Green Room

The dumbest column EV-AH?

posted at 8:05 am on July 27, 2012 by

At the outset of a recent column, New York Times commentator Gail Collins asks the following :

 What would it be like to live in a place with an unemployment rate of 1 percent?”

Apparently, according to Gail, it would be an empty experience—empty of malls, good restaurants, and reasonably priced housing! And—brace yourselves—it might mean living in a place filled with—gasp—rubes who labor in an “environmentally suspect” field.

Oh, she doesn’t use those precise words (except for the “environmentally suspect” descriptor), but there’s a certain whiff to her piece about Williston, ND, a town of 16,000 souls that is experiencing an employment boom because of the fracking operation tapping into energy deposits.

Collins uses her 820 words to first enumerate some of the benefits of 1 percent employment—employers wailing for new applicants, incomes that have risen from $30,000 to over $50,000, even a waitress who made a $400 tip in one night, gosh darn it golly gee.

But then comes the “downside.” Collins reports that these residents pay a price for their chugging economy. Dusty roads from all those trucks! Packed schools where children must learn in “modular units, some dating back to the ’80s.” Housing so limited that oil workers often live in “man camps,” and local teachers have to double up! And—oh, the humanity—there’s no mall, no good restaurants! Good lord, how do these poor people survive?!

You would expect that, as population and incomes rose, new stores, theaters and restaurants would follow. But, in Williston, they haven’t. Lanny Gabbert, a science teacher at the high school, says his students yearn for a mall where they could shop, “but the closest thing is Walmart.” The most ambitious restaurants would be classified under the heading of “casual dining,” and the fast food is not fast, given the lunchtime lines that can stretch out for 20 minutes or more. Neither retailers nor restaurateurs are interested in investing in a place where they have to compete with the oil fields to attract workers.

Ms. Collins concludes this brilliant piece of opinery by suggesting that, at least in areas with higher unemployment, we’re not—gasp—waiting “ half an hour in line for a Big Mac.”

To be fair, the tone of Ms. Collins’s column is light, not grim. But methinks she has too much time on her hands if she’s tossing off articles like this one, a piece of puffery that seems to strive to remind us that things really aren’t that bad under the Obama economy.

Come to think of it, maybe I have too much time on my hands, too, if I’m writing about her column on that topic.

___

Libby Sternberg is a novelist. She usually devotes her writing time to better things. In fact, she recently  started a review site for conservative readers.

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Obviously, that should read “1 percent UNemployment” in paragraph 5. Who was the numbskull who wrote this piece anyway? Oh, that would be me!

Libby Sternberg on July 27, 2012 at 8:10 AM

I’ll take boom town growth pangs over a long slow inevitable BHO directed economic death spiral any day of the week.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on July 27, 2012 at 9:07 AM

Sounds like Williston needs a Chick~Fil~A

Jeddite on July 27, 2012 at 9:28 AM

I’m sure in time the malls and restaurants will come. Why doesn’t she go to a neighborhood with 13% UE and contrast the schools, malls and restaurants?

magicbeans on July 27, 2012 at 9:31 AM

But then comes the “downside.” Collins reports that these residents pay a price for their chugging economy. Dusty roads from all those trucks! Packed schools where children must learn in “modular units, some dating back to the ’80s.” Housing so limited that oil workers often live in “man camps,” and local teachers have to double up! And—oh, the humanity—there’s no mall, no good restaurants! Good lord, how do these poor people survive?!

Let me take a shot at this: The taxes being paid from all those employed people take time to translate into things like road improvements and classroom space. Even so, unless there is some other attraction to the area, there may be a lot of hesitancy to overbuild the schools if boom turns to bust. In fact, this may explain the lack of build-up in general. Nobody wants to build The Mall of America out there if in a few years, regulations nationwide open up, and folks don’t have to travel as far to work on a fracking field (HINT: Inhabitants of the “man camps” often have families who live far away, and can’t sell their homes at this time).

Sekhmet on July 27, 2012 at 9:34 AM

It’s more accurate to say that things aren’t that bad under a fracking economy (pun left intact).

One plus side to this piece, it shows what our nation would look like if everyone in America was employed doing nothing but building roads and bridges like Obama seems to think is the sole purpose of mankind.

The Schaef on July 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Detroit has plenty of schools and malls.

… granted, most of them are abandoned and burned-out…

The Schaef on July 27, 2012 at 9:44 AM

I’ll take boom town growth pangs over a long slow inevitable BHO directed economic death spiral any day of the week.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on July 27, 2012 at 9:07 AM

+1

Bitter Clinger on July 27, 2012 at 9:56 AM

A similar boom is happening in the Odessa-Midland area of Texas. Available housing is full, as are roads, schools, shelters, and hospitals. Forget finding a place to park. Retail is having a hard time filling jobs.
I surprised that the liberal author failed to note the really pretty grim situation of the single mother who is priced out of the area completely.
Oh, that right Single Motherhood is the wave of the future!
Duh!
That said. In Texas we know that booms come and they go. Today’s problems are tomorrow’s opportunities.

Pecos on July 27, 2012 at 9:58 AM

Pecos on July 27, 2012 at 9:58 AM

The other problem is the government’s skewered support of housing targeted for these areas. When you’re dealing with the cyclical oil and gas drilling industry and with populations of a lot of young adults who are making decent incomes but may not want to buy homes, multi-family housing is what’s needed. And while in the bigger cities you do have developers for those, in the outlying areas you don’t, and the only type of apartment-style housing the feds will offer financial support for is Section 8 housing (and if you’re getting paid oilfield salaries, you’re automatically making too much for Section 8 housing).

So you have tons of available jobs, both in the oil sector and in the retail sector serving those workers. But unless they want to stay in a trailer with centralized shower facilities, new workers in the area have no place to live, and the feds will not help them get a place unless they’re basically unemployed and/or on welfare. It’s Barack Obama’s “You didn’t built that” to developers turned into “We won’t help you build that”, because the wrong kind of people (workers) would be the ones occupying those new apartments.

jon1979 on July 27, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Come to think of it, maybe I have too much time on my hands, too, if I’m writing about her column on that topic.

No, no, Dear. You’re a brave soul to slog through the swamps of leftist sewage to save the rest of us from the nauseating experience.

Thank you.

oldleprechaun on July 27, 2012 at 11:37 AM

If we’d had to rely on Collins to pioneer the American frontier, we’d all still be stuck in Boston, except that most of us would have killed each other 200 years ago.

J.E. Dyer on July 27, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Gail Collins? New York Times?
Please! The commenters are equally idiotic. Probably on welfare, yet lamenting others are gainfully employed.
And get a load of the idiot that laments a place for “the arts”. yeah, please STAY in New York.

Shambhala on July 27, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Yes, what Williston needs is a place for the arts like in an enlightened city like New York. Several years ago, visiting the Museum of Modern Art, my colleague was surprised to walk into an empty room with white walls and the light going off and on every few seconds. She was more surprised to learn this was an exhibit and her surprise grew as she read this was a $25,000 award-winning exhibit. Yes, that’s what Williston needs, a place for the arts, just like New York where the emperor has no clothes and the “elite” are nothing but maroons.

Incredulous1 on July 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM

Next week, Ms. Collins will visit an offshore oil rig and bemoan the lack of malls, museums, single-family housing, and fine dining.

Owen Glendower on July 27, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Good lord, how do these poor people survive?!

Well for starters, they obviously completely ignore the advice of geniuses like Gail Collins… and Paul Krugman, Tom Freidman, Charles Blow, Frank Rich, and E. J. Dionne, too.

That’s how.

drunyan8315 on July 27, 2012 at 5:46 PM

Well Gail, at least in Williston, ND you can buy a large soda, and there are actually salt shakers on the tables in the restaurants.

Now why don’t you run along and write another vapid column about Seamus, dear.

Gator Country on July 27, 2012 at 11:23 PM

Gail Collins, Frank Rich and MoDo = Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

myiq2xu on July 28, 2012 at 5:50 AM

Collins uses her 820 words to first enumerate some of the benefits of 1 percent UNemployment…

Akzed on July 28, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Obviously, that should read “1 percent UNemployment” in paragraph 5. Who was the numbskull who wrote this piece anyway? Oh, that would be me!

Libby Sternberg on July 27, 2012 at 8:10 AM

Too bad all of our politicians aren’t like you-quick to admit your mistake with a sense of humor, fixed it and moved on to the next challenge.

hopeful on July 28, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Oops. Didn’t mean to strike. Who was the numbskull who wrote that comment? Oh, that would be me.

hopeful on July 28, 2012 at 1:01 PM

I’m glad somebody read my corrective comment! :)

Libby Sternberg on July 28, 2012 at 5:09 PM

Boom towns bring a lot of problems initially. It takes time to develop the infrastructure needed to support a huge increase in population. If successful, they survive and even thrive. “Culture” comes later when people become wealthy enough to fund museums, schools and invest in higher end diversions.

The fact that Collins doesn’t understand this speaks volumes of her complete ignorance of this country. Does she understand that cities like Sacramento, San Francisco, Denver and even Atlanta were once boom towns? They weren’t created by government, they were created by private investors.

Wendya on August 5, 2012 at 3:11 PM