walkitout: (Default)
[personal profile] walkitout
I buy different bread for different people in this family. A. really likes the Roche Bros (store brand) whole wheat bread. It's a little high in sodium for me, but is dairy free, so in a pinch, I'll eat it too. I buy Vermont Bread Company English Muffins for myself (the multigrain or the whole grain); that's what I consistently have for breakfast. I don't necessarily eat a lot of sliced bread -- I'll eat rolls and things. I think I've been buying Anzio or something like this, sandwich rolls for T.'s sandwiches, and I eat those sometimes. R. buys torta rolls at Costco -- they go bad pretty quick and the sodium isn't totally nuts, so when those are around, I'll eat those. If there aren't any of those rolls, sometimes I'll use a Roche Bros hamburger bun. R. likes nicer bread, so I usually buy him some When Pigs Fly -- cranberry whatever or there was some sundried tomato thing.

Anyway. There are a variety of breads coming into the house at a variety of price points. Then I read this:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/opinion/sunday/what-the-rich-wont-tell-you.html?mcubz=0

And in the very first paragraph, there is a quote:

""Relative to the nanny, she told me, “The choices that I have are obscene. Six-dollar bread is obscene.”"

*blink*

Really? We're going after $6 bread now? Look, I kind of got it when people went after the pricey coffee (altho honestly, if you work it out on a calorie / cent basis, the coffee was often a pretty decent value -- not as good value as, say, McDonald's, but not horrible) (and I did say _calorie_ not _nutritional_ value so I don't want to hear about "empty" calories).

Because, you know, artisanal bakeries need to be put right the fuck out of business? You know, they don't deserve to make money. Only store brands churning out gargantuan quantities deserve to sell bread?

WTF?

The article as a whole is fairly appalling. The author has clearly gone to some effort to establish trust with a number of people over an issue that in our country, is approximately as hard to discuss as sex. And having discussed the stigma and so forth, here is where Sherman lands:

"Is the society we want one in which it is acceptable for some people to have tens of millions or billions of dollars as long as they are hardworking, generous, not materialistic and down to earth? Or should there be some other moral rubric, that would strive for a society in which such high levels of inequality were morally unacceptable, regardless of how nice or moderate its beneficiaries are?"

Let's just make it illegal for people to have the kind of money that the people she interviewed has. This is roughly equivalent to getting a bunch of people who belong to a stigmatized religion, or who belong to some sexual minority or whatever to open up, and then suggesting we should rearrange our society so these people can't exist. While you might _think_, hey, but having money isn't a constitutionally protected thing, well, I invite you to review the history of clauses like the right to pursue happiness. Happiness was a euphemism that was landed on after entertaining more crude expressions of wealth.

I'm always open to the idea that we should revise our tax code or other elements of our society to adjust how things flow. I _always always always_ think that we should steadily provide greater assistance to those who have little: food, shelter, sure, but education is always important, health care is always important, access to cultural resources is always important, access to nature is always important, safety is important, legal representation is important, and there are a lot more I could list.

But if we're attacking New Yorkers who have a household income of $250K and think $6 bread is "obscene" in the same breath we are going after people who have billions of dollars, I don't think there is any kind of coherent social program or tax code revision being contemplated. In fact, what I really think is that we're all having a coded argument about how to afford child care in cities where the cost of living is outrageously high and all the people who would ordinarily be providing that care can no longer afford to live there, increasingly pricing out higher and higher wealth strata -- and rather than actually _addressing_ that problem, attacking the people in the middle who are struggling with it.

We've had this argument before. It was one of many prefaces to a lot of people leaving the cities for the suburbs. I'm betting that the right combination of solar panels, electric cars and high quality broadband outside the coastal cities will get 'er done. And we can go back to whining about sprawl again, instead.

ETA: You know, it occurs to me about that billions of dollars thing that if you really want to make it illegal for individuals or families to accumulate billions of dollars, you are going to have to figure out a way to take away rapidly growing companies from their founders. Is that _really_ what we want to do in our society?

ETA: Besides, if you really want to reduce the ratio between the most compensated and the least compensated in our society, the fastest way to do that is probably to raise the minimum wage and to contemplate a guaranteed minimum income (no country has actually managed to pull off a guaranteed minimum income, so I'm not so sure I am prepared to fully support it absent a workable proposal, but it is worth thinking about as a way to talk about what we want to guarantee our citizens in terms of quality of life). Raising the minimum wage would also go some ways to carving into the upper end as well, in that in some sectors, very low wages at the bottom translate into enormous takings at the top (not all sectors, obviously).

Date: 2017-09-11 04:36 am (UTC)
ethelmay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ethelmay
Specifically about the bread, you know the kind of frugal I am, and I was WTF about anyone feeling guilty about that price too. Four bucks for bread is not at all unheard of for a grocery store price here, so six bucks in New York seems entirely likely, and low if the bread is at all on the fancy side. In fact, I distinctly remember looking in a New York bakery window and telling my sister, "I could make bread like that for way less than eight dollars a loaf," and her telling me, "You don't have to pay for a storefront on [Whatever] Avenue." And that was over twenty years ago. (Okay, maybe I have the figure wrong and it was five or six bucks. But again, more than twenty years ago, so still way more than six bucks today.)

I thought of it as a symbol of how much these people don't have a handle on where they are, that they both under- and over-estimate like that. No context, no common sense. And even in Manhattan, $250K puts the family somewhere into the top 20 percent for income ($200K is 81st percentile), plus the bread lady has several million in inherited assets. But I think the author is being awfully woolly-minded as well, and I agree it makes no sense to lump Bread Lady with billionaires.

Date: 2017-09-11 05:36 am (UTC)
ethelmay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ethelmay
I can't tell whether the author of the article thinks the bread is obscenely expensive or not. The lack of any comment makes it seem as though she takes the statement at face value.

ETA: I looked at bread prices at QFC today. You can find factory bread in Seattle that's $5.49 a loaf, so yeah, I'm really calling shenanigans on six bucks being a whole lot in Manhattan.
Edited Date: 2017-09-12 05:17 am (UTC)

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