Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The middle class squeeze

I read with avid interest the NYTimes article on how the middle class are increasingly being squeezed out of cities with limits on expansion like SF, NYC, and DC.
Firefighters who want to live in high-priced cities can work two jobs, said W. Michael Cox, chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. “I think it’s great,” he said. “It gives you portfolio diversification in your income.” Pay for essential workers like plumbers and cabdrivers will tend to go up, he said.
This is basically crap. "Income portfolio diversification" is just a fancy way of saying, work your butt off, never go home or see your kids, and live 3 hours away, so you can commute into the city, polluting all the towns along the way, buy more gasoline to drive up Bushco and Cheneydom's friends (and personal) stock portfolios. Nobody voluntarily wants to work two jobs, and in the case of firefighters, it's not necessarily safe for them to be working so much that they're tuckered out for their primary job, which is keeping ALL of us safe.

I wonder if this douchebag "W" Michael Cox works two jobs, since he thinks that "income portfolio diversification" is so great.

So let's keep in mind that it's actually in the interest of pubilc good to keep cities affordable enough so that firefighters can actually get to work in case of emergencies or the wildfires that happen so frequently out in the Southwest, and to attract them to live in these major cities where people are packed like sardines right up against each other in highrise apartment buildings that would go up in smoke should anything resembling the Triangle Factory fire or the Great Fire of Chicago occur.

This point is bolstered by of all people, a Columbia Business School professor: “People have a stake in the place that they’re living in,” said Chris Mayer, a professor at Columbia Business School. “If you have a police and firefighting force saving their city as opposed to somebody else’s city, it makes a difference. In the same sense, local shopkeepers just seem to be better. What happened on 9/11 was really about ‘our city.’ ”

Moreover, the dwindling of the middle class just leads to greater class stratification and increased difficulty for lower income families to be socially mobile in an economic and physical sense - if there are fewer middle class neighborhoods for them to move into, then they and their kids are locked into areas with poorer school districts, increased crime rates, etc.

What is most striking about the divided bar graph that they show is how stratified it is: in those cities I mentioned above, 40% of the population is poor, and only the middle 15-20% are middle class, and the rest are upper class. The research discussed in the article was by the prestigious and nonpartisan Brookings Institution based in Washington DC.

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