Always have to be the one to smile and apologize

There’s a small town called Aurora about 75 minutes from where I live that I like to visit sometimes on the weekend, because it’s near some of my favorite local wineries (King’s Ferry and Hearts and Hands), has a little store where I can buy weird local stuff like squash seed oil that I can’t find anywhere else, and because the town is very pretty. The buildings in the center of town, in particular the Aurora Inn, are in beautiful shape, strangely so for the area — upstate New York tends to be comfortably run down outside of a few wealthy areas like Cooperstown. It turns out that this is because a wealthy alum, Pleasant Rowland, of the town’s main employer, Wells College, entered into some partisanship with the university to take over a lot of downtown and “beautify” it. This made some local residents very angry. I had a bit of a hard time understanding why and when I first tried to write about it, I found myself sounding like a condescending prick. Then I spoke to someone who lived there and he explained: the old sub-and-pizza place and bar had been replaced by stuff a little more formal and upscale, traditional access to the lake had been blocked, and there was a feeling that the whole town was now ruled by a multi-millionaire who might pack up her tent and leave at any moment.

Now, I think that the economic future of the Finger Lakes may depend to a large extent on fru-fru agrotourism, and having fancy hotels in nice-looking towns helps with that. But I can also see why locals resent having their town taken over.

I thought of this when I read about Megan McArdle’s adventures in gentrification (Alicublog via atrios):

Yesterday, I rode the bus for the first time from the stop near my house, and ended up chatting with a lifelong neighborhood resident who has just moved to Arizona, and was back visiting family. We talked about the vagaries of the city bus system, and then after a pause, he said, “You know, you may have heard us talking about you people, how we don’t want you here. A lot of people are saying you all are taking the city from us. Way I feel is, you don’t own a city.” He paused and looked around the admittedly somewhat seedy street corner. “Besides, look what we did with it. We had it for forty years, and look what we did with it!”

Now there’s nothing wrong with the McArdle-Suderman family using their hard-earned Bradley-Koch dollars to buy a place in DC instead of living in a suburban McMansion like real Americans. But, sheesh, trolling the bus for people who say they are ashamed of what “we” (whatever that means here) did to the neighborhood.

Does everything always have to revolve around making non-wealthy Americans eat shit? It’s not enough to just thank your Galtian overlords for paying their taxes, it’s not enough to let wealthier people buy up your town or neighborhood and turn it into a place you can’t afford or don’t feel welcome in, now non-wealthy Americans have to express shame for turning their towns and neighborhoods into shit holes.

Where does it end? Blue collar workers have to accept that even though free trade may cost them their jobs, it’s all for the best for our society, so shut up and smile and find a new job. Middle-class people who paid into Social Security need to accept that we need entitlement reform, i.e. not giving them their Social Security benefits. And it serves them all right for not being sufficiently successful.








See- The Economy Is Fine

For some people:

Pay on Wall Street is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, according to a study conducted by The Wall Street Journal.

Compensation on Wall Street is on pace to break a record high for a second consecutive year, as more than three dozen top banks and securities firms will pay $144 billion in salary and benefits. Elizabeth Rappaport, Bob O’Brien and Neal Lipschutz discuss. Also, Guggenheim Partners’s Scott Minerd discusses why he thinks that despite record highs, gold can be expected to rise even higher.

About three dozen of the top publicly held securities and investment-services firms—which include banks, investment banks, hedge funds, money-management firms and securities exchanges—are set to pay $144 billion in compensation and benefits this year, a 4% increase from the $139 billion paid out in 2009, according to the survey. Compensation was expected to rise at 26 of the 35 firms.

The data showed that revenue was expected to rise at 29 of the 35 firms surveyed, but at a slower pace than pay. Wall Street revenue is expected to rise 3%, to $448 billion from $433 billion, despite a slowdown in some high-profile activities like stock and bond trading.

So if the tea party is so anti-corporate as we have been told, surely the Republicans have a plan to rein in these ridiculous profits and to address unemployment on main street, right?








“Are There No Orphanages?”

Mistermix’s post on Philosopher-King Gingrich’s latest GOP talking point about “food stamps” reminded me that some of you probably don’t remember back in 1994, when Newt was actually holding political office and talking up orphanages:

… Orphanages were not the subject of Gingrich’s speech, but they were not a throwaway either. The notion reappeared in the Republican welfare-reform bill (with the inflammatory word orphanages changed to “children’s homes”), which is a basis for Gingrich’s famous “Contract with America.”
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It was not a smart move. The news media were quick to note the orphanage proposal’s obvious incompatibility with “family values.” Hillary Clinton told a New York audience last week that the “idea of putting children into orphanages because their mothers couldn’t find jobs” was “unbelievable and absurd.” Eager to be seen as the way of the future, the Newtonians found themselves tarred with images of the distant, Dickensian past…
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Nearly everyone agrees that illegitimacy and teen pregnancy are key elements in poverty’s vicious cycle and that the government should try to reduce them. Gingrich’s orphanage proposal, however, seems punitive — not to mention odd, coming from a man who was born to a 16-year-old mother eight months after she left his abusive father. It would violate federal law, which mandates family- based care over institutions, and ignore the public policy consensus — first expressed by the Teddy Roosevelt White House — that “no child should be deprived of his family by reason of poverty alone.”
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It would also be a budget buster. According to an analysis done for TIME by the Child Welfare League of America, the annual welfare cost of one child living with his or her mother is $2,644. The same child living with a foster family costs the public $4,800 a year. The average cost for the child’s care in “residential group care,” today’s closest approximation of an orphanage, is $36,500. If even a quarter of an estimated 1 million children who would be cut loose under Gingrich’s plan ended up in orphanages, the additional cost to & the public would be more than $8 billion.

Of course, the “budget buster” problem only applies if we intend to treat those “orphans” as if they had potential social value. While googling these old stories, I was appalled to find a link to a much more recent WSJ story from January 2010:

Critics are right on one point: Orphanages are far too expensive. Unfortunately, too many orphanage proponents and directors are convinced that all such care has to be “high quality” (or better than family care), which means high cost and limited access. But make no mistake about it: Orphanages are returning slowly across this country and around the world because communities see the need is so great.
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The world needs a Sam Walton of child welfare who can show how to provide lots of kids with pretty good care at very good prices — comparable to the full cost, including administrative overhead and foster-parent payments, of foster care — as did orphanages of the past…

Roll back prices with high-volume, low-quality care! And remember, all you good Christianists… it’s a child, not a choice.








More Deep Thoughts from the Republican Philosopher (would-be) King

Newt says that the road to victory for the GOP is based on food stamp demagoguery:

[…] Gingrich more than most people knows that Washington tends to lock itself in intensely wonkish policy squabbles–need one say more than “budget reconciliation”?–that simply don’t resonate with the rest of the country. So to make it simple, Gingrich and his political action committee are sending a“close the deal” memo to Republican candidates, spelling it out in über-simple terms. What do you want more of: paychecks or food stamps?

In addition to the obviously inhumanity of making the poor the scapegoats in every election, this stupid demagoguery is actually contributing to long-term poverty.

I mentioned the McDonald’s $2,000 health “insurance” plan that ED wrote about last week to a friend of mine who works with poor inner-city single moms. My friend noted that it really does suck to transition from being poor enough to receive social services to being a member of the working poor, and many of her clients avoid the transition by working under-the-table jobs.

She pointed out that the unemployed poor mom can stay home and take care of her kids, and she and her kids will have a relatively good health insurance program (Medicaid), as well as food stamps and other programs. If she gets a job, she’ll either go without insurance, or pay a good percentage of her salary to buy an almost useless “mini-med” policy. She’ll also need to find daycare for the kids, and subsidized daycare is the always getting cut (as it was this week in Rochester). She might lose her food stamps, and depending on her income, she might have to pay a co-pay for her kid’s S-CHIP, since that’s also income-based.

I don’t know if there’s any research on this, but I have to assume seeing their mom hold down a job will create an expectation in her children that they should get a job. My friend is convinced that most of her client’s kids would be better off in a decent daycare, where they’ll get away from the TV for a while, be exposed to reading, and have a nutritious meal. We’re probably better off as a society paying more to have a poor mom work than to have her remain unemployed. Of course, great conservative thinkers like Newt don’t buy this, so they’ll continue to support a system that gives poor single moms an incentive not to work.








Whatever Happened to the Vaunted Celtic Tiger

More trouble overseas:

In a sweeping action meant to regain the confidence of jittery investors, the Irish government said Thursday that it expected to inject billions more euros into two of its largest banks, underscoring the extent to which they continued to jeopardize the country’s fiscal condition.

Brian Lenihan, the Irish finance minister, said that Allied Irish Bank — once the biggest in the country — would come under government control as a result of a state-guaranteed share offering worth €5 billion, or about $6.8 billion. The bank had been trying to raise capital by selling assets, but Mr. Lenihan said the current market conditions would not allow for a private transaction.

The government also confirmed market expectations that under a worst case scenario, its financial commitment to a smaller bank that it already owns, Anglo Irish, could reach €35 billion. This figure equals an earlier forecast by Standard & Poor’s, one that at the time was questioned by government officials. Some Irish analysts said that the ultimate bill for Anglo could be even higher than that.

I can’t be the only one who remembers wingers talking about the “Celtic Tiger” and how we needed to model our economy and tax policies (translation- deep cuts in the corporate tax rate) after them in order to remain competitive with Ireland. Hell, I remember a 60 Minutes special.

Good times.