quiddities and agonies of the ruling class - a rolling new york times thread

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that there are hundreds of thousands of people with stories just like this who don't write for the new york times and have six-figure salaries who are perhaps just a leeetle more representative of the mortgage fallout going on right now

This is definitely true, but there is part of me that thinks ... well, even leaving aside the Times's readership -- or the fact that one of the notable things about the current situation is that its impacts are being felt higher up the economic ladder -- there's also the way it's all called into question the sustainability of a whole mainstream/normal middle-class existence that is built on suddenly shaky things like debt and home values. That is probably worth thinking about, and possibly edifying for middle-class people who are recognizing a shakiness to their economic lives that they hadn't previously had as big of a worry about.

nabisco, Friday, 15 May 2009 19:38 (5 years ago) Permalink

Is 66% of your income anywhere near normal for alimony/child-support? I don't know anyone paying alimony (lol broek friends), but child support doesn't net them (everyone I know is on the receiving end) much.

My vagina has a dress code. (milo z), Friday, 15 May 2009 19:39 (5 years ago) Permalink

should have used that credit line on a better divorce lawyer, amirite

nabisco, Friday, 15 May 2009 19:41 (5 years ago) Permalink

I don't know that that's a big surface narrative, given the "I wasn't duped" and the bit about how a banking professional's refinancing maneuvers actually worked to carve down some debt

A fair enough point. The mania obv went beyond the professionals.

Talking of which: I don't know how recruiting works in this kind of business -- my biased, stereotypical prejudice says that you get the young people who are willing to work like 50 hrs weekly unpaid overtime etc from ambition alone, thus having no memory of even the Asia crisis, let alone the dotcom and the 80s yuppie downfall, thus by induction extrapolating bubble arising into Law of Nature or something. I dunno.

xpost nabisco correct on "normal middle-class" stuff after what I responded to btw. But they can't take away our Internet can they??? :p

anatol_merklich, Friday, 15 May 2009 19:57 (5 years ago) Permalink

A weird thing about "quiddity" is that the first definition, "essence", seems to be the opposite of the second definition, "a trifling point"

Haha good spot there, maybe this is a general defusing thing about words asserting importance -- see also moot (adjective):

1 a: open to question : DEBATABLE b: subjected to discussion : DISPUTED
2: deprived of practical significance : made abstract or purely academic

anatol_merklich, Friday, 15 May 2009 20:06 (5 years ago) Permalink

i suspect the second "quiddity" meaning might be contaminated with a sense of "quibbling" via misuse?

or else the identifying an object's "what-ness" is, in itself, a trifling pursuit?

roman knockwell (elmo argonaut), Friday, 15 May 2009 20:09 (5 years ago) Permalink

je ne sais quid

nabisco, Friday, 15 May 2009 20:20 (5 years ago) Permalink

i suspect the second "quiddity" meaning might be contaminated with a sense of "quibbling" via misuse?

Herring looks mighty red to me. Sorry.

Yup, we know what stuff which is what it is is (OR DO WE?).

There is a neverending demand for words meaning "thing I can't get worked up about", and obv the learnèd world (it's academic! it's just semantic!) is a fair source for this. (I like the pluralization "quiddities" btw!)

anatol_merklich, Friday, 15 May 2009 20:26 (5 years ago) Permalink

my guess was it was some 'liquiddity' pun or something?

Thread author! please inform on your intended meaning of quiddity!

Philip Nunez, Friday, 15 May 2009 21:41 (5 years ago) Permalink

1: whatever makes something the type that it is : essence
2 a: a trifling point

exactly the midpoint of these: trifling details that tell the tale; habits of the tribe

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 21:56 (5 years ago) Permalink

there's also the way it's all called into question the sustainability of a whole mainstream/normal middle-class existence

dude this guy writes for the new york times and pulls down $100K - he is not "normal"!

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 21:58 (5 years ago) Permalink

it wouldnt be controversial to call supporting a fam on 100k/yr in the nyc metro area "normal middle class"

rip dom passantino 3/5/09 never forget (max), Friday, 15 May 2009 22:00 (5 years ago) Permalink

actually he made more like $120,000 and the new light of his life made $60,000. not to mention the stock options.

(the house is in maryland.)

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:03 (5 years ago) Permalink

and the kids lived with the ex iirc

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:04 (5 years ago) Permalink

he wanted to pretend the monthly ass-whuppin his wallet was getting from his ex just didn't exist i guess

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:05 (5 years ago) Permalink

but i gotta say, it's a little hard for me to really put myself in his shoes

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:06 (5 years ago) Permalink

maybe a trunk full of j. crew cardigans would put me in the right frame of mind

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:07 (5 years ago) Permalink

i guess he should just lay down and die huh

s1ocki, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:13 (5 years ago) Permalink

(the house is in maryland.)

DC metro area is sufficiently comparable to NYC metro area that max's point is pretty much the same. Silver Spring is in Montgomery County, which is $$$$ to live in.

naturally unfunny, though mechanically sound (Pancakes Hackman), Friday, 15 May 2009 22:34 (5 years ago) Permalink

so that makes him a normal middle class dude? ...

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:36 (5 years ago) Permalink

his story is really about his failed marriage and his unwillingness to face his new situation - something you can fall into regardless of salary bracket - but he's trying like hell to make it sound like he's been forsaken by wild circumstance

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:39 (5 years ago) Permalink

and the editor waves it into print as testimony from the front lines of financial desperation

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:40 (5 years ago) Permalink

For the demographics of the place, sure. Montgomery County is full of millionaires. It's like the sixth-richest county in America. $120,000 would be a pretty middling salary there.

xxp

naturally unfunny, though mechanically sound (Pancakes Hackman), Friday, 15 May 2009 22:41 (5 years ago) Permalink

oh this guy was interviewed on all things considered today. i missed the beginning of the interview and was all confused as to why he kept invoking "the love of my life" as the reason he was in dire financial straits. he used the phrase "the love of my life" like nine times in two minutes, guys.

horseshoe, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:44 (5 years ago) Permalink

According to this, median income in Mo Co was $91,835 in 2007, $30,000 higher than the median for the state. So he was making more than the median, but not much more. Also, cost-of-living index there is 123.8, based on a US average of 100. For comparison purposes, New York County, which includes Manhattan, has a COL index of 187 and a median income of $64,217.

naturally unfunny, though mechanically sound (Pancakes Hackman), Friday, 15 May 2009 22:45 (5 years ago) Permalink

oh this guy was interviewed on all things considered today.

well knock me over with a feather.

Tracer Hand, Friday, 15 May 2009 22:55 (5 years ago) Permalink

Let's not get into an argument about average salaries, given that I never said his was average. I said, speaking of economic events over the past couple years:

it's all called into question the sustainability of a whole mainstream/normal middle-class existence that is built on suddenly shaky things like debt and home values

^ I think the above is true for a pretty broad range of incomes, from families bringing in $60k a year to families bringing in $180k -- the latter family is surely financing nicer stuff, but the fundamentals of a debt-based and home-value-centric middle-class existence are pretty similar, and I don't think they change significantly until you hit a kind of wealth that goes far beyond A Nice Income and enters a whole other kind of financial organization.

If you ask me how "normal" I think he is, I would probably say -- for those same reasons above -- that I think most American families bringing in $120k-$180k a year (especially, yes, in some specific places) live an economic life that's not so markedly different from their normal/mainstream middle-class peers who bring in less. The houses are bigger and the cars and clothes nicer and the vacations longer, but the fundamentals or debt and assets won't vary too much, I don't think.

I agree, though, that the main glaring thing here is the special circumstance that more than half of his income was suddenly going to alimony and child-support payments.

nabisco, Friday, 15 May 2009 23:03 (5 years ago) Permalink

oh this guy was interviewed on all things considered today. i missed the beginning of the interview and was all confused as to why he kept invoking "the love of my life" as the reason he was in dire financial straits. he used the phrase "the love of my life" like nine times in two minutes, guys.

Yeah, I heard that segment and the "love of my life" stuff was interesting. Sounds a lot like he's trying to talk himself into believing it, considering that there's a lot of resentment for her bubbling under the surface of that NYT book excerpt. Sounds like she wouldn't or couldn't accept the austerity measures he knew they needed to institute, and he was too much of a pussy to insist.

resistance is feudal (WmC), Friday, 15 May 2009 23:11 (5 years ago) Permalink

So basically by "normal" I mean:

(a) being dependent on debt to cover not only a slightly inflated standard of living, but more necessary things like bills, repairs, things for children, etc., and

(b) having your financial existence completely tied into homeownership, home value, equity, and debt leveraged against that real estate

which I suspect describes more or less the bulk of American families

nabisco, Friday, 15 May 2009 23:15 (5 years ago) Permalink

btw can someone explain me alimony in This Day And Age etc etc in anything other than extraordinary circumstances?

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Friday, 15 May 2009 23:27 (5 years ago) Permalink

(btw i get it in e.g. 20-year marriages where one party developed a career and the other faire'd the menage... but i know people who were married briefly and young and are still paying out to their former spouse. it just seems weird.)

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Friday, 15 May 2009 23:46 (5 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I heard that segment and the "love of my life" stuff was interesting. Sounds a lot like he's trying to talk himself into believing it, considering that there's a lot of resentment for her bubbling under the surface of that NYT book excerpt. Sounds like she wouldn't or couldn't accept the austerity measures he knew they needed to institute, and he was too much of a pussy to insist.

yeah, but his shitty divorce isn't her fault. maybe she resents him!

MRSA Marchant (get bent), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:02 (5 years ago) Permalink

i think this guy may have made a lot of dumb decisions in his life, just sayin'.

MRSA Marchant (get bent), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:04 (5 years ago) Permalink

A+++ truth bomb

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:11 (5 years ago) Permalink

Sure, he might have been median income for the DC 'burbs - but he was still stupid enough to a) live there and b) buy too much house for the area.

'Unwilling to accept life situation/actual income bracket, makes bad life decisions, decides to gamble everything on too much mortgage to support new life/family he shouldn't be" = wait, he is pretty much the face of the mortgage/credit crisis! Except that he's extra stupid because he admits to knowing his lifestyle was impossible to maintain and that he was already teetering on the brink before he took out $2700/month in a mortgage. (Not sure if that's his actual mortgage, not including taxes - which must be horrible by themself.)

My vagina has a dress code. (milo z), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:35 (5 years ago) Permalink

In November 2005, she was hired as a full-time editor at a nonprofit organization with a salary of $60,000 a year. The problem, I told Bob, was that things were so bad that even Patty’s new job wouldn’t be enough to rescue us. Chase was now charging us 13.99 percent on our platinum card, and the rate on our SunTrust card was up to 27 percent.

2005! This still wasn't even the height of the market! And seriously how the fuck do you have a card with a 27% rate?

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:38 (5 years ago) Permalink

Tracer Hand, Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:43 (5 years ago) Permalink

i mean

Tracer Hand, Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:43 (5 years ago) Permalink

wait that's not an onion piece is it?

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:48 (5 years ago) Permalink

(though it does suggest a sense of humor peeking out from under the gray lady's hem)

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:49 (5 years ago) Permalink

the new wife would probably be doing fine on her own (sans lunkhead) with that $60,000 -- that's enough to rent a nice apartment and have a decent clothing/entertainment budget even in an expensive city. hell, i'll take it.

MRSA Marchant (get bent), Saturday, 16 May 2009 00:49 (5 years ago) Permalink

Tracer Hand, Saturday, 16 May 2009 15:28 (5 years ago) Permalink

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104192406

(also, quiddities? you mean quibbles?)

"the whale saw her" (gabbneb), Saturday, 16 May 2009 15:36 (5 years ago) Permalink

keep up, gabby!

Tracer Hand, Saturday, 16 May 2009 16:45 (5 years ago) Permalink

More from McArdle, who has read the book.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 18 May 2009 19:32 (5 years ago) Permalink

Andrews spends a lot of time defending not feeling bad, because after all, the banks shouldn't have lent him money. This is true, they shouldn't, and anyone who did should be profusely apologizing to their shareholders. But when you read the book, what you discover is that while the book is ostensibly about our Great National Borrowing Binge, for Andrews, the debt is really a sideshow. He couldn't afford to get married. At all.

After his alimony payments, Andrews was taking home $2770 a month, or about what I took home when I was a junior web editor at The Economist. On this, he expected to support a wife and several children who came attached to a meagre $700 a month in child support.

Ned Raggett, Monday, 18 May 2009 19:33 (5 years ago) Permalink

And from the comments:

---

mrmanley May 18, 2009 3:09 PM

This is the point I make when I say that middle-aged men need to think very deeply before they marry again, especially to women who have children from another marriage. In a financial sense, marriage is all downside to the man: huge expenses, legal obligations, dealing with the ex and the ex-extended family, and very little protection if (when) things go south. As I said in another thread: you better be in love, chum, because your love is all that's going to keep you warm when she takes all your s**t after the divorce.

I forget which comic first made the observation, but men would often be better served by simply picking an attractive female at random and then simply giving her half his assets. It would save time and emotional wear and tear.

But the heart wants what it wants, and expenses be damned.

(Why, yes, I am divorced. How can you tell?)

Bergamot (Replying to: mrmanley) May 18, 2009 3:17 PM

"Why, yes, I am divorced"

It's hard to imagine why...

Ned Raggett, Monday, 18 May 2009 19:35 (5 years ago) Permalink

he was still stupid enough to a) live there

wild guess about major factor in this: kids; DC public schools vs. DC suburban public schools

how the fuck do you have a card with a 27% rate

make one late payment

new wife would probably be doing fine on her own (sans lunkhead) with that $60,000

given that she has multiple kids in custody and is allegedly the one with the spendy habits, not so sure about this

nabisco, Monday, 18 May 2009 19:47 (5 years ago) Permalink

make one late payment

in 2008/2009, sure. but this is in 2005, when revolving credit issuers were falling all over themselves to get in on the whole giving-money-away party. you couldn't open a mailbox without a dozen ZERO ZERO ZERO APR offers spilling out. that's aside from the UNSECURED LOAN UP TO $20K!!! and "o hai here are some checks" etc etc "offers"

i understand he had some credit challenges but the only way you can be holding a 27% apr card in 2005 is if you just like and enjoy touching hot stoves.

butt-rock miyagi (rogermexico.), Monday, 18 May 2009 20:26 (5 years ago) Permalink

well if you're asking why he wouldn't convert that to something lower-rate, the answer given in the article is pretty much that he did (by borrowing against home equity, paying off cards, and then refinancing the house at a lower rate)

nabisco, Monday, 18 May 2009 20:33 (5 years ago) Permalink


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