Category Archives: Econ & Money

A Mystery: Miami Property Values Seem Immune to Climate Change Risk

There’s been a lot of news recently about the dire effects climate change can have on Miami, yet not only has the risk not been priced into real estate but values are rising. What’s up? Are climate change deniers that rich, or is something else going on? Is the risk seen as so far out as to be discounted to zero?

It’s flat here, there’s a lot of coastline, and a sea level rise of only a few feet would turn Coral Gables into New Venice. Even a foot and a half — which apparently has a decent change of happening in the next decade or three — would be very bad for Miami Beach, and also for much of South Florida in that it could impact water supplies and swamp power plants.

How then to explain why none of this is priced into the real estate market? Not only are house prices mostly going up after perhaps over-reacting to the the foreclosure crisis, but so too are waterfront land prices, as evidenced by this $100 million/acre sale of the last piece of undeveloped waterfront in downtown (total price for 1.25 acres was $125 million).

Yes, it could be a bubble. Yes, it could be the musical chairs phenomenon where the buyer thinks they can flip it, or develop it, before the music stops. Or it could be that the buyers watch too much Fox News, or have their own climate scientists.

I’d really like to know what’s going on here — if only because I (co)own a house. Any ideas?

Posted in Econ & Money, Miami | 4 Comments

The Basement Is Safe

The Misguided Freakout About Basement-Dwelling Millennials

More than 15.3 million twentysomethings—and half of young people under 25—live “in their parents’ home,” according to official Census statistics.

There’s just one problem with those official statistics. They’re criminally misleading. When you read the full Census reports, you often come upon this crucial sentence:

It is important to note that the Current Population Survey counts students living in dormitories as living in their parents’ home

Spotted via Calculated RISK.

Of course, living in South Florida, we don’t even have a basement…

Posted in Econ & Money | 1 Comment

Guess the Country

Rations Reduced as Demand Grows for Soup Kitchens.

You only get one guess.

Posted in Econ & Money | 2 Comments

See How Your Bank’s Privacy Policies Compare

Lorrie Faith Cranor put me on to this new site she’s built, that allows you to compare banks according to their privacy policies.

It’s a great tool, but not a great reality. Here, for example, is what I got when I searched for large banks in Florida with adequate privacy policies (allowing opt-out from all categories of information sharing):

Search result

Posted in Econ & Money, Law: Privacy | Leave a comment

Tax Day

“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” wrote Justice Oliver Wendel Holmes (in dissent); it seems I’ve been misquoting it for decades as “taxes are the price of civilization.”

They’ve even got the Holmes version on the front of the IRS building in Washington:

inscription03

Just for fun, here’s another good tax quote, from the IRS:

People who complain about taxes can be divided into two classes: men and women.”
— Unknown

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Class Warfare at the Coffee Shop

Inside The Barista Class. It’s about power,

After a while, the process of dealing with the clientele itself can conform to a similar—albeit slightly more nuanced—math. Somewhere around the hundredth order, the expectations underneath each inflection become easier to decode, like you’ve developed a sixth sense. Often it was simply detecting how much overt power a customer wished to exercise. By far the simplest to please are, unfortunately, the most cliche: the older, better-dressed, and very likely monied ones. They want substitutions and customized drinks, and from their servers, only hyper-polite deference. For a woman, men over a certain age are easy, most of the time—there is but only one marginally flirtatious smile, and all it requires is a twist of the mouth.

And don’t forget the alienation:

I once had a friend who quit his job as a bike messenger because, as he told it, people on the street started to resemble nothing more than obstacles in the way of his next commission. If delivery work makes all humans into roadblocks, front-of-the-house service professions render them as a collection of preferences and tastes and, as both Pierre Bourdieu and latte orders have taught me, taste is almost never singular. Luckily there really aren’t that many kinds of people buying $5 coffees in Brooklyn, and thus there are a limited number of ways in which it becomes necessary to communicate, particularly once you figure out which parts of yourself are most in demand.

…and….

My kind of service work is not the kind of service work that puts you in the back room washing dishes for 12-hour shifts for dollars because you are considered completely expendable. But my kind of service work is part of the same logic that indiscriminately razes neighborhoods. It outsources the emotional and practical needs of the oft-fetishized, urban-renewing “creative” workforce to a downwardly mobile middle class, reducing workers’ personality traits and educations to a series of plot points intended to telegraph a zombified bohemianism for the benefit of the rich.

Always lurking is the reserve army of the un- and under-employed,

The national unemployment rate was hovering close to ten percent while I was in school, and if I ever doubted how lucky I was, I had only to look around my own place of employment. The shop was perpetually full of people glaring at their laptops. Some endlessly scrolled through the universal yet private hell of Craigslist job postings. Others hammered away manically, picking away at their corner of the gig economy, that handily shortened name for what had once been termed the Industrial Revolution of our time. It had been estimated, around 2010, that there were a million freelancers in New York. I only knew one or two who were making it work—for everyone else, working for yourself just meant begging for projects while you looked for a job. I was lucky.

As of 2012, one in ten employed Americans worked in food service. Two-thirds of them are under 35. The average hourly wage for a food service worker, according to the Department of Labor, is around $12, with a work week less than 25 hours long. It comes out to a little more than $14,000 a year. These are jobs without benefits or much potential for upward mobility, jobs where the idea of a sick day is laughable. Almost 60% of new jobs are of the low-wage, high-turnover variety; food service ranks in the top five of industries with job growth; the others are mostly in healthcare.

There is a small amount of class solidarity,

For all of North Brooklyn’s book groups and websites and meet-ups dedicated to alternative monetary systems, the solidarity economy is, for the time being, at its best in the service sector. I can barely remember paying full price for anything. Checks for Negronis, artisanal spicy pickles, hand-roasted coffee beans, and sometimes entire locally sourced meals disappeared with a wink and a nudge reminiscent of Fight Club’s ominous waiter scene. At the very least, it allowed us to participate in a culture we couldn’t really afford. At its vilest it felt like a neighborhood of people working for slightly more than minimum wage in exchange for a chance to play-act at brunching in a nice neighborhood.

Rarely spoken aloud, the tendency of Greenpoint’s service class to take care of its own was one of the only outright gestures of solidarity I witnessed, the only place where a distinction was made between the server and the served. I suspect the rarity of that admission has something to do with the fact that, for most intents and purposes, our jobs relied on completely erasing that distinction from public view.

But if you’re not one of them, you better be a good customer, or you will get it:

If a customer was particularly bad we exercised one of the only powers we possessed and “decafed” them. To covertly rob a caffeine-addicted asshole of their morning jolt was truly one of the sweetest pleasures of baristahood, and one that my subsequent professions haven’t come close to replicating.

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We Are Getting Owned

According to Oxfam’s Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality, 85 of the world’s richest people own the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population.

Expand the focus to the richest 1%, and Oxfam reports they have about $110 trillion in wealth (46% of the total) which is 65 times the $1.7 trillion (about 0.7% of the total) held by the bottom half of the population.

Makes you feel that “The Owner” is not just a Neal Asher dystopian fantasy.

Posted in 99%, Econ & Money | 3 Comments