Comments on economics, mystery fiction, drama, and art.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jim Carroll died last Friday

Jim Carroll, punk rocker and poet died last Friday. While the obits stress his authorship of The Basketball Diaries (the Chicago Tribune says of it: "But it was "The Basketball Diaries," his autobiographical tale of life as a sports star at Trinity, an elite private high school in Manhattan, that brought him his widest audience. The son of a bar owner, Carroll attended the school on a basketball scholarship"), I found his work through his poetry, especially Void of Course (which is a great title) and Fear of Dreaming (also a great title). Here's one poem, from Void of Course which moves me deeply each time I read it:

My Father's Last Words

On his death bed

He reached up and grabbed my wrist
Pulling me close so I could hear he said.

"Promise me that you'll never eat
Any of that Japanese food. Promise."

It may sound racist and perhaps it is
but keep in mind my father spent all
Of World War II fighting in the Pacific
Mainly the island of Saipan.

I myself admire the Japanese, but
As they themselves would well appreciate,
I must honor my father's last wishes.

The irony is I've never liked Japanese food.

The irony is that
At his funeral,
The Priest that said
Mass was Japanese.

And, from Fear of Dreaming,

Fear of Dreaming

Too many teeth
In this city
Are bared.

What I want is to sleep
inside a strange language.

The bonsai, under glass,
........................................its redolent needles

clipped precise as The Buddha's fingernails.

Yet, I'm nervous to sleep. Afraid to dream
And fearful as well of waking too late.

Wary at the end of this century,
Its bloodthirsty and dead weight.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Census Bureau updates us on family income.

According the the Census Bureau, the median income of households in the US fell by 3.6 between 2007 and 2008 (to $50,303 from $52,163). This need not be all that surprising during a recession; in earlier recessions, the peak-to-trough declines were about this large, or larger (down 3.5% in the 2001 recession, down 3.9% in the 1991 recession, down 6.0% in the early '80s recession, down 5.7% in the 1973-75 recession).

What's more noteworthy is that median household income is about 2% less in 2008 than it was in 1998, as David Leonhardt notes in his New York Times blog. He concludes that median family income has not declined over any 10-year period at least since the 1930s. What needs to be added to this is that average household income has continued to rise, almost entirely because of income increases among the top 1% of households. This is also apparently unprecedented.

There's an immense amount of information in the Census Bureau report, including this little gem: The median annual (labor) earnings of full-time, year-round, employed male workers is slightly lower now than it was in 1973...36 years of no growth in median earnings of men...Women's earnings have grown during this time period, by about 25%, so the ratio of female to male earings (for full-time, year-round, employed workers) is now at an historic high--women earn 77% as much as men. But even women's (median) earnings have grown at much less than 1% per year.

More. While 13.2% of the population is in a household in which the income falls below the provery threshhold, 19% of the children under the age of 18 live in such households; people over age 65 are less likely to experience poverty-level incomes than are people under age 65.

And we could go on...