Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tom Keane, you cunt.

But at least you're an honest cunt.

Two weeks ago yesterday, the Boston Globe Magazine ran an article about how high housing prices are actually a good thing. The article was written by a man named Tom Keane.

Here's a quote.

"Still, how about the fact we've historically been so expensive? Doesn't that shut out those with lower incomes? Aren't we, in effect, creating a state only those with good jobs can afford? "Yes. And it's intentional."

It's not tongue in cheek, friends. He's being genuine. He goes on to talk about how it's a good thing that Massachusetts has high housing prices, because it's an indication that Massachusetts is becoming a state for rich people. And that, he says, is good for the state. If the state doesn't include any poor people. Here's his heartfelt conclusion:

"The new-style Massachusetts economy is unbalanced, favoring the highly educated and providing few well-paying jobs for those with lower skills. Good thing or bad, it's a situation that isn't going to change any time soon. How does one deal with it? Not by treating a symptom - somehow squeezing more housing into an already crowded state (indeed, even if we could build a lot more, demand from the rich would likely keep prices high). Instead, what we need to do is give people the education and training they need to become part of the Bay State's economic mainstream. Rather than trying to make housing cheaper, the solution is to make people richer."

"I'm sorry, Tom Keane, for ruining your lovely little conclusion there, which would seem to be unassailable. Who wouldn't want to be richer? Who wouldn't want everyone to be richer? Aw. Poor Puddin's a republican. Poor puddin' thinks we still believe in compassionate conservatives.

Mean democrats don't want to give everyone a chance to be rich! Mean democrats want to keep the poor poor, for some evil reason!

Except that everyone can't be rich. Unless rich people want to do everything themselves. Watch their own kids. Cook their own meals. Use the self check out. Make their own coffee. Possibly, Mr. Tom Keane imagines that all the shit jobs will be taken by the teenage children of the rich, who will never have to use affordable housing.

Of course, the teenage children of the rich would make lousy schoolteachers, police officers, construction workers, store managers, firemen, interns. Maybe, maybe, with the increased housing costs, and increased property taxes, maybe that would be passed on to the teachers, so they make enough to live in the communities they teach in. Maybe gnomes will pop out of my vagina and start weaving golden tampons out of the ether so I'll never have to go to CVS again.

And no, conservatives, I'm not saying that people need to stay poor in order to provide services- I'm saying that because the rich don't want to pay $8.80 for a cup of coffee and $150.00 for an oil change so that automotive technicians and baristas can live indoors without bringing down property values.

When you pay for services and goods (which were originally services) you pay for where the person servicing you slept and went to the bathroom. I made 8.00 an hour plus tips. Coffee cost $1.89 to $4.89 a cup. My bathroom door doesn't have a knob. My bathroom floor has random holes in it. The window doesn't close. I share a one-bedroom apartment with one other girl, and the heat never budges past 55 in the winter. I dream of meat and cheese and sundays off.

For perspective, I have a T-Shirt that cost $7.90. I'm sure that the person who made the shirt sleeps with more than four people, and uses a squat toilet. Possibly they dream of vaccinations.

That's economics. When goods are expensive, and people don't consume very much, the people who produce those goods might dream of a standard of living approaching those of the consumers of those goods (and services). Think about it. You have 3,000 dollars to spend on clothes. If you buy 30 pairs of 100 dollar jeans, less money potentially goes to each person who made the jeans (after marketing and all). If you buy three pairs of 1,000 jeans, each person who made the jeans gets more of your money. And has to make fewer pairs of jeans to approach your income.

Also, practically- Not everyone gets rich instantly. You have to be quite rich for your children to never be poor. Kennedy rich. So you get in the position that my parents and their friends are in: Homeowners swapping for children. If you give my post-adolescent daughter a below-market rate apartment, I'll put a good word in with the woman down the street for your son, because her son is renting my condo- and we can all pretend our children aren't really living at home.

That, or all these rich folks will have to ship their kids off to college, and hope to hell they don't want to come back until they're rich enough to afford a home in the new economy. Which is what's happening now. Have you noticed there are only two ages in Boston- College and Middle?

There are no young people. I didn't even notice I wasn't welcome until I visited a friend in another city. My boyfriend started to get pissed off that my class anxiety was replaced with geographic jealousy, when I couldn't stop talking about how there were people my age, just walking down the street, living life, going to bars, eating brunch - Like they had a right to be there.- Something I'd never experienced before.

You simply can't have a state without affordable housing. Well, I suppose you can. For a while.

But is it right?

Tom Keane makes the jackass argument that if there were more affordable housing, it would just be bought up by the rich, and become unaffordable. I don't doubt that. Look at Triple Deckers. What once were the stereotypic face of affordable housing in the northeast, they're now snapped up, flipped, and condoed, as 'flats' for the ironic rich.

So what do we do? We stop them. Absolute free-market capitalism isn't an ethical principle. It's something that jackasses seize upon to justify a society based on a grubby, grabby philosophy. If you can afford it, you deserve it. But that just leads to a world where when anything is in limited quantities, only the very rich can afford to enjoy it. Beach front property. They're not making anymore. So who has it? The rich. Is that right? No. Is it wrong? If we decide that it is.

Jackasses like Tom Keane and my boyfriend would have you believe that all of Massachusetts is like beach front property. Because the rich want it, then they can have it. And fuck everyone else. If you can't afford it, then you have to move. Get out. Because there are rich motherfuckers waiting for your space.


Roger Williams said...

I had a thoughtful response all written up for this, before I remembered that I can't talk about this topic without getting yelled at.

So. How about those Celtics? Think they'll be good this year?

HoboHermit said...

New comments are always welcome; however, making arguments that have already been made a hundred times (Massachusetts is a desireable place to live, so you have to pay more to live there. Poor and young people only deserve to live in Alabama and Ohio) is tedious, because it makes one feel that one's posts aren't really being read and considered on their merits, but are being used as a place to hold forth on an opinion that you consider the only right one.

Rob said...

I would like to take issue with the idea that Massachusetts is an attractive place to live. I feel that even if one is rich, housing costs are too high. For example, look at these two homes, each costing about $249,000.

both cost about the same, one has 5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 3529 square feet and a pool. The other has 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, 759 square feet and is a "condo".

The standard rule of thumb for house affordability is you should buy a house that costs two and a half times your annual income. So, to afford either of these homes, you should make about $100,000 dollars a year. Frankly, if I made that much money I would want to live in a house befitting my wealth, and a house where I could have enough room for a family, and for my stuff.

There are two arguments I don't want to hear.
1) Cost of living pay adjustments. The median pay for a retail store manager in Wichita Kansas is $46,000, while the median pay for a retail store manager in Boston Massachusetts is $53,000. This is hardly enough to cover the 67% increase in the cost of living.
2) How much "better" it is in Massachusetts. I have lived in a variety of places. Including both Kansas and Massachusetts. Massachusetts is decidedly low tech. I was shocked to see, shortly after moving here, signs advertising "Now featuring pay at the pump". Pay at the pump is old news, very old news. I am similary taken aback at the lack of credit card accpeting merchants, the poor state of the infrastructure and the towniness I usually associate with rural youth hanging out at the Dairy Queen evident in the citizens. Granted, no city really has a preponderance of erudite citizens, but I would propose that Boston cannot boast to be better in this category than any other city of similar size, including Wichita, which is slightly smaller in population. One can live in Wichita and enjoy the opera, the museum of fine arts, a sympony or a play. (no professional sports team though)

I would challenge anyone to come up with a reason that Boston is a better place to live that accounts for the ridiculously high cost of living in relation to the environment you have to live in.

HoboHermit said...


I think Tom Keane's argument may be that the income ceiling is much higher here for so many people (tech professionals, etc), as a result of prosperity, that it drives the cost of housing up.

Which is douchebaggy for the reason that you observed, the difference in retail management salaries in different regions. Just because a biochemical engineer specializing in membranes, is a superstar to be ejaculated all over in Massachusetts, while he wouldn't have a job in Leeds Alabama isn't any reason to say that retail managers shouldn't expect to live in Massachusetts.

And, just because Massachusetts is the promised land for technical professionals doesn't eliminate the need for a reasonable living standard for the service sector.

There should be a recognition that access to services is part of the appeal of a region. Nobody would like to live in an area where you can't get a cab, a coffee, a muffin, a massage, day care- but nobody wants to admit that the people who work in the (undercompensated relative to cost of living) service industry ARE assets to the region.


Anonymous said...

Honey, do you know the word "contrarian"? Look it up - if you can take your head out of your ass for one second.