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February 01, 2006

Comments

othehumanity

Freakin' wealthy, white, pseudosocialists just plain irk me. So condescending to we "working" people. Gimme a break.

As for your "truths" ("This is the truth"? What happened to relativity? Who made you absolute arbiter?):
"Working people’s income has declined steadily since the mid 1970s."
Why do you think that is, Bill? C'mon, you're a b-skool boyo. Could it be (eek!) Supply and Demand? Gee, Bill, care to dip your liberal hands into what possible events increased the supply of labor since the '70s? You're not telling me that increased participation by formerly stay-at-home mothers is a BAD thing, are you Bill? No, couldn't be that! What do you propose as a solution, Bill? Should we restrict immigration (even Portuguese into Somerville)? Can't have yer cake and eat it too.

"For every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent of the population, those in the top 0.1 percent 'earned' an additional $162 between 1950 and 1970, and $18,000 between 1990 and 2002." Can't really argue with that: the rich get richer. But picking your stats is pretty easy: the richest 0.1% of the pop. likely qualifies as the ULTRA rich, no? I mean, of COURSE the Gateses and Buffets earned outsized returns. By the way, Bill, I rather doubt you qualify as being within "the bottom 90%" yourself... Are you tithing to your fave charity? Paying ALL your taxes?

"After the Bush tax cuts, the 400 taxpayers with the highest incomes now pay income, Medicare and Social Security taxes amounting to the same percentage of their incomes as people making $50,000 to $75,000." Whoopee. Percentage schmercentage. Frankly, I'm rather impressed that they pay THAT much, given the known tendency for high-bracket earners to engage in tax-sheltering activities. Taxes below a certain rate tend to bring in more absolute dollars (and waste less money in CPA fees) because it is simpler to just PAY the frickin' taxes than avoid 'em. Adding in SS and Medicare is really a red herring, given that those payments are capped (which further implies that the top 400 are paying a HIGHER percentage of their income taxes...). You also fail to mention that their SS and Medicare bennies are *also* capped (not that they will ever receive those benefits at all--and you will, I am sure, cry out 'but they have so much money in their retirement accounts.' I love how, in this country, savers are not only penalized but vilified for their thrifty activity--and here I am speaking not of the top earners but of anyone foolish enough to actually put money aside instead of sucking off Uncle Sam for the bennies they "paid into the system."

"The higher Americans are in income distribution, the longer they live, and the better health they enjoy. This gap is growing." Duh. No brainer. Also, your implications are pretty annoying you class-war monger. Perhaps in addition to access to better health care there is also some OTHER cause and effect. Perhaps highly paid desk jockeys suffer fewer dismemberments than farm workers. Perhaps this employment gap is due to other factors, e.g., education. Perhaps education is affected to some eensy degree by, oh, smarties. Perhaps smarties is affected by health. In other words, maybe some correlation exists among general health (which translates into longevity), intellectual capacity, and earnings. Ya think?

"...fewer American families moved from a position in one fifth to the next highest fifth in the 1980s than in the 1990s." This argument always annoys me in that the study cited does not track individual families, only cohorts. I.e., while there is likely some validity to the observation, it only evaluates the net effect and ignores cancelling movements (i.e., if 10 families drop a quintle an 10 rise a quintile, the press will shout "no one moved!"). Mobility goes both ways, baby.

In your world of implications, no one makes it. If so, why then do we have more billionaires and millionaires than ever before? The number of millionaires jumped 21% in 2004 (a bit higher than population growth, no?). One of the more interesting stats relative to US millionaires--especially for you liberal twerps--is that 86% are (wait for it...hold it...here it comes): MARRIED. Why is this important? Make your own inferences...

That smooth-talking bleeding hearts can carpetbag their way into any old town and grab sufficient power to derail major economic accomplishment proves to me that mobility is their for the taking. I'll hand you one thing, Bill: youse got ambition, bro.

If only you didn't suffer the perpetual need to apologize for your success by queering your stats and feeding the myths of victimization and hopelessness. But, well, whatever, dude.

Mrs. McCarthy

Mr.Shelton,

I'm not quite sure "o the humanity" agreed with your latest commentary.

As a matter of fact, I detect that "humanity" really does not like you.


Counting My Own Millions,
(of Medicare benefits)

Mrs. McCarthy
Little Sister of the POOR
Cambriville, Massachusetts

othehumanity

Mrs. McCarthy,

I dislike hypocrites generally. While my views on life [e.g., life is joyous, hard workers get ahead, individuals bear responsibility for actions and outcomes, etc.] are abrasive to some, I like to think that I do more than talk the talk.

More notes:
'Talking heads,' 'elites,' or 'punditry' might have been a better choice than 'chattering class' to describe roundtable analysts. Mr. Shelton, a member of the politically active, socially concerned, and highly educated elite section of the middle class, is a better candidate for inclusion in the "chattering class" than are paid commentators.

Describing class war as "the very wealthy and powerful against everyone else" is backward. The wealthy and powerful do not even notice "everyone else" or, at best, are subject to an "empathy gap" (a concept far more reasonable than the rantings here writ).

"The myth of the self-made man" is not a myth. Indeed, cruising through Mr. Shelton's "400 richest" one finds the majority are "self made": Bill Gates (middle class guy), Michael Dell, the guy who founded eBay, etc. etc. Further, the majority of inheritors received their wealth from their self-made progenitors, e.g. The Waltons of Wal-Mart, Mars candies, Cox communications, etc.

As an interesting aside, I wonder whether Bill claims to be self-made. Perhaps he is the only American with the talent, drive, and ambition to be the exception that proves the rule...

"Respondents said that hard work and a good education are more important to getting ahead than connections or a wealthy background." Maybe, maybe not...but education and hard work will get your further than doing nothing, right? One possible inference here is that without connections, one is screwed. Yet Bill got to Yale! I doubt he would own up to any connections over hard work and education...

"With great wealth comes the ability to buy social policy at every level, from tax cuts to Assembly Square rezoning." And yet, despite wealth, connections, and power, David slew Goliath and Ikea went to Stoughton... Let's hear it for wealth and power!


"[S]ocial mobility is higher [in the UK, France, and Germany] than in the U.S."
Prove it.

"[U]nless we realize that the misery is shared, the problem is systemic." I believe the communists used a similar argument: one must be re-educated to realize the depth of one's unhappiness with the status quo.

More interesting points:
"Now, the Asians at least, have developed an industrial base that allows very wealthy Americans to pay them $0.30 per hour to produce the same goods that Americans once made." It is not the "very wealthy" Americans that demand $0.30/hour of Asians, but rather the Wal-Mart shoppers... Very wealthy Americans pay top wages to highly skilled Germans and Japanese (and Americans) for their top-quality goods, not their mass-market crap.

Bill denigrates the "very wealthy," stating that they cause subsistence wages, but then goes on in the next sentence to write "And the wealthy and powerful have used improved technology to eliminate jobs rather than sharing productivity gains with workers." Yet, through outsourcing, corporate moguls arguably raise the living standard of the world's (rather than just America's) poorest (e.g., I would bet most Mexican employees of American firms are pretty happy with their "underwages"). A *real* liberal would look to spread wealth around the globe, not horde it for fat, dumb, relatively wealthy indeed, (the richest poor on earth) Americans. But I have already pointed to some of the deep conflict and hypocrisy embodied within our dear Mr. Shelton.

Lastly, apparently TWO commentaries are headed our way: "one objective and one subjective." This was "objective?" More like some lies, damn lies, and statistics. I can't wait for the "subjective" commentary; that oughta be a hoot!


Mrs. McCarthy

Dear Oh,

Thank you. I think. Dear, you write very well indeed. Here's a simple suggestion. Why don't you contact George and ask him for equal time in the next commentary section of the News? It would be sort of like our very own "TheSheltonHumanity Report". Bill can talk about the high cost of wool berets in Paris and all the poor little Parisian kids that make them. Then you can chime in with the fact that you have more money than Bill because you earned it the old fashioned way. Something like that.

In any event, I truly enjoyed your comments.

Mrs. McCarthy
(a long and truly lost Vanderbilt)

Jim Brock

I read both the article and the comments. The comments are directly toward the writer and not a peep is made towards the unfortunate facts that the article brings up. The bias towards the messenger is obvious. The hardest working people I know are the poor, who limit their hopes to survive, much less advance. We all hope and expect to be among the winners, although the facts are that the majority have no chance. And then we call ourselves Christian.

Bill Shelton

Yo Oh,

I understand why you would want to use an assumed name, but do you have to keep changing it? It’s not good for our relationship. Nor would be my responding to your name calling. But the substantive points you made merit responses.

There is a pretty good data source for tracking labor supply and demand imbalances--the unemployment rate. If the three-decade decline in constant dollar wages were the result of an oversupply of labor, as you suggest, the unemployment rate would have continually increased. Instead, it follows the larger economic cycle. In 1973, the unemployment rate was 4.9%; today, it is 4.7%.

The first push that Americans got on this downward slope was, indeed, a result of a supply/demand imbalance, but in oil, not labor. With increased energy costs from the 1973 oil crunch, costs of goods and services rose faster than wages. The oil companies just got fatter, while average Americans got poorer. Since then, globalization and technological change have increased wealth for the rich, while eliminating well-paying jobs and, with them, the power of the labor movement.

Yes, the wealthiest 0.1% of the U.S. population do comprise the “ultra rich,” They are a little less than 300,000 Americans, and as I said in the column’s second paragraph, that is what I was writing about.

Your comments about the percentage of taxes paid by the wealthy are both accurate and irrelevant to anything that I wrote. In the 1970s, the personal tax rate for the highest income bracket was 70%. Now it’s 39.6%. And do you imagine that the very rich don’t draw down their social security benefits?

Last December 21st, Dick Cheney took the redeye from Pakistan to break a tie vote. Reminiscent of the Administration’s “Clean Skies Act” and “Healthy Forest Initiative,” the “Deficit Reduction Act” will actually increase the deficit by $40 billion, in order to provide $90 billion in tax cuts. It will also put more debt on low-income college students, cut $5 billion in funding for the collection of child support payments from dead-beat dads, and deny medical care to 100,000 people living in poverty. I’m not “mongering” class war, I’m describing it.

Yes, a correlation exists between health, education, and earnings. That was exactly my point. The more education people have, the less likely they are to die form diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancer. I don’t know what “smarties” is, but a lot of intelligent people aren’t getting an education because they can’t pay for it. Cuts to higher education funding have driven up the costs, while incomes and student aid are declining. Kids are dropping out of college at a 67% higher rate than they did in the 1960s. Not only do highly paid folks suffer fewer dismemberments, but health researcher tell us that stress involved in high-demand, low-control jobs is more damaging than the stress of jobs with greater autonomy and control.

I cited the Fed and BLS studies on movement between income quintiles because it succinctly makes the point, and I can only put so many words in a column. In fact, recent studies on mobility do track individual families’ earnings over decades. They find that that mobility is declining, and that the advantage of someone born into a relatively wealthier family lasts about five generations, rather than the two that prior flawed studies found. I would cite the economists and their studies, but you dismiss statistics as “damned lies.”

You say, “in your world of implications, no one makes it.” That is your implication, not mine. In fact, there is mobility into “the ultra rich.” In the 1980s about 200 of Forbes 500 richest people inherited their wealth. Last year, it was only 37. Meanwhile, most Americans got poorer. In every lottery, the house and a few players win, while most lose.

Although you describe me as, “condescending,” I can’t find anything condescending in what I wrote in the column. This is what condescending sounds like: “Why do you think that is, Bill? C'mon, you're a b-skool boyo. Could it be (eek!) Supply and Demand?” (Condescending and wrong.) “Duh, no brainer.” (Condescending and unoriginal.) “Maybe some correlation exists among general health (which translates into longevity), intellectual capacity, and earnings. Ya think?” (Condescending and obvious.)

Since the comments in your second post weren’t much more than hateful insults, I won’t offer a factual response. You did ask me to prove that social mobility is higher than Europe than in the U.S. That comes from a series the Wall Street Journal did last year on mobility. I’ll have to take another look at it and get back to you. And if you imagine that building big boxes in Assembly Square is going to help our city’s fiscal crisis, you aren’t paying attention.

You don’t know me, and I don’t think your channeling God’s own truth. So your comments about me can only be the product of your fantasies. They reveal more about you than they describe me.

You must have good and legitimate reasons for being as angry as you are. I’d like to hear them. I’ll tell you mine in my next column.

JoeB

Dear Oh,
It takes a bloody boob to bemoan a bleeding heart. Such body parts notwithstanding, your diatribes reveal ignorance where you intend insight, and a nasty, trivial, and wildly superficial ideology where you intend knowledge. Bill Shelton's arguments about class warfare are a mild analysis of the immediate crises exacerbated by fools like you in charge of our national destiny. Your responses are personal, vindictive, and tasteless, confirming the need for Bill's good data to counter your political rants. Claptrap about hard work and assuming responsibility, about pseudosocialism and elitist theory only color and stilt your anger and angst. Bill Gates' father is the most respected patent attorney in the Northwest, and the money did not come from hard work; rather, from very aggressive patent protection. Similarly, the rich do not personally drive the economic repression of industrializing India and China. They don't have to. Through policies like WalMart's market control and Target's pricing, investors corrupt local and transparent markets with manipulative and deceptive marketing. WalMart's not cheap because they LIKE you, beanbrain, they're cheap about some items to get you in the door and take as much of your money as they can.

The malevolence of great wealth goes well beyond a greed empowered tax system. It is well represented in your naive presumption that hard work has any concrete connection with social mobility. Any idiot who owned a house in Somerville for more than ten years made a ton more money on luck than on other assets, no matter what kind of education they bring to the transaction.

If you really were the honorable, hard working, affable and optimistic Somervillian you pretend, you'd not have to be such a verbal vaudevillian and could argue social mobility without resorting to personal attacks. On the other hand, if you were at all in tune with your own town you'd notice that working people are being chased out of here faster than yuppies can move in, and the warfare of class has already devastated large parts of the inner suburbs. The walls around the housing projects in Charlestown, the guns and knives of Chelsea, the drugs and desperation of Revere, and the flirtation with gangs in Somerville and Cambridge are all little skirmishes of the class war already well advanced right here in river city. Wake up, Oh Oh, and choose candor over slander.

Mrs. McCarthy

Joe B.,

Could you explain to us again what you mean by "verbal vaudevillian"?

"bloody boob"
"superficial idealogy"
"fools like you"
"claptrap"
"beanbrain"
"idiot"

Is it something like a "gibbering gymnast"?

And while you're at it, is your post what you mean by "candor over slander"?

Sincerely,(and never above a little slander)

Mrs. McCarthy

JoeB

You got it perfectly: only Mrs. McCarthy could recast verbal vaudville as gibbering gymnastics. May I tip my hat?

Mrs. McCarthy

Joe B.,

No dear, don't take your hat off on a cold day like today. You may loose a lot of hot air through your unshingled roof.

And by the way dear, the "gibbering gymnast" comment was directed at you.(told you I was'nt above a little slander myself)


Obnoxiously Opinionatedly Yours,

Mrs. McCarthy

gee

I'm not rich. But I'm writing because I cringe every time I hear the phrase "War on Terrorism/Drugs/issue-du-jour". I find the term "class warfare" just as cringe-worthy.

I acknowledge that terrorists, drugs, and poverty are bad, but declaring "war" on them obscures the truth of the situation. This op-ed, like most pieces talking about "class warfare", is also guilty of manipulating reality.

Note that I'm not writing to defend Republicans or othehumanity because the former is criminal at misrepresenting facts and the latter resorts to insults. I think Mr. Shelton is a good writer and deserves a reasonable reply, so I'm just going to comment on a few of his latest assertions:

Bill: "There is a pretty good data source for tracking labor supply and demand imbalances--the unemployment rate. If the three-decade decline in constant dollar wages were the result of an oversupply of labor, as you suggest, the unemployment rate would have continually increased. Instead, it follows the larger economic cycle. In 1973, the unemployment rate was 4.9%; today, it is 4.7%."

Me: That's true if employers didn't react to an oversupply of labor. If there is a larger supply of workers than jobs, then of course the unemployment rate would go up. But that's not the case because employers have responded to the larger supply of labor by creating more jobs. And if they have a larger supply of people who can do the job, they can afford to lower the wage (after adjusting for inflation) from what it was in the 1950s and 1960s, an exceptional period of time when the rest of the world was recovering from WW2 and there was hardly any international competition or trade.

There is indeed a larger supply of labor, mostly due to globalization. You seem to be against it. I don't want to get into a big argument about whether it's good or bad. But I do want to ask you: if not globalization, then what would you do instead? Tariffs? Price controls? Isolationism? Those would help in the short-run, but lower-class and middle-class families in the next few decades will be PO'ed when it costs $4000 for a basic computer and $25000 (both in today's dollars) for a small car because we're "protecting" the American employees in those industries. (Not to mention that the quality of that car and computer will increase slower.)

B: "The first push that Americans got on this downward slope was, indeed, a result of a supply/demand imbalance, but in oil, not labor. With increased energy costs from the 1973 oil crunch, costs of goods and services rose faster than wages. The oil companies just got fatter, while average Americans got poorer."

Me: High energy prices may have existed for a short periods of time (late 70s to mid 80s); but since then, inflation-adjusted gas prices are mostly the same as or cheaper than it was in the 50s and 60s. The price is up again but that's because of supply instability plus increasing demand in developing countries. Here's a chart:
http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/images/charts/InfAdjGas1918_2005.gif

And you can't argue that the "fat cats" pocketed all the profit increases when gas prices fell because inflation decreased right alongside gas prices. So they actually helped families get more for their dollar by providing cheap gas. I could write a book on how much I hate oil companies and how they're bad with every other issue. But in this case, cheap gas helped.

B: "Yes, the wealthiest 0.1% of the U.S. population do comprise the “ultra rich,” They are a little less than 300,000 Americans, and as I said in the column’s second paragraph, that is what I was writing about."

Me: You were right when you said quantiles (20%) form a good measurement. But 0.1% is way too slim to draw any kind of conclusion. A reasonable person would aim for $1 million in total net worth (house, savings, etc. with today's dollars) by retirement. If that becomes impossible, that's a problem. But if someone complains that he can't be like Bill Gates, that person is a fool. So I ignore all populist arguments comparing the the Average Joes versus the Bill Gates.

Regards,
gee

Bill Shelton

Gee,

As with your other postings, your comments are thoughtful and challenging. I will respond in order.

1. No question that the period following World War II, when Europe and Japan were rebuilding their industrial bases was an exceptional period. I also take your point that labor supply and demand can be equilibrated by creating more jobs. In addition to job growth, however, there are two other variables: worker productivity, for which year-by-year numbers can be downloaded from the BLS from http://www.bls.gov/lpc/home.htm, and growth of the total economy, which can be downloaded from http://www.bea.doc.gov/bea/A-Z/A-ZIndex_h.htm. When I put them all together, I find that a shift in who appropriates domestic labor’s product is more explanatory than supply and demand imbalances. If I’ve got it wrong, I would appreciate your enlightening me.

2. I don’t think of whether globalization is “good” or “bad,” in much the same way that I don’t think of winter as good or bad—it’s inevitable. What is not inevitable is how our economic and political institutions engage in fair trade, manage trade relations with corrupt and authoritarian states, and most importantly, how we manage the impact of dislocations on our own people. Your point about how average Americans will react to the next few decades’ economic reality is compelling, and I would be interested in any thoughts you might have about what we as a nation can do to adjust to what will inevitably be a different way of life.

3. I agree with your comments on oil economics and apologize for lack of clarity. I was trying to make two points, which I collapsed together. (1) 1973 was the year that that average wages began their decline in constant dollars. It was also the year of the first oil crisis, which made a significant contribution to why 1973 wages didn’t buy as much as they had in 1972. (2) Oil companies have done well, whether or not there are shortages.

4. I chose the top 0.1% because, while the column was explicitly about disparities in wealth, my greater concern is disparities in power. The three hundred thousand richest Americans include a lot more people than the Bill Gateses, and they have the most disproportionate influence on public policy. How, would be the subject of another column and a longer conversation. I don’t mean to suggest that they are homogenous in their orientation. There are always pleasant exceptions—Bill Gates’ dad made a powerful argument against repeal of the estate tax, saying that all Americans create the society that enables the privileged to acquire their wealth.

Thanks for the cogent comments and apt criticism.

Mrs. McCarthy

People, people, people..........

All right now. Everyone just take 10 deep breaths and exhale slowly. OK we get it. You're all fairly well educated. You've read the Wall Street Journal at least six times, your favorite Sunday pastime is to channel surf between the talking heads morning shows. And all of you are right.

Does that make you feel better? I hope so, because this witty banter and "mine is bigger that yours" crap is giving me a fucking headache. And you guys wonder why some residents of dear old Cambriville just want to kick you in the nuts when they hear you spout this crap on 16, in your commentaries, at public hearings and on the blogs.

As much as I enjoy a good economics roundtable jerk-off session, can I just ask that you try and limit your comments or else take this off-line and beat the crap out of each other with the latest copy of "World Economics This Week"?

Quite honestly, reading this last go round reminds me of the "boys" from DPW last week.(only you guys use spell check more frequently)

Now, relax before I kick you all in the nuts.


Nuts to You,

Mrs. McCarthy

P.S. For God's sake Shelton, lay off those brownies man!

gee

Hi Bill,

I was trying to cram too much into my response. I mainly agree with you when you say, "I find that a shift in who appropriates domestic labor's product is more explanatory than supply and demand imbalances."

I guess we're discussing all of this because there are so many changes going on because of that shift from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. Somerville is not immune to that. I'm confident that in the long run, barring something stupid*, the quality of life will be better once.

* Invading more countries, racking up more debt, etc.

In the short term, however, the uncertainty is scary. I'm just afraid the US will overreact and undertake an action that it can't afford. We are already $8.2 trillion in debt.

So I'll just end with this broad statement:
In so many ways, our economy is good. But in the ways that it's bad (like growing income disparity), it's very troubling and occupies more and more of my thoughts.

I think it's a reasonable thing to say, but you'll never hear anyone on CNN, Fox News, or Capitol Hill say it because it's too boring. It's always "everything is peachy" or "it's all-out class warfare". I think that was the very first thing you said in your op-ed.

But unlike them, you've clearly thought a lot about it and have the cahones to fully discuss it. That's all I want these days. Thanks.

gee

Mrs. McCarthy: Trust me, I'm no economist. I just have too much time on my hands.

Anyway, I'm done for now. If Bill and I fetch you some Vicodin for your headache, will you promise not to kick us in the balls?

Mrs. McCarthy

Gee,

No promises. And thanks for the Vicodin offer, but I think I'll just whip up a batch of "Brother Bill's Brownies" tonight.
Five or six of those and I'm good to go.

Thanks for the econ discussion. Truth be told, you all have good points. Just my opinion.

Now, there's a new story about the Mayor rolling back the parking fees...........hope to see you there.


I'll leave this story with the following thought(not mine, but I forgot who first said this, damn brownies)

"A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."

Ciao for now,

Mrs. McCarthy
President
The New World Order

othehumanity

[First point (written when I was about 2/3 done with this particular diatribe): Response/rebuttal/refutation is useless with the Bill Shelton's of the world; like the mujahadeen, the Bill Sheltons have a fixed and supreme world view, untainted by such annoyances as statistics (unsullied) or stakeholders. Hence, I write here mostly for my own amusement.

We now return to our regularly scheduled rant...]

I was taking valuable time away from my job to write up a refutation of Bill's statistics when I was reminded of high school debate. One tactic is to throw out a stream of "facts" that must be researched and refuted: a time sink. Another tactic (employed to great effect by Goebbels) is to repeat a "fact" endlessly, until it becomes accepted as truth. In the interest of time, I will point out available alternative interpretations in only one instance:

Shelton makes casual reference to a "three decade decline in constant dollar wages," but this "decline" has been anything but steady. Over the past 30 years, yes, real wages have declined roughly 8%. Over the last 10 years, however, real wages have gained roughly 7%. Real wages under Bush are the highest they have been in over 20 years. Yet I read no joy at this turn of events.

I don't consider statistics per se lies, but I dislike misuse and obfuscation. One opposing view of the data can be found here: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Taxes/bg1791es.cfm

I will also cite but one argument Bill missed (or, more likely, refuses to see): "Yes, a correlation exists between health, education, and earnings. That was exactly my point. The more education people have, the less likely they are to die form diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancer."

Education does not equal health.
Wealth does not equal health.
The correlation is between ability and health; education and wealth are the results of ability.

"Education" is often a mere code word; better education does not get you equality of outcomes, i.e., sending everyone to college will not make everyone healthy and wealthy. To repeat, the cause/effect correlation is that humans of higher ability, in addition to seeking higher quality education, also happen to enjoy better health (sorry, not my fault). The follow-on is that smarter, healthier people make (and keep) more money.

"And if you imagine that building big boxes in Assembly Square is going to help our city’s fiscal crisis, you aren’t paying attention."

So let us now get down to my fundamental dislike of hypocrites, my "anger," as it were...

Bill Shelton, Yale graduate, former management consultant, is likely not jonesing for a McJob (what exactly *do* you do, Bill? I mean, for pin money?). The Bill Sheltons--often affluent, over-educated, non-working wives--enjoy great insight into the situation of the "average" worker, are able to tell "what is best for rest." Of course, like Senators, these rules do not apply to them.

Bill Shelton claims, repeatedly, that wealth = power and that poor = powerless, yet the poor and powerless MVTF somehow managed to deprived Somerville of 400 direct jobs, 800 - 1000 follow-on jobs, a park, an office park, and more than $1MM in direct taxes (and who know what in follow-on taxes) for 10 years...for...what?

And what utopian altenative has arisen on the banks of the Mystic River? Hmmm?

Don't get me wrong--it is not IKEA I care about (although I sure do like their meatballs): I care that a poor and powerless gang (there are not enough of them to qualify as a "minority") brought politics and property rights to a standstill, cheating the residents of this good city of something they wanted, offering in return...nothing.

A Pyrrhic defeat for Somerville:
Nearly 10 years of good jobs: lost
Nearly 10 years of tax revenue: lost
Nearly 10 years of cumulative follow-on commercial & residential development: lost.
Opportunity lost: priceless.

I do not expect you to recognize or acknowledge the hurt you have done this city; psychology demands that, at this point, you cannot.

So, 10 years of jobs down the drain, jobs that, believe me, Bill Shelton wasn't applying for anyway, jobs that he deems beneath Somerville in general. He cries about globalization while simultaneously denying jobs to locals!

The class warfare is not between the "ultra rich" and the others (as I've said before, the ultra rich couldn't care less what happens in Somerville--or anywhere). The real class war is between the *second* quintile--the comfy & affluent, the do-good know-it-alls--and all other quintiles.

These folks (who else has time?), who suffer no hardship of their own, are aghast at those above and those below. These self-anointed are the only ones who see the light and want to make sure that everyone else understands how miserable the life of the little people really is.

I sure am glad Assy Square is so much better off now. Whew. You think-global-act-localers DO know best!

"And unless we realize that the misery is shared [and] the problem is systemic ... we face much harder times ahead."

We? "We" face harder times?

I don't think so, no, not "we."


Mrs. McCarthy

All righty then........ "Oh" do you feel better now, dear? I hope so. That was very well written.

Just one suggestion. That last sentence? Someone once told me; "Never say I don't think. People will think you don't!"

Other than that, when do you anticipate the mud wrestling bout with Shelton? Maybe we can get this Renee woman to referee......


Oh,oh..........

Mrs. McCarthy
Little Sisters of the Not So Poor Cambriville, Massachusetts

Dog Catcher

Hey guys, for the last few months I've been tracking a rabid little yapper that answers to the name of Mrs. McCarthy. While rabid her bark is worse than her bite. She is toothless, suffers arthrititis of the snout and has no feelings on her left side.

Mrs. McCarthy was last seen scurrying around Ward 3 in the Prospect Hill area. Approach with caution. While she is a pthetically cute furball shi is rabid.

Call the MSPCA emergency line if you spot her.

Dog Catcher

Dog Catcher

Freakin' angry white, pseudointellectuals without B-Skool degrees just plain irk me. Property values in Somerville have increased, with the arrival of the dreaded carpetbagger.

Without the carpetbagers Somerville would still be a bedroom community full of po' white ho's, deadbeat dads, junkies and gangsters.

When the democratic process is called a power grab you know the old culture of corruption is gasping for breath.

There hasn't been a major economic accomplishment in Somerville since the carpetbaggers left Cambridge and other cities and towns and helped to raise the property values of the ones who stayed behind when their relatives flew the city for greener pastures across the northern border.

The Somerville News ought to do the city a public service. It should find out who all those cars with out of state license plates on the streets and driveways of Somerville are registered to.

Mrs. McCarthy

Dog Catcher,

Sorry I did'nt respond to you earlier, Dear.
I'm usually a way off in never-never land at 12:30AM. But since you've been waiting patiently for almost 9 hours for a witty, profane, silly and somewhat self-absorbed retort, I think you deserve one. So here goes.....................

''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''.

Sincerely,

Mrs. McCarthy

Dog Catcher

Rabid pooch update: Approach the rabid mutt who answers to the name of Mrs. McCarthy as it has a severe case of what the MSPCA is calling canine adjectivitist.

Mrs. McCarthy

Readers,


I told you the poor bastard was waiting for someone to respond. Ok, ok Dog Catcher. Now go away or I'm gonna kick you in the nuts! I haven't even taken my dose of prune juice yet.................


Fondly and rabidly,


Mrs. McCarthy

Dog Catcher

"here poochie, poochie." "here poochie, yip, yip, yip." "ouch!"


THANK GOD I WEAR A CUP.

Need a job or other things

To Ms McCarthy, Dog Catcher, Brick bottom, Jar, Camberville news, britton.

I come onto this site to keep up with Somerville News. I reed it on-line because I am to lazy to get out of my car in the morning in the cold. You people really need to get a job, a life but must of all...are need of some type of physical...sexual contact...with a person of any sex...what ever it is your into...This is getting pathetic.

Dog Catcher

Need A Job, whatever you are offering I am not interested. In this day and age the type of sex you offer is far too risky. Try the Mid Night. I hear it has quite an eclectic collection of toys.

Why can't you read the articles without the comment section? Do you have poor impulse control?

I bet you watch Jerry Springer and criticize the people who go on the program.

Pathetic?

Talk to the hand.

Bill Shelton

“Another tactic (employed to great effect by Goebbels) is to repeat a "fact" endlessly, until it becomes accepted as truth.”

Yes, this has been the approach of big box developers and their allies in city government. Among these pseudo facts are

• Building big boxes at Assembly Square will solve our city’s fiscal crisis;
• The city has no choice because there is no market for office space;
• Mystic View Task Force has prevented these developments; and
• In so doing, they have denied much needed jobs to real people in Somerville.

Virtually every big box in the United States creates more new costs to a city than it does new revenues, except where municipalities are allowed to keep a portion of the tax revenue. Yet we are to believe that Somerville is different?

Here is a fact that shouldn’t be too much of a “time sink” to research; just call or go on line to the city assessor’s office. The redevelopment of the mall site and tenanting by Christmas Tree, Staples, Bed Bath, AJ Wright, etc. increased the city’s tax revenues by $323,000, substantially less than the new costs that the city must now pay for it. When this year’s increase in the city’s healthcare expenses alone is $2.6 million, I don’t think that’s much of a contribution. Office development there could solve the city’s fiscal crisis.

Offices produce four times the jobs per thousand square feet as big box retail. When you multiply this difference by offices’ multiple stories and lower use of parking lots, you get vastly more jobs from office development. This includes substantially more entry-level jobs for “unskilled” Somervillians. In fact, you get the same amount of retail jobs (which is Somerville’s lowest paid sector), but the retail is on first floors of office buildings.

For as long as the A.S. controversy has existed, office developers have been interested in building there. One of the nation’s leading developers, Forest City, first got squeezed out of Yard 21 bidding, and then, in 2004, were manipulated by ASLP, the mall owners, when they offered to negotiate a purchase.

Cathartes’ bid on Yard 21 would have created offices with more jobs and tax revenues than that of ASLP; they promised to begin immediately; and they promised to pay twice as much as ASLP. Instead it went to the mayor’s friends.

ASLP is on record as saying that Liberty Mutual was once interested in relocating to Assembly Square, but were told by ASLP that it would be impossible. And just last month, Spaulding and Slye reported that Boston-area office occupancy is at its highest level in history and rising.

The appeal that MVTF filed against the permitting of Ikea and the Home Depot expansion couldn’t have been successful if the city hadn’t repeatedly violated its own laws to favor specific developers. So who is responsible for delay? And it was not MVTF that signed a contract with the developers giving them ownership rights to Yard 21, but not requiring them to buy it until 2009. Meanwhile, the value of the property increases and the city gets no tax revenue, but has to pay the carrying costs.

Since you seem to believe that property rights reign supreme, you wouldn’t object to your next door neighbor constructing a lard rendering plant would you? In fact every city has the legal right to define land use for the best interests of its citizens. Ours has done so in the best interests of people who don’t live here.

Tricky

Since the floor has been opened for Assembly Square analysis and rehash ad infinitum:

Bill (and others) - What would it have taken to get KMart out of the mix? The company's filed for bankruptcy, and bailed on what should have been a (relatively) lucrative situation at South Bay, only to be replaced by ... Target. Does waving money at a sinking ship get it out of your hair?

Also - what concessions (if any) were made to Bed Bath & Beyond to open a store less than a mile from its store in Everett? I am assuming this is not a typical business model to follow - I understand trying to siphon business from your competitors, but aren't they shooting themselves in their foot here?

Some facts?

Bill- While not entirely disagreeing with you, I think some of your points are a wee bit off, or at least based on innuendo:

"The redevelopment of the mall site and tenanting by Christmas Tree, Staples, Bed Bath, AJ Wright, etc. increased the city’s tax revenues by $323,000, substantially less than the new costs that the city must now pay for it."

While taking the $323K at face value (I haven't checked), I wonder what "new costs" you can document that the city must now pay for that project. The traffic impacts are relatively minor and directly onto a major throughway that is not a city-owned road.


"Cathartes’ bid on Yard 21 would have created offices with more jobs and tax revenues than that of ASLP; they promised to begin immediately; and they promised to pay twice as much as ASLP. Instead it went to the mayor’s friends."

I don't think this is true. The other bid for Yard 21 was by Peter Miller - who actually was also a friend of the Mayor's - bringing Cathartes along for the ride. It mostly involved graduate student housing with a vague promise of one huge office building in the future. I suspect the costs to the city of student housing would have exceeded the revenue. Whatever criticism you might place on that decision, its always easy to say "Look what might have happened..."


And then a question- what ever happened to the lawsuit Mystic Valley filed against the new zoning passed by the city in 2004. The web site talks about it but there are no updates in almost 2 years.

More Facts

To Some Facts, Peter Merrigan and associates bid a total of $8 million for Yard 21 and as Mr. Shelton stated, promised to start building the next day if they won the bid. The City, Mayor Curtatone, accepted the bid of Sturtevant for 1/2 the bid of Merrigans and gave them until 9 years to pay for the property. When the sale of Assembly went to Federal, the land agreement went along with that sale which means, Fed had the remaining years to actually pay for yard 21. Seems like we got screwed and those that made the covenant, got the covenant... don't you think?

somerspeak

No Facts.....Just Perception

I never participated in any of the inside negotiations relative to the Assembly Square redevelopment. I do not know who said what or how the deals were originally struck. Anything I now think is solely based on the news reports, public hearings, and slowly, the developments as they happen at the mall site. So here are my thoughts about Assembly Square:

Two Administrations, past and current members of the Board of Aldermen, the Mystic View Task Force, as well as the past and current developers, should all hang their heads in shame. The best chance to successfully redevelop this prime site in the Metro Boston area is gone for the next 100 years.

The greed, the egos, the self interest, the politics, and yes the corruption, have all contributed to the disaster we now know as Assembly Square.

The best thing we can do now is to petition the Commonwealth to install a ten foot high sight barrier along Rt. 93 in Somerville to hide from the rest of the world this shameful episode in Somerville's history.

Bill Shelton

Good comments, questions, and criticisms all around.

Tricky,

You’ll remember that ASLP said that they really wanted to build offices, but there wasn’t a market for them and the K-Mart lease required the mall site owners to provide large retail tenants.

On January 22, 2002, K-Mart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As part of the plan filed with the bankruptcy trustee, K-Mart committed to put as many of their leases as they could up for bid, in order to generate cash to pay creditors. The 283 leases that K-Mart offered sold for an average of $165,000. The Assembly Square lease was particularly advantageous, but K-Mart was strapped for cash. An offer of $500,000, $1 million or even $10 million for the lease would have been a small cost of doing business to a developer who wanted to build offices on the mall site. We know of no effort that ASLP or city government made to negotiate around the lease requirement.

Massachusetts Superior Court made this lease provision moot in January, 2003 when it ruled that the mall building was zoned for retail spaces less than 10,000 sq. ft. This exempted the landlord from performing on that lease clause. And the Board of Aldermen could have rezoned the property to exclude big boxes to get the landlord off the hook. They did the reverse.

Bed-Baths’ choice is curious. I have no real knowledge of the deal structure or their calculations, and I don’t want to speculate. I believe that the mall’s tenants are innocents in this sorry history.

Some facts,

It does seem counter-intuitive that a newly renovated retail space on a state highway would generate much in city costs. The biggest surprise if public safety costs. A thousand square feet of retail space generates fourteen times the number of police calls as an equivalent of office space. For big box, the figure is more. This is why, in March, 2004, the city gave cooked data to the financial analyst that it had retained to justify the big boxes. City officials substituted police call information from the Somerville Avenue Target shopping center for that of Assembly Square. Also, 12,000 new car trips per day does involve new public works expenses

The $323,000 comes from the Assessor and was reported by Bill White at a recent BoA meeting. It represents the difference in tax revenues from when the mall was sold, and after it was redeveloped and tenanted. It is gross revenue, without deducting any new costs.)

Yard 21 is a seamy story, but I will only cite those aspects for which there is verifiable public evidence. The city bought it in September, 2000 for $3 million. (Source, Assessor) They did not issue a Request for Proposals to developers for 9 months. (Source: RFP)

At a December 20, 2000 meeting with constituents, then BoA president Kevin Tarpley said that the city was holding off on issuing the RFP to give ASLP time to tie up surrounding properties before competitors could be made aware of the opportunity. (Source: testimony of meeting attendees and minutes of meeting)

A June 14, 2001 Somerville Journal article stated, “Meanwhile, Taurus’ [the lead ASLP limited partner] said that they had been ‘chatting with the city’ about the RFP, and had prepared a team of specialists to fashion their bid.” Yet, the RFP was not even issued until after the article was published.

Thirteen or fourteen developers visited the site, including those interested in building offices. (Source: August 5, 2001 Globe article quoting the city’s Yard 21 project manager) Ultimately, none of them bid. Why? In s Boston Globe, article that October, Forest City spokesman J Keily said that the firm had been very interested, but discovered that the surrounding properties had been tied up by ASLP.

No one expected a competing bidder, but Cathartes joint ventured with Habitat for Learning. The latter’s president is, as you say, Peter Miller; its CEO is Amy Anthony. Yes, Cathartes/Habitat committed to build 750 graduate student apartments, but also 1.06 million sq. ft. of offices, 70,000 sq. ft. of retail, a 60,000 sq. ft. performing arts center that they would donate to the city, 2,030 structured parking spaces, and an Orange Line station for which they committed to obtain the financing. They offered $8 million, as opposed to $4 million. Their proposal would have created 4,200 jobs and $8.2 million per year in tax revenues, as opposed to 2,800 jobs and $4.1 million. (Source: Bid packages) BTW, city costs on the student housing would have been minimal—no public school costs, few auto trips, almost no social services.

After meeting secretly in three executive sessions, the Somerville Redevelopment Authority chose ASLP. They did not, as required by Mass General Law Ch. 39, Sec. 23B, subsequently publish the content of those secret sessions and the reasons for their choice. (Source, SRA Minutes for October 21, October 30, November 5, and November 7, 2001 meetings) Nor did ASLP reveal, as required by MGL 30B, Sec 16, that the beneficial owners, i.e., those whose money was in the deal and would get the largest portion of the profit, were three billionaire German families.

The city signed a contract giving ASLP until 2009 to buy the property. During this period, its value has continued to rise, but ASLP, and now FRIT, pay no taxes, even though they enjoy site control. The city pays the carrying costs as well. ASLP/FRIT are required to make nominal deposits, which, over the period amount to around $500,000, but the city can’t even use this money. It is held in escrow as a deposit on the purchase price. (Source for all these points: Land Disposition Agreement between the city and ASLP, and its 12 amendments).

The lawsuit challenging Assembly Square’s rezoning was heard in Land Court in March of last year. Probably the most important of the reasons why the rezoning is illegal is found in MGL Chapter 40A, Section 4, which applies the equal protection principle to zoning. The Assembly Square rezoning permitted ASLP to do things with its property for which another owner on another A,S, property, wanting to do a similar project, would be forbidden.

Since there was no dispute in the facts of the case, the plaintiffs asked for summary judgment on the law itself. Judge Sands said that he realized the urgency of the situation and would rule promptly. He has not, although no findings of fact are required. Some cynics say that Sands imagines that MVTF are anti development. The delay has given ASLP/FRIT time to redevelop the mall, and few judges are willing to order that an investment of that size be razed, even if it is illegal.

Somerspeak,

From you previous postings, I know you to be a straight shooter with a sense of justice. I respect your acknowledgement that you have no special knowledge of these events. I sincerely believe that if you did, you would not be so willing to distribute the shame in equal portions. I hope that someday, all the facts are well known, but history suggests that this is unlikely.

somerspeak

Mr. Shelton,

I do have a strange sense of justice. I thought that this time you, and by extension, the Mystic View Task Force, would have the cahoohas to step up to the plate just once and accept some responsibilty(blame) for the mess at Assembly Square. From your response, I was wrong.

I think I understand your point about rich people though. Amos H. is a good rich person because he and his organization funded the law suits MVTF filed against the City and the develpers. He's a good rich person, right Bill?

Phony.

itsTrue

The rest of the worlds poor wants its share first.

The wealthy are not going to help... they might help deport the illegal imigrnats but not until all the work on their guest house is finnished.

Bush sucks; but we should have more refineries here. The only reason there is money in the mmiddle east in the fist place is because we were dumb enough to pay them for oil. They had no use for oil, it was as valuable to them as sand is to us. In fact, it was probably even a burden, it got into their food and water and ruined crops when it seaped to the surface... Then we decided we wanted it, and payed them for it... Now China and other industrial countries need it.. They are going to pay them for it.... When these other countries start trading between each other and start ignoring us we are going be in big and bigger trouble... YOu thought protecting your cushy goverment job would help you because you have senoirity. NOw the rest of the world is going to want its share . Our poor are not even poor compared to them...

itsTrue

"The world leader in per capita GDP is Norway, a nation that offers its citizens long vacations, generous paternity leave programs, strict environmental regulations and well-developed social safety net.

According to rankings put out by the World Economic Forum -- an industry group of big multinationals -- the most competitive economy in the world is a social democracy: Finland. So are seven of the 10 most competitive economies in the Forum's Global Competitiveness Index. And seven of the 10 most 'economically free' countries in the Economic Freedom Index -- which is published annually by the uber-conservative Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal -- are social democracies. The Fraser Foundation -- a Canadian version of Heritage -- publishes a similar index and, lo and behold, seven of its 10 most competitive economies are also social democracies.

The next time some right-winger claims social benefits reward laziness and inertia, remember to point to Bernard Wasow's research. The economist with the Century Foundation found that between 1970 and 2000, per capita GDP increased by 64 percent in the United States and 60 percent in France: "In America, [however,] this came about because productivity per worker rose by 38 percent and hours worked per worker rose by 26 percent. In France, it came about because productivity rose by 83 percent while hours worked fell by 23 percent."

"Many Americans are tired, stressed out, depressed, hooked on drugs, relatively poorly educated and with few opportunities for a better life. They are ready to hear something new, something other than the usual scare-tactics of the right. A truly prosperous country ensures the greatest benefits to the greatest number of people.

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