Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bad Times or Bad Decisions?

Tuesday’s Boston Globe has a wannabe sob story about how the hard economic times are driving New Englanders to “channel their inner Yankee”.

The sad foolishness of what passes for journalism at the Boston Globe is epitomized in this simply dreadful story. It is on page 1 above the fold and 4 columns wide, with 2 photos and charts, and completely worthless. Incidentally the charts aren’t referred to by the story. The charts show consumer spending trending away from personal items, but the charts also show that trend has been going since the year 2000. What is the news here?

The cover photo shows a large family (parents plus 5 children) in a large home having dinner in their large dining room (complete with fireplace). Dinner is pizza and salad. Dad is pouring the wine. Wine for dinner in tough times? Well, dad has turned the wine label away from the photographer. Perhaps it is a lower quality wine than dad wishes to show publicly. Maybe it’s just Australian plonk. The story tells us that this poor family has not been out to a restaurant in 6 months, and that dad drives 60 miles each way to work, and the heating bills for their big house now run $2400/year. Are you crying for them yet?

Most of the people profiled in the story merit little sympathy. Their economic distress, such as it is, results as much from bad decisions as from bad times. Here are some of the facts reported in the Globe story concerning one Kathleen Carter of Kennebunk, Maine, the poster child for this story:
  • Four years ago Kathleen and her husband moved from Massachusetts to Kennebunk, Maine.
  • Her husband still commutes from Maine to his job in…Massachusetts.
  • Kathleen, a soloist, commutes to Massachusetts about twice a week for church gigs.
  • The family gasoline expenses run about $600 per month.

The Globe reports that Kathleen’s heroic sacrifices to make it in this rough economy include:

  • Attending free concerts in Maine rather than traveling to Boston for the Boston Symphony.
  • Watching the Portland Sea Dogs minor league baseball team instead of the Red Sox at Fenway.
  • Her daughter transferring from UVM to the University of Maine for in-state tuition.
  • Buying a used radiator covers instead of new plant stands for her sprouts.

The Globe story reports:

Even before college costs were added to the equation, the family was in debt, with the balance on their credit cards "out of hand," Carter admitted, because they had to use them for basic purchases. "When it comes right down to the bone of the matter, we're hurting," said Carter. "I say, 'Any day now, I'm going to find a job.' Well, I've been saying that for two years."

Yes, lady, get yourself a job. A real job. Please.

And how does the Boston Globe always find "poster children" such as this?


Suldog said...

The Glob is so amazingly out-of-touch with reality. It is a constant source of amusement.

flymorgue2 said...

These Globe stories mine from the richest vein of BS imaginable:

sold her kayak!
richly appointed room with no curtains!
radiator covers in lieu of >$100 planters!
hang sheets to dry (in weather with $2400 heating bills no less)!

And I love the logic applied to your poster girl (note the use of the word "So" in the following:

"Carter and her family moved from Massachusetts to Maine four years ago, but she has not been able to find a full-time job near Kennebunk. So a couple of times a week, she drives to Massachusetts to sing at church services, including weddings and funerals. "

I don't know how they assemble this collection of sad sacks - all painters, sculptors, singers and those "who switched from lucrative careers to more personally fulfilling ones" - whose financial decisions elicit more questions than they answer. Culminating with a request that the fat cat "highly paid government officials and economists" should share the pain of "Main Street." Have we reached the "red diaper grandbaby" generation yet?

Monkeesfan said...

And does the Globe ever think that these "hard times" won't eventually pass? Seems like every "sad sack" story by t Globe treats economic dips as though they are evidence of a dying economy.

flymorgue2 said...

Really the Globe's pessimism about the economy tracks with its own falling fortunes