Washington, DC living expenses

Elly Yu writes that a “modest yet adequate” living for a family in the Washington, DC area requires annual income of at least $105,000:

…this cost is being driven largely in part by the rising price of childcare and housing, experts say.

The Economic Policy Institute’s “Family Budget Calculator” measures the income a family needs to cover basic living expenses, including housing, food, child care and transportation. The budget is based on figures from 2017.

Of the top 100 metro areas in the country, D.C. had the 10th-highest costs in the country for a two-parent, two-childhood household. The San Francisco metro area ranked 1st with an average cost of $148,440. The median family income for the D.C. region was $113,810, in 2017, according to American Community Survey. …

The budget doesn’t include expenses like student loan debt or saving up for rainy day funds.

Gould says the cost of childcare, which has been rising much faster than inflation in recent years, is one of the drivers of rising living costs. According to the calculator, childcare for a family with two children (one four-year-old, and one older school-aged child) costs on average $1,762 a month. …

The costs do also vary throughout the region. In the District, the average income a family of four needs to make is higher than the metro region at $123,975. In Prince George’s County, the figure is $90,824 and in Arlington County, the figure is $113,915.

Housing and the cost of childcare are consistent drivers of rising costs of living, meaning that it makes sense to make a home ideally both where there is family and where the cost of housing is inexpensive. Even if earnings are far lower, quality of daily life is likely to end up being much higher. Daily life can be less frenetic, involve less stress over finances and debt, incorporate family and extended family in a more consistent way, and require little or no professional childcare costs.

We have the means to construct these sorts of lives, but socially and culturally our economic and corporate habits haven’t yet changed to reflected that the technology enables for a distributed workforce in most cases. We don’t all need to be living in the same few expensive metro areas in order to physically work together in high-rent offices in most cases.

Strange economics

Warren Buffett says no textbook could have predicted the strange economy we have today:”

The current economic environment is one that no one could have seen coming, Warren Buffett said. …

Buffett noted that unemployment is at generation lows, yet inflation and interest rates are not rising. While at the same time the U.S. government continues to spend more money than it takes in.

“No economics textbook I know that was written in the first couple of thousand years that discussed even the possibility that you could have this sort of situation continue and have all variables stay more or less the same,” Buffett told CNBC’s Becky Quick on Thursday ahead of the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha …

The Labor Department said Friday the unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in April, the lowest since 1969. However, inflation was up just 1.6% on a year-over-year basis in March. That’s well below the Federal Reserve’s 2% inflation target. The overnight interest rate is also below historical levels despite four rate hikes in 2018. The central bank, at its meeting this week, kept rates unchanged at a target range of 2.25% to 2.50% …

“I don’t think our present conditions can exist in terms of fiscal and monetary policy and various other elements across the political landscape,” he said. “I think it will change, I don’t know when, or to what degree. But I don’t think this can be done without leading to other things.”

“While at the same time the U.S. government continues to spend more money than it takes in…”

How narrow and selfish

Chris Arnade writes on “back row America”:

I first walked into the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx because I had been told not to. I had been told it was too dangerous and too poor, and that I was too white. I had been told that “nobody goes there for anything but drugs and prostitutes.” The people telling me this were my colleagues (other bankers), my neighbors (other wealthy Brooklynites), and my friends (other academics). All, like me, successful, well-educated people who had opinions on the Bronx but had never been there.

It was 2011, and I was in my eighteenth year as a Wall Street bond trader. I spent my work days sitting behind a wall of computers, gambling on flashing numbers, on a downtown Manhattan trading floor filled with hundreds of other people who did exactly the same thing. My home life was spent in a large Brooklyn apartment, in a neighborhood filled with other successful people.

I wasn’t in the mood to listen to anyone, especially other bankers, other academics, and the educated experts who were my neighbors. I hadn’t been for a few years. In 2008, the financial crisis had consumed the country and my life, sending Citibank, the company I worked for, into a tailspin stopped only by a government bailout. I had just seen where hubris—my own included—had taken us, and what it had cost the country. Not that it had actually cost us bankers, or my neighbors, much of anything.

I was in the habit of taking walks, sometimes as long as fifteen miles, to explore and reduce stress, but now my walks began to evolve. Rather than setting out with some plan to walk the entire length of Broadway, or along the length of a subway line, I started walking the less-seen parts of New York City. Along the way, I talked to anyone who talked to me. I used my camera to take portraits of people I met.

What I started seeing and learning was just how cloistered and privileged my world was—and how narrow and selfish I was.

I started reading Chris Arnade after discovering him on Twitter at some point in 2016 or so. His writing helped prepare me for President Trump’s victory, because his writing reveals aspects of the American people from which our ruling class has alienated itself:

Where do most of the press and elites get it wrong? They don’t believe that we live in a two-tiered system. They don’t believe, or know they are in, the top tier. They also don’t understand what people view as value.

Rally Against Bullying

I was in Center City, Philadelphia yesterday for the Rally Against Bullying, organized in response to Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims’s live-streamed verbal abuse and harassment of a grandmother, mother, and three teenaged girls who were praying outside of Center City Philadelphia’s abortion center:

The “Pro-Life Rally Against Bullying” took place in front of a downtown Philadelphia Planned Parenthood facility. On May 2, state Rep. Brian Sims livestreamed video from the same location, posting two videos in which he denounced two women, three teenagers and a man.

Sims called for donations to Planned Parenthood while offering money to viewers who could provide the identities and addresses of the witnesses.

Shortly after the videos emerged on social media, the national organization Live Action organized the rally. It featured representatives from a number of local and national groups…

Several speakers directly addressed Sims’ claims that the pro-life advocates he had filmed were racist.

Richara Krajewski of the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia said she stood before the crowd “as a pro-life black woman.”

Noting that “it’s so popular now to call out racism,” Krajewski wished to clarify that application of the term, particularly “in the context of pro-abortion politics.”

“Real racism,” she said, “is co-opting the language of liberation to advocate for the destruction of the lives of the most vulnerable. Real racism is a so-called white ally telling black and brown women that they need to choose between their dreams and their babies.”

Kevin D. Williamson writes on Brian Sims’s decision to stream himself harassing members of the public:

The times being what they are, perhaps we should classify political fanaticism of the social-media performance-art variety as a kind of insanity. Political fanatics such as Sims live in the shadows between the idée fixe and outright monomania. The inferior kind — and Sims is the inferior kind — fixate on terminology as a substitute for ideas, and for them buzzwords are a necessary intellectual crutch. Hence, Sims’s shouty accusations of “white privilege” in the face of a young woman who, as she pointed out with a smile, is not white. Intersectionality — it is a bitch.

Rep. Sims had offered $100 to anyone who would reveal the names and home addresses of the women he filmed himself harassing. Thankfully, that resulted in Philadelphians instead crowdfunding more than $125,000 to benefit the Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia and Guiding Star home for women and children.

Jean Vanier, RIP

Sohrab Ahmari honors Jean Vanier, who has passed away:

Jean Vanier, the Canadian Catholic philosopher and humanitarian who died on Tuesday aged 90, was a giant of a man. Well over six feet tall, he towered over me when I visited him for an interview in Trosly-Breuil, France, in 2015. In Vanier, however, even his height and bearing were transfigured into a source of warmth and humility; I ended up describing him as a “gentle giant” in my write-up.

He was due to receive the $1.7 million Templeton Prize that year, in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s breadth of spiritual dimensions”. Yet he was painfully reluctant to talk about the prize. I remember how he lowered himself somehow (again, both physically and emotionally) when I brought up this great honour. “Don’t push me up, don’t push me forward,” he insisted, in a voice that was almost a whisper.

Vanier would have preferred that I write not about him but about his friends at Trosly-Breuil, the site of the first L’Arche community he established. L’Arche, or the Ark, is the movement of people with disabilities and their non-disabled peers (called “assistants”) who live together as friends and equals.

Today L’Arche is among the most luminous examples of what it means to live Catholic social teaching and Gospel values in the modern world. It’s also the most powerful counter-witness to the culture of death and the eugenic revival that has some countries boasting of having “eliminated” Down’s syndrome.

Vanier’s story, and that of L’Arche’s founding, are legendary, though these are true and well-attested legends. …

L’Arche has grown to some 150 communities on five continents. Part of the point is of course to help people with disabilities live lives of laughter, dignity and happiness. But the non-disabled who come to L’Arche soon learn that they need as much help and healing as the disabled do. The non-disabled helpers are also counted among the poor at L’Arche.

“What people with disabilities want is to relate,” Vanier told me in that 2015 interview. “This is something unique. It makes people who are closed up in the head become human. The wonderful thing about people with disabilities is that when someone important comes, they don’t care. They care about the relationship. So they have a healing power, a healing power of love.”

I got a light touch of that healing power during my own visit to Trosly-Breuil. After interviewing Vanier, I was invited to lunch at the Ferns, the group home that serves some of the most severely disabled residents. I’ll be honest: all the spitting and gurgling of food at first discomfited me. As an only child, my heightened sense of personal space was also at risk. But then we held hands and thanked Almighty God in song, and I opened up. By the time the meal was over, I didn’t want to leave the Ferns.

Afterward, I asked Vanier what people like me, who can’t give up married and professional lives to live in community, can do to help. Here’s what he told me:

“Try and find somebody who is lonely. And when you go to see them, they will see you as the messiah. Go and visit a little old lady who has no friends or family. Bring her flowers. People say, ‘but that’s nothing’. It is nothing – but it’s also everything. It always begins with small little things. It all began in Bethlehem. That was pretty small.”

I learned of L’Arche only this past fall as part of Leonine Forum.

We work so we can have a home

Andrea Burke writes on an undervalued path to happiness:

We’ve gone so far down the road of feminism that we’ve forgotten how to proudly be feminine. You want to carry a child in your bones and lay down your life for them for more than 18 years? You want to lay down your life and learn to die to self for the rest of your life? You want to serve someone with all your heart, body, and soul? You want to master the art of cooking for a crowd and have clean clothes and end each day knowing that there’s a group of people who look to you as one of their anchors and rocks? You want to work your tired body from dawn to dusk for love? …

I wish we loved the strength it takes for a woman to become a wife and a mother. We marvel at her physical strength when she births a child. But we forget what invisible strength she shows when she lays down her life for her home every day after that. Social media spends all of its energy telling women to remember who they are, to fight for their sacred spaces, to become the woman they want to be. All things that feel confusing when you’re holding a newborn baby and learning to forget your self-centeredness, allow others into your personal space, and become the woman that you are becoming and not who you thought you’d be.

I wish as a culture, we understood what happens in those four walls when two adults decide to sacrifice for one another, be good stewards of their money, welcome in guests, and raise a generation to know the heritage of the Lord. I wish we called it more than a contract, an agreement, or even a commitment to vows. I wish we called it holy, beautiful, other-worldly.

We’ve tried to make it easy. We’ve updated our lives with gadgets and gizmos aplenty. We’ve made our machines smarter. We’ve made our cleaning supplies more time efficient. We’ve scrubbed the hard work right out the door. We don’t even need to meal plan or grocery shop anymore. Fresh groceries can show up at our door, pre-measured, pre-planned, ready to go to the table within 30 minutes.

We’ve turned our properties into museums. Instead of well-loved they are well-liked on social media and we’ve forgotten how to create a home, and instead curate a scene for those who will never step foot through our door. We’ve replaced hard conversations with texts.

We’ve told husbands and wives that the primary goal of their marriage is their own happiness. We’ve sold them the lie that once it gets hard, tired, menial, once it gets weary, someone raises their voice, or someone says something they regret, that we can get out with a white flag that says “this just isn’t for me anymore.”

We’ve made love about sex. And sex about self.

We work so that we can have a home. And a home not simply as a shared physical space, but as a place of respite from the world with the emotional, spiritual, and psychological peace that accompanies all the truly good things in life.

The same soft bigotry of low expectations that once worked to keep women from professional life is probably now working to keep women from enjoying the fruits of home life.

Morning in Georgetown

A little seen from earlier this week, after morning mass at Epiphany in Georgetown. How many little moments like this do we miss, because we haven’t constructed our lives in a way that gives us the time or the space to have such moments?

I think little experiences like this are an essential antidote to the politics-as-religion mania of our time.

Georgetown C&O Canal

At dusk I walked from Georgetown Waterfront Park on the Potomac uphill past the C&O Canal, along M Street for a few blocks, and eventually home. Georgetown’s section of the C&O Canal is looking picturesque:

The C&O Canal runs through Georgetown along the Potomac River west from Rock Creek. The Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park is located along the C&O Canal from Rock Creek Park to the DC boundary and extends into Maryland. The park is open during all daylight hours.

The Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal is one of the most intact and impressive survivals of the American canal-building era. The C&O Canal is unique in that it remains virtually unbroken and without substantial modification affecting its original character for its entire length of 185 miles.

The 501(c)3 non-profit organization Georgetown Heritage was recently founded to restore and revitalize the mile-long section of the C&O Canal that runs through Georgetown.

Pittsburgh for six hours

I spent about six hours in Pittsburgh today, where I visited to meet with Rehumanize International to talk shop. Rehumanize has an important mission: “to ensure that each and every human being’s life is respected, valued, and protected.” Rehumanize was founded by Aimee Murphy, who was a fellow Notre Dame Vita Institute participant with me last summer:

Rehumanize International is a non-profit human rights organization dedicated to creating a culture of peace and life, and in so doing, we seek to bring an end to all aggressive violence against humans through education, discourse, and action.

We adhere to an ethos called the Consistent Life Ethic, which calls for an opposition to all forms of aggressive violence against human beings, including but not limited to:​

  • Abortion
  • Abuse (domestic, assault, rape)
  • Capital Punishment
  • Embryonic Stem-Cell Research
  • Euthanasia
  • Human Trafficking
  • Physician Assisted Suicide
  • Police brutality
  • Poverty Issues
  • Racism
  • Suicide
  • Torture
  • Unjust War

The Consistent Life Ethic serves as the philosophical foundation of our advocacy.

Additionally, we achieve our vision by maintaining our organization as non-sectarian and non-partisan, and furthermore by promoting collaboration amongst many organizations across movements.

I took these photos on the way in and out of the city.