that particularly wrong, though? over the course of their lives they will more likely than not be able to elevate themselves out of the poverty trap, which isn’t as true for those we’d consider “poor” or “the poor”. and perhaps that’s class blindness of a sort? but i think people tend to, rightly, fixate on the trapped nature of people who are fighting with their families in what passes for subsistence living in america, not so much people whose educational path and expectations have been (largely temporarily) waylaid by their own choices and whatever’s going on in the culture and economy at the time.

      i’m always wary of using nyc too heavily as a model for anything. this place is bonkers. the rental market is skewed by a number of factors – high levels of demand, limited new construction opportunities, various controls on the housing stock, very high prices compared to the rest of the world, and so on. it’s one of the most expensive places to live that has ever existed. and the kind of people you describe above come here despite that, kind of voluntarily choosing to live with less, to live communally, to trade off in favor of leisure and free time, to live in lousy apartments compared to what you could get for the same money a hundred miles away. (consider what 2 grand a month gets you in upstate new york an hour away.)

      some of these wayward artiste school types are making bad decisions from a financial pov – dropping 200 large on a women’s studies degree without making any pathways where that degree would be useful, for example, and then moving to the most expensive dang place on earth. but a lot of them are choosing to privilege one set of values and experiences (“fun”, adventure, better living through chemistry, the energy of a city, scenes, and the like) over another (responsible/”responsible” financial choices).

      i am far less concerned about the n=1 dingadong like the food stamp lib arts waitress (fslaw) example above than i am about how boned to death nyc schools are and how that perpetuates lousy situations for those who will likely be poorer in ten years compared to the fslaw.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to dhex says:

        I think that there is a lot of research that shows that a person’s early employment experience is formative. People whose early employment takes place during prosperity and they make decent or good money do better in life than those who have to struggle through out their careers. So I think that a lot of people in my generation are going to be less well-off than their parents economically and socially. Evidence already shows that people my age have less in assets and savings than our parents did at our age.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to LeeEsq says:

          … what’s your age? MY parents got out of college straight into the worst recession since the Great Depression (Pittsburgh, 1970’s. horrid unemployment).
          I got out of college during Bush’s boom years.

          I’m more concerned about systemic stacking of the deck. When 2/3rds of Americans are wage slaves, I don’t think it’s worth it to worry about subsets.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

        I concede partially that you are right that many or even most of these early 20-somethings are only termporarily poor and are likely to join the ranks of the comfortable middles class or upper-middle class.

        However, I am going to push against the idea that they choose to live in New York or are artists who made one set of sacrifices in terms for another set of priorities.

        A lot of early 20-somethings living in NYC and other cool cities are not artists. I don’t know what they studied in undergrad but a lot have no artistic harbor. Also New York is where the jobs and other young people are in certain fields. There might be other communities where they could move to with a lower cost of living but I am not sure that those communities always have jobs.

        Also do we know what percentage of college graduates head to NYC as compared to other cities or somewhere else or staying close to home?Report

        • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

          A lot of early 20-somethings living in NYC and other cool cities are not artists.

          From the outside looking in, the careers where you have to be in one of a select few places are art, glamor, extremely ambitious, or some combination of those three. I’m not sure how many 20-somethings that describes.

          There might be other communities where they could move to with a lower cost of living

          Hence my need to dust off my “Let’s relocate everybody to Kansas City” idea!

          but I am not sure that those communities always have jobs.

          A whole lot of them are going to have jobs, at least outside a narrow range of career tracks. They may not be the jobs that the kids want, of course. It may not be what they had planned. But there’s a fair amount of opportunity out there (insofar as there is opportunity anywhere in the US, of course).Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

            I had a friend from high school who went to school at Washington University and got a job in Kansas City afterwords. He never really adjusted to the culture of Kansas City. When I visited him during my cross-country job, he thought that people got married to young in Kansas City and felt the cultural life needed improvement.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Well, if we relocate enough people there, we can change the culture!

              That is definitely a major advantage to some of these expensive places, particularly NYC and DC. I know people that had rather lackluster dating lives until they moved to DC or NYC. It takes more effort in a place like KC.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

            “From the outside looking in, the careers where you have to be in one of a select few places are art, glamor, extremely ambitious, or some combination of those three. I’m not sure how many 20-somethings that describes.”

            This is true but you are also talking about a city with millions of people. The city might be the hub of many creative industries but those artists are still a small fraction of the city. There are maybe 200,000 or so self-described actors in New York City. I would say that the artist/glamour field people in the city make up a million tops of the city population. Less percentage wise among recent college grads. But again, these numbers are hard to determine.

            “Hence my need to dust off my “Let’s relocate everybody to Kansas City” idea!”

            If you said Philadelphia I would be more on board. Haven’t many red states tried the whole “Why have your business in crazy-liberal and regulation-heavy California or New York? Open up in low regulation, low tax, State X?” How well has it worked out so far?

            I can concur with Lee’s story because he is my brother. I can also tell you that as a Jewish person, I need the Jewish population of any area I live in to be decent before I feel comfortable moving there. I am sure other minorities feel the same.

            I also knew a woman from the midwest who moved in NYC in her 30s because of her singleness. She was the only one of her friends from high school and college who was not married/with children. Some of the more conservative (small-c, not Republican C) can be a bit inhospitable to those who wish to be different in terms of things like when they get married. Or maybe just have the dumb luck to be different.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to NewDealer says:

              The city might be the hub of many creative industries but those artists are still a small fraction of the city. There are maybe 200,000 or so self-described actors in New York City.

              Exactly! I was agreeing with you and laying out some parameters for who needs to live in NYC. Which is to say, not most of the people who live there. This is important for a couple reasons. First, because it renders what I later responded to…

              Also New York is where the jobs and other young people are in certain fields. There might be other communities where they could move to with a lower cost of living but I am not sure that those communities always have jobs.

              Somewhat moot. Except for people in those specific fields, economics isn’t much of a reason to stick around. You move there, or stick around, for cultural reasons or roots.

              Which brings me to the second thing. Which is that if you choose to spend your money living in New York City, I am far less sympathetic to your feeling of being “poor.” I don’t mean to denigrate the actual poor who have no way out or little in the way of marketable skills, but I am less sympathetic to those who have degrees and could be making their way a lot easier if they wouldn’t spend as much on where they live.

              Of course, moving is expensive. That’s the crux of the Kansas City Plan. Which is to help people relocate to places where there are jobs, where there is excess capacity, or where you at least don’t need as much to get by.

              If you said Philadelphia I would be more on board.

              Whabout Pittsburgh? Philly is still on the expensive side. I’m flexible, though.

              Haven’t many red states tried the whole “Why have your business in crazy-liberal and regulation-heavy California or New York? Open up in low regulation, low tax, State X?” How well has it worked out so far?

              Pretty well for a lot of them. See Fortune 500 Companies in Texas. Rapid population growth in their cities, and so on. Honestly, I think more of that has to do with cost-of-living than party politics, but the trends are there.

              I can also tell you that as a Jewish person, I need the Jewish population of any area I live in to be decent before I feel comfortable moving there.

              Hey, I can sympathize with that. And if you have the money to spend on living where you want to live, I think that’s great. I do become less sympathetic when it comes to complaints about cost-of-living or how hard it is to get by, if you have the ability to move and choose not to.

              The only think I would caution you about is that big cities in red states aren’t like small towns in red states (or small towns in blue states, for that matter). Among our SES, getting married young wasn’t actually all that common. Most of my friends started marrying at around 30. Some still aren’t married.

              Which is, again, not to say you’d be happier there than where you presently are. You probably wouldn’t. There are certainly advantages to places like NYC, SF, and Seattle. But I see what I consider to be a fair amount of misconceptions about the more affordable places in between them.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Trumwill says:

                For many residents of NYC, upstate NY is some sort of mythical land. 😉Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Trumwill says:

                As I have said before, you can have a society/country where people are dispersed from their communities and families in the name of perusing jobs or you can have a society that encourages communities and families to look out for each other and stay close.However, you can’t have both!

                I think that it is important for member of various minorities: religious, sexual, ethnic, racial, creed, etc to keep close to each other. I can see why it would be very lonely and isolating to be Jewish in Salt Lake Utah or Asian in a town where less than one percent of the town is Jewish. Various communities have combined identities that work as broader families via traditions, vocabulary, belief, etc.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                Well, the two are in tension, and we can’t have both, but we can have some of each. Which we do now. It’s just a question of how much of each. I think they each have their virtues. On the one hand, a degree of community and culture that can be lost in communities where everybody is from somewhere else and is only there out of economic necessity. On the other hand, cross-pollination and economic efficiency, both good things.

                Had I not met Clancy, I likely never would have left Colosse. It was home. There was a lot more room there for me to be me than anywhere I have lived since. But my ability to stay would have been a luxury afforded to me by Colosse’s sheer size, affordability, and robust economy (if New York is the place where making it there means you can make it anywhere, Colosse is the place where being able to make it anywhere means you can make it there).

                If something happens to Clancy, I’d probably return. Or at least I’d try. The thing is, if for whatever reasons the opportunity for self-support isn’t there, then I feel something of an obligation to go where I can support myself and my daughter. Colosse will be at the top of my list, but I’ll move to Williston, North Dakota, if I have to. Or Midland, Texas. Which, to be clear, I have no enthusiasm about doing. But those are places where people are needed. It wouldn’t seem right to me to say “But I want to live in Colosse!”

                As an aside, Salt Lake City is great. As a gentile, it’s probably the only place in Deseret I’d voluntarily live. Thriving gay community, a lot of international foods. The same is true, to a large extent, of a lot of big cities in red country.Report

              • dhex in reply to Will Truman says:

                “Well, the two are in tension, and we can’t have both, but we can have some of each.”

                that’s my general take on it. though i’m also really, really wary of using “we” in the context of 300 something million people.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                It’s actually a little bit funny. The side of me that is most pushing back here is the liberal side. My conservative side is more in agreement with you.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m more concerned about the loss of community in general, and Americans’ seeming inability (or lack of desire) to build community with each other.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:

                This is an area where I think the GOP shows that they wear no clothes.

                They talk about family and community while aggressively pushing for an economic world and policies that values neither.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Trumwill says:

                “The only think I would caution you about is that big cities in red states aren’t like small towns in red states (or small towns in blue states, for that matter). Among our SES, getting married young wasn’t actually all that common. Most of my friends started marrying at around 30. Some still aren’t married.”

                Possibly. I have a friend who is gay. She dislikes certain states because there might be one or two cities that are fairly to very progressive but outside the city limits, it is as conservative and homophobic as conservative and homophobic can be. Some of these are even blue states. She likes areas like NYC-Metro, SF-Bay, and Mass because they are liberal enough for her to travel long distances outside of major cities and still feel safe. She can go to a B and B with her girlfriend, etc.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

                I can understand that. For gay people in particular, I can understand “I don’t care how liberal Austin is, I want to live somewhere where I’m married” or, for that matter, “I want to live someplace that the governor doesn’t call me an abomination of the lord.”

                As far as cities go, however, Colosse has a gay district dating back before it went so blue. And SLC, of all places, is something of a gay hub.

                I can understand the desire on the part of gays (and others) to be ensconced in a more liberal place, though. Just pointing out that the cities themselves are not densely packed proportional representations of the state.Report

        • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

          “However, I am going to push against the idea that they choose to live in New York”

          this is kind of an uphill climb because they’re there, ain’t they?

          even presuming they could not resist the siren call of what is admitted the best place to ever have existed in the history of everything ever, they could live in any number of places that are less expensive within an hour or so to manhattan. like bayside. now, don’t get me wrong. i’m no bayside lover. i don’t mind if bayside stays in bayside, so long as bayside doesn’t try to marry my kids or go to our schools.

          but there’s one thing to say about bayside that you can’t say about bushwick – it’s a lot cheaper and you’re a lot less likely to spend 3k sharing an apt where people sometimes shit in the hallway. however, bayside will not have cool tapas joints and cool tapas joints are a bfd for “gentrifiers” or whatever it is we call white people who aren’t russians who move to some place they didn’t live in before. i’m not even sure what tapas are but let us consider it a shorthand for artisanal mayonnaise shop aka nyc is crazy but attractive to a certain brand of person.

          anyway, i’m using artiste as a stand in for hipster or screwoff or living off mom’s money or whatever’s the opposite of “fratboy who wants to be a yuppie and is getting an mba” – i guess “bankster” is the current term for that particular other. sorry if that was oblique. it could just be some gals who saw girls like their older sisters saw sex in the city and decided to do that sort of thing along with some cocaine on the weekends to go with the piles of anti depressants everyone seems to be on. and tapas. my god it’s full of tapas.

          (speaking of which those gals are *terrible* roomates but very fun to have your friends have as roomates. you don’t have to deal with the crying jags and the terrible choices but get all the good stories about the crying jags and terrible choices. i imagine the male equivalent is the late 20s comic book/anime guy.)

          you know, people who aren’t “good at math” and doing weird things like “70% of my income on rent is totally reasonable” and all that. we’ve all been there. adjusted for inflation my first job out of college was something like 25k a year. and so i lived in queens. richmond hill. good place if you want to walk and get roti. largely safe. right by the park. the ride on the j kinda sucks but you can always swap up at eastern parkway.

          and it’s still cheap as hell. but the tapas are just tacos.

          “So I think that a lot of people in my generation are going to be less well-off than their parents economically and socially.”

          i tend to doubt this, only because i grew up hearing it about my cohort as well. remember when slacker was a real term? maybe i’m wrong, and in ten years i’ll have egg on my face. or on their faces, whatever the case may be.

          i dunno. a good friend of mine is a yute getting less yuteful and he once said something that stuck with me. i didn’t think it was a class thing, even though he was from strong island, but maybe it was. but i was doing some bit after one of those ny times/npr joints about how a basketweaving degree from welleselley or however that’s spelled leaves you with hella debt and no options if you’re a ding dong who didn’t forsee this – and i’m going on about how the kids these days think everything is a process where you count to ten and get a sticker for existing. like you just follow some steps and all of a sudden the balm of gilead springs forth and balms the hell out of you.

          and he said straight up “that’s exactly what we were told”. i was shocked. respectfully so, but shocked nonetheless. didn’t they learn about myth and noble lies and all that jazz?

          you’d think people whose formative years included a national landmark catching the red eye x2 would be less literal about promises.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to dhex says:

            Dear lord I love a good dhex-rant. Awesomeness.

            “that’s exactly what we were told”

            Yeah, I heard this somewhere, too. It resonated with me. It informs a lot of what I don’t like about the college discussion.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

            1. I know plenty of aritsts who don’t live in the cool sections of Brooklyn or Manhattan. They lived in Washington Heights, Inwood, Midwood, Coney Island, Bay Ridge, and many other far flung areas of the city.

            2. I find your definition of artiste to be off-putting and short-sited. The world needs more than Frat Bros with MBAs who live in Murray Hill. And I am sure there are many writers, musicians, actors, etc that you like who had a misspent youth like the type you are mocking now. Perhaps you should consider whether this misspent youth was necessary for them to bloom into the people that they are today. People who make stuff that gives you joy. Being an artist is as much about luck as it is about talent. For every talented artist who turns into a living, there are many who do not make it. I find it admirable that people try for something rare. Not something that should be mocked as being entitled. The artists I know are among the least entitled people in the world. They knew they probably doomed themselves to a life of destitution and living hand in mouth. If you want entitled talk to the Wall Street bro-dudes who were upset about a 300K bonus as compared to last year’s 700K bonus.Report

            • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

              well, my point in my first comment was indeed, these folks are deciding to trade off on some things (lower costs of living for housing) for others (tapas). i made the same tradeoffs they did – williamsburg was a better place for me in my early 20s to book shows, have jams, and also have a short commute into the city. it was more expensive than richmond hill but had other benefits. no tapas but that was not my jam.

              so…i think we’re mostly in agreement on this? making those choices is part of why people come here, right? you might see it as less of a choice and more of an inevitability – but it’s still really a choice. hell, i could live on long island, probably have a house, and save enough money on rent to buy a really nice shotgun to stick in my mouth!

              choices be choosey! some people want to own property and stuff, or like mr. trumwill, live in places that are not new york. you gotta live in a place with other jews, as you mentioned above. one man’s heaven/bagel with lox is another man’s shotgun in the mouth/bagel with lox.

              (ewww, lox!)

              anyway, i can do the whole “some of my best friends are artists!” thing because it’s true and all that, but i’m thinking more in the one piece jumpsuit with a contact mic’d garbage can and you’re probably more of the one act play about a tragedy at eton thang, but our vast cultural gulf aside, i didn’t see my friend’s rundown of xyz + 123 = perfect life as an entitlement thing so much as a ridiculous naivete thing. and a generational thing to a lesser degree.

              i do think you have to be a bit silly to think the most expensive place on earth should be less expensive because well it just should it just should. i don’t know if that’s entitlement or just cake having/eating. and it’s a lot more than rent control/stabilization programs, even if it’s about 60% of the housing in nyc. it’s all of these things, plus the magic pixie dust of dudes in one piece jumpsuits having tragedies at eton.

              though i obviously don’t think there’s anything inherently noble in being an artist/artiste versus being something else, anymore than there’s something inherently evil in being an mba fratbro – i picked it specifically as an “other” that would appeal to you, as above. ultimately it’s what you do with it that imbues any kind of nobility or lack thereof, if nobility be your goal.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to NewDealer says:

              Washington Heights is cool now, FYI.Report

              • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

                Also unrelated, but dhex did you see this?:


                Not only does it refer (on page 4) to that Seattle Weekly piece by John Roderick that you pointed me at a little while back, but the author of this piece (or maybe the critic to whom he is referring) even makes a similar argument (on page 2) to one I tried to make at that time (IIRC, I used an “America is an idea” analogy):

                In music, punk remains what the critic Frank Kogan calls a “Superword”—a term whose main purpose is for people to fight over what it should mean, using it as a “flag in a bloody game of Capture the Flag.” It’s a concept like “freedom” or “the one true Church” or “real Americans”: to invoke it is to advance a vision of what it entails, and duke it out with competing visions. (Saying that real punk only lasted 100 days is a terrific example of how Superwords work.) In the 37 years since a good mass of people decided “punk” was a flag worth waving, we’ve seen countless versions of it, most at odds with one another. There’s punk that’s dissolute and nihilist, and punk that’s earnest and abstemious; punk as attitude, as economic model, as ideology, and as an ordinary subgenre of music; punk that’s funny and punk that’s humorless; Fascist punk and anti-Fascist punk; punk that sounds like 1977 and punk that can’t imagine repeating the past; you name it. If there’s any reason the stuff’s stayed in the bloodstream of rock, it’s that the idea is flexible enough to put anything into it, take anything out, and feel like you’re fighting the good fight—the word itself is mostly just permission to get into the ring.

                That Frank Kogan book looks interesting, I just ordered a used copy.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

                Argh, 2 links landed me in moderation if anyone can pull me out please?Report

              • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

                it’s true, but i think it’s part of the lionization and haigiography of punk/PUNK that puts so much of a focus on something that happens in every single musical genre and scene ever. it is very flexible.

                my argument is that punk was dead as soon as steampunk was invented because steampunk is where anything good goes to die.Report

          • Burt Likko in reply to dhex says:

            [jaw agape, astonished, grinning]

            Space awesome rant, dhex. This is why I read the comments section.Report

            • Glyph in reply to Burt Likko says:

              Yeah, the man can write, can’t he? If he ever gets a keyboard with a shift key we’re all doomed, game over, man. 😉Report

              • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

                my use of lowercase is actually a stylistic, if not dare we say it artistic, choice. also i’m lazy so unless i’m writing something formal or for ducats, then hell no.Report

              • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

                I know, just hasslin’ ya. There ain’t no mild grudge like a 90’s college-nerd mild grudge.

                When am I gettin’ that guest music post for MD? You can totally do it in lowercase, but know that I draw the line at wingdings.Report

              • dhex in reply to Glyph says:

                no i’m gonna do that tonight. i promise. in uppercase no less. it’s pretty close to being decently good i think. and it will be universal (album covers) rather than specific (autechre!).Report

              • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

                Awesome, looking forward.Report

          • Chris in reply to dhex says:

            I’m framing this comment.Report

          • James Hanley in reply to dhex says:

            Dhex, that is the best comment I’ve ever read here at the League. Absomotherfukcinglutely awesome. Jesus, I wish I could write like that.Report

            • Dear lord, yes. Elias may have published the post, but dhex owns the thread.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jonathan McLeod says:

                [Clicks through to see what all the fuss is about]
                [Scrolls up]
                [Buys “”]

                Can you make this into a ring tone and then call me whenever I’m in certain neighborhoods of the city so I can just hold up the phone?Report

              • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

                i am pleased to have brought joy rather than my usual sorrow.

                also i mean i wasn’t joking about the mayo:


                this is a strange place!Report

              • dhex in reply to dhex says:

                the meta-joke is that it’s likely within the next year i will be living somewhere radically different. perhaps even texas, which i understand is not a place to mess with.Report

              • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

                Holy dogs**t, Texas, Private Cowboy?Report

              • Chris in reply to dhex says:

                Oh man, if Long Island makes you reach for a shotgun, you might not last 10 minutes in Texas.Report

              • Chris in reply to dhex says:

                Now that I think about it, Texas is a lot like a much bigger Long Island, with fewer Italians, shorter trees, hotter summers, and no Greek diners.Report

              • dhex in reply to dhex says:

                the short list is texas (san antonio), maryland, and long island. the last offers far less economic displacement on my end but far more of long island, so it’s kind of a wash.Report

              • Chris in reply to dhex says:

                San Antonio is a wonderful… oh man, I almost got that out.

                With Long Island, can’t you just live right next to Queens and feel like you’re not really on Long Island? My girlfriend is from Queens but lived most of her adult life in Brentwood, so she’s become thoroughly Long Islandified (if she asks, I did not say that). She frequently compares Texas to Long Island, and Long Island always comes out on top. I’m not sure whether this means you will love Texas, or find it so bad that even Long Island looks attractive.Report

              • dhex in reply to dhex says:

                yeah but i’ve heard that san antonio is close to austin, and while austin is filled to the brim no doubt with tapas and perhaps even artiste-style mayonnaise, it also has music and whatnot. all maryland can give me is maryland deathfest.

                but like willie sutton, we will go where the tenure track jobs are.Report

              • Chris in reply to dhex says:

                Austin (I’m in Austin) isn’t that far from San Anton (about 80 miles city center to city center), and it does have music, and more tapas than you can shake a stick at, only here it’s not artiste-style mayonnaise, it’s artiste-style BBQ or artiste-style chicken and waffles.Report

              • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

                “Chicken and waffles” was a big thing here a few years back, and I have to say that though I like chicken, and I like waffles, I was never sure what the big deal about combining the two was.Report

              • Chris in reply to dhex says:

                I blame Snoop (no, really). I, however, love chicken and waffles. When I was a kid, I used to go over to my neighbor’s house on Sundays around lunch time hoping that’s what they were having that day and that they would give me some (which they always did, because small town southern people are nice like that). The combination of the textures and the flavors (salty, sweet, and whatever it is that maple is besides sweet) with properly breaded and fried chicken, fluffy waffles, and maple syrup is friggin’ delicious. Unfortunately, the most popular place here has chicken that looks like this. That’s not fried chicken, that’s chicken with burnt bread on it.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

                Oh, I *know* you weren’t joking.

                I know the exact people who do that.
                And then I know the people who do 90% of that yet mock the people who go full board.
                And further back, there are the people who wish they could do that and can’t and mock even more mercilessly.
                I’ll cop to liking certain things that you’ve highlighted for ridicule, but I don’t think the make me special or unique or magical or otherwise better than other folks, which to me is the real crux of the matter.

                But I frickin’ hate mayo.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

                I also hate mayo. Completely unredeemable product.
                In dips that call for it, I use sour cream (plus lemon juice to taste). Much, much better.Report

              • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

                i love mayo. just not white people npr mayo.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m seeing the speaker again on Saturday and can hopefully get the slide from him, but Steven Jones discusses how people of different SESs look at the same things very differently. For instance, a poorer person looks at food as fuel. A wealthier person will look at it as an indulgent experience to be deeply enjoyed. As such, when those two people talk about lunch, they’re not even talking about the same thing.

                The people you’re highlighting here? Yea, they’re wealthy. Or coming from a wealth-informed perspective, at the very least. Mayo ain’t a calorie dense condiment to make dry meat more palatable… It’s an experience.Report

        • Qub in reply to NewDealer says:

          I am not sure that those communities always have jobs.

          The more people there are, the more jobs there will be. It’s a function of demand. Yes, it will fluctuate in any given place over time, due to various successes and failures of local businesses/industries, but there’s no inherent reason that any particular locality won’t, over time, have sufficient jobs for its residents (even if that’s accomplished the “negative” way, through brain drain).Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Qub says:

            But it is sort of a strange cycle.

            To attract a particular kind of industry or corporation, a town is going to need the right kind of cultural/entertainment options. This changes based on the industry. Silicon Valley types probably have different likes than Wall Street types. Can Boise offer enough to attract engineers and silicon valley companies?

            Then there is a historical shift. Intel was founded in the late 1960s and this probably started Silicon Valley as we know it. Now almost all tech companies are going to want to start here because it is already part of the economy, the funding, is here, etc. Large companies do open other offices but they tend to do so in areas where they feel they can attract top talent. You can get good engineers to live in Seattle, NYC, DC, Chicago, Ann Arbor, near Portland Oregon, etc.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

              Can Boise offer enough to attract engineers and silicon valley companies?

              Places like Boise do better than you think. They can be attractive locations for talent that values affordability (basically, those with families who want space). That’s one of the ways that Austin has made some major gains, too. For whatever reason, Idaho in general and Boise more specifically were hit particularly hard by the recession, but prior to that they were getting all sorts of jobs from HP, Dell, and so on (and Micron has its HQ there). Utah was and is doing remarkably well in that regard (Microsoft, IBM, the Provo corridor).

              The ultimate solution is for places to have offices both in SV and places like Boise or Austin. Different places are going to appeal to different kinds of individuals. A lot want to live in places where they can more comfortable raise their families.Report

            • Qub in reply to NewDealer says:

              The very fact that SV has gotten so damn expensive is an impetus to locate elsewhere, so you can attract good talent that you don’t have to pay a vast wage just so they can afford a veritable shack for a home. And Boise and Provo have skiing nearby, and Austin has a better music scene than the whole SF Bay Area combined, both if which are attractive to many young software types. You’re looking at at a single variable and treating it as the sole causation, when there are actually other variables that come into play.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to dhex says:

        Well, there is one thing we know about the rent in NYC.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to dhex says:

        Unless your idea of “fun” is Upright Citizens Brigade, living in Central City (Manhattan) is unaffordable for the poor. Heck, most of NYC is a bad bad bargain if you’re poor and looking for nice amenities.

        I can live in a damn fine part of town, walk at night safely through miles of fabulous landscaping, and still have a bit of change to buy treats. But that’s pittsburgh. I don’t make much money. I’d make qualitatively less in DC or NYC.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to NewDealer says:

      if they’re accumulating (or “borrowing from parents”) significant amounts of wealth, I won’t call them poor.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Kimmi says:

        How do you know who is and who is not accumulating wealth from their parents?

        I know lots of people like to knock certain neighborhoods as being filled with trust-fund kids but can you really prove how many of these people have trustfunds?Report

        • Kimmio in reply to NewDealer says:

          Sorries, you’re misreading me. “Accumulating wealth” is the important part, less so where it comes from.
          And trust funds are far from the only way wealth gets passed from generation to generation (education and housing are the biggies, with cars second I’d wager).Report

    • Chris in reply to NewDealer says:

      Back when I was a grad student making less than half of what some people whom we’d all consider poor make, living in an apartment smaller than my pinky, and eating a whole lot of ramen and mac’n’cheese, a friend of mine told me I wasn’t poor, and it really irked me. I mean seriously, if I wasn’t poor, what the hell did being poor mean? She told me that being poor was a relatively permanent state, whereas I was merely passing through a state of limited finances. My potential made me not poor. And I think there’s something to that. A 22-year old recent college graduate who’s working as a server at night and doing an internship at Vogue because she wants to be a fashion writer, who lives in Brooklyn right next to the Williamsburg bridge with her five roommates whom she met on Craigslist, in an apartment with a staircase that tilts if you don’t walk dead center, may be in a state of limited funds, may even qualify for public assistance, but calling her poor seems to imply something that simply isn’t the case. Poor is a class distinction that doesn’t apply. Part of the reason, I think, is that she chose to be there and could easily enter a state of modest funds by moving to East Islip and getting a real job with whatever liberal arts degree she has, but it’s also because if even if she stays on her current path she will be, in the foreseeable future, objectively not poor. If there’s a clearly defined and legal path out of your current state of limited funds, much less if there are multiple such paths, then you are at the very least not poor in the same way that most people we’d consider poor are. This doesn’t mean that our Vogue intern shouldn’t get food stamps, it just means that potential and reasonable hope are two things that generally don’t accompany poverty, so when they’re present, you have something other than poverty, even if it looks a lot like it at the moment.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Chris says:

        These are very valuable points.

        However, I think it depends on what a person is going to graduate school for and what they want to do. Fair points for the future fashion writer (presuming she makes it). Not so fair for the person who really is just all about their art, the social worker, the public school teacher, and many in academia.

        They might be making choices and trade-offs but you can still consider many of them poor to lower-middle class in a permanent state.

        Unless they marry or mate up which is another issue entirely. These things are very complicated.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        This is a good point about different sorts of poor. I actually sort of look at it as the difference between “poor” and “poverty”… being poor means not having money. Being in poverty suggests that you are trapped there. I sometimes talk about “back when I was young and poor”… but I never talk about how “back when I was young and in poverty.”Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    Federal poverty level = $22,811 per year. Rate needed to work full-time to earn $22,811 per year: $10.97 per hour.

    Federal minimum wage: $7.25 per hour. Fruit of one year’s worth of full-time labor at this rate: $15,080.

    Yes I know not all jobs are intended to be the primary means by which adults support themselves economically and I’d even agree that not all jobs should be. But I’m still unhappy with this math. And that’s before I try to imagine how much the cost of living in New York City is.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Well, I think it’s a mistake to peg the minimum wage to a breadwinner-with-two-kids scenario, but the cost-of-living point is a good one. It’s one of the things that drives me crazy when we talk about minimum wage. I am relatively indifferent to whether or not we should raise it, but I could actually agree that there is a more pressing need in some places than others. I’d be more likely to support raising the minimum wage in NYC or SF than Idaho. The federal minimum wage in Idaho will get you a lot father than the state minimum wage in just about any place that’s raised it above-and-beyond the federal minimum.Report

      • Much of the argument that you make for Idaho also applies in certain rural portions of NY state. There are places in the Great Plains where towns will give you the lot and the house if you’ll just pay the (by most urban standards low) taxes. I am reluctant to let the federal government vary things based on some sort of fixed boundaries and averages, simply because it offers so many opportunities to game the system. But some of that’s just me; I tend to get ticked off by the fact that the feds vary Medicaid reimbursement rates based on how “rich” a state is.Report

        • Oh, I wasn’t thinking that the federal government should change the minimum wage based on COL. I was using this as an argument for federalism. Or, for that matter, localism (NYC changes its minimum wage, other places in New York do not).Report

  3. Kolohe says:

    If we only had more Republicans these days like President Gerald Ford.Report

  4. Brandon Berg says:

    “My fear is that we are moving to another dynamic where employment and earnings are rising and the safety net is contracting.”

    Is that a typo, or is the claim here that welfare spending should not contract when employment and earnings are rising, and there is thus less need for welfare spending? Surely both you and Levitan would agree that welfare spending should go up during a recession, when employment and earnings are falling. Is the argument here that welfare spending should ratchet up during recessions, and then not be adjusted back down when the recession ends?Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Employment doesn’t improve and decline across the board. “Welfare” doesn’t benefit people equally across the board. Corporate welfare is just as odious as Po’ Folks’ Welfare. This doesn’t even encompass tax loopholes or trade barriers.

      If an employer hires someone at low enough wages for the employee to qualify for food stamps, they do it a fair bit, you know, we can have the worst of both worlds: welfare calories fuelling corporate profits. In short, Brandon, the safety net has become a corporate trampoline.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Employment doesn’t improve and decline across the board.

        Of course not. Even “full employment” involves 3-5% unemployment. But if some of the people who were on welfare get jobs, then welfare spending can be scaled back. Even if they still need some help, they need less.

        It’s logically inevitable. If a recession means greater need for welfare spending, then a recovery necessarily means less need for welfare spending,Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Ask you a question: why shouldn’t we spend more on the destitute when they have the best opportunity to pull themselves up by their bootstraps?

      Yeahsure, when times are tough, spread the money around (MUCH more efficient to have people keep their homes than to let the homes rot to the ground)…Report