Links May 16, 2022

I am currently sitting in a spare office of a testing center, where Ian is undergoing more educational and psychological testing for school. Sigh. I want to blog — lots to talk about — but I’m working on an iPad and a tiny portable keyboard. Everything is very cramped. I think I’ll just post some links first for now.

The New York Times editorial board came out against student loan forgiveness.

A new study backs up claims about grade inflation.

Loved this article about the research on what makes us happy. It’s not our careers. It’s being outside.

Young people are like YOLO and are spending/not saving. Remind to talk about the long lines outside the luxury shops in the fancy malls near us.

36 thoughts on “Links May 16, 2022

  1. I thought the happiness article committed certain errors, including weighting too heavily momentary happiness, as when you glance out the window and see a glorious rainbow, for me, And, it reminded me of articles on lifelong regrets: A 2018 study supported a long held belief of mine (which is always fun). That, though no one says they wishes they spent more time at work, people do say “I coulda been a contender” and have regrets over that.

    (Also, I continue to be flabbergasted by the teens who can write essays on their phones, reflecting embrace of being old, according to aforesaid teens)


  2. I have read “Uneasy Street” by Rachel Sherman (who appears as a “you might be interested” article on the “rich” article): What the Rich won’t tell you?

    Those are my rich peeps, from the Rachel Sherman article, the ones who are highly educated, working for incomes, and don’t want to seem “rich”. Usually, the people I encounter are not owners of car dealerships (though I did know one who was a child of a major cardealer in our area).


    1. Yeah it’s interesting where people get their wealth. My sister’s husband’s family has a mix of folks with very little money to some very wealthy families. One guy got rich manufacturing cardboard boxes. As people began buying from online catalogs more and more over the last 2 decades guess what became a necessity for all that shipping?
      Another got lucky in that he somehow read the real estate market well and bought up land cheap in an area that got developed a decade later. He even has an indoor pool.
      My BIL was not one from one of those homes and had to drop out of college when he needed expensive dental work. (He did end up fine, becoming an RN, then later getting his BSN and an MS.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The huge library on the University of Chicago campus is named after the Regenstein family that donated a ton of money. They made their fortune by inventing the window envelope.

        But I know people, who are rich without inventing things and by doing boring jobs. One guy has a massive warehouse, which stores files and paperwork for big corporations. I met someone how had a string of Laundromats. Suburban strip mall developers, a guy who owns a company that puts in large parking lots for malls, and so on. Lots of these guys never even went to college.


  3. Ugh, just read another article by Sherman, one that focuses on children (and not renovating, which was a big part of the book, and something I don’t do). And I feel like the peeps have been exposed.

    “ Ideally, then, kids will be ‘normal’: Hard workers and prudent consumers, who don’t see themselves as better than others. But at the same time, they will understand that they’re not normal, appreciating their privilege, without ever showing off.”

    (I do think support of taxation of the SES that one belongs to is what divides the talk from the walk)

    I think the stats on who the rich are is partly exposing a national versus urban elite divide (which may not include all urban areas, but does include mine, and NYC and environs). But, doctors and dentists and orthodontists who have businesses are an example of the business owner class.


  4. Some people have pointed to the changing nature of the Met Gala as a sign that there are huge divisions in the rich. The Met Gala used to invite only elite, old school rich people. Now, Kim Kardashian and Cardi B are on the guest list. It was a HUGE deal when Anna let Kim and Kanye come and then put them on the cover of her magazine. She snubbed them for years. Kim was actively campaigning to get invited. Then suddenly she and all her Adams family relations are there and the stars of the show. Also, over the top rappers and other performers. Many of whom started their careers on a stripper pole. Now, why did Anna change the vibe? Because the type of people who like Kim Kardashian buy shit. They buy lots of shit with labels and crap. The people who like GOOP — the traditional rich, the educated rich, the Hamptons rich — don’t buy flashy stuff. Their consumption are more discrete and, possibly, guilty.

    I do find it shocking the lines outside the Gucci and Prada stores at the mall. Even if I had the money, I would never buy and wear that stuff. Most of it is ghastly. Looking down, I’m wearing a ten-year old GAP shirt right now and five year old GAP jeans. The sweater is from J. Crew, which I bought on a 60 percent off sale.


    1. It’s the same as it’s been since the 60s. Young people who don’t see it possible to buy a house (or car, if male) will go for status symbols with clothing or shoes. If you have a big enough house or the right address, that’s probably not going to be appealing.


    2. Yes, there’s clearly a style of conspicuous consumption that is supported by Kardashians and influencers of their ilk. I ,now what you mean about Gucci & Prada, though I do appreciate Valentino (though not enough to purchase). And I detest clothes for which people wait for a “drop”. I’m guessing that’s the reason for the lines?

      I do think that the buyers of what Vogue sells are quite different from what Wintour imagined as the head of the fashion industry in her prime. You mention the Kardashians, but I remember being very surprised by the clothes in the windows of the Champs-Élysées in Paris in 2019 in July: there were many “modest” gowns. I presume (because I saw some crowds of guarded groups of women) to sell to the middle easterners traveling in July.

      I am trying to understand the Louis Vuitton fashion show at the Salk Institute, though. I recognized the plaza in the Vuitton advertisement and was trying to understand why, when an internet search explained that Vuitton is debuted the Cruise collection there:


    1. yup, weirdly fun

      when ukraine was invaded, I thought, should I get a big diamond ring as a cross border asset? I wanted to wear it, too, so I got fakes from Amazon (which is not the same thing as the rep bags, cause glass is not a diamond) to test a big ring out.

      And then, I realized I couldn’t wear the fake because it would be a lie, but that I also couldn’t really tell what I’d get out of the real thing.

      I am wondering whether the fake bags are the real bag without the authentication,


  5. Another little rant about “The Rich” article, especially from someone who desires to myth-bust using data.

    The article paraphrases “The researchers found that the typical rich American is, in their words, the owner of a “regional business,” such as an “auto dealer” or a “beverage distributor.”

    The researchers wrote “A typical firm owned by the top 0.1% is a regional business with $20M in sales and 100 employees, such as an auto dealer, beverage distributor, or a large law firm.”

    So to make the monopolist business owner more prominent, the article author drops “large law firm” from the description and then runs with it. ]

    The research, incidentally, focuses on the degree to which pass through income (S corporations, partnerships, which have grown in number) reported, eventually, on K-1 forms, are “investments” versus “human capitol” (i.e. an individual or small group of individuals with high skills v capital investments). It doesn’t really tell us whether >1 million earners are lawyers and investment bankers or car dealership or warehouse owners.


    1. And, whether those occupations of high earners is different in Connecticut v Nebraska v California


    2. I do think it matters because of the politics of high earners and how we tax them.

      I also couldn’t find information (including in the original research article) on the variability of earnings of those making over 1 million.


      1. bj said, “I also couldn’t find information (including in the original research article) on the variability of earnings of those making over 1 million.”

        There have to be a lot of minor pro athletes in that group, who will have a few good years and then have a normal person salary for the rest of their lives.

        See also one-hit wonders in film, music, or other media. There are a lot of people who were a big deal online at one point and then flamed out.


    3. The skills vs. investment thing is important to me. I don’t manage people, I don’t own any stake in the business I work for. I’m labor. Not easily replaceable labor, but labor.


  6. Laura wrote, “Young people are like YOLO and are spending/not saving.”

    In an 8.3% inflation environment, it doesn’t actually make sense to sit on your money.

    Our oldest kid has a small nest egg, due to the fact that she got a refund for her March 2020 senior trip to Italy that did not happen due to COVID. It’s been kind of aggravating watching the inflation eat it, but I feel that a young adult really does need to keep funds liquid.


  7. I thought the “Who are the rich?” article was entertaining for its illustration of the elite’s distance from real life. The author holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard and is a former quantitative analyst at Google, but he has never heard of a beverage distribution company! This must mean he has never gone with his friends to the beer distributor to get a keg or even read the label on his wine/vodka/tequila bottle…


  8. The past week or two weeks, I’ve suddenly had 6 relatives get COVID. Half are in WA, half are in BC and I believe 5 out of 6 are at least double vaccinated. There’s one 97-year-old, two 70-somethings, two late 60-somethings, and one 40ish person.

    I believe they’re all pulling through pretty well, although the 97-year-old spent something like 8 hours in ER with a 103 degree fever before they finally got her an IV, which helped a ton.

    We’re nearly two and half years into this, and I’ve never had so many relatives get COVID basically at the same time.


    1. Yes, happening around me, too, but with younger people, including children.

      An article said that it looks like reinfections, even, are pretty common with the way this virus evolves. The cases are less severe, though.

      In our area, older people are, I think, often quadruple vaxed and wearing masks, still, or now. There’s no mandate, but about half the grocery shoppers were masked today.


      1. I’ve got a mystery bug myself. I tested negative for COVID today, but we’ve all heard the stories of people who test negative 2-3 times before finally getting a positive. I’m triple vaccinated, but that third shot was a looong time ago.

        I don’t have major symptoms, but I’ve felt weirdly tired for the last couple days and had some chest congestion. I’m mostly bracing myself to get yelled at by the boss of the cleaning company that I called in a late cancellation to.

        If this is finally COVID, this is 4 months after all the cool kids got it.


      2. I’m hearing of a long incubation, too. I think I’ve said it before, but this is a really annoying virus. I won’t forget also devastating, but covid is definitely an example of the absolute and utter messiness of biology, the science that brings everyone to their knees.


      3. Yep. Mystery bug here too (in NZ)
        General exhaustion (literally falling asleep at my desk), mild throat roughness and general ‘beginning of a cold’ feeling – for 2 weeks now.
        Multiple negative Covid tests.

        Whatever it is, I’m really over it!


    2. CoViD rates are going up around here. This variety is much worse than the kind that I got last December. Friends from Long Island got it last month. Very sick for two weeks and lingering exhaustion for weeks.


  9. Steve said the Wall Street buzz is that the economy is heading down the tubes. Lots of reasons, but the end of CoViD money is a big factor. A lot of spending that happened in the past two years was CoViD money. People used the money for home repair, education, and, yes, Gucci handbags. Without low wage workers, public bureaucracies, like schools and small businesses, are failing. I’m keeping this point buried in the comment sections right now. Time to hoard your acorns.


    1. Idk. Maybe they aren’t working at all. I go to school board meetings all the time. Schools are highly reliant on low wage workers. I don’t mean teachers. Around here the median salary is $95,000 for a 9 month contract. Schools employ tons of non-union workers — subs, aides, bus drivers. They can’t afford to pay their wages and the schools are seriously falling apart right now. I can’t believe people aren’t reporting this. And the people that they are hiring are so low functioning that they are unemployable anywhere else. Yesterday, a bus driver navigated his bus to the middle of our Sandy bottomed town pool (drained), because his GPS told him to.


      1. The NY Times had an article on declining enrollment and the effect that has on budgets in schools. I don’t know where the economy (which I think in wall street often means the stock market, which is pretty awful right now, and might be heading worse). I think it’s been a while coming that there are a number of jobs people don’t want to do for the money we are willing to offer as a society (caretaking, including schools among them).

        I think we are underplaying how much changes in immigration (both documented and not) are playing a role in finding those workers.

        We encountered a worker at the check out at Staples who could not do the work she had been assigned. She was an older woman using a walker who also was, in her words “clumsy”. She wasn’t expecting to have to work the check out lane (presumably had a non-customer facing role at the store usually).

        I’m not taking a stand against the worker, but, she certainly did not have the accommodations she needed to do the job at that moment.

        I’m pretty sure that she didn’t buy any gucci bags with any aid she received from government during COVID.


      2. It’s been somewhat of a pain here because they can’t keep bus drivers. They don’t pay enough and the hours are horrible (up early, unpaid for the middle of the day). Plus traffic and being the only adult with thirty kids are both horrible even when all the kids aren’t carrying a virus that could leave you unable to work for a week (and if you’re new, you don’t have paid leave).

        People got too used to other people being desperate enough to put up with almost anything to pay rent.


      3. Absolutely. Our economy is based on low income, sucky jobs. And when Amazon warehouses now pay $25 per hour and immigration dried up, then everyone else is in trouble.


  10. Inflation. Annual inflation rate in the US slowed to 8.3% in April from a 41-year high of 8.5% in March, but less than market forecasts of 8.1%. Energy prices increased 30.3%, below 32% in March namely gasoline (43.6% vs 48%) while fuel oil increased more (80.5% vs 70.1%). On the other hand, food prices jumped 9.4%, the most since April 1981 and prices also rose faster for shelter (5.1% vs 5%) and new vehicles (13.2% vs 12.5%). On a monthly basis, consumer prices were up 0.3%, slightly more than expectations of 0.2% but below a 16-year high of 1.2% in March. The index for gasoline fell 6.1%, offsetting increases in the indexes for natural gas (3.1%) and electricity (0.7%). Despite the slowdown in April which suggests that inflation has probably peaked, the inflation is unlikely to fall to pre-pandemic levels any time soon and will remain above the Fed’s 2% target for a long time as supply disruptions persist and energy and food prices remain elevated. source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


    1. The root cause for the shortage of unskilled labor in schools is the lack of home construction, particularly in the Northeast. This (all this is in my opinion) has been driven by NIMBY voters who are afraid of skyrocketing school costs. Zoning codes in “good school districts” are written to keep families out. This has been the work of decades. It’s also one reason the South is more vibrant in terms of employment, because working families have a hope of securing a house.

      Our bus drivers and aides do not live anywhere near their workplace. When the cost of gas rises by 50%, it becomes too expensive to commute. Many have their own family members to take care of. They can’t afford to pay for someone else to look after their children and parents while they’re gone.

      Inflation at 8% means people will not buy impulse items; they’ll be worrying about food and heating their home in winter. While the source above says inflation has peaked, I’d take the other side of that. All costs get passed through to the consumer. The “wage price spiral” has kicked off.

      Inflation comes in part from the government spending for things like Covid relief. It also comes from the green energy push, which disincentivized investments in securing new fossil fuel sources.


      1. All costs don’t get pushed to the consumer. Profits went up and payrolls went down during 2020-2021. Profits need to come back down. This will hurt stock prices, but hardly anyone owns much stock and wages going up is a very necessary thing.


  11. But wait, it gets worse.

    Look up Sri Lanka.

    Famine will arrive this year in the developing world. It is certain. If it isn’t behind a paywall, I recommend Doomberg’s “Farmers on the Brink.” (

    Short version: Farmers must deal with shortages in: fertilizer, pesticide, machinery chips, diesel, labor and propane. This will (not may, will) unleash a global famine.

    Here is a list of countries banning food exports as of this week:


Comments are closed.