The dumbest column EV-AH?
posted at 8:05 am on July 27, 2012 by Libby Sternberg
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.