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Life in Post-Apocalyptic New Jersey: Climbing the water tower to defend our honor

Tree down on a road about a mile from my house the day after Sandy.

I read a post by Chicago Dyke at Corrente this afternoon that was a little disturbing.  CD thinks that Chris Christie’s request of $36 billion is too much.  I think Chicago Dyke has a distorted perception of who actually lives here in New Jersey but I’ll address that in a minute.  Here’s my response to her from my comment at Corrente (edited) with an additional point that I think any liberal would love to sign on to:

New Jersey resident here climbing the water tower with a bucket of paint to defend new New Jersey’s honor.

First, we in NJ have been footing the bill for the rest of the country for years now. For every dollar of taxes we send to DC we get $.61. That’s right, we lose almost 40 cents of every dollar. We make up for the shortfall by paying the most punitive property taxes in the country. While I would LOVE to send my $.39/dollar of taxes to Michigan, it usually gets sucked down by Mississippi and Alabama who hate us for our freedoms.

Second, this is the densest state in the nation. There are a lot of buildings and a lot of people. And real estate here is not cheap. I live in the NYC metropolitan area in central Jersey where the average house price in my town is about $450K and the median salary is $108k per year. And at that salary, you’re barely middle class. I was making about $100k when I got laid off and I live in a modest townhouse and drive a second hand car that I bought in 2007. It’s just fricking expensive here.  So, anything that needs to be repaired is going to cost a fortune.

Third, the businesses wiped out at the Jersey shore are seasonal. There’s not a whole lot going on there in the winter. The shore businesses make their money from May to September. Imagine if you were the owner of a store in a mall and the mall burned to the ground before Christmas.  Now, imagine thousands of stores in that predicament. There are many people who will lose their shirts and their jobs next year if these businesses can’t be rescued.  The problem can be somewhat alleviated next year if we start now.

The shore is great for families who want something between a cruise and a staycation.  You rent a house there for a week or two, invite everyone you know and enjoy the sun and sea. So, tourism is big in this state. Homeowners who had their seasonal rental properties wiped out and restaurants and motels amusements all have to be somewhat ready before next summer.  By the way, I’ve rented a house at the Jersey Shore and it was just a little bungalow, nothing fancy.  It was no three story modern monstrosity on the beach.  Most of the properties down there are not owned by the fabulously wealthy.  They’re just simple little vacation homes with few frills.  The owners are the people who are going to be really hurting next year if they can’t rent their houses.

Four, the devastation was pretty bad in Newark, Jersey City and Hoboken. Those are not high rent districts, except for Hoboken, which is becoming gentrified and is the hot place to live if you can’t afford Manhattan. In other words, these cities were already hit hard by decades of neglect followed by an economic downturn starting in 2008. I think I know your heart CD and I don’t think you wish further hardship on these people. Not everyone lives in Princeton.

Five, the devastation was wide spread. This much I know for sure because I see it every fricking day. There are still parts of my township that were without power up until last week. The number of trees that are down is unbelievable. I mean, you really have to be here to see it. Some people walked out of their houses the day after the storm and were electrocuted on their front porches. I did a video of a neighborhood near mine. Check it out. There were huge trees down on almost every property, streets blocked off from fallen power lines and one house that was literally surrounded by fallen power lines. I don’t know how people in that house were able to leave it safely. I was out of power for 5 days which wasn’t so bad but without power when I had the generator, you can’t turn on your furnace even if it’s gas. Some people had to go almost four weeks without heat in the middle of November.

Princeton *was* extremely hard hit. There were main streets in downtown Princeton that were blocked off because of dangerous fallen and falling trees. (Witherspoon was completely blocked off at Nassau Street) Up until last week, I was still driving thru parts of Princeton that had no working traffic signals. In the coming months, there will be many more deaths from this storm. There are still too many damaged trees close to the road. Yours truly is very afraid of driving around my area and Princeton because a car is bound to get hammered by one of them at any point in time.  But not everyone in Princeton is rich.  There are many students, graduate students with families and regular, working people who live in and around Princeton.

And as to the intensity of the storm, when your house vibrates and shakes from the wind and you can hear trees groaning and snapping all around you for about 3 hours straight, it’s not just your average storm.  It came ashore as a hurricane and met with another storm system.  And it was scary as hell to live through so let’s not trivialize it.  For some people, it was wind, storm surge and fire all in one night.  I think it gave Katrina a run for its money. There may not have been as many deaths from drowning but the damage to property is extensive and much worse than Katrina because it is over such a big, densely populated area.

Finally, this state had an unemployment rate of 10.2% BEFORE Sandy. It’s higher now because so many businesses were damaged or forced to close during the power failure or lost money because counties like mine declared a state of emergency and told everyone to stay indoors until the dangerous power lines and fallen trees and street lamps and overhead power supports could be secured. To give you an idea of how long that took, it was November 16 before the kids could go trick or treating safely.

Sandy has been awful for a lot of people but there is a silver lining. That is with $36 B (and to me, that sounds cheap but that’s because I know what things cost here) we can put a lot of people back to work doing construction, clean up, maybe forward planning, insurance adjusting, relocations, etc. There will be enough money to maybe jump start this economy, which believe it or not, has been harder hit during the little Depression than most people know.

And here’s the thing that liberals should be onboard for: since the stimulus money was inadequate, pumping $36 Billion into New Jersey would demonstrate something that even  Chris Christie doesn’t want to admit.  Stimulus works.  This state is in pretty bad shape but now there is an opportunity to do something about it.  Just burying the power lines would be a HUGE improvement and would put thousands of people to work.  We’ve lost so much in the past 4 years.  The pharmaceutical industry, which everyone loves to hate but I loved working for, has pulled out of New Jersey leaving thousands of well educated, technically current people out of work, under-employed and just flat broke.  Will those people be looking for jobs in the clean up?  Um, yeah.  And once they’re employed, they’ll get off the unemployment rolls and start pumping money back into the economy.  Some of that money will come in the form of taxes where we will, once again, give away $.39 of every dollar we send.

One more thing:  If Chris Christie wants to get re-elected and be a real hero, he could use Sandy to apply a tax overhaul shock doctrine.  Now is the time to reform the highly regressive property tax system and collect taxes from the people who actually make a lot of money, including all of the businesses here who have been welching on local townships.  Sure, it will look like something only a progressive FDR type could do but remember that FDR got re-elected- three times.

Think about it, Chris.

So, I hope I’ve changed your mind, CD. We really need the money. It will be well spent. And it will do a lot of working class and middle class people a lot of good. Those people have been funding the rest of America for years. It’s time for America to give back in our state’s hour of need

Here’s a video from MacJersey (kinda shaky) of Mantoloking on the shore.  Some of the houses were built in the 1920s and never expected to be part of an inlet.  The landscape has changed and part of the road infrastructure is gone.

48 Responses

  1. I’ve tangled with CD before. Thanks for standing up!

    • Man o man, there are a some people over there who have a real bug up their asses about New Jersey. WTF is that all about?? There’s some other dude who is all self-righteous about people building close the the shore. No duh. But the house that I rented had probably been at the shore since the 60’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was washed away since it was pretty close to Long Beach Island and Seaside Heights. So, what’s the answer? We’re supposed to tell that owner to what?
      And the rest of the mcmansion builders too? I’ll be the first one to take a sledgehammer to those scenery blocking obstructions but someone is going to have to be compensated. A LOT of someones.
      There’s some weird misperception about who lives here. There are pockets of richness but most people are just average, trying to squeak by in anyway they can. Suddenly, I feel like we’ve become the poster children for everything that’s wrong in the country. First the little Depression wipes out the pharmaceutical industry, leaving a lot of us permanently poorer. Now this.

  2. You did good, Riverdaughter! Plus she had a fat joke in there (“Butterball”) which. Makes her a total hypocrite in my opinion.

    • Well, he really does need to lose weight although I wouldn’t call him Butterball. I usually call him a bully.
      But the people in that thread are as bad as the Tea Party lurkers we get here sometimes. They’ve got some weird, totally unrealistic idea in their heads that we all live in Princeton in some posh, upscale colonial with a circular driveway and that there aren’t any poor people in NJ. It’s bizarre.

      • Well, I’m on that thread. Had I written the post, I would have made the larger point that it isn’t the honor of New Jersey at stake, or that most New Jersey-eans are poor schlubs like the rest of us, but that the process of disaster relief is manifestly full of double standards.

        Think of it this way: Where was the relief when Big Pharma fired tens of thousands of scientists? Nowhere, right? Well, that goes for NOLA, and it also goes for (say) Michigan (granted, Obama gave them a smidge after the crash so he’d win the state in 2012, but that doesn’t make up for forty years of “Hurricane Neoliberal.”)

        • I’d almost agree with you except there were quite a lot of us who were aware of the disaster in NOLA and contributed funds to rebuilding the 9th ward and were incensed by the despicable behavior of Bush and his FEMA assholes.

          I am merely pointing out that in comparison to NOLA, this is a MUCH bigger problem. The scope of the problem is huge and it’s going to be much harder to ignore. If the shore communities aren’t at least partially restored by next summer it’s going to have a devastating impact on New Jersey’s finances. And just because some rich people built near the beach, that doesn’t mean that everyone who had a house at the shore was rich. Nor does it mean they had any idea when they built there 85 years ago that there would now be an inlet where their houses were. We have never seen anything like this. And the damage is not just at the beach. It extends into the towns main drags blocks away from the shore. Even some bay side properties were damaged. It’s just overwhelming.

          But there are also those people in Newark and Hoboken and Jersey City who in many cases are no better off than the people in the ninth ward. My point is that just because Katrina in NOLA was bad doesn’t mean we can’t have a disaster that tops it. This is it.

          The good news, if there is one, is that the money coming in here could stimulate the economy in much the same way as the Tsunami in Japan has finally pulled the Japanese out of their financial slump. Now there will be a lot of work for many unemployed people here. We need it. What we don’t need is uninformed people with no concept of New Jersey acting like a bunch of mean Tea Party people just because some rich bastard got to build his dream “cottage” at the beach. For every rich bastard, there’s a Joey Guido and his wife Guidette who bought a two bedroom ranch on Long Beach Island that they used for 2 weeks of the year and then rented out. For people like them, this is really bad. And that goes for the people in Newark and Hoboken and Jersey City who lived in ground floor apartments that are now displaced. I’m just disappointed in how this storm has been trivialized as if nothing could ever elicit as much sorrow as NOLA. And while that was handled very badly, it doesn’t make the devastation any easier for people who were evacuated here or managed to live to tell about it.

          • The discussion OUGHT to be — not that the post does that — about a common baseline of disaster relief for the entire United States, something that can only be provided by government, and not by the (praiseworthy) actions of individual citizens. NJ comes near to that baseline. NOLA and NJ came nowhere near it.

            The issue is whether the words “public good” mean anything. Our elites clearly don’t believe so. Do we?

          • And my point is that there is no guarantee that we’ll get that money or that it won’t be misspent. Remember, organized crime is big here.

            Yes, we all deserve a baseline of support. But did you read Jeff Jarvis’s letter to the township of Basking Ridge? Basking Ridge is pretty swank. They had no power for much longer than I did and eventually, he and his neighbors had to go chop the trees down themselves so they could get in and out of their developments. Not even the wealthy were spared. That might not sound like a Katrina-esque hardship but if you are older or suffering from some chronic condition, sitting in a cold dark house for two weeks and not being able to get out of your street to go to the store is a bit of a problem.

            You just don’t hear about that kind of thing because there aren’t a lot of people crammed into an arena for a week without any help. And let’s be clear, that was an artificially created situation. Here, there just aren’t enough people who were available to clear the roads. Remember, we had trucks coming in from Michigan and Missouri and all up and down the east coast and it still took almost four weeks to restore power to parts of my township.

            The pictures and events of NOLA were awful and no one should ever suffer that. It’s a wonder more people in Newark and Hoboken didn’t die. It could have been Katrina II in terms of lives lost. But the property damage is enormous.

            Since I don’t watch TV, I have no idea if we’re getting treated any differently but I doubt it. A destroyed house is a destroyed house. And it’s much more expensive to rebuild here than in Louisiana. If we are getting better treatment, it might be because there are more of us and New Jerseyans won’t put up with shit.

  3. If an F6 or F7 tornado a mile wide at ground-level were to do some slow
    “lazy eights” all around downtown Chicago, then the CDs of that city would rethink their position on what it costs to fix stuff. And what with all this global warming, it could happen. Maybe the CDs of the world should rethink their position on the costs of fixing stuff up now ahead of time before they are the ones who need the benefit of a re-think.

  4. You know what we need? We need Brad Pitt.

    Ok, maybe only I need Brad Pitt.

  5. I agree, RD. $36 billion doesn’t sound extravagant when you consider the extent and scope of the storm damage. Though I live out of state, I’m a native of NJ. My grandmother had the typical summer beach cottage that our entire extended family used every single summer from the time I was born until I left for college. It ‘was’ summer vacation and weekends [leave after work on Friday and make a mad dash home at sunrise on Monday morning]. All to escape the heat and humidity and feel human, even free for a few days to enjoy the surf and sand. For working and middle-class people those tiny bungalows have always been an oasis, a small relief where family and friends could gather. Most natives can tell you their boardwalk/Jersey shore stories with true affection. It pissed me off no end to read Republican cranks go after Chris Christie [and btw, I’m no fan girl of the Governor] because he was obviously stunned and heartbroken at the devastation. Anyone who grew up with memories of the Jersey coast was similarly affected. Christie did the right thing in reaching out to POTUS pre-election and he did the right thing again requesting recovery and reconstruction funds. If it puts people in the state back to work, all the better. I raised my family in NJ, paid those hideous property taxes and the ridiculous insurance premiums. So I absolutely know where you’re coming from. The truth is the Blue states support the Red states. For our trouble we’re hated and called traitors of the Constitution.

    New Jersey might not get much respect [just mention the Garden State in a conversation and listen to people hee-haw], but they deserve compassion and support from their fellow citizens. I’ve never bemoaned disaster relief to other parts of the country. Why should New Jersey be any different? Save the ire for witless DC politicians and Ayn Rand worshippers. They deserve the scorn.

  6. Speaking as a resident of Linden NJ, I think this post is a bit off the mark. It’s one thing to be compassionate for people who were killed, injured or otherwise had their routines wrecked (I was lucky–I had no power, etc. for about two weeks but was otherwise ok), but it’s another thing to say the US should throw $36,000,000,000 at replacing something that will only fall apart again with the next storm. Some parts of the Shore should never be rebuilt, and replacing what should not have been there in the first place is compounding an error. What’s next: a seawall around the entire state of Florida?

    Second, the idea that disaster relief (rebuilding) is somehow going to restart the Jersey economy appears to not have been thought through all that well. An improvement based on an external event (money from the federal government) will evaporate as soon as the funds evaporate. And while in the short term such funds would help the construction/FIRE sectors of the NJ economy, to suggest that laid-off pharma marketers are going to start being laborers picking up moldy sheetrock or start framing houses is more than a bit far-fetched.

    • Ahem. First, we’re not laid off pharma marketers. Unless you’re in the finance side of business in which case the only employees who count are the ones in the office suites. There ARE other people in pharma who do the real work. You know, discovering the drugs and making the molecules and testing and stuff that the pharma marketers think are unimportant? We’re chemists, biologists, pharmacologists etc. Second, I don’t have any construction skills to speak of but I don’t have a problem learning anything.(Although I have helped build a three level deck, pour a concrete walkway, laid a floor in my basement, wired my bathroom lighting fixtures, replaced my garbage disposal and hard wired it, replaced my faucets and hooked up my dishwasher so I’m not totally useless) And work is work.
      Third, I have no idea how the money is going to be spent. You’re right that some places at the shore should never be rebuilt. I’m not sure the big mansions right on the beach should be rebuilt. The owners should be compensated and asked to rebuild further inland. If they don’t like it, tough titties. But for people in Ortley Beach and Seaside Heights and places like that? I’m totally onboard with rebuilding that. Some of those houses have lasted decades without flooding or devastation. It’s not a chronic problem and it won’t be if they are built properly going forward. Maybe they can rebuild on stilts or something. I love the boardwalks and want to see them rebuilt.
      Fourth, this state has some major infrastructure problems. We’ve got problems with rail and this morning I read that we’re pumping raw sewage into the ocean. Maybe that’s just NY. The powerlines need to be buried. The state is a mess. If we get $36 billion, that would be a good start and, I’m sorry if you’re one of those deficit hawk pains in the asses but we have sent a lot more money to Washington than we ever get back. We need the money now. I can’t understand why you would want to continue with this broken down infrastructure when we have a chance to replace it with something newer and better. It’s not going to get better on its own. It’s only going to get worse. Don’t you deserve a modern infrastructure? Haven’t you been paying out the nose since you worked here? This is a golden opportunity to fix what is broken. Take the fricking money.
      Finally, Japan. Japan finally worked it’s way out of its lost decade because of the work that is going on in the aftermath of the tsunami. So there. :-ppp

    • Wikipedia has a nice entry on Federal taxation and spending by state for the year 2007. (wikipedia,org/wiki/Federal_taxation_and_spending_ by_ state). The data is from the Internal Revenue Service. According to the wiki (and the IRS, Jersey taxpayers contributed $121,678 million in federal taxes and received $63,972 million in federal spending for the year 2007. In other words, Sparky, Jersey is merely getting back a portion of its “fair share” that it overpays every year. That’s right , every year.

      When it came to interstate highways, Jersey was robbed. Our taxpayers paid for the Turnpike and Parkway on their own. No federal money unlike most other states. Completion of Route 80 was extremely slow and late coming to Jersey.

      I can say the same for many other projects. No preventive work on the Passaic or Raritan rivers or the northern part of the Delaware (well, inadequate work in Denville that did not prevent flooding.

      The improvements of a rebuilding process can last a long time. A little bank in San Francisco then named the Bank of Italy started loaning money to rebuild the city right after the earthquake. Those loans were the foundation for the century long success of the Bank of America.

      As for New Jersey it has given the country far more than the work of pharmaceutical labs. Edison invented the corporate research lab in Menlo Park, his greatest invention even counting the light bulb, the phonograph, and much early movie technology. Bell Labs invented the transistor here. Einstein did research here. Standard Oil built the modern oil company in Nj and left a lot of evidence in your town of Linden.

      The Civil War was supposed to have changed us from a collection of states to a union. The war has been over since 1865. Teddy Roosevelt knew that the right thing was to use the efforts of the United States to rebuild San Francisco after the earthquake. It was shameful and appalling that we cheaped out on New Orleans but it is more shameful and appalling that that is becoming the policy of choice for some.

      • President Andrew Johnson destroyed any hope of that when he blanket-amnestied all the worst and biggest Plantation Owner Rebellionists.

        Who knows what Lincoln would have tried achieveing had Booth missed? Perhaps nothing more than Johnson anyway. Or perhaps . . . the systematic expulsion and/or imprisonment of the entire Plantation Class, and the division of all their lands among the poor black and poor white Southerners who needed land and could have used it. A whole new free landowner farming class might have arisen with its possible promise of social stability and mutual co-enrichment throughout the South.
        And no carpetbaggers either, because no room for them and no opening opportunity for them.

        Alas . . . one of History’s great counterfactual unknowns.

    • I will agree with you just this much . . . The rebuilding should not be done “in place”. It should be done “upslope” and “away from the immediate shoreline”. Why would I say that? Because a rising heating ocean will feed more such storms reaching up higher and further inland. If the repairs made could last a hundred years if not destroyed by another superstorm, then it would make sense to ask:
      “given current rates of sealevel rise, where will the sealevel be in a hundred years?” and rebuild above that level.

      There is a precedent for that approach set by the Clinton Administration. After a ginormous flood on parts of the Mississippi-Missouri river system, it was thought . . . why pay people to rebuild down on a super vulnerable flood plan where anything build will be flood-destroyed by the coming ginormoustorm floods of the looming future? Why not use that money to do two permanency-enhancing things instead?
      Thing One: Buy up the most floodable undefendable land and turn it into game/wildlife refuges.
      Thing Two: Pay and assist the flood refugees to rebuild towns/lives/homes up above where the future repeat flood levels are expected to be? I believe quite a bit of that was done.

  7. I was just reading an article last night [NYT] that a conservative estimate for sewage treatment facility reconstruction alone [and hopefully modernization] will cost 1.1 billion. Unless, of course, people have no problem with raw sewage continuing to dump into NJ waterways. The systems throughout the state of NJ and most states are antiquated to begin with and now they’re broken beyond any sensible repair.

    No reasonable person would argue that there are some buildings/homes that should not be rebuilt because of the high liability. But that’s a fraction of the devastation. And I guarantee you many will not be able to afford to rebuild, even with insurance payouts. When my grandmother built her cottage [on a double lot no less] back in the late 50s, she spent $5000. You can barely get a latte for that now.

    The face of the Jersey coastline has been changed forever. But to balk at storm relief for Jersey, NY and Connecticut residents is just downright miserable.

    Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke might work when we can pretend our infrastructure is adequate for the 21st century. Sandy whipped up a whole new reality. It’s not only broken now, it’s utterly destroyed.

  8. I went over to read the Chicago Dyke post. “Signing up” to comment looks too troublesome and irritating a process over there for me to bother with. All the stupid jerkshit questions . . . so called “turing” so called “test” . . . etc.

    Her comparison of rebuilding destruction in NJ/NY to ongoing budget expenses in Michigan is quite stupid or quite diversionarily dishonest.
    If Michigan had a New Madrid style earthquake, Michigan would need more than 48 billion dollars to repair acute damage.

    As to her vile and disgusting comparison to NOLA, I wonder whether she finds the New Jerseyans not quite “poor and proletarian” enough to suit her fancy? Or not “black” enough to suit her taste? Whichever . . .
    if she is hit by disaster, I hope she gets exactly the level of support she would like to see New Jersey get. People like her deserve to be served well and truly right.

    • I see this disaster as a golden opportunity to fix many of the things that are seriously broken in NJ. In the meantime, laid off pharma people should move to Michigan. The cost of living is much cheaper there.

      • Yes, it is . . . if one can find a job. And some people are finding jobs. So I would say: Michigan is a nice place with many things to offer if one can find a job. If laid off pharma people are willing to take the risks involved, why not come here to make partway up for the people who are moving away?

        (One of the risks is a very nasty and deeply entrenched Republican Reactionist political culture and establishment dug into many parts of the state. The Republicans are conspiring to make Michigan a “Right To Work” state, for example. So if one has a taste for political combat, Michigan would be fun to live in from that standpoint as well).

        • {{Shiver}} Like there isn’t enough political combat to go around.

          • True. That’s just the down side of “things worth fighting about”, I guess. Certainly if the Repuglans want to make Michigan a so-called “Right To Work” state, it is worth fighting against that. Think of the joy to be savored in defeating them, if we are able to defeat them.

            And many people will take great joy in beating down the evil Manuel Moroun and sunsetting the excess profitability of his Ambassador Bridge monopoly, if we are able to do that.

      • More about Michigan . . .

        I grew up in East Tennessee till age 15, then went to Western N Y State till age 18, then went to U of M in Ann Arbor . . . and washed ashore here and never got back in the Wider World Water.
        Ann Arbor is a University bubble town. Knowing Ann Arbor doesn’t mean one knows “Michigan” all that well otherwise. After college I became a $4,000/year dishwasher-security guard-etc. for years till I went back to school at Washtenaw Community College for Pharmacy Technology. That allowed me to become a perma part time pharmacy technician at U of M Hospital. When I figured out how to defeat political opposition to my getting a full time job there, I got a full time job there.

        Housing is very expensive in Ann Arbor unLESS you can get into one of the few housing co-ops, which I did. Currently I pay
        $377.00 per MONTH for my 640 square foot dwelling unit. That is very affordable housing. If one can solve the affordable housing problem, Ann Arbor is no more food-costly or other-stuff-costly than any midsize city I should think. For the food-interested, the world-famous among foodies Zingermans cluster of food bussinesses is here. There is just enough Arab population spillover from the Greater Dearborn Metroplex that there are Arab food stores functioning up to Arab standards for olive oils, herbs, spices, etc. not available elsewhere. There is a Whole Foods Market which I have visited two times to see what the fuss is about. There is the legacy hippie food store which I go to lots. And the whole gamut of basic American utility supermarkets. Lots of culture funstuff in AA, but not up to NYC levels and why pretend otherwise?

        Nature is getting close to us here. Coyotes all over Ann Arbor just like everywhere else. Many birds of prey. I saw a Bald Eagle once (once). Wild turkeys are edging into the east side.
        Way further outstate, wolves inhabit the Upper Peninsula and are edging into the northern Lower Peninsula. The occasional free-roaming mountain lion can no longer be denied.

        Jobs? The U of M hospital is hiring new pharmacy technicians from time to time. Could a laidoff pharmaceutical research chemist accept the “indignity” of being a bi-weekly wage technician? The jobs feel secure enough and the benefits are still middle-class. The U of M bought the old Pfizer place and has kept all the buildings and labs standing in hopes of hosting research or startups or something. I have no idea how the laidoff
        Pharmaceutichemicalogical Research Scientist would work the politics to get involved there. Of course, if the laidoff bench scientist DID happen to get a pharm-tech job at U of M hospital,
        said scientist would be in a position to learn the politics and try working the levers over time, perhaps.

  9. Fortune Magazine published an article in their September 1, 2005 issue called, “The Secret Capitals of Small Business.” The article maintains that it is the concentration of expertise that makes a city the capital of its industry or sub specialty. Long before the silicon valley, Wichita, Kansas became the world wide hub for the manufacture of small planes (Cessna, Beechcraft, Lear Jet to name a few as well as a large number of suppliers). A small area of South Dakota is the center for the manufacture of special and expensive rifles, shot guns and handguns. Duke (Durham, NC) is the headquarters for hospital based weight reduction.

    Dispersing the pharmaceutical industry and its research center would be a national mistake.

    • Michigan itself used to be a historic-based subcapital of free-standing pharmaceutical research until the Bonfire of the Drug Companies under the lava flow of buyouts and mergers and stuff. “Upjohn” is the only legacy name I remember but I know there were others. A big pharma research facility existed here in Ann Arbor for decades, passing through hand after hand after hand just recently, until sinister highjackers within Pfizer bought it and then burned Pfizer most of the way down.

      • Michigan was better known for other sub-cultures: breakfast cereals (Battle Creek), Furniture (Grand Rapids, I think) and of course automobiles.

        I’ve lived in a lot of places (NJ, PA, IL, two months in IN, MA, WI, FL, NY and then back to NJ). Costs vary a lot but the thing that varies the most is housing prices. In many, but not all, cases, wages vary with the cost of living.

        RD has a daughter who is a senior in high school and long standing ties to a major local industry. Other people live in the Jersey suburbs because it may be expensive but it is more reasonable overall than the NY suburbs in Westchester or Long Island. This is probably also true with the Philly suburbs.

        Some of the local industries (telecommunications, pharmaceuticals) have been ravaged by the Wall Street ghouls. A nationally true story with local sub-plots.

        I’ve never been to Ann Arbor but I have been to Detroit, its suburbs, Lansing/East Lansing, Benton Harbor and Sault Ste Marie. With the exception of some of the pricier suburbs, it is pretty cheap.

        We’ve got wild turkeys that show up in the backyard. Plenty of deer and an occasional wolf. No eagles or coyotes but some bears although they mainly are in the more mountainous and less populated areas. Deer apparently are “the perfect suburban animal” because they like the edges of forests. A semi-local farm store keeps some more exotic animals on the premises including , get this, a live bison. I didn’t see a bison in Yellowstone but I did in New Jersey..

        • Wolf? WOLF!? Where exactly do you live?

          • 25 miles from Manhattan. Sorry, it was a fox. One was hanging out by the area that the deer frequent. Reddish color and bushy tail.

            Most animals are pretty harmless. At least to humans. That includes some pretty huge creatures. When we squeeze out the wilderness area, the wilderness can come closer to home.

            Back when the national parks were more affordable, I took vacations in some of the western ones and I still have fond memories of some of the creatures ranging from coyotes, beaver and antelopes, to moose, swans, grizzlies and gigantic 1,100 pound bears in Alaska. Strangely, the elk were the most aggressive animals around but it was rutting season (mating time). The bears were mostly into eating salmon or berries. A park ranger told me in Yellowstone that the noise I heard in the bushes was a grizzly running from me.

            I’ve seen eagles in Wyoming and lots of them in Alaska. I also remember when a condo development in a beach town in Florida where I was working at the time was being delayed by one bald eagle nest. The rich developer was furious and stuck.

          • I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to learn that you also have stealth-coyotes who are keeping themselves well hidden so far. Coyotes are more all-over-everywhere than many people realize.

    • David, during the 90’s, pharmaceutical companies closed their midwest facilities in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo and Cinncinnatti and moved people to the east coast. All the companies got out of that was much higher living costs for the relocated scientists. There’s no particular reason why we all need to be crammed into these little enclaves in big expensive cities. We have the internet now and we can talk to each other, attend seminars and exchange information through skype, second life and a whole bunch of other services. So, verily I say unto you chemists out there, go west! It’s cheaper to live there. And they have universities too.

  10. I lived in Japan during the 3/11/2012 earthquake. As an overseas US citizen, I paid a LOT of taxes over the years for virtually no services from the US government aside from passport issuance. Ironically, I even paid for that service with application fees. When sh1t hit the fan, the US government offered evacuation assistance to US citizens, but the assistance was contingent on repayment to the US government for aid rendered.

    As a taxpayer, I was outraged. Friends and family told me “you chose to live there.”

    Why should overseas Americans who pay taxes to the US government, and have to pay for aid, be expected to fund disaster aid in NY? I’m not sure what makes NJ or LA or CA so special that their disaster requires I pay for it.

    You guys chose to live there. Why didn’t the people living there have the required insurances to safeguard against losses?

    I’m not sure why it’s a problem that needs to be paid for by anybody outside the affected zone.

    Yeah, I sound like a horrible person. But this is was a lesson learned courtesy of our fine government.

    • As a US citizen and tax payer you should have received aid, no questions asked. Living in Japan is not the same as (for example) choosing to live in a war zone.

      The answer you were given made no sense. Similarly, it makes no sense for the US to act the same way towards its citizens in NY, NJ, LA or CA either.

      The history of the United States gives a clear answer on the subject. The US paid for, designed and built levees in St. Louis in the 1840s that lasted until a few years ago. It dredged and improved and safeguarded the Mississippi River. It funded the building of railroads, dams, canals, and other internal improvements in ,many parts of the country.in the 1800s. People chose to live on the Mississippi or the Plains of Nebraska and were aided by these policies.

      The purpose of the US Government was clearly designed from the start to form a more perfect union. You can’t get more basic than the start of the Constitution.

      • I agree with you… I challenge any disaster is “special” because of location, population density, or percentage of taxes paid. About the only thing that is special here, is that the powers that be might care about the sheer number of voters. It’s all about keeping the people in power, in power.

        A really lovely example of how the US arranged disaster assistance in Japan for their citizens… people forced to evacuate out of the disaster zone (either because of level of damage to home/public services or radiation), the US offered to help arrange bus travel out to an unaffected area. But the people who took that offer had to pay for the ticket or sign a promissory note to repay. In contrast, I think of all FEMA people running around with free shelter, food & water, and transportation options to people affected by Sandy and I’m just mad. Mad at the blatant favoritism and the lack of emergency preparedness by the people living there. Having trees blow across your roads and power lines, that is not nice. Having everything in your life contaminated for the next 100-200 years or whatever, that is a disaster.

        The baseline for the least politically connected US citizen is that we are on our own, or we have to pay a separate charge for help.

        If this is the worst that happens to you in NJ, count yourself extremely lucky. Contact your insurance agent, clean up the storm rubbish, and get on with your life there. Keep me out of it, I’m still trying to recover myself and don’t have much to spare.


        • I am not from New Jersey, but given what I have read about mass destruction of sewage systems leading to ongoing contamination of foodsource bays and estuaries , and mass destruction to electrical systems and gas pipeline systems, and etc.; it would appear that the damage is far beyond what you sneeringly trivialize as “trees down over powerlines”.

          If you resent paying taxes to repair the damage from disasters when said repair does not profit you personally,
          you can always renounce your American citizenship and take out citizenship in Japan.

          And by the way, you might want to consider the wisdom of this poster when composing your reply.

          • Destruction to a local power system? Shouldn’t the local power company pay for that? Didn’t they maintain appropriate natural disaster and business interruption insurances? Why did they act so irresponsibly? Gas pipelines, same thing. Local businesses, same thing. Private home owners, same thing. Why didn’t the people living there adequately prepare for this disaster so that they aren’t so helpless?

            I don’t resent paying taxes, I resent the unequal treatment and the subsidization of irresponsibility.

            Renounce my citizenship? No, thank you. I have a right to demand fair treatment from my government and insist that other citizens take responsibility for their own lives and the management of their local & state governments / infrastructure.

          • I don’t know where you live Marianne but for every dollar we send to the Federal government New Jersey gets 60 cents back. And you know, people in this state are pretty liberal. I don’t think anyone resents paying that to help out the rest of the country. Property taxes are a different story but federal taxes? We know that money goes to pay for weather services and highways and farmers and kids who can’t buy lunch so we’re cool with that.
            But a natural disaster is quite a different thing altogether. What you’re suggesting is that we all live like the remnants of humanity from a Cormac McCarthy book. That’s not the way things work here in NJ where there are 1189 people per square mile, the highest density in the nation. I’ve got to say that I am very proud of the way people handled the crisis. There were only a few skirmishes at gas stations when we had shortages. Everyone else lined up, took their turns, were polite and helpful. The only gougers I saw were firewood people.
            We brought our gas cans to the gas stations, not our guns.
            I don’t know anyone in the state who isn’t required to carry home owner’s insurance. An awful lot of people used it to clean up after Irene last year. But we are still located in a very crowded, very expensive part of the country between two major cities. Our infrastructure has been neglected by years of Republican hardasses and it was on Sandy that revealed just how bad the situation is here.
            As ZombieSymmetry mentioned, we pay the highest property taxes in the nation. That’s because we give so much in federal taxes and don’t get that money back and because we don’t tax the wealthy adequately and we let businesses off the hook when it comes to state and local taxes. All of the burden falls on the homeowner whether they’re working or not. By the way, over the last 12 years I’ve lived here, I’ve paid about $72000 in property taxes and over $100,000 (I’m sure it’s more like $150,000) just in income taxes. All this while the infrastructure and roads have been decaying away.
            So, I hope you don’t mind if I take the money the feds give us and ask you very politely to sit down and STFU.

          • I lived in Japan at the time. I paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $10k in Federal taxes a year on top of taxes paid in my country of residence. A lot of the time more. You know how many US Federal dollars I got back each year in services? ZERO. ZERO dollars. The one time I actually needed aid from the US, they asked us to pay for the aid rendered.

            Just because the people of NJ pay federal taxes in excess of federal dollars received doesn’t entitle NJ to anything. Such ratio of tax payments doesn’t mean anything for other classes of US citizens when faced with a disaster.

            I still don’t see what’s so special about Sandy. It’s not even the worst documented storm in the area. Read up on the Hog Islands off of NY. Never heard of them? They were washed away at the end of the 1800’s in a storm that equalled or surpassed Sandy.

            Why was the area so unprepared and so ill-able to rebuild without massive federal aid despite such evidence?

          • I don’t remember you commenting here before this post – or other Sandy related posts. Did you use another username in the past?

            I’m just curious because you seem VERY aggressive in your opinions for someone who just wandered in.

            Just for clarification, are you saying that the Federal Government shouldn’t step in to help where help is needed? That because the Fed Gov hasn’t/doesn’t do enough everywhere then they shouldn’t do anything anywhere?

          • I don’t remember you commenting here before this post – or other Sandy related posts. Did you use another username in the past?
            >> No. May have read something in past, but never posted to my recollection.

            I’m just curious because you seem VERY aggressive in your opinions for someone who just wandered in.
            >> Found this post via Naked Capitalism. Lived multiple typhoons there, then through M9, M8, M7, M6, M5 earthquakes, tsunami (my home was on the ocean behind a seawall), and having a nuclear power plant blow up a couple of times. Makes one quite clear and firm in opinions about personal, business, and government responsibility and preparation.

            Just for clarification, are you saying that the Federal Government shouldn’t step in to help where help is needed?
            >> I’m saying that NJ isn’t entitled to anything. I’m sure that “something” will be put in place because voters, but there is nothing specific to Sandy that warrants $36 billion. Yes, the people there feel impacted, but Sandy was a run of the mill natural disaster. Learn the lesson and plan life accordingly.

            That because the Fed Gov hasn’t/doesn’t do enough everywhere then they shouldn’t do anything anywhere?
            >> Yes. In particular to this disaster, Sandy doesn’t come up anywhere near to the level where the federal government needs to cough up $36 billion. Federally owned/managed roads, buildings of course should be repaired. Locally owned/managed assets should be rebuilt using funds raised locally.

  11. Two days ago on the NPR program Day To Day I heard an interview with David Cay Johnson kind-of about his article in a recent Newsweek Magazine about “how to prepare for the next Sandy”. I don’t know what-all was in the article but I will link to it in case it may be germane to the interview I heard.

    One good thing he said in the interview was that the current owners of electric utility power companies all over America are financiers with a strictly financial interest in the companies. They avoid necessary repair and maintainance so as to mis-lable more of the gross receipts as net profit than they would be able to so label if they spent the proper amount on proper maintainance. That logic was elsewhere called “mafia logic” by Jonathan Quitney in his book of many years ago
    called Vicious Circles: The Mafia In The Marketplace”. He coined a saying to wrap up the core of “mafia logic” . . . . “if your overhead is zero, your gross is all net.” And the current owners of power companies are approaching as close to “zero overhead” as they dare.
    Johnson in the interview said that state governments have all the legal tools needed to force power companies to operate their physical plant
    “for the convenience and good of the community” just as it says in various Corporate permission-to-exist Charters. Any power company which does not wish to operate its facilities according to that requirement may be quite legally de-chartered and “put to death” as a Corporation, and the assets seized and put into more law -abiding hands. All that would be necessary to force such an obey-the-law approach to regulating the power companies would be to strip all the sweetheart trojan horse secret company agents out of the regulatory boards and bodies.

    By the way, the process Johnson described in the interview illustrates what I have said before . . . to the occasion of raised eyebrows here and there perhaps . . . which is that most so-called “upper class owned” wealth is really lower class majority wealth which has been strong-armfully and sometimes illegally redistributed to the upper class. It should be de-distributed back to the lower class from which it was and is stolen. An example of that process is charging electric ratepayers a full price rate based on maintainance of
    power company plant and equipment . . . and then diverting those collected ratepayer revenue streams to private upper class enrichment instead of physical plant maintainance and repair. Adopting that approach could be called Disaster Regulationism.

    Here is the link: http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/11/18/sandy-aftermath-how-to-fix-a-broken-system.html

  12. I wrote a comment about the outlaw criminality of power companies not maintaining plant and equipment with the ratepayer revenue streams which are legally supposed to be spent on maintaining plant and equipment before any leftover ratepayer money may be kept as “profit”. But that whole comment disappeared.

    So I am re-writing this very briefest comment instead and including the link to an article about preparing for future Sandies in hopes some of that is touched on in the article . . . . based on a radio interview I heard with the author.

    • Amen… I understand that LILP charges some of the highest rates in the country. It’s a huge problem for the people there. I’d be up in arms too, if I lived there. From what I’ve read, huge cronyism and profiteering at play. LILP directorships are by appointment (by I think Cuomo or Bloomberg – so the positions go to buddies) without actual power generation experience required.

      • The comment I wrote which got vaporised noted that this was an example of one of the many ways that the upper class redistributes lower class wealth to itself. In this case, the quasi-legal mafiaform power company owners take ratepayers money which should be used
        for system maintainance and divert it to their own social class enrichment. As Jonathan Gwitney said many years ago in a book about the mafia called Vicious Circles: The Maffia In The Marketplace,
        “if your overhead is zero, your gross is all net.” That is mafia logic, and that is the logic of today’s post-deregulation power company owners. Such power companies can be re-regulated back into compliance with the law, including the stated purpose of their permission-to-exist codified in their State-granted Corporate Charters.
        But that would require a re-conquest of the government by a re-regulationist public, which would require re-regulationist political candidate-running institutions of some sort or another. “Parties” perhaps, if you will.

  13. You guys do pay some totally bat-shit crazy property taxes up there in NJ! I know some folks in a house about half the size of mine pay around $12,000 a year. And I know that, in some areas, property taxes on homes similar to mine are around $24,000. Last year, I paid $650. Living in the sticks has it’s perks! 🙂

    As for $36 billion, I have no idea if that is high or low. But I do know that somebody in NJ needs to spend money on some better bridges! I saw this morning you guys had a bridge collapse with a tanker car of vinyl chloride breaking open … NOT GOOD! Wonder if that bridge could have been weakened and/or damaged by Sandy?

    • It was near Camden, which I think was spared most of Sandy’s fury.
      It was probably just weakened due to age and ill-repair. The whole state is like that. Everything is worn within an inch of its life. So, yeah, you gotta wonder where all that money is going. We pay a s^*&load of income taxes and get back on 60 cents on the dollar AND we pay these outrageous property taxes. I live in a three bedroom townhouse and my backyard is my deck. My taxes are pretty high, especially for someone who doesn’t make the same salary as I used to.

  14. The power companies performance was weird. We lost power for 14 hours. Up the block, it was ten days. The next town over and it was two weeks or more. In general, PSE & G performed better than Jersey Central Power and Light. JCP&L is owned by a holding company that also owns power companies that “serve” most of PA (at least geographically), most of WV, and the Cleveland area in Ohio. The “plan” behind those monstrously expensive towers that cris-cross northern NJ was to prevent outages by allowing power from PA and OH to save the day (in other words, other JCP&L “sister” companies). Power from south Jersey was planned to be diverted to Philly.

    The original problem was a power outage that took out everything from NYC to Cleveland. The “solution” would not have helped but it did reward the utilities with a higher return on their investment than conservation or maintenance. 1% more per year to the stock market. For some reason, the location of the monsters seemed to target many areas served by underground power lines.The locals and Jersey residents in general hated it. The fix was in at the time with both candidates for Governor, Corzine and Christie. Maybe Christie has changed his mind.

    The performance of Atlantic City Power was better than JCP&L’s. Whose wasn’t.. Maybe, LIPA?

    Back in 1965, the NY metro area suffered from a drought one summer. At the time, Jersey decided not to add to its reservoirs because an addition would take 20 years to complete. The same philosophy seems to hold true with lots of maintenance and expansion issues here. I used to work for a utility in Florida. By law, we (the city) charged developers a water impact fee and a sewer impact fee for each new home. The concept never seemed to take in NJ or NY and new homes are much cheaper in Florida (or at least that part) than in Jersey or NY. The money went for wells, water mains, sewage plants, etc. I even wrote a change to that law that indexed the developer’s fee to the inflation rate.

    LIPA’s problems extend beyond the political directors. They were appointed/took over after the for-profit Long Island Lighting Company failed to a monster extent. The old management had no foresight and were at best sales people and/or engineers put in non-engineering and non-sales positions.

    The political power of the corporations in particular in NJ state government is out of control. When I grew up here the norm was that businesses paid double the property tax rate of residential customers. By the order of the NJ State Supreme Court that is against the state Constitution now and tax rates must be equal (and it is a 1947 Constitution). Duh. Trenton, meaning the larger business interests, has taken over zoning in “the flood area” (meaning much of north and central Jersey around the Passaic and Raritan Rivers and their tributaries). The new construction in town, of course, contributed significantly to the damage caused by Irene (and possibly by Sandy).

    So everybody seems to have a point.

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