Monday, October 21, 2013

The aesthetic cross of the rentier class

Oh dear baby Jesus, does the NYTimes really need to hire Delia Ephron to write mindless think pieces? She's sixty-nine years old and can well afford to retire.

Although I will say Ephron's Color Me Blue gives those of us in the 99% a through-the-looking glass perspective on how insulated the rich are from those of us in the lower orders.

Ephron has a problem with Bloomberg and with Citibank. Now you're probably thinking it has something to do with the too-cozy relationship between government and the big banks and how that impacts regulations which leads to private gains and public losses, etc.

But no, the issue of greatest import to Ephron is the aesthetic nightmare that is the Citi Bike program. Yes really:
There are many new signs and lights for cars, bike riders and pedestrians to make sure everyone does the safe thing. Good luck with that. The eye is flying around having no idea where to land. Really, standing at that intersection is a surreal experience. It’s as if one has entered the world of a manic martinet. 
It’s fall now. As you stroll in the crisp air through Central Park or down a lovely tree-lined block enchanted by the coppery yellow, burnt orange and flame red of autumn leaves, a bank-blue bike is going to whip by, possibly knocking you down, definitely pulling your focus. 
Then it will be winter and we’ll have one of those blizzards that turns the city entirely white and nearly silent. You will leave your apartment to take in this miracle, trekking down your street, making the first boot marks in virgin snow, and as you turn a corner, your head will suddenly spin toward a gigantic inkblot on the landscape: a stand of 27 bank-blue bikes. A total of 135 Citi Bike signs. You will forget the awesomeness of nature. 
INSTEAD you will start thinking about your bank — how it is paying you barely any interest...
 The Citi Bike program has turned out to be quite popular - "a major success" according to Newsday. But of course it's a major success with the wrong sort of people - the hoi polloi flaunting their indigo impertinence all over Ephron's city.

It turns out that Ephron has been thinking about banks and banking quite a lot lately - she's written two other articles about banks recently, available on her web site: The Banker's Job - bankers have failed Ephron; and Banks Taketh But Don't Giveth - banks aren't paying enough interest.

You'll notice that in two of the three articles by Ephron on banking, she mentions banks paying insufficient interest. This is a rich person's problem as Krugman explains in his blog post John Galt Wants Price Supports:
Lots of people have been having fun with the latest Max Abelson piece on whiny Wall Streeters. One thing Mike Konczal points out is that this is in part the whine of rentiers, angry that their wealth isn’t yielding the return they want:
While they aren’t asking for sympathy, “at their level, in a different way but in the same way, the rug got pulled out,” said Sonnenfeldt, 56. “For many people of wealth, they’ve had a crushing setback as well.” 
He described a feeling of “malaise” and a “paralysis that does not allow one to believe that generally things are going to get better,” listing geopolitical hot spots such as Iran and low interest rates that have been “artificially manipulated” by the Federal Reserve.
People like these are almost always scornful when, say, blue-collar workers complain about declining real wages — hey, it’s just supply and demand, deal with it. And they are contemptuous about claims of price manipulation. But when prices that matter to them — say, interest rates — fall, it’s an outrage. It must be artificial! Because hey, it’s not as if there has been a rise in saving and a fall in investment demand that might be causing low interest rates:

Actually, the only “artificial” thing here is that rates haven’t fallen further, thanks to the zero lower bound on short-term rates. As I’ve tried to explain, we’re basically in a situation of incipient excess supply of savings. Of course interest rates are low.
Krugman had something directly to say about the kind of people who hate Bloomberg for the Citi Bike program back in June:
Well, yesterday I was inconvenienced by the new Citi Bikes: a newly installed line of bike racks blocked the place where I usually cross John Street, forcing me to make a 20-foot detour. Impeach Michael Bloomberg! 
Or, maybe not. But the absolutely hysterical reaction of right-wingers to the bike program just keeps mounting — and in a way that almost makes the program worth it, all by itself. 
Ephron posted a link to her Citi Bike Horror article on her Facebook page, which she leaves wide open. One of Ephron's Facebook friends - with whom I share three Facebook friends, posted this under the link:
Thank you for braving the hate mail you'll inevitably receive for this. Someone had to say it.
That poor thing - she might receive criticism for her silly article - on top of low interest pay-outs and the plague of losers on blue bikes - how does she find the strength to endure?