Re: I Shed A Tear

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you're just going to have to give them away so Daddy can work at the White House

Truly, they are the party of public service.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:03 PM
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Did the Snow children each have a pony or something?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:04 PM
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It just struck me that there might be no job in the world at which I would perform more poorly than as press spokesman for the Bush Administration.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:05 PM
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Even better:

They [the source's institution] have "instructions" (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don't think they'll ever get majority support for this--they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is "plenty."

G.Packer's blog quoting someone else. Packer says he doesn't know if it's true that such a plan exists, but finds the claim plausible. Enjoy the weekend!


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:07 PM
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The correct response is that Tony Snow is getting a tiny taste of what it feels like to be a lucky ducky.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:09 PM
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There has been worse said. Note the last quote on this page, from the poverty-stricken guy who was my representative for one term back in the mid-90s.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:10 PM
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Note that those wage figures are from 12 years ago, to boot.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:14 PM
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Thanks a fucking lot, Timbot.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:30 PM
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G.Packer's blog quoting someone else.

From the same source:

Postscript: Barnett Rubin just called me. His source spoke with a neocon think-tanker who corroborated the story of the propaganda campaign and had this to say about it: "I am a Republican. I am a conservative. But I'm not a raging lunatic. This is lunatic."

I don't know whether that's encouraging or not. It confirms the story, but suggests that it would be more difficult to pull off now than it was during the lead-in to the Iraq war (for a variety of reasons: Iran is a stronger opponent, that anti-war opposition is stronger, and, as demonstrated in the quotation above, conservatives are not united).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:39 PM
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I guess he doesn't plan to make much money on the lucrative "the joys of a life of public service" circuit.

"
But to do it in a way that sounds like you're crying poverty when you're giving up a position of power that allows you to influence policy that could help people who are really in poverty is bullshit.
"

cf mad king George's latest pronouncements today on poverty:
"Let's say the value of your house declines by $20,000 and your adjustable rate mortgage payments have grown to a level you cannot afford," Bush said. "If the bank modifies your mortgage and forgives $20,000 of your loan, the tax code treats that $20,000 as taxable income. When your home is losing value and your family is under financial stress, the last thing you need to do is to be hit with higher taxes."

In other words, let's bail out people who made stupid financial decisions (and, more importantly, along the way help out large financial institutions) but apparently it's NOT the last thing you need to be hit by, to take one example, large medical bills.


Posted by: Maynard Handley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 6:55 PM
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Um, aren't these guys the ones who understand all that complicated money stuff? And they can't live on $168K? I have no idea what it costs to live in DC -- I gather it's spendy -- but it's not like the Snows didn't know what it would cost or what they were going to get by on. Doesn't sound like they have been doing a lot of sound money management up to now, if he had to take out a loan for the privilege of being press sec'y.

@3, um, there is a lot of competition for last place: you sure you wanna go up against the ScottBot?


Posted by: paul | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 7:20 PM
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11: paul - unicorns are really fucking expensive to board. And rainbows? Shit, man, you can't just mosey on down to Costco and buy a 50-pack. Them things cost big bucks. Break Tony a give here.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 7:28 PM
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I hate to say it, but I can totally feel the man's pain. Seriously. I'm amazed that that job pays less than 200k. And when I was teaching we lived on $41k a year (and had no spending money, but we lived on that), and in Seattle we lived on like $48k/year, and I swear to god that my current standard of living--ten year old car, no debt--is *not* all that much higher, except that I buy more crap at Target and don't worry about the grocery bill. Plus shit like summer camp, after school programs, and the like. But I haven't been going out gambling to Vegas or splurging on $300 shoes at *all*.

let's bail out people who made stupid financial decisions

That's awfully mean-spirited. There are plenty of people for whom those "stupid" decisions were the only fucking way they could afford a house; and you talk to people like the *bank* mortgage advisor I talked to today--which you think means he'll be more conservative than your average mortgage broker--and they say blithe things like "but if you refinance or sell in five years, the balloon payment won't hit" (only he didn't use the words "balloon payment") and "don't forget, since you're paying interest only, it's all tax-deductible" and they make it sound totally doable. I mean, it's their *job* to know about money shit; that's why you get advice from them.

The only thing I can think is that what looks like an average upper-middle class type life (the kind that presumably the White House spokesperson is pretty much going to have to live--at least he's going to have to have nice suits and shit) in an expensive area is basically impossible for families with kids who don't each earn $150k.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 7:50 PM
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"That's awfully mean-spirited. There are plenty of people for whom those "stupid" decisions were the only fucking way they could afford a house; "

(1) Is it a goal of the nation that everyone own a house? Why? I don't own a house and I don't see what's so magical about owning rather than renting.

(2) If this is the national goal, let's pursue it through sensible methods rather than stupid methods.

(3) Do we or do we not treat adults in this country as adults? Do we or do we not demand some personal accountability?
Look, if we want to go the paternalistic route, fine, I have no real problem with that.

But the same damn crowd who are now defending people in over their heads were, a few years ago, complaining about how difficult it was for the poor to get loans. Get your fscking stories straight. If your complaint is that the poor are too poor, say that. Don't make up BS about how, if only the deserving poor could somehow be given loans they'd magically be able to pay them off.


Posted by: Maynard Handley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:06 PM
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13: I can see that, B. I'm not Snow's accountant, and I don't know what kind of financial obligations he's gotten himself into over the years. I presume the medical bills alone are pretty daunting.

But I think Becks' point holds: it's just snotty to say that's why he's leaving, and it ignores the financial problems of lots of people who don't have the golden parachute that he does. Fucking lie to us, at least. Some trope about wanting to spend more time on the lecture circuit with his family. Wouldn't be the first fib, I'm sure.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:06 PM
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If you live in DC and are in the business, you must send your children to private school, as well. And 168k doesn't qualify you for much financial aid. St. Albans is 40k a year, 30k if you don't board. Obligations, people.

I guess you could move out to Monty County and go public. That's what the tech folk I know do, but if you work on the Hill it's a long commute.


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:10 PM
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Also, am I the only one who finds "fscking" really really annoying? No offense meant, but urrrg my teeth are itching right now.

If someone is basically swindled into a ridiculous homeloan, it's not paternalistic to offer to help. There's a slippery slope between irresponsibility and being swindled, but I'd rather sit on the fewer-ruined-lives side of the car driving on that slope, if you know what I mean.


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:14 PM
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14: Show me where I was complaining a few years ago that the poor couldn't get zero-interest loans.

15: Of course Becks's point holds: it's absolutely obscene that in a country where the poverty line is $20-something k for a family of *four* and the median income is what, $44? $45? that there are people making the kind of money Snow (and Mr. B.) are making who can't keep up the kind of upper-middle-class life that we're told/shown is supposed to be "normal." Obviously part of this is that our sense of normal is severely fucked, but a much bigger part of it is that the banks and financial industry and all the rest of those folks are completely stacking the deck--which as Becks says, is (partly) the fault of the folks Snow was supposed to be representing and defending.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:14 PM
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17: "fscking"?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:18 PM
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It's not a typo.


Posted by: Counterfly | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:18 PM
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Oh. I didn't even see that in the earlier comment.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:20 PM
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Re. owning vs. renting: owning is, by far, the main way that average people acquire *any* kind of equity. In the 40s and 50s, redlining meant that working-class whites were given money to buy; that money established the kind of equity that later sent their kids to college, helped them with loans from time to time, allowed their kids to borrow from mom and dad to buy their own homes, etc. Blacks and other minorities weren't given that kind of opportunity, and god knows the working class can't afford homes in a lot of places right now, which means you end up with unrooted communities that are a hell of a lot more vulnerable to the winds of political and economic fortune, and with a lot of people who have *zero* way of establishing credit or borrowing if something big--like college, or illness--comes up.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:21 PM
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Feh. High percentages of homeownership are well correlated with large structural unemployment, because no one moves to places where there are jobs because they don't want to sell their house. And home prices got out of hand because people thought "owning a home means you build equity" and then "well, if I get an interest only loan then I can get the kind of house I really want" without realizing that this means you actually aren't building equity, and you had enough people willing to loan them money on these crappy terms that if you aren't willing to commit to spending half of your take-home pay on a house, someone else will be.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:27 PM
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High percentages of homeownership are well correlated with large structural unemployment, because no one moves to places where there are jobs because they don't want to sell their house.

Yeah, but I don't actually think this is a bad thing, and it's my growing gripe with globalization. Capital can move around, no problem. People *can*, but the psychological and social costs are enormous, and it's just ridiculous to expect an entire nation to live like migrant laborers (and ridiculous to expect migrant laborers to do it, as well--at least, being willing to move all over the fucking place ought to mean you're earning a shitload of money).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:30 PM
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you had enough people willing to loan them money on these crappy terms that if you aren't willing to commit to spending half of your take-home pay on a house, someone else will be

Completely agreed, and this is why I think blaming individuals for "stupid decisions" is wrong. Lenders should simply not be willing to make loans that people won't be able to pay, and the fact that they not only did but rewrote a shitload of laws to make doing so profitable is what we should be angry about.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:32 PM
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[W]hat looks like an average upper-middle class type life . . . in an expensive area is basically impossible for families with kids who don't each earn $150k.

Has the lemonade/child porn racket started offering options and going public?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:36 PM
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@22
None of which answer my questions.

(1) You claim that home-owners are better citizens than non home-owners. Almost certainly true, but that does not mean that it is home-owning that is making them better citizens. Tossing in words like rootless doesn't prove the case. We all know that Americans move far more than, for example, Europeans, but I believe that, for the most part, a rather higher fraction of Americans own their houses than do Europeans. You are conflating a number of different things
--- broken societies, eagerness to move, desire to own a house --- into one seamless theory of society, with precious little apparent regard for whether any of it's actually true.

(2) Yes, terrible things happened in the past. We all agree about that. The issue is what to do about the future.

(3) Is it considered an important goal to force people to save? If so, well, come right out and say it. Again don't fsck around with indirect methods of achieving the goal. If we want everyone to save, make 401k's and storing 10% of your wages in them mandatory. (You can withdraw the money say to buy a house or for various other schemes that are equivalent to transferring savings from one asset to another.)

What I see here is a society that somehow convinced itself that it was a sensible allocation of resources to pour vastly more money into housing than into other sectors of the economy. Now it's all falling apart, and when I point out that the very starting delusion was just that, a delusion and a stupid way of ordering society, I'm the bad guy?

You say "Obviously part of this is that our sense of normal is severely fucked," but somehow it's not completely fucked to just assume that everyone should own rather than rent?
Deconstruction --- you know, it's not just for literary texts.


Posted by: Maynard Handley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:38 PM
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"And I made the decision not to say to my wife and kids, you know, we've finally saved up all this money and done these things, and you're just going to have to give them away so Daddy can work at the White House."

This is a really good line. Even where the rest of the move in tone-deaf, this is clever. Make working in the White House look like the selfish choice for Snow.

But it's exactly the problem, isn't it? Teaching your kids that public service* is all well and good so long as it doesn't interfere at all with your accustomed lifestyle. Even when you're making enough that $168,000 a year (!) is a substantial pay cut.

* No doubt if you believed in the Bush agenda, you'd see going to work in the White House is a form of public service. I think at least some of these people really believe in things.


Posted by: Trevor | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:39 PM
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You claim that home-owners are better citizens than non home-owners.

Um, no, that's not what I'm claiming.

If we want everyone to save, make 401k's and storing 10% of your wages in them mandatory.

This is going to work real well for people who make minimum wage, I tell you what.

I'm not making the "renting is unacceptable" claim that you think I am; what I'm saying is that dismissing home ownership as "magical" thinking is awfully blithe.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:42 PM
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Yeah, but I don't actually think this is a bad thing, and it's my growing gripe with globalization. Capital can move around, no problem. People *can*, but the psychological and social costs are enormous, and it's just ridiculous to expect an entire nation to live like migrant laborers (and ridiculous to expect migrant laborers to do it, as well--at least, being willing to move all over the fucking place ought to mean you're earning a shitload of money).

Moving to California in 1999 to get a better tech job hardly makes one a migrant laborer, nor does moving from San Francisco back to Omaha in 2003 with the collapse of the dot-com boom like so many people did. Forced savings are a good thing; that homeownership was the most common way for people to have forced savings was a historical accident.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:47 PM
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I'm sorry, bphd.
Helping the poor is about more than simply having a bleeding heart. I'm not going to waste my time with someone who's incapable of mounting a coherent argument. You refuse to ever engage with any of my points, rather jumping from one tragic story to another.

For example
- you bring up the issue of how it's good for everyone to own homes because that's how they save
- I point out there are better ways to encourage saving
- you respond by telling me that people on minimum wage can't afford forced saving. What, can they afford to buy houses? If not, why the fsck bring up the point? Their problems have nothing to do with the issue at hand.

I'm not heartless. I want a better world. I just don't think we're going to get there on a bus powered by tears and gnashing of teeth driven by someone looking backwards.


Posted by: Maynard Handley | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:50 PM
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30: Sure, but it's a lot harder to do that whole cross-country move thing when you've got kids. And flying cross-country to see your family every few months is kind of a crazy way to live. It really shouldn't be that damn hard to have healthy workable local economies instead of some crazy boom/bust scenario that has people rushing hither and yon. It's okay when you're in your 20s or unmarried 30s, maybe, but things like social networks and family connections are pretty important.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:50 PM
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And the confusion of "home ownership" with "economically beneficial" is indeed magical thinking, as people who got a sketchy mortgage because that was the only way they could afford a suitably fancy house are finding out to their chagrin.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:51 PM
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MH, you're kind of insane. I didn't say that everyone should own--in 29 I said pretty clearly that renting is fine for a lot of people. I don't think folks living on minimum wage are buying houses, no; my point is that sixty years ago, people working the kinds of jobs that now pay minimum wage *could* buy houses, and that's made quite a difference over time. And *of course* the problems of people who can't afford housing--owned *or* rented--have a lot to do with the problem at hand.

I honestly have no idea why you're working so hard to construct me as the irrational bleeding heart, but I assure you you're arguing with a strawman here.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:54 PM
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There are plenty of healthy workable local economies, they're just in boring places like Omaha or Tulsa or Dallas or Bend or Raleigh or what have you. These places are even cheap to live in, shockingly enough, and have relatively high homeownership rates.

Buying houses in stereotypically nice places to live that get a large part of their niceness by constraining growth is going to be expensive, practically by definition.

60 years ago, the country was empty and the rest of industrial world was bombed to shit. Trying to use that as a baseline is as doomed to failure as the guys who set up the water allocation of the Colorado river based on what turned out to be a 95th percentile flow year.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:57 PM
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33 of course; buying more house than one can afford is silly, and yes, houses today are bigger and fancier than they were when my folks were buying. But the point is that's a bigger problem than just blaming people for being overly ambitious. Yes, there's a lot of keeping up with the Joneses going on, and yes that's screwed up. But that rat race is fueled by irresponsible lending practices and the kind of "be responsible and take care of yourself" rhetoric that's getting used here: if I have to take care of myself because I can't trust the public sphere, then I'm going to want a house with all my recreational stuff right there, rather than using a community pool or park, I'm going to send my kids to private school, I'm going to want two cars rather than using public transit, etc. etc.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:58 PM
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35: Agreed re. using the postwar economy as a model. My point isn't that that's the norm; it's that that's the experience that people's current set of expectations are based on.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 8:59 PM
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"and the fact that they not only did but rewrote a shitload of laws to make doing so profitable is what we should be angry about."

Are you just talking about the recent bankruptcy shenanigans, or are you referencing other lobbied rewrites?

In my admittedly limited understanding, the legal changes were a consequence, rather than a cause of the masses of bad loans. Lenders were, for various other reasons, holding a pile of subprime debt, collectively shat their pants when they realized how screwed they were, and started lobbying Congress to protect themselves. Of course, this didn't shield them entirely, as seen in the recent debacle.

This isn't to minimize how bad, for example, the bankruptcy law was, but it was largely incidental to the rush to offer people loans they couldn't possibly repay. It just made paying the piper sting that much more.


Posted by: Glenn | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:00 PM
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And yes, I'm bitter because I could have gotten some sketchy loan four years ago and bought a nice house in a decent place to live out here, but didn't out of financial conservatism, and as a result appeared to be perpetually unable to buy a house in the place I want to live because the prices had been bid up ridiculously. Now that all the people who pissed me off by overextending in ways that I deliberately didn't are looking like they might be screwed, all the talk is "poor them, they didn't know what they were doing, let's either a) give them some money or b) inflate their debts down to something they can afford to pay." WTF, I say?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:00 PM
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The rush to make people loans that they couldn't possibly repay was driven partly by breakdowns in the information chain (i.e. if a mortgage broker gets paid on origination and doesn't care if the borrower can't make the payments after five years, he'll originate crappy loans) and partly by the assumption that if things went too far south that people would get bailed out. The bankruptcy laws had comparatively little to do with it.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:04 PM
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Re. owning vs. renting: owning is, by far, the main way that average people acquire *any* kind of equity. In the 40s and 50s, redlining meant that working-class whites were given money to buy; that money established the kind of equity that later sent their kids to college, helped them with loans from time to time, allowed their kids to borrow from mom and dad to buy their own homes, etc.

Also nice that time and inflation will reduce your housing costs on those fixed rate mortgages.

Your post on your blog reflects why it's not even in the realm of possibility for us to live near my parents in L.A. They're lucky to have moved into the area they did back in the 70's, because no fucking way could they afford to live there now.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:04 PM
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38: There was a pretty good article on the subprime loan thing and the way lenders and investors encouraged it here on Salon not too long ago.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:05 PM
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Thanks, Gswift. Shit, my dad's place in *Stockton* cost $80k when he bought it about ten years ago, and last year houses on his street were selling for over $300k. It's completely nutso.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:08 PM
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39: Jake, if it's any consolation, my wife and I sat out a boom here for similar reasons in the early 90s, bought somewhere near the bottom in the late 90s, and have seen a very nice runup in the eight years or so we've owned the place. It's kind of a crappy little box and the mortgage is still moderately nuts, but a crappy little box in a pleasant neighborhood ain't so bad.


Posted by: DaveL | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:08 PM
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44's good news. Hopefully Jake and I will both be able to actually buy a place at some point in the next few years, unless of course our own personal incomes are among the casualties....


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:10 PM
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Oops, link in 42 should have gone here.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:11 PM
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Shit, my dad's place in *Stockton* cost $80k when he bought it about ten years ago, and last year houses on his street were selling for over $300k. It's completely nutso.

No doubt. We were down there during spring break. The house two doors down sold for 1.4 mil, and it's being bulldozed. Arcadia has never been cheap, but jesus.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:14 PM
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The starting point was that you took exception to
"let's bail out people who made stupid financial decisions"

Buying a house you can't afford is a stupid financial decision.
Everything else you are saying about how the economy has changed, the working class are poorer, etc etc, is irrelevant.
Look, you and I both would like it to be the case that Joe Janitor could buy a house now like he (supposedly) could in 1955, but that doesn't change the fact that it is no longer 1955, and for Joe to buy a house he cannot afford is stupid.

It doesn't help your argument that you keep trying, in various ways, to justify people stretching themselves to buy houses. Surely you are part of this very problem when you constantly toss out the sorts of cliches that people use to persuade themselves that what they are doing is a good idea even when it is clearly a very bad idea?

Finally you are doubtless going to fall back on blaming the lenders. Go ahead, I won't defend them. I will say however

- the buyers were hardly innocent. Many, probably most of them, imagined that they were on some fast train to wealth, that the value of their house was going to continue to appreciate over the next ten years. They gambled and they lost. Once again --- do we treat adults as adults or not? The fact that what the lenders said to them was unconscionable does not change their frequent complicity in what happened.

- the way you resolve the situation is not by a bailout (not matter how it is disguised) but by changing the incentives, ie by creating a situation whereby both the guilty parties should be forced to suffer a bit, so that both will behave better next time. For example, rather than letting borrowers walk away, and rather than giving lenders government money, restructure the loans. Allow them to balloon, but not to outrageous levels. Perhaps stretch a 20 year loan to a 30, a 30 to a 40.
How about, perhaps, creating a kind of equivalent of legal aid clinics that are credit aid. People can go to them, describe the type of loan they've been offered, and have the ramifications explained to them by an honest broker. (Of course, this being America, unless you can give absolute 100% ironclad legal indemnification to all advice offered, this won't fly because as soon as someone can't pay the loan s/he was told was probably within his/her means, the first response will be to sue the credit aid clinic.)


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:15 PM
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Yeah, I'm sure it'll work it's way out eventually, and I've even been looking at a fairly crappy TIC or two, actually telling my friends "oh, come on, all the shootings happen at least three or four blocks away".

But the only way things will work themselves out is if there is an acknowledgement that the house someone paid $400k for is only worth $200k when you can't get a 100% CLTV no-doc loan and count on appreciation to bail you out.

I'm also in a bit of an abnormal situation as my future income can be expected to decline dramatically...


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:17 PM
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I'm also in a bit of an abnormal situation as my future income can be expected to decline dramatically...

Stripping is definitely a young man's game.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:20 PM
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This place has the weirdest arguments sometimes.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:25 PM
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Stripping is definitely a young man's game.

And if I keep procrastinating here rather than go to the gym that's only going to be more and more relevant.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:28 PM
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the buyers were hardly innocent. Many, probably most of them, imagined that they were on some fast train to wealth, that the value of their house was going to continue to appreciate over the next ten years. They gambled and they lost.

This part really annoys me too. I think home ownership is a positive thing, but the last several years has been nuts. When we bought we were very careful to not overextend and lock down a fixed rate on a 25 year old house at a price that left us some financial wiggle room. This valley is full of douchebags who got an ARM when fixed rates were at 40 year lows because their minimum standards were 3000+ square ft. new houses.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:30 PM
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Also, I think Tony Snow got some minor news coverage a while back for not having a 401(k) and his only retirement savings being a pension from some broadcast workers union or other. Lots of people make lots of really poor financial decisions.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:31 PM
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I thought you worked at [company I would have thought wouldn't vanish overnight], Jake? Or so Angela said.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:35 PM
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I put $100k into other things (investments, not toys) over the last 10 years, because the housing market has been so nuts. Friends told me I was crazy, and should have played that market. I dunno, it's not like I was making much money (grad school) but I didn't have large costs, either. On the other hand, I may well lose a good chunk of it on the general market, now.


Posted by: onethingaboutbeingsingle | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:36 PM
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55: I do. But the fortunate circumstances by which I came to work at that company inflate my income for a couple of years and then cease to have an effect.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:43 PM
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Time to start nosing around and getting dirt on the boss, Jake.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:51 PM
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I should have mentioned in the mixed-messages thread how my boss prevented me from getting laid, if not deliberately, at least knowing it was a likely consequence of his actions. Bastard. I owe him one for that.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:56 PM
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And thanks for the link to the Streets of Bakersfield videos. That's a pretty good song.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 9:57 PM
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One thing that also gets left out of the own vs rent deal is that when you have a family you are selecting a peer group and school system. We joked that when we bought our house that all we were doing was combining our rent and kids' tuition into one payment. That is a serious point. We used to live in a nice apartment next to the university, but the local elementary school was way scary. (They had a 2nd grader trying to poison the teachers a couple of years ago, way fun.) Not to be too whatever-ist but we could not put our kids into that environment, so off the the private Montessori they went.

By buying a home we were able to get into one of the best school districts in the state, we got a low fixed rate loan so the latest changes don't have us worried. But I really cannot say that we should be faulting large groups of people for making what really might well have been the best choices available to them under the circumstances. Not in this case, but in many others I know that our lives are 1000x shittier in a financial sense because of choices we have had to make for the "benefit of the children." And you know what, I'd basically make the same ones again tomorrow knowing what I know now.

In that this is a matter of public policy I have to agree with the side that B is on in that we cannot be too critical of all the thousands of people who are in dire straits now. One person takes out a bad loan and yes that might be stupid, when a majority of the populous takes out a bad loan that is a structural failure in the industry. It might feel good to let the waves of superiority wash over you, particularly if there is a bit of sour grapes hidden in there, but really it misses the point.


Posted by: ukko | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:14 PM
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Oh yeah, on the subject of our White House press secretary. I have been told that there is photographic evidence of myself and the incoming press secretary recreating in diapers by the pool. Honestly, I don't get the whole republican-diapers thing, my defense in the case of the afore mentioned pictures is that I grew up in a very red state.

... and I was very young and impressionable. OK, we both were really in diapers at the time and her family lived two housed down from ours. I need to see if my mom can dig that out of the boxes of 70s photographic detritus gathered in her basement. I wonder if I could get Dana to sign it, as a token representing my ever so tenuous association with fame.


Posted by: ukko | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:27 PM
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Hate to continue being an asshole (not really) but my dear yuppies:

Elgin, N.D., 2 bedroom house, $7000, $34 / mo.

There are lives out there other than the ones you dream of.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:36 PM
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One of these days I'm going to buy that damn house in Elgin just to take it off the market so John can't keep bringing it up.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:38 PM
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I rather enjoy the Elgin posts. Maybe I just enjoy the yuppie baiting.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:41 PM
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I will get a 10% commission, Teo.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:42 PM
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That's 700 big ones, Teo. For me.

:-)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:43 PM
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If work is outsourcable to Elgin, it's outsourcable to Mumbai. Unless that work happens to be the unfogged commentariat-funded regular beating of the citizens of Elgin, N.D.. That industry is here to stay.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:44 PM
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If I buy that house in Elgin, I might be able to save up for the marbles.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 10:54 PM
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Uh-oh, now we have two possible bidders for that house. Are we witnessing the beginnings of an Elgin housing bubble?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 08-31-07 11:39 PM
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_*all*_ the marbles?

I suppose you'd just take them and go home ...


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 1:10 AM
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One person takes out a bad loan and yes that might be stupid, when a majority of the populous takes out a bad loan that is a structural failure in the industry. It might feel good to let the waves of superiority wash over you, particularly if there is a bit of sour grapes hidden in there, but really it misses the point.

Yup! I could really give a shit about the moral hazards or the irresponsibility of the American homebuyer in aggregate, what has just happened - what people just got caught up in - was a non-optimal outcome, and you damn well can't fix it by bitching about how people aren't making smart financial planning decisions. You can fix it by making sure lenders aren't eagerly selling manufactured idiocy in the form of highly complex, nigh-impenetrable financial products packaged for easy, consequence-free sale.

And don't even get me started on how this whole thing was intentional fiscal policy designed to insulate the governing party from the collapse of the last bubble. But yeah, now pass the buck right back on down to everyday joes, fellas. Good thing those hedge fund managers aren't paying income tax.

Geez I should steal this comment for my own blog, shouldn't I?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:32 AM
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Yeah, I bought my built-in-1980 house in Durham five years ago for ~$150K, 5% down, fixed 30-yr loan at 5.75%. It's a smallish house and I've had two more kids since then, so it's pretty crowded now. On the other hand, I've got no mortgage payment panic and like some of the other hardhearted folks here, I'm a little unsympathetic to the people who took clearly insane loans in order to get into the big newly constructed sprawlers (cough*Cary*cough) because they couldn't bring themselves to live near black people.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:15 AM
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I'm a little unsympathetic to the people who took clearly insane loans in order to get into the big newly constructed sprawlers (cough*Cary*cough) because they couldn't bring themselves to live near black people.

I guess living in California I've seen less of that and more of people sort of desperately trying to climb onto the financial treadmill. Really it was sort of gross at all levels; I keep thinking of all the former club promoters I know who moved seamlessly into working as loan officers and real estate agents. Same scam, different decade, same whimper of an outcome.

72 duly stolen, by the way, although it has utterly failed to make the poor man funny again. Oh, o-dog, why'd you have to change that hover text two years ago?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:22 AM
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the poor man is plenty funny. sure, not always bust-a-gut every time. but nobody is. you guys do excellent work.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:26 AM
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I'm a little unsympathetic to the people who took clearly insane loans in order to get into the big newly constructed sprawlers (cough*Cary*cough) because they couldn't bring themselves to live near black people.

I'm kind of the same way. I see this stupidity in divorces all the time.

They are paying an obscene amount for their mortgage. They are leasing expensive cars. They are wearing expensive clothes. They have obscenely high credit card debt.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:35 AM
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I guess living in California I've seen less of that

I told you Californian racism was half-assed.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:37 AM
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They are leasing expensive cars.

This has always mystified me, and I think it's just because I'm missing something. What's the advantage of leasing a car rather than just buying it?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:40 AM
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I will not have my children mixing with a people so atavistic they can't bring themselves to maintain an entire ass.

To the burbs, moppets!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:40 AM
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78: because if you're buying a new car (especially an expensive one), the depreciation is so absurd that you're actually going to insulate yourself from some of the financial hit you would have taken if you'd bought the car new off the lot and then sold it for blue book two years later.

Why you would need to bu a new car every two years is a question with a different and somewhat less defensible answer.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:42 AM
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I'd bu a car in a minute, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:43 AM
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The poor man is funny. Talk about condescending!

"Sifu really tries. Give the poor man credit for that much."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:44 AM
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What's the advantage of leasing a car rather than just buying it?

IANATL, but I think it might deduct differently if you're using it for work. Or maybe it used to be that way.

What I do know, though, is that you generally get more car for the same monthly payment. Look at the ads for Jags, Porsches, etc.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:53 AM
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IIRC, you're not responsible for maintenance and take less risk.

I have a friend who only buys used cars for around $1000. Some of them last for several years, some don't. He always has three of them, just in case. Parking isn't a problem for him, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:00 AM
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Everyone in Emerson's circle of friends picks one central aspect of ordinary American life and refuses to have a functional relationship with it. Another friend declared war on breathing and had a voluntary tracheotomy, and another one refuses to climb stairs. Gaspy and Slopey make going to the movies a real drag, which is all No Wimmen ever wants to do.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:07 AM
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85: No-Sleep is always up for a late night adventure, though he does get a bit jittery.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:09 AM
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I find myself a whole lot more sympathetic to the folks who bought houses they couldn't really afford -- hoping that appreciation or income growth would get them over the hump -- than I am to the financial institutions that bought crappy paper, because the great rate of return reflected high risk. I guess they made the same bet as the optimistic homebuyers, but they've got way less skin in the game.

Mostly, though, I just want the bubble back, because I'm think of selling my house in 2008. If someone would pay me what the county thinks it's worth (and is taxing me on) that'd be a fine enough thing.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:24 AM
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Heebie's carp boycott, senseless though it is, probably seems relatively harmless when placed in that perspective.

But is it, really?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:25 AM
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This reminds me of one of my abandoned crusades. People used to get all heated up about county assessed values. I thought it'd be fun to take a page from horse racing: like a claiming stakes, the owner could set the value of property for tax purposes, but anyone who offered at least 125% of that value could claim the property. A market based solution.

I think I've got a better chance with Give Florida Back To Spain and Annex Canada Now.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:29 AM
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owning is, by far, the main way that average people acquire *any* kind of equity.

Eh? Forcing yourself to pay down a mortgage is not the only way to save money. And one man's "owning a house has made me significantly richer" is another's "Christ this real estate market is expensive."


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 8:22 AM
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Just FYI on our decision to move into the "right" area for the schools. We were not racist in that decision but rather subsidized-school-lunchist which in education is sadly the strongest predictor of school outcomes. Call it what you will be it is all just a proxy for school lunches in the end!


Posted by: ukko | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 8:24 AM
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From 48 (I believe MH to B, but no names given: It doesn't help your argument that you keep trying, in various ways, to justify people stretching themselves to buy houses.

If I'm reading this right, the above comment is pretty much the opposite of what I think B is saying, for what it's worth. I don't think she'd object to the sort of fixes proposed in 48, either.

Also, Sifu gets it right in 72: You can fix it by making sure lenders aren't eagerly selling manufactured idiocy in the form of highly complex, nigh-impenetrable financial products packaged for easy, consequence-free sale.

Sure, some people made stupid decisions, bought more house than they could afford using insane loans, etc. But look at B's post and you'll see part of how it happened: the mortgage broker she talked to was giving seriously bad advice. Trying to convince a lender to get elderly relatives to put themselves into debt to make a down payment on a high risk loan is an utterly awful thing to do. And back when the bank was in the position of actually holding the loan and thereby giving a damn if it got paid off, the suggestion probably wouldn't have been made. A lot of people didn't realize that the situation had changed--that you can't trust those lending to you. Is that stupid? Perhaps, but not everyone is deeply informed about finance, and in many cases will go along with the advice they receive from someone they think is a trustworthy expert--never realizing that the person talking to them just wants them to sign.

We bought our house a little less than a year ago, before the collapse we're seeing today but the market here was already cooling. The people we bought from had to sell and were spooked by the growing softness in real estate, so they listed the house at somewhere between $20,000-$40,000 less than comparable properties at the time. We bought at $240,000 with a 30 fixed mortgage and have no worries about the market decline--even if our house dipped seriously in value, we have no plans to sell for a long time. Money's tighter than it used to be (we paid ridiculously low rent, with utilities included, before), but we can afford the house and still save a little. If we had tried to get a comparable property over on the East Side of Providence, where we used to live, it would have cost at least $100,000 more--and this is a five minute drive away. It's a boring neighborhood and not where we would have chosen, but it's quiet and convenient for our commutes. Sure, disaster could strike, but it could have while we were renting, too (our jobs are both pretty stable, so disaster would mean something more like serious illness or accident.) While I've gone over the terms of the loan carefully several times and not seen anything, I'm sure the bank was careful to quietly fleece us in some way, like they do most people. It's pros against amateurs, and the pros almost always win that fight. Still, we've got what we want, can afford it, and are pretty happy with how it's worked out. But it could have been otherwise.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 8:45 AM
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To move on a tangent to my previous comment, it is utterly amazing the sorts of financial scams one gets approached with once you own a house. Everyone's used to the constant barrage of credit card offers, but homeownership elevates one into a new category of mark. Constant junk mail offering deeply suspect life insurance deals, high-interest loans masquerading as mortgage insurance, the daily arrival of a new equity loan offer at usurious rates--it doesn't stop. It all goes into the shredder, of course, but to someone less aware or more desperate, some of these often highly deceptive mailings could look like a great opportunity or a wished-for lifeline. It really stinks.

I am also continually depressed by how advertising on cable tv seems to consist of one scam after another. It just makes everything a little crappier.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 8:59 AM
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But look at B's post and you'll see part of how it happened: the mortgage broker she talked to was giving seriously bad advice.

Um, B's post mainly expresses amazement that she can't afford to buy a $600K house even though her husband has been earning six figures for about a year now and they have no savings.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 9:34 AM
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Poor Tony Snow, whose children's unicorns got repossessed. This experience has made him an advocate for single-payer universal coverage, right? ...Right?


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 9:34 AM
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Um, B's post mainly expresses amazement that she can't afford to buy a $600K house even though her husband has been earning six figures for about a year now and they have no savings.

Um, B's post says this:

At the end of the meeting, I come away with instructions to somehow find someone I can borrow that kind of money from.

And it says that she was encouraged to try and borrow from elderly relatives--and that even if she got that amount, or had it herself (in the form of savings, for instance) she would only qualify for "a $500 interest only loan."

Sure, trying to follow that course of action would be insane. My point is, the mortgage broker wasn't saying "You could do this, but it would be insane, so you shouldn't," or "No, we won't give you that kind of loan--you don't have the money for the down payment and probably couldn't pay it off." He was saying "Get grandma to put herself in hock and go for it."

And this doesn't only happen when people are trying to get McMansions that cost $600,000 (not the sort of house B was going for, I know, given the cost of housing in her area, but the point holds.) The same offer gets made to people making $40,000 instead of six figures and who want to get into a $230,000 Cape with vinyl siding and a small lot. The people across the street from me were in that position; they were foreclosed on a couple of months ago. Did they make a bad decision? You bet. And I bet the lender encouraged them every step of the way.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 10:00 AM
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Yeah, well I'm never going to argue that mortgage lenders are looking out for you. Down payments exist for a freaking reason!

I'm just saying that when I read B's post, yeah you can see how utterly shitty the advice she gets is -- but that's not what she's complaining about. She's complaining that if she wanted to buy a house, she would have to borrow from her parents and get an interest-only loan etc etc. And of course she's supposed to be rich and stuff, but life's still really hard, and just imagine how much harder it is if you're not rich! What a country!

So I wasn't really disagreeing with you, just giving B a hard time. I think my eyes rolled off into the back of my head at How the fuck do people do it?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 10:07 AM
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I don't think B is necessarily saying anything silly, though.

The contemporary economic situation is fairly unprecedented in the sense that median or above median level incomes simply aren't buying what people have come to expect as a 'median' standard of living.*

Where I live, the price for a starter house [not a 'mansion', but a small 2 or 3 bedroom semi-detached in a not particularly good area] starts at around 10 times median income. The house next door to mine, again a not particularly large family house in a typical suburban area, cost approximately 20 times median income.

That kind of property bubble combined with an increasing process of wealth-stratification leads to people taking all kinds of mad risks.

And the 'just save the money instead' people can fuck off. Renting a smallish house here itself costs approx 50- 60% of the median income per annum before you even begin to take into account other bills and taxes.

* we can argue about people changing their expectations, but when some people are doing very fucking nicely it's a bit harder to tell everyone else to be content with their lot ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 10:30 AM
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Everyone in Emerson's circle of friends picks one central aspect of ordinary American life and refuses to have a functional relationship with it

This is actually a reasonably accurate description of myself and my circle of friends. It does create a sense of camaraderie.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 10:43 AM
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ttaM, that's really untenable. 20 times median? Is that national median, by the way? In the US, this makes a big difference: in Montgomery County MD, median income is north of 80k, a bit shy of twice the national average, I think. (6 of the top 10 jurisdictions are in the Washington DC area). I think the median income in my zip code might be twice again the County figure.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 10:52 AM
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98: What's the mechanism for this? I honestly don't understand how a median income can't come close to providing you a median standard of living.

A couple of possibilities occur to me:
1. If everyone expects housing prices to rise indefinitely, then it becomes semi-rational to make big leveraged bets on the future (i.e., live beyond your means now because your means will rise in the future; if you opt out, your relative standard of living will fall).
2. If good jobs are concentrated in small geographic areas (NYC, Silicon Valley) then the massive income inequality means it's hard for poorer people in the neighborhood to get by.

But generally, a median income family will be better positioned to buy things than half the families out there -- how will they not have a standard of living that's better than those families? In other words, the median standard of living?

And going back to B -- she has no savings and can't make a down payment, but still thinks it would be reasonable to buy a $600-650K house. She's part of the problem, and I find the attempts to portray this difficulty as somehow related to a liberal economically populist "vote Democratic" set of social concerns almost comical.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 10:53 AM
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when I read B's post, yeah you can see how utterly shitty the advice she gets is -- but that's not what she's complaining about.

Barbar, I appreciate the clarification and I'm sorry if my response was a bit pissy. That said, I think she's complaining about both (though she can say for herself if she checks the thread again), and more generally, a lot of people in that situation don't necessarily recognize the advice as shitty. And I don't blame her for feeling as she does, really--the advice is bad, and she's not alone in thinking that a six-figure income is big and that one might expect it to afford decent (not extravagant) housing without depending on crazy financing schemes. After that, I think ttaM's 98 says most everything else, despite coming from different country.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 10:53 AM
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Beating this issue to death makes me an asshole, but:

How the fuck do people do it?

means that there's something really tricky going on here. But no: if you want to take out loans to buy something that costs $600K, you should have at least $50K or whatever so you can make a down payment. That's not a "crazy financing scheme," that's just common sense. The crazy financing schemes come up because there's no down payment, and while the mortgage lenders are assholes for even suggesting it, that really has nothing to do with "How the fuck do people do it?"


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:07 AM
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re: 100

Yeah, the price for an average 3 bedroom house where I live is approximately 12-15 times the national median wage but can easily rise to 20 times. The median wage in the south east of England is higher than the national median but not by as much as you'd think -- national median wage being a little under 10% lower than the median wage for the south east (according to http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=285).

The national average house price is now well over 200,000 pounds but the national median income is only 24,000 per annum. Obviously there are large regional disparities but the fact remains that for much of the UK if you didn't get on the property ladder before the bubble, you can't now without taking on horrendous and risky debt.

My wife and I both earn median wage or above and yet combining both our salaries we couldn't afford to buy the tiny one bedroom flat we currently rent and that isn't atypical.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:11 AM
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Barbar, B's post says that the broker told her that if she had $25,000-$50,000 for a down payment--whether her own or borrowed from someone--she'd then qualify for a $500,000 interest only loan (presumably at worse terms if the down payment were at the lower end.) It seems to me that such a deal does qualify as a "crazy financing scheme," especially given the current market conditions, and double especially if an elderly relative was convinced to put their own home at risk through an equity loan to get the down payment.

I don't know anything about 20 x median income, but from what I can tell, median house sale prices in my zip code are about 8.35 x the median household income in the same.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:13 AM
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I think "How the fuck do people do it?" is a perfectly valid question, along with "Why the fuck?". There are way more $600,000 houses than I would have thought people who could afford them. But a lot of those people in mcmansions bought smaller houses preboom, sold them at bubble prices, and used that money to make downpayments on the monsters they live in now, on the assumption that those houses too would double in value. People thought they'd be able to use the equity to pay for college tuitions and retirement. Now they are fucked, pretty much, but if one made the initial assumption that things weren't going to change, the house as investment made sense, even when it was a stretch to get in to one. Obviously the initial assumption was krazy, but that's how bubbles go.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:35 AM
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ttaM's numbers don't seem so strange. It turns out that the median value of a house (or condo) in the town I live is almost precisely 10x the median income of the town, and about 17x the median income in the nation as a whole.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:37 AM
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That is, the small, generic town that Ogged lives in.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:39 AM
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That is, the small, generic town that Ogged lives in.

Elgin, ND, for those not in the know.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:44 AM
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I don't live in SF proper, heebster.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:45 AM
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re: 107

Yeah, the BBC have a website where you can check the average house price in the particular council district in which I live. It's nearly £300,000. I don't know what the median income in this area is, but I'd be surprised if it's more than 30,000.

The thing is, I'm not even fussed about buying. I'd be perfectly happy to rent if decent affordable rented housing was available. Both my parents and my sister living in council houses [i.e. state-owned social housing] and I'd have no problem with that or continuing private rental either. However, the waiting list for a council house locally would be about 5 years [minimum] and private rental prices are inflating at significantly higher than the average rate of inflation too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:46 AM
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"Why the fuck?"

That's what's always gotten me. When we were looking, I was always the one steering us toward larger houses even if it meant moving away from our old neighborhood. But by larger I was talking about 1500-1700 hundred sq. ft., not 3000. Jesus, I can't even imagine cleaning a 3000 sq. ft. house. Now I'm finding that the one we bought, at about 1550 sq. ft., is really more space than we need.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:51 AM
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The estimated median household income in 2005 in my town was $24,800, and the estimated median house/condo value was $96,300. Interesting. I don't know if the first accounts for the student population.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 11:56 AM
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http://www.city-data.com/ is a fun site for endless demographics about your city.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:09 PM
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I sure wish you all were feeling as comment-y as I'm feeling procrastinate-y.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:24 PM
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Call up Jammies for a study break.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:30 PM
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Nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Nobody knows but Jesus.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:31 PM
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I can't even imagine cleaning a 3000 sq. ft. house.

There really isn't that much difference in the cleaning.

I live in the city now in a 2400 sq ft house. Pre-divorce, I had a 3100 sq ft house. The cleaning doesn't really change that dramatically. I think the main difference in the larger house is that you often get a formal living room. Since it doesn't get used that much, it isnt that hard to clean.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:33 PM
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Call up Jammies for a study break.

Will you work on my paper while I'm off with Jammies? I don't want stay productive.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:33 PM
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I mean, I want to stay productive. I don't want to lose any ground.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:33 PM
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One of my clients is a former mortgage broker turned financial trainer, and during a conversation about the financial markets this past week, she explained to me that it is easier (at least here in VA) to get licensed to sell or broker mortgages than it is to get a driver's license.

To top it all off, mortgage professionals aren't required to have any financial planning or management background, nor are they subject to annual continuing ed requirements.

I wonder how Eric Cantor's mortgage firm is faring? Funny how that gets no press coverage.


Posted by: Tantalus | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:34 PM
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where is VA are you Tantalus?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:35 PM
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That city data thing is nice, but it sure could use better search tools. I want to live in the most sex-offendy town possible, but I also want good libraries. Where should I go?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:37 PM
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Now, if you really want to procrastinate, try NationMaster.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:39 PM
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Case in point: this.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:45 PM
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I'm in Richmond, Will. I like to think of it a tolerance/patience building phase I'm going through.

That city data thing is indeed nice, thanks heebie!


Posted by: Tantalus | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:49 PM
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126:

me too.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 12:52 PM
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Well then, howdy, neighbor! Are you north or south of the James? We're on the southside, so we're really missionaries; I think we were the first queers on the block.

As much as I heap scorn on it, I actually like it here, but it has been a major cultural shift.


Posted by: Tantalus | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 1:04 PM
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The cleaning doesn't really change that dramatically.

Perhaps, but there's no way you're convincing me that the time spent caring for the correspondingly larger yard doesn't increase. And that's even worse.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 1:53 PM
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I see this stupidity in divorces all the time.

They are paying an obscene amount for their mortgage. They are leasing expensive cars. They are wearing expensive clothes. They have obscenely high credit card debt.

Thanks--that's the answer to "how people do it." I mean, I know that people carry credit card debt, but I don't know how *much*, obvs., because no one talks about that. When I finished my last job (where we lived, actually, on a third of what we make now, not half), we were carrying $10k in credit card debt, and I thought that was fucking insane. I don't even want to know how much my neighbors have.

she has no savings and can't make a down payment, but still thinks it would be reasonable to buy a $600-650K house

No; I think it should be reasonable for a family of three with an income of over 100k and a few thousand in the bank (not as much as we should have, no, I admit it) to be able to buy a modestly nice three-bedroom house. In this town, that's what a modestly nice three-bedroom house costs. What I am shocked by is that, with the income we have, we can't afford what seems to be a fairly average house here, and what I am wondering is, what the fuck do all these other people in this town make? And what about the very large proportion of immigrants and the folks working blue-collar jobs, for god's sake? How do people afford housing?

FWIW, and yes the house we're renting is much nicer than it needs to be--though it's in the less expensive "nice" area and is, by local standards, merely middle class--is costing us over $30k/year in rent.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 2:53 PM
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(Oh, and I am just not going to believe that the average family has $50k socked away in the bank when they go to buy a house.)


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 2:58 PM
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Apropos of nothing except having read B's original post at her site:
I love love love that banner picture, but not because of the defiant young rebel on the left. No, it is the expression of mingled surprise, sudden awareness, and pure delight on the righthand face -- it actually gives me a warm feeling every time I see it. IMHO its one of the most purely beautiful representations of a human face I've ever come across.
In my dreams I know exactly how to elicit that expression in the woman I'm in love with. And do so at least daily.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 2:59 PM
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Thanks--I agree that it's the shocked and laughing little girl who makes the image.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 3:19 PM
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Well then, howdy, neighbor! Are you north or south of the James? We're on the southside, so we're really missionaries; I think we were the first queers on the block.


I grew up South. I still work South of the James. I live in the city now.

Although I am not one, I live on the land of the Queers. 90 percent of our friends are gay.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 3:30 PM
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Perhaps, but there's no way you're convincing me that the time spent caring for the correspondingly larger yard doesn't increase. And that's even worse.

That is why you have a natural yard, with trees and no grass.



Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 3:31 PM
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15% of American households earn over $150k a year.

About 12% of owner-occupied homes cost over $500k.

B, the average family can't sock away $50k for a down payment, but they can't think about buying a $600k house either. Really, if you can afford to buy the $600k house, you can afford to sock away $50k before you make the purchase. (You've only been at that level of income for a short period of time!) If you can't then you can't afford the house.

Most people are constrained to live within their means. People who buy $600k homes are, generally speaking, those who have the income so that they can afford to do so. Some people rely on credit card debt and fake their way into it; in times of a housing bubble (like in recent years) people just take insane mortgages and rely on ever-rising house prices to dig out of it. But generally speaking, income corresponds to standard of living. How could it not?

25% of American households don't even have credit cards. I think 2% or so have more than $20k in credit card debt, which is a ton of people and a ton of money but is not really going to explain property values in anyone's neighborhood.

And that banner image is absolutely terrific.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:17 PM
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What I find shocking is not the 10% down payment, but that the response wasn't 'Sorry ma'am, you're a bad risk right now' but 'Ask your mom for some money.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:28 PM
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I don't think anyone has mentioned the fact that mortgage interest is tax deductible. I thought that was one of the main reasons that owning is preferable.

It's always seemed backwards to me, since people stuck renting are more likely to be those who could use the tax break, no?

And thanks for the pointer Heebie. Definately a cool site. Though I was a bit aghast to see that the poverty rate here is 8% for whites and 40% for blacks. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but that's pretty fucked up.


Posted by: orangatan | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:40 PM
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When I finished my last job (where we lived, actually, on a third of what we make now, not half), we were carrying $10k in credit card debt, and I thought that was fucking insane.

Yikes. We don't have credit cards, so that does strike me as insane. I accept the fact that I had to take on debt for certain things--student loans, the mortgage--but I loath it and can't stand the thought of owing money on a credit card. Scares the shit out of me. Every now and then we talk about how we should get one just to have in case of emergency, but that's when I think I'd last like to be reaching for credit. No doubt sooner or later I'll be forced to give in and then they'll have me enslaved for the rest of my life, but I plan to put it off as long as possible.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:41 PM
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No credit cards? So no online purchases? You're blowing my mind, dude.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:50 PM
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Of course, it wasn't so long ago that the standard down payment was 20%, which is even harder to imagine on a house costing $600,000. I should note that a pretty decent book on household finance, credit, etc., is Elizabeth Warren and her daughter Amelia Warren Tyagi's All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan. As the title might suggest, it's more than a little cloyingly self-help-ish at times, chock full of anecdotes of how financially floundering people Turned It Around, not to mention worksheets, etc. And it's little more than common sense in many respects, sometimes stating the obvious for an audience that hasn't managed to get that. Nor will its advice be suitable for all. That said, it's a pretty good book to read and have on hand when trying to get one's mind clear and focused on managing finances, especially for those of us not especially gifted in that regard. One of the cheap used copies available at Amazon is certainly worth the price for anyone looking for that kind of resource.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:53 PM
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So no online purchases?

I use a debit card for that sort of thing. I can buy online, I just have to be using my own money.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:54 PM
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139: "Enslaved" seems a bit Ezra Poundish ("With usura hath no man a house of good stone..."), considering that that slavery consists of being held accountable (in the blogosphere's favorite phrase) to one's express agreement to pay the debts that one incurs.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:55 PM
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Ah, right, of course.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:55 PM
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that slavery consists of being held accountable (in the blogosphere's favorite phrase) to one's express agreement to pay the debts that one incurs.

Flippanter is a shill for the credit card industry and wants to enslave us all. Don't forget, you signed that contract--in blood.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 4:58 PM
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it wasn't so long ago that the standard down payment was 20%

Yeah--when my dad bought his house, it cost $80k. Now houses on his street are selling for over $300k.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:02 PM
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145: Everyone favors the payment of debts metaphorical (e.g., here), but prefers to treat debts pecuniary as grants eelymosynary.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:08 PM
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Pace 117, I don't really know the trouble heebie's seen.

Where I live is an interesting place from which to witness the housing boom/bubble. Much of the Pacific Northwest is still growing rapidly enough to soften the effects of the downturn. In Seattle, for example, house prices are still rising as the national median has begun to decline.

Our neighborhood specifically has gone from shooty to chic since I bought the house for -- don't hate me -- $38K over ten years ago; it's now worth ten times that (the market has soften somewhat locally, but property values are still increasing). So class-wise, we're in an odd spot: our income puts us just above the poverty line, but we're property-rich.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:10 PM
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Close, Flippanter, but no seegar.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:14 PM
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149: I have yet to spell that particular word correctly, love it as I do.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:15 PM
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No; I think it should be reasonable for a family of three with an income of over 100k and a few thousand in the bank (not as much as we should have, no, I admit it) to be able to buy a modestly nice three-bedroom house. In this town, that's what a modestly nice three-bedroom house costs.

I think this runs into intractable population density issues - if the top whatever small percent of people in terms of available housing budget, be it due to high/dual income or willingness to go into massive debt buy three bedroom houses on an eighth of an acre close to the big job area, you just flat run out of space and have to keep sprawling out.

Which leads to Temeculah in SoCal or Tracy in the Bay Area.

What I find shocking is not the 10% down payment, but that the response wasn't 'Sorry ma'am, you're a bad risk right now' but 'Ask your mom for some money.'

What, after the "a townhouse? a condo?" response?


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:16 PM
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What, after the "a townhouse? a condo?" response?

God, sue me people: we're into our 40s and we have a kid and this isn't fucking Manhattan or LA or SF.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:21 PM
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Not being able to buy a house where you want to live because you are more financially conservative than your neighbors sucks. But I don't know what to do other than rent somewhere cheap, save up money, and wait until their asses get foreclosed on to swoop in for the kill.

It also sucks that there's no market for sound financial advice but lots of people willing to tell you "you can easily do it!"


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:33 PM
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Eh, it doesn't suck--god knows the place we're renting is a fucking mansion. But I'm forever going to be astonished about where everyone in this modest little city gets all that damn money.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 5:53 PM
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139:

No doubt sooner or later I'll be forced to give in and then they'll have me enslaved for the rest of my life, but I plan to put it off as long as possible.

Of course one can have (and use) a credit card without actually carrying debt on it. Pay it off in full each month. It's not as though the mere possibility of carrying the debt over month to month is an irresistible invitation to do so.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 6:59 PM
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But I'm forever going to be astonished about where everyone in this modest little city gets all that damn money.

That's what I think every time we go back to visit my parents. Christ, L.A. county alone is approx. 10 million people. WTF does everyone do for a living?


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:03 PM
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Of course one can have (and use) a credit card without actually carrying debt on it.

Sure, I know. My parents are like that, never a problem at all. But accounts like this one make me ill-disposed toward entering a contract for a service I don't really need. After all, if I only ever make charges for amounts I can pay within the month without carrying a balance, I'd rather rely on my ability to either pay the thing up front from savings or delay the purchase. And while I like to think I'd be able to have a credit card and never slip up and find myself paying through the nose, this is another area in which I see it as amateurs against pros: they have a whole business predicated on the idea that I will make a mistake and I'll assume they know what they are doing.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:09 PM
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157: Certainly, of course.

As long as the debit card works for all your needs, there's no reason to argue in favor of getting a credit card.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:17 PM
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Doesn't using a credit card build up your credit or some such thing?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:26 PM
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I have a credit card because my debit card occasionally gets rejected because of network outages. (Yes, really.) Also because I do believe many credit cards offer much more fraud protection than your average debit card. For this reason, I use my credit card for most online purchases. (Though I've been forgetting to do so lately. I should start doing that again.)


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:31 PM
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Doesn't using a credit card build up your credit or some such thing?

Don't you need to build up your credit mostly in order to buy a home? My understanding was that JL, in this case, already owns a home.

Is there another reason to build credit?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 7:47 PM
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Of course, it wasn't so long ago that the standard down payment was 20%, which is even harder to imagine on a house costing $600,000.

Stuff like the tax deduction on mortgage payments and looser restrictions on lending (i.e., lower down payment %) simply drive up property values by allowing people to bid more for houses.

If you want to buy a $1M apartment in Manhattan, you'll likely have to make a $200k down payment.

How do people do this? They make a lot of money.

Remember that guy in the NYT living in Silicon Valley and just getting by with a multi-million-dollar income? People have a distorted view of what "everyone else" is doing, and they can spend a lot more time looking up than looking down.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 8:08 PM
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How do people do this? They make a lot of money.

Right; worth keeping in mind. I think I've mentioned that I have friends who are my age (one with only a philosophy BA!) and are or soon will be making $300-$400k per year (nevermind the ones who struck it rich in tech). Now, they're smart, conscientious and work so hard that I'm certain that I couldn't do what they do simply physically, in terms of hours or travel, and there are lots of people like them who've made the choice to trade their energy for being able to buy the house they want where they want. I can't decide if the laments about housing are a sign of entitlement or something screwed up with the economy in this country. Do people in the rest of the world expect to own a home they like in a nice neighborhood? Genuine question.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 8:26 PM
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The contrasting trends between median wages and median housing costs over the last 50 years are something to keep in mind here.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 8:31 PM
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I can't decide if the laments about housing are a sign of entitlement or something screwed up with the economy in this country. Do people in the rest of the world expect to own a home they like in a nice neighborhood?

In most parts of the rest of the world, no. In North America (and probably the UK?) home ownership is a pretty significant marker of middle class adult respectability. If you don't own your own home, you haven't yet made it. Or worse yet, perhaps, you're slipping down a few rungs of the ladder that your parents managed to climb.

This since the 50s or 60s, I think, and maybe it's no longer a sustainable, or even a worthy, ideal, if it ever was to begin with. But it's all tied in with something that I wouldn't exactly call "entitlement." There's a widespread belief that home ownership fosters good citizenship and sturdy virtues and etc, and a corresponding notion that "just renting" is a less stable mode of existence.

Re: 25 percent of American households not having credit cards. On the one hand, I have to think this is a good thing. So many Americans resisting the lure of easy credit means that many fewer Americans in indentured servitude to Citibank. On the other hand, I have to wonder what percentage of American households are so far below the minimum threshold of economic security that they can't even get a credit card (which is now so laughably easy to do, that if you can't get one, you must be very poor indeed).

I think B does not need to apologize for not wanting to buy a condo.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 9:27 PM
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something that I wouldn't exactly call "entitlement."

That's a good point, this isn't about personal character so much as societal expectations, so I retract "entitlement."


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 9:35 PM
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Ogged: Doesn't using a credit card build up your credit or some such thing?

That's what I've always heard, and it may be true, but for what it's worth, the book by Elizabeth Warren I mentioned in 141 flatly states that it isn't the case.

parsimon: Don't you need to build up your credit mostly in order to buy a home? My understanding was that JL, in this case, already owns a home.

We do own our home (or, the bank does), but we did have to do a lot before getting a loan with which we were comfortable, credit repair and building up savings most prominently. Credit cards weren't a major part of it, at least for us.

I've never had a problem with a debit card as pdf23ds describes and I've been using them as my main source of transaction for, well, I'm not sure how many years now. I do know that in some circumstances my bank will sneak in an extra fee (typically 35 cents) for where I use it, and it pisses me off; but overall, I think that in doing so, they've found the sweet spot of fleecing me in a way I don't care enough about to take action on. Which is as it should be, I suppose, and doesn't really make me want to risk a 22% interest rate (or whatever) on a credit card balance.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 9:41 PM
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I submit this as the theme song of this thread. Discuss.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 9:47 PM
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143: This was recently brought to my attention.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 1-07 9:59 PM
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Credit card companies make a lot of money off of you on merchant fees even if you pay off your balance every month, so it's not quite as slanted in their favor as it might seem. If you ignore the minimum required payment and treat the total balance on your statement as a bill like any other that has to be paid in full, you and the credit card company can have a mutually beneficial relationship at the expense of whatever national chain store you frequent.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:45 AM
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170: And, therefore, at the expense of those who do not use credit cards.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 5:57 AM
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On the other hand, I have to wonder what percentage of American households are so far below the minimum threshold of economic security that they can't even get a credit card (which is now so laughably easy to do, that if you can't get one, you must be very poor indeed).

Indeed. shivbunny was denied by Citibank: recent immigrant, one month old social security number, and no permanent residency added up to too much of a risk. Our only option for him is a secured card through our bank.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 7:07 AM
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Up to about 6 months ago, my dog still would get credit card solicitations, and she passed away in 2002. "You're already approved!"


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 7:40 AM
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And, therefore, at the expense of those who do not use credit cards.

While I'd like to see some numbers, I very much doubt that on average those of us who don't use credit cards come out the worse. Most people, in time, make a mistake, and it tends to be costly. Those who never do, more power to 'em, but they're the exception.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 7:52 AM
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I was looking at that site linked by Heebie, and I see that in my zip code, the ratio of median household income (136k)* to median house value (933k) is better than some of the places mentioned above. Not within the traditional 2.5 Rule -- the abandonment of which may be counted among the sources of the current troubles -- but it's under 7.

It also says that 9 people in my zip commute to work by ferryboat.

* A comment above reflects my memory of a higher figure: average AGI.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 7:57 AM
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174 -- A merchant pays more for credit card processing than for debit card processing, and while cash 'processing' isn't really free, it's hidden in other figures (salary of the clerk who goes to the bank with the deposit, etc). The question is whether you think a merchant raises prices by a couple percent to cover the cc costs. My guess is yes.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 8:01 AM
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re: 175

If I moved back to Glasgow, while property prices have risen a lot in the 8+ years I've been away, reasonable apartments in places we'd want to live would be within our reach, so the whole of the UK isn't totally insane yet.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 8:14 AM
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Doesn't using a credit card build up your credit or some such thing?

According to our bank, not as much as you think. A car loan that is well-managed improves your credit score by a lot; a well-managed credit card doesn't help nearly as much. But missing payments on either hurts your credit score just as much.

Or worse yet, perhaps, you're slipping down a few rungs of the ladder that your parents managed to climb.

Pretty much the most depressing thing about my life at this point. My parents were on their second home and third child at my age. I have a cat and a lot of furniture from IKEA and a husband forbidden to work by Homeland Security. Rent is 65% of my income.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 8:28 AM
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177 -- There's a real extent to which one can say that the current ethnic make-up of North America is the result of earlier bouts of a similar insanity in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Russia, and Germany.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:13 AM
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176: I'm afraid I'm not entirely following you. If merchants raise prices a couple of points to cover transaction fees from credit cards, then they're doing it for everyone's prices--the extra charge is built in to what we pay whether we use any sort of card or simply cash. Which means higher prices due to a service we're not using for those of us who eschew credit cards, but those who do don't pay less, they just get to use the service. Since it's a service I don't especially want or need, and it carries a significant risk, I don't see how I'm worse off not using it.

178: This also concurs with what Elizabeth Warren and her daughter have written. Just after they state that using a credit card doesn't really improve your credit rating, they note that making car payments on time is the single most important step toward raising your score.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:26 AM
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180 -- You're subsidizing the credit card users, that's all. I use mine all the time, so this doesn't bother me.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:32 AM
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I didn't read this thread; does anyone want to tell me if any good reasons for using a credit card surfaced?

I have a debit card right now and I have yet to encounter a reason to get a credit card. If I'm buying stuff in person and they don't take debit it's usually easy enough to pay in cash, and if I'm buying stuff online they take debit or PayPal.

The most plausible reason I've been given was "When you rent an apartment you want to have a credit history because if you don't, you have to use a deposit," but that didn't sound all that bad.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:37 AM
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You're subsidizing the credit card users, that's all.

Right, I get that. But as far as I can tell, so are they--everyone is. I don't see how I'm at any particular disadvantage.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:39 AM
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Debit/checkcards are awesome. The only reason I see to get a credit card is if you've got one that gives you frequent flyer miles or cash back.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:40 AM
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I have never heard of anyone getting an apartment without a deposit due to their sparkling credit history and I do know people with sparkling credit histories. If you don't need a credit card for a specific purpose, do not get one.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:41 AM
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Especially don't get a credit card in college. That's the only reason I graduated without owing a dime to anybody. Marrying two walking IOUs in succession is another story, however.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:44 AM
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I have only two credit cards, one with a $500 limit and one AmEx. I like using AmEx for online purchases and online bill paying because if something is screwed up, I can call AmEx and make them fix it. I pay them both off at the end of every month.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:50 AM
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I just discovered yesterday that the credit card I thought I had expired two years ago. I used it to buy groceries once four years ago, and then never used it again. I don't make much money, but I'm not going to make more than I am for a long time, so thinking my future self can pay things back is ridiculous.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:58 AM
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I'm still waiting for my invite for a black card.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:03 AM
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Sometimes credit cards are useful, like emergency auto repairs or when your HVAC system fails in the middle of July.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:07 AM
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Or when you suddenly realize in the McDonald's drive-thru that you don't have any cash!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:10 AM
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My parents told me to get a credit card in college. I'd make a small purchase for shoes or whatever and pay the whole bill off every month.

Back then you could charge your textbooks to your Coop card, but they've changed that now.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:39 AM
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Also, you can not rent a car with a debit card. Under 25s probably will have a hard time renting one anyway, so this does not apply to the college-age crowd.

I'm told that it's not a good idea to use a debit card for online purchases, but I've done it.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:41 AM
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My son's new bike was stolen on Friday night, while he was at the movies. Thieves used trial and error to derive his 4 number combination -- which was unfortunately low (his birthday). $700 gone in a flash.

Only to find that the wife had used her visa card, and the theft protection is going to replace it. At least that's what the weekend service people say -- there may be some small print hidden somewhere that screws us on something...


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 11:04 AM
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Also, you can not rent a car with a debit card.

Well, in that case, getting a credit card neatly coincides with learning how to drive in the category of "adult things I will do... eventually."

I'm told that it's not a good idea to use a debit card for online purchases, but I've done it

Why?


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 11:09 AM
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Amex gree card provides the insurance on every car I rent, so I can always decline the rental agency's overpriced reassurance.


Posted by: joel hanes | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 11:11 AM
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Don't most car insurances cover your rental car? I think I looked at the fine print once of an old policy I no longer have, and found that to be the case.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 11:14 AM
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197 -- Some companies don't cover rentals abroad.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 11:24 AM
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195 -- The fraud rules for debit cards are different -- no should rely on this (of course) but I think fraudulent cc charges are limited to $50, and dc charges are unlimited.

The frequent flyer miles can be a pretty big deal -- if you can get yourself organized enough to put things like a kid's college tuition on the card. I keep meaning to put my quarterly tax payments on the card -- I think the wife's United card gives 2 miles for every dollar, if it's paid to the IRS. Obviously benefits of this kind are only real at a certain place in life: a card (and lifestyle) with a $1,000 limit isn't likely to yield enough miles to justify the $50 annual fee.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 11:34 AM
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I think that if your PIN for a debit card gets stolen, you are in much worse shape than if your credit card gets stolen, as the regulatory environment surrounding credit cards is a lot better developed.

Usually credit cards will give you a much higher credit limit than you will keep money in the bank, which means that in the event of some hiccup or mistake somewhere it's more likely to ovedraft your bank account and get hit by a bunch of overdraft fees than it is to go over your credit limit.

Neither of these are particularly compelling reasons, to be sure. But if you use a credit card as a payment mechanism rather than as a way to buy things now and pay for them later, the risks are also not very compelling.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 11:49 AM
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Hotels and rental outfits want to place a $300 to $500 charge on your card at the outset of your stay/rental. In the event that there's any kind of dispute, I'd much rather that they not actually have my money already in hand. In fact, generally speaking, I don't like the idea of granting merchants direct access to the account that holds the bulk of my liquid resources at any given time. If there's an error or a dispute, I want that account shielded from it. Finally, in the event that my account number is stolen, I'd much rather that they run up a bunch of charges on my card than drain my bank account. Both can be disputed, but my card company has better fraud protection than my bank and I'd very much like to buy food and pay my rent while navigating the process.


Posted by: Tarrou | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:12 PM
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I have rented a car with my debit/check card.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:14 PM
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At this point, you can get kickbacks from a credit card company in the 1-2% range pretty easily. For me, that's a compelling reason to use a credit card instead of a debit card; they're going to bribe me by kicking back part of the merchant fee, which I was paying already (as noted earlier). Bonus on big purchases that I'm being reimbursed for, like business travel.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:25 PM
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I have rented a car with my bare fists.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:25 PM
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I bet the return was a bitch, though.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:27 PM
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"Re: 25 percent of American households not having credit cards. On the one hand, I have to think this is a good thing."

I'm guessing much of the business that those "check cashing/loans" places get is from that 25% of households as well.

And from what I understand, they make credit cards look like a sweetheart deal in comparison.


Posted by: orangatan | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:34 PM
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204: I have dented a car with my bare fists.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:35 PM
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Not to mention trying to steer while her fists were in the possession of the rental agency.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:36 PM
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Despite my stern warning above, there are a lot of good reasons to have a credit card. (I have one for emergencies that I have to remind myself to use every now and then.) Getting one as a never-touched personal insurance policy against the HVAC or major car repairs or getting one with a low limit and using it occasionally to build credit: good. Getting one because one must have that new TV: bad.

I'm interested to hear that people actually use the cards for the rewards programs. I've always assumed those were essentially a scam and that annual fees would overwhelm any potential savings or kickbacks; that, or I'd wind up a foot soldier in a Jennifer Government-esque war between Discover and Visa.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:39 PM
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much of the business that those "check cashing/loans" places get is from that 25% of households as well

You know what I found out a long time ago? Because of a SEVEN DOLLAR overdraft that ballooned while I was out of town into about three hundred dollars of overdraft fees, my bank threatened to close my account, and they informed me that if they did so, I would go on some mysterious list that the banks share with each other, and I wouldn't be able to open an account anywhere.

Which would mean that one would *have* to use those check cashing places to cash one's paycheck. I suddenly realized that that's probably a really big fucking reason why people suddenly fall off the middle class wagon, and how damn hard it would be to climb back on.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:40 PM
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You know what I found out a long time ago? Because of a SEVEN DOLLAR overdraft that ballooned while I was out of town into about three hundred dollars of overdraft fees, my bank threatened to close my account, and they informed me that if they did so, I would go on some mysterious list that the banks share with each other, and I wouldn't be able to open an account anywhere.

I was on that list shortly after I graduated college for the same reason. Bank of America and Wells Fargo both refused to give me a checking account when I moved to California, but the first credit union I tried didn't even bat an eye.

Also, I am pretty sure banks have the right to process debit card transactions in a manner that will maximize the overdraft fees, and are not afraid to do so. My buddy is always getting screwed on this.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:54 PM
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I've got one of the reward cards with frequent flier miles. I calculated it all before I got it, the annual fee and the number of miles I'd be getting given how much I spend, and how much use they would be to me in combination with my otherwise-earned miles. It ends up being profitable, but I think only because of the particular combination of my spending and travel habits.

I put everything on my card, and have all my other bills charged to it, too. More miles for me, plus one bill to pay (in full) per month rather than four or five.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 12:56 PM
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It's now possible to rent a car at age 21 most places, with an extra fee if you're 21-24. In New York it has always been possible to rent at 18, but the fees are astronomical (up $100 a day). This has the ironic consequence that if you're between 18 and 21 New York is the best place to rent a car, but if you're between 21 and 25 it's the worst.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:09 PM
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And I don't know what TJ did, or where, but IME you do need a credit card to rent a car. I'm on my parents' AmEx account for situations like that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:10 PM
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Having a credit card makes sense to me for the reasons outlined above. Also, when making a big electronics/computer purchase, I always put it on Amex because their insurance is so good (a year!). If the new speakers stop working after 45 days I want to be able to get them replaced quickly and for free.

As far as rewards, I use an Emigrant Direct Mastercard that gives cash back. It's excellent. I polled about two dozen friends and relatives before I chose it, and ultimately decided that I would not make good use of frequent-flier miles. My brother's experience investing 2-1/2 hours to research and book an overseas flight (avoiding blackout dates and all the other strings attached) affirmed that this is not the way I'm interested in spending my time.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:12 PM
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Two different national companies in LA. They didn't even charge me extra for being under 25, a couple of times.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:15 PM
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I have noticed that the rules and their enforcement vary enormously from company to company and even location to location with the same company. The car rental industry is very strange.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:17 PM
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Very true.


Posted by: TJ | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:20 PM
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212 et al.:

I've got one of the reward cards with frequent flier miles. I calculated it all before I got it, the annual fee and the number of miles I'd be getting given how much I spend,

Wow! Which realm have I wandered into unawares?

I had no clue about any of this! I somehow thought frequent flier (flyer?) miles accrued when you actually flew. I stand now informed. But this is only with a card with an annual fee, apparently.

And CharlieC says somewhere above that you can put your quarterly tax payments on your credit card? Dude! The government takes credit cards? Why did I never notice this?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:31 PM
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And CharlieC says somewhere above that you can put your quarterly tax payments on your credit card? Dude! The government takes credit cards? Why did I never notice this?

According to this webpage on the IRS's website, the IRS itself doesn't take credit card payments, but there are a few companies that will take your credit card payment and send the money to the IRS, after charging you between 2.5% and 3% of the amount to cover the merchant fee and presumably a small spread on top of it.

TANSTAAFL.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:38 PM
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...you can get frequent flyer points for your tax bill?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:39 PM
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I haven't done it yet, the tax thhing that is, and so haven't looked at the fine print. At 3 percent, it's not worth it for the miles.

Nonetheless, I don't mind getting miles for the two tanks of gas, and dresser from Ikea, that I bought today. I don't usually have much trouble using my miles, but that might be because of where I go.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:55 PM
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I hate conversations like this. They always make me feel like I'm missing out on some great deal.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 1:56 PM
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My son's new bike was stolen on Friday night, while he was at the movies. Thieves used trial and error to derive his 4 number combination -- which was unfortunately low (his birthday). $700 gone in a flash.

Those locks are crap. My friends and I used to do that kind of thing all the time, but to move the bike somewhere else as a joke rather than to steal it.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 2:08 PM
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I regret not getting an Amazon rewards card (no annual fee) before I finished my oral exams. I don't buy as many books anymore.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 2:32 PM
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Ot, but how 'bout this?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 3:16 PM
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In fact, generally speaking, I don't like the idea of granting merchants direct access to the account that holds the bulk of my liquid resources at any given time.

Indeed. My debit card can only access my personal checking account, which rarely has more than $200 in it (generally less.) All of my money goes into the joint account first, from which I transfer out a bit for me to use in the personal account on whatever, as well as some into savings. The rest stays in the joint account to handle the bills, mortgage, etc. I don't want anyone potentially having access to that.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 3:18 PM
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Ot, but how 'bout this?

I think we would be welcomed with cheers and flowers by the Iranians.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 3:21 PM
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I think that if we go to war with Iran it will be because the current administration knows the following things:

(a) it will please a lot of their old cheerleaders
(b) the Democrats have a very good chance in '08
(c) it will either help cement a Republican win on a 'don't change horses mid-stream' ticket or it will guarantee a clusterfuck for the incoming Democratic administration.

They want to just fuck up as much shit as they can in the time they have. I don't believe it, but I really am living in mcmanusland.

I think if it happens then it not insignificantly increases the chances I will consider a friend's insistence that Rah and I should move to New Zealand. That's a statement with a lot of caveats for a reason, but it would make me think about it.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 4:07 PM
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I think that if we go to war with Iran it will be because the current administration knows the following things:

d) The Democrats won't do a fucking thing about it.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 4:35 PM
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I have no patience with this groupthink, where people sit around discussing whether or not the US should bomb Iran. "There's only one person that can decide, and that's the president."

Well, he is the Decider, after all. If you don't believe me, you can consult your Constitution.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 4:42 PM
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Looks like a press release:

In his nearly seven years as president, Mr. Bush has rarely let his guard down with journalists to reveal much of his personal side. But over the course of six roughly hourlong interviews with Mr. Draper, Mr. Bush shared his inner life at the White House. He at times mused philosophically and introspectively, and at others spoke forcefully about his confidence in his own decisions.

but no, it's exclusive reporting!

Mr. Draper agreed to share parts of his transcripts from those interviews, and the book itself, with The New York Times under the agreement that they would not be published until shortly before the book, "Dead Certain" (Free Press), is officially released on Tuesday.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 4:53 PM
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Speaking of people to shed a tear for, the new neighborhood resident who speaks about "our capitalist system" in this piece surely deserves our utmost sympathy.

And maybe a t-shirt that reads "I have all this money and a sweet deal on some real estate and all I got was this lousy t-shirt. It's annoying. It's very annoying".


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 6:57 PM
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I got a t-shirt yesterday. It says "I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS IN SAUDI ARABIA"

I've been waiting for an excuse to tell that to Unfogged ever since I got it; seeing the word "t-shirt" in a fairly dead thread is enough for me.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 8:58 PM
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234: Not to get all serious and everything, but do you really support a U.S. invasion of Saudi Arabia?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:28 PM
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I support a U.S. invasion of Austin, TX.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:29 PM
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235: Irony, dude. And, at least when I wear it, it's referring to our permanent bases in Saudi Arabia, not to invading forces. (Remember those bases? The ones that kicked this whole thing off?)


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:40 PM
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Even more OT: I saw John Kerry shopping at Whole Foods today. It pissed me off no end. I'd seen his picture there before, but it still bothered me. He made a big deal about not crossing a picket line, but he shops at an anti-union store with horrendous labor practices.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:41 PM
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Did you point this out to him?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:42 PM
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Sorry for that sarcasm at the end. I was lapsing into the rhetorical mode I've had to prepare for the people who ask me "Don't you mean Iraq?" (Which I was actually asked.)


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:42 PM
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I couldn't do that, because

(1.) he was walking out swiftly with his purchase and

(2.) I work there and until I have another job lined up, I can't diss the company on its premises.

I need a new job so badly. Is there an intermediate sort of job at a large-ish company with good benefits where you don't have to work crazy professional lawyer-type hours but is above Starbucks and the like?

Do 9-5 jobs exist, because I'm working on getting my shit together and could use a lower stress job.

I make no money and am under a ton of stress, so much stress that I'm having a hard time getting my act together to get things in order so that I can get a new job.

Health insurance is a bitch.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:54 PM
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They want to just fuck up as much shit as they can in the time they have

This explains Bush administration behavior as well and as completely as any other analysis I've heard.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 9:57 PM
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but he shops at an anti-union store with horrendous labor practices

It's possible that he has no idea that is true of Whole Foods. I wouldn't know it except for reading here.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:11 PM
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241: LB would say legal secretary. I would say entry level programming, but the hours could be tough depending.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:18 PM
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legal secretary

This or an admin job at an established firm. These jobs are out there and really aren't so bad if you don't get stuck in them forever.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:30 PM
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A monkey could do this.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:33 PM
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Hell, ogged could do this.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:38 PM
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Contract job (the test position) probably means no benefits, though. But QA is one of the time-honored ways to get into tech, along with operations (but operations is most certainly not a 9-5 job).


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:39 PM
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It also depends, BG, on whether you want your next job to be a foot in the door to something, or a way to get paid and have benefits while you pursue other interests.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 2-07 10:53 PM
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BG, what do you think of this? A friend of mine used to work at the Houghton Library and really liked it. I don't know what the pay is (though 52 is toward the middle of the scale for Harvard's administrative jobs), but it's got to be better than WF. I'd guess a library environment would suit you, and working there might provide an in for either other jobs or some sort of discount on further professional development (perhaps help with tuiton on an MLS? Just speculating.) Aren't you an alum as well? I don't know if you're reading this anymore, so I'm going to send an email. Other Harvard job listing can be searched here.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 8:02 AM
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244: Given that you've got a couple years of law school, I'd actually say paralegal rather than legal secretary. I'm not sure which pays better, but I think it's paralegal, and it's where people with some law school, or thinking about law school, end up.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 8:06 AM
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251 -- I'm not sure paralegals are better paid, but the job is fundamentally different.

A paralegal is focussed on mastering details of a case, organizing the documents, keeping chronologies, and the like. A secretary is more about interpersonal interactions between his/her lawyer(s) and the outside world: clients, courts, opponents, prospects, partners, etc. I've always liked having a secretary who understands that the point of the enterprise is to win the client's case, but that's not nearly as necessary to doing the job well as understanding that when I said A I really meant B, because, well, A would be dumb, and B is what I'd have said if I'd thought of it. (All the people who work for me have to be smarter than I am in some sense: the paralegals have to know the facts more comprehensively, the associates have to know the law more comprehensively, but the secretary has to know me better than either, as well as how to use the computers, interact with the travel department, get conflict checks on the fast track, and all the other admin stuff. This is definitely not a job for everyone).

Librarians' work is evolving quite a bit right now -- I'm not sure I understand where it's going.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 10:11 AM
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That sounds kind of demanding, but we're not paying that kind of money for someone who just types what I write and answers the phone.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 10:15 AM
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Hey BG, if you took got that job in 250 we'd probably run into each other a decent amount.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 11:06 AM
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Wow, this depresses me no end. It sounds like I'm meant to be a secretary. I'm normally pretty good at understanding what different people want, but I've lost my ability to do it.

Right now my confidence is totally shaken, and I feel strongly that I need to get out of there, but I feel like I'm totally incapable of being of any real use to anyone. Now I *know* that that's not true, but I do sort of feel that way , and that's no condition to be in when looking for a job. I kind of wonder if this is a teeny tiny bit what it's like to be a battered wife.

JL--Harvard jobs are very hard to get, because they offer very good benefits. I applied for some development jobs in the past. They are very slow to hire. Harvard and MIT part-time library jobs are especially coveted by musicians.

I'm undecided as to whether to go over her head to her manager. With three unsatisfactory work warnings, official company policy states that I can't transfer to another store. My natural inclination is to fight and get angry, but I don't want to look like a poor team player.

I went by the River Street store and talked to the Beer and wine guy (who's smart and has a master's in public health), and he was just amazed that I was in danger of getting fired. I told him that the new assistant team leader had written up a counseling statement describing my negative attitude when I was in a bad mood one day. I told him that she was young. The one who left frequently said that she was in a bad mood and that sometimes customers drove her crazy. He said, "This company can be like high school."

One of the formal work warnings just flabbergasted him. I had to repeat it a couple of times. S. had left a note on Saturday night telling us to check everything for expired product, but she had specifically mentioned to me that some of the drinks were expired, so I wrote a little note that said, "Some of the drinks in the fridge are expired--BG." She wrote me up for insubordination. She said that I was instructing my fellow team members and thereby undermining her authority. They didn't check for all expired product, because I had limited her instructions. I did not argue back in front of the assistant store team leader, but I did say simply that that had not been my intent. She said that she didn't think that it had been, but that I should have known that my note would have had that effect. My coworkers said that that was ridiculous. It took a great act of will to refrain from saying. "No reasonable (or reasonably prudent) person could have foreseen that leaving a simple note would have caused that chain of events."

I should have been looking harder much earlier, but I've been working so hard to figure out how to make her happy that I haven't had the energy.

Without this final war I could probably have switched to a job at another store with 2-10 hours or overnight. A couple of old-timers said that I should try to pursue it by going outside the official rules, and that the store leader at Fre/sh Pond wouldn't care. The team leader (and this is misogynistic, but I think the fact that he's a guy mattered) at the Fre/sh Po/nd store didn't care much about the warnings. I told him that there were things in my file that made me look bad, and he said that they were coming from S. and everyone knew to discount what S. said. One of his team members had worked for S., and he'd heard all the stories. He said that he was more concerned with macro stuff than with micro details. That would be working every Saturday and Sunday night, and there would be no option to have Tuesdays off. I currently have a Tuesday 6:15 commitment.

But then I thought, "I don't really want to work those hours, and walking over the bridge from the shopping center to the Alewife T at 10:30 is kind of scary, plus the commute is at least an hour by T.

I've been trying to get some neuropsych testing done to see whether I have problems with visual and spatial processing, and that takes a while to set up.

As much as the feminist in me hates to say it, I'm not sure that I can stand working in a high-pressure environment. (Maybe I could if I were treated with respect, but that's not guaranteed anywhere.)

I just wanted time to think through what my next move should be and to feel that I was moving on, because I was ready to step up to something more challenging and not just fleeing a bad situation.

I totally broke down in front of one of my coworkers on Tuesday, and I'm incredibly embarrassed about that.

Sorry for the emotive rant.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 11:37 AM
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Good luck, BG.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 11:48 AM
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I hope your situation gets better BG.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 11:52 AM
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re: 255

Yes, good luck. S. sounds intolerable.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 11:53 AM
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Good luck, BG. I wouldn't waste any energy being embarrassed by the breakdown in front of others thing; most people have learned not to give that stuff much weight.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 11:58 AM
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Awwww, BG. I want to smack S. around on your behalf. With John Kerry.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 12:19 PM
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I wouldn't waste any energy being embarrassed by the breakdown

Yeah, spend enough time at any job and you'll see all kinds of people do it at one time or another.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 12:56 PM
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Sorry to hear things are rough, BG.


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 2:34 PM
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Good luck BG.

Make sure that you have friends who can provide support in the job search. Looking for work is stressful, and can be really hard on your self-confidence, particularly when your current job is driving you crazy.

I've had the experience of, "I'd like to look for a new job, but I really don't want to deal with rejection right now" and am, right now, helping a friend in that situation to try to maintain energy and optimism for the search.

Job hunting is a lot of work.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 2:51 PM
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That last comment should end with

"Job hunting is a lot of work, don't be shy about asking for help."

It's like moving, if you can get people to help, even in a small way, it makes the task much more manageable.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 2:59 PM
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I have some friends helping. I am trying not to be negative when people make suggestions I don't like, e.g., have you considered the Vitamin Shoppe.

If I do get fired, what am I supposed to tell future employers?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:05 PM
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Enough of the truth that the really horrible bits are guessable without making it seem like you're talking out of school. A recommendation from a sane superior would also help get the point across.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:08 PM
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Tell them you quit because your manager was crazy and caused a bunch of other people working for her to quit too. Easy.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:09 PM
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Good luck, BG. I'm sorry to hear that your work environment is so unpleasant.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:20 PM
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That sucks, BG.

I know it doesn't help much to hear, but your reaction to this entire situation is entirely understandable. Having a terrible, crazy superior can do a real number on your self-esteem and resiliency, because you never know what direction the next blow is coming from. Even knowing the superior is crazy and the complaints against you are bunk doesn't necessarily help in the face of being worn down that way. You're not just crazy or weak.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:22 PM
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One woman had quite her job as a drug and alcohol counselor to make a transition into a more holistic lifestyle. She quit after three months, but I think that she must have had family money too. Her boyfriend is a lawyer, and they own a condo on Beac/on Hill to which they are adding a roof deck.

I'm sure that her boyfriend makes very good money, but there must be other money coming from somewhere. She's overseeing the renovations right now but got trained as a yoga instructor. If she knew of something, I'm sure that she could explain the situation.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:22 PM
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She's systematically trying to fire me. I don't know that I could get any of my coworkers to stand up for me. They all like me, but they value their jobs.

Has anyone ever filed for unemployment? I was skimming the rules for Mass., and I can't tell whether she's established a knowing violation of company policies.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:43 PM
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Ooh, collecting unemployment *rocks*. But I don't think ime (which wasn't in Mass, obvs.) that you have to have been fired in violation of any policy to collect it--I think all you have to do is have been fired, period. Good luck, BG, the situation sucks.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:50 PM
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Some places fired "for cause" might not apply? BG if she really gets you canned I think you should sue those fuckers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:52 PM
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In California, I'm pretty sure you can only get unemployment if you are not fired for cause. But this will obviously vary by state. And good luck, BG, feeling at the mercy of the vindictive and unstable sucks.


Posted by: Jake | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:56 PM
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In NY, there's no unemployment if you're fired 'for cause', but 'cause' is pretty tightly defined -- not just unsatisfactory work, but something like dishonesty.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 3:58 PM
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275:

I scanned the thing really quickly.

Sifu, if you're willing to underwrite my legal expenses, sure. I would love to see her fired too, but she knows how to work the system.

In Massachusetts, it looks like you can file even if you "quit," if you feel that you were forced out because it was unsafe or if you couldn't work extra hours.

It's not legal to reduce hours to the point where you feel you must quit if you were hired for a full-time position.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 4:20 PM
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I'm wondering if I should consult legal services.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 4:24 PM
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A first step might be calling the Division of Unemployment Assistance; it looks as though there are people who will answer questions at the number on the linked page. If you ask them what the standard is, in detail, for refusal of unemployment benefits on the ground that you were fired for cause, you can work to make sure that whatever's in your record doesn't meet that standard, if you see what I mean.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 4:28 PM
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Best of luck, BG, your situation sounds terrible, and also really shows the importance of having unions as a force on the side of workers against arbitrary/crazy/stupid decisions by managers (and the importance of having health care not tied to one's job). Lots, probably most, managers are fine, but when there's little to no recourse when you have a bad one, it really sucks.

Anyway, hope things get better soon. I'd second the recommendations to look at jobs in the local colleges and universities. Many of them are normal 40 hours a week type things with relatively low stress as jobs go but decent benefits and work environment.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 4:43 PM
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Harvard jobs are very hard to get, because they offer very good benefits.

Yes, I know--I've applied there before. I had an interview with the Law School Library once to do some sort of menial cataloging job, don't remember what exactly; and I even had an in, as one of the curators was someone who I had worked with (happily) not that long before. No dice. On the other hand, some months ago my boss casually mentioned to me that when I applied for my current position (which I desperately needed at the time), there were about 150 applicants. I smiled weakly and resisted the urge to run to the restroom and throw up.

I'd say that even if Harvard jobs are hard to get, an emailed cover letter and resume are a small price to pay. And as 279 sort of says, it doesn't have to be Harvard; with all the schools in Greater Boston, there's a lot of options to look at., and certainly other lines of work within them. I picked library work just because it seemed to suit my mental image of what you might enjoy, while being respectable and (generally) low-stress, which it sounds like you could use. Whether or not it developed as a career path, it could offer a stable, reasonably interesting sort of employment that would keep you around smart people and perhaps offer opportunities to develop in different directions.

From what I understand, you should not have any trouble getting unemployment in MA if fired--but take LB's advice in 278 and make the phone call. And start sending resumes out.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 5:37 PM
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I had a summer job at the Bos/ton Athen/ae/um once. I ran into one of my old bosses there, and she said taht we should have lunch. She does events there which si kind of high stress, and the pay is pretty bad. I think she takes extra catering jobs on the side and used to bar tend. It's totally a place where knowing someone helps. My Mom's a proprietor. My grandmother was friends with the former Director, etc. They've tried to get more professional and less clubby, but as the woman said to me, "We're still our old funky selves." The thing is that they don't ever need to hire anyone.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 5:50 PM
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281: Go to lunch anyway, even if they're not hiring, and let her know you're looking for something. She may know of something or know someone who knows of something. I really hate "networking" (and job searching) but it really is worth your while, especially when they've already invited you to see them. Keep your eyes out for similar opportunities too, and stay in touch with people, it really helps.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 9:16 PM
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M/M/ speaks the truth. And now to bed.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 09- 3-07 9:22 PM
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