Saturday, January 01, 2005

Why, Oh Why, Can't All Journalists Be This High Class?

Or words to that effect from J. Bradford DeLong regarding this piece in the LA Times on how America's law school grads live lives of quiet desperation:


The family's plight mirrors a trend in which common events like layoff and illness increasingly prove devastating, The Times finds.

Well, let's investigate:

By last Christmas, the Saab and Volvo were long gone. The big clapboard house with the wraparound porch was headed for a sheriff's sale.

....John landed a job straight out of law school ....

....John's salary more than doubled to $70,000. It then swiftly rose to almost $100,000. ....

...."We really saw the big life," Kim said.

....In 1991, the couple bought a six-bedroom, four-fireplace Victorian house at 1109 Pennsylvania Ave. It was only five blocks from the Oakmont Country Club and its U.S. Open Championship golf course.

....In mid-1993, he and Kim celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary with a cruise to the Bahamas. About six months later, they leased a new beige Volvo 940 sedan to go with their 1987 Saab 900. They hired a baby sitter, a house cleaner and a gardener. And they prepared to send their two oldest daughters to private school.

....In December 1994, John's run at [his job] came to an end. The new owner cut the company's legal department by half. John's position was eliminated....The Ryans' income — which reached $110,000 during John's final year ....

It took until Thanksgiving of 1995 for John to finally find a new position, this one as a lawyer with FedEx Corp. in Memphis. The family visited Tennessee to shop for a new house. But John clashed with his boss, and after three months of commuting from Pittsburgh to the company's headquarters on 3 a.m. cargo flights, he was let go.

In 1995, the Ryans stopped making mortgage payments on 1109 Pennsylvania. By the following summer, PNC Bank went to court to foreclose on the house.

After a flurry of legal action and with nowhere else to turn, the Ryans staved off foreclosure by declaring bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy is one of the oldest economic safety nets that the government provides working people. It was so important in early America that the Constitution specifically authorized Congress to establish laws on the subject.

Ah yes, another story of humble working people availing themselves of the safety net provided by government to save their home...a six bedroom, four fire place, mansion near one of America's most famous country clubs.

Let's read on:

In late 2000, the perfect job seemed to fall into John Ryan's lap.

Marsh USA Inc., a subsidiary of insurance brokerage giant Marsh & McLennan....

In early December, he went to work at Marsh's downtown office as an assistant vice president, making about $90,000 a year. In short order, he was promoted to a full vice president. By the following April, he was being featured in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's question-and-answer profile "People on the Move."

Ambition: To add value and integrity wherever I am …

Dream Vacation: My wife and I zipping along on an ocean liner, headed to a beautiful white sand beach …

Three months later, he was fired.

John said he was given no reason.

....In July 2003, the Ryans again filed for bankruptcy, this time under Chapter 7. The house on Pennsylvania Avenue was sold at a foreclosure auction this year.

It is also the case that Mrs. Ryan has had serious health problems. Two bouts with cancer.

However, why, oh why, can't we have a better class of economist who won't praise reporters who describe stories like the Ryan's as: The family's plight mirrors a trend in which common events like layoff and illness....?

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