Blizzard of 2016, Snowzilla, From Virginia to New York, At Least

The Blizzard of 2016 is beginning to bury the entire Washington, D.C.-Baltimore urban area and surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs under a predicted 16 inches to two feet of snow.

One of the best sources for continuing updates on the storm is The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang. The Gang has nicknamed the potentially record-breaking snowstorm “Snowzilla.”

Snow began falling in my part of Maryland, just north of Washington, about 2 p.m. Friday afternoon. It will continue snowing all night, reaching a depth of up to 20 inches by dawn Saturday. Then the storm will continue all day Saturday, into Saturday night, possibly reaching depths of two feet to 30 inches. All this according to many weather forecasters. Continue reading

If Maryland Is Rich, Why Do We Act So Stingy?

The Washington metropolitan area is among the most affluent in the U.S., based on Census data. The suburban counties of Maryland and Virginia have always ranked high, according to median household income, for as long as I can remember.

Map of Maryland highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Maryland highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many Maryland politicians and business leaders are aggrieved because Northern Virginia beats out the Maryland suburbs in the high-income game. That explains why many in Maryland obsess about competing with Virginia. The theory goes that Montgomery County must outbid Fairfax and Arlington counties in Virginia with tax giveaways and other subsidies for business. Otherwise, businesses will choose to locate in Virginia, rather than Maryland. It’s a crazy regional fascination with keeping up with the Joneses.

Worse yet, millionaires might move across the Potomac River to avoid Maryland taxes! Spread the alarm: The sky is falling, the millionaires are fleeing for their lives (and their money)! And similar baloney, spread by people such as Blair Lee IV.

This sort of petty thinking ignores the reality that businesses choose where to locate based on myriad factors, such as transportation systems, quality schools and universities, availability of an educated workforce, quality of life. Most of all, businesses go wherever they can find paying customers. Taxes are one factor among many, and not the most important.

Likewise, millionaires choose where they want to live based more on status and amenities than on taxes. The rich want to live next door to other rich folks. Their favorite place of residence is Manhattan. Astronomical costs of luxury apartments overlooking Central Park don’t dissuade them, and neither do New York City taxes.

Many of the wealthy live in Maryland because it is, as the beer commercial used to say, “The land of pleasant living.” Yes, the entire Chesapeake region is the land of pleasant living. And if the landed gentry want to move someplace else . . . well, they have to sell their fancy homes to other millionaires. Get it? You can’t find a waterfront estate just any place. You have to go to the waterfront. Far as I know, B-4 still lives in Maryland.

Count your blessings, anyone?

Let’s focus on the larger reality, shall we? The Washington area, including the Maryland and Virginia suburbs, is one of the very richest in America! By extension, that means we’re among the most wealthy, privileged people in the world, and in all of history. Get it? Wealth and privilege.

Why do we whine so much?

How could this wealthy, privileged megalopolis have allowed its Metro subway system to fall into disrepair? Why is every decision to build a school or give teachers or police a raise controversial? Why is raising the paltry $7.25 minimum wage a big deal?

150px-democratslogoWith so much affluence and wealth** in Maryland, why do politicians constantly bicker like spoiled children over who gets a bigger slice of cake? I’m looking at you, fellow Democrats, since we’re in the majority.

Nothing focuses the attention of Maryland pols quite as much as allocating money to build schools, or highways, anyplace in the state. Please don’t mention highways and mass transit in mixed company. Highway people fight with mass transit people like cattlemen and sheep herders in the old West.

With so much wealth, Maryland can afford to fund all its needs. We ought to be counting our blessings and giving thanks for our privileged location, not sulking and fighting.

Problem is, people who have big money or control big money don’t want to part with it. The affluent and the wealthy, and their representatives, want to keep what they have, and earn or steal more. Most of all, they want to avoid paying taxes at all costs.

Highest incomes in the nation

Four counties in Virginia are among the top ten in the nation every year, based on median household income. They are Loudoun, Falls Church, Fairfax and Arlington. Prince William County and Stafford County are either in the top ten or close. Three other top-ten counties are in New Jersey.

Poor Maryland. Only Howard County and Montgomery County are consistently in or near the top ten.

However, four more Maryland counties — Charles, Calvert, Anne Arundel and St. Mary’s — are among the 30 highest earning counties, out of 3,000 across the country, according to The Washington Post. Click here for the Post story.

Montgomery in truth, has slipped in recent years. I can remember when MoCo was among the three richest counties in America, year after year. Montgomery was No. 12  in 2012, with median household of only $94,365, the Post reported. Got that? Montgomery was No. 12, ahead of about 2,988 counties. Howard was No. 4, with $108,234 median household income.

The level of incomes in different parts of the country are all relative and must be taken in context. People who move here from other parts of the country are usually shocked by the prices when they buy a house or rent an apartment.

It’s not easy, making ends meet in Montgomery County, even with two paychecks, on $94,365 a year. If you’ve got a child in college, you’re pressed to the wall. Some of the folks in Chevy Chase and Potomac are among the truly wealthy. But the high cost of living is nearly everywhere.

People living in places like Wheaton, White Oak, Rockville, Gaithersburg, Germantown are ordinary, middle-class or working-class Americans, just trying to get by, paycheck to paycheck. Nevertheless, in a state as affluent as Maryland, every school should be a first-rate facility with excellent teachers, whether it be in Chevy Chase or Germantown. The schools in Prince George’s County should be as well-funded as the schools in Howard County.

Talking seriously about WEALTH . . .

** All this stuff about affluence and wealth has a number of angles. The median household income, keep in mind, is basically household paychecks.

A paycheck of $108,234 in Howard County doesn’t classify anyone as “wealthy” or “rich.” It doesn’t put anyone even near the “top one percent.” At best, people earning these median incomes in Howard and Montgomery, and across the river in Virginia, can be classified as “affluent,” in my opinion.

Of course “median” means half of all the households earn more than the median, half earn less. Some people make $1 million, or $5 million, a year, while the median in Montgomery is less than $100,000. The “average” household income, therefore, is much higher than the median.

Real wealth, in my opinion, is measured by much more than annual income. Many of the wealthy may arrange things so that they have no “taxable income.” None. But they’re still plenty wealthy.

Real wealth is measured in the value of property — real estate, bank accounts, jewelry, artwork, pleasure boats and airplanes — and in ownership of profitable businesses, or ownership of stocks and bonds. There’s a lot of this “real wealth” in Maryland, and it’s not necessarily in the suburban counties where the affluent earn their paychecks. Consider the waterfront estates on the Chesapeake Bay, in counties like Talbot County.

The takeaway

The bottom line, however you define wealth or affluence, is that Maryland, with six counties among the top 30 in the nation in median income, is a very affluent state. And that’s without taking into account the real wealth, the waterfront property and corporate wealth.

Maryland has more than enough wealth and resources to pay for all public needs. There’s no need to fight about money for schools or transportation. The question is: Does Maryland have the will to pay for schools and transportation?

— John Hayden

Sequestration In America, Dancing On Wall Street, Pain In Maryland And Virginia

As I write this on Tuesday, the Dow-Jones Index has hit an all-time high. It’s historic! Higher than the last record, set in 2007.

Sequestration, which I call Austerity, took effect on Friday.

Devastating economic pain is predicted throughout America, although some exaggeration is baked into the “sky-is-falling” rhetoric.

Exaggeration or no exaggeration, economic growth has been sluggish. Sequestration of $85 billion in federal spending will slow the economy even more.   Continue reading

“Whomperjawed” (via The Clueless Farmer)

Légumes

Image via Wikipedia

The “Clueless Farmhand” has now become the “Clueless Farmer.” Step one (buy a few acres with a livable house) is complete.

Sounds like the new farmer-entrepreneur, Diana, and her husband, will be focusing on the chicken business, and also growing quite a variety of vegetables. Diana, aka “Farmer Di” and “Doodi,” is methodically learning all she can about how to be a successful part of the “local-food” movement. Click on the Clueless Farmer’s report below.  Her post includes lots of links to useful farming information.

This is a serious career-change event. Diana says: “My completely awesome husband turned down a perfectly decent and lucrative office job in favor of farming for a subsistence income.”

The real farming begins this week, with “100 fluffy day-old chicks and about 500 seedlings of various vegetables.” That sounds feasible on five acres, with some room for expansion.

If it works, the small-farm movement has potential to provide a great lifestyle, along with a modest income, for thousands of workers who would otherwise be stuck in dead-end jobs, and living in suburbia.

Producing and consuming our food locally (including organic food) makes sense, and it can improve our food security in times of shortages.

We closed on our 5+ acre “farmette,” somewhat disconcertingly noted by our bank’s appraiser as being a “suburban” home (by rural standards), this morning. We’re officially terrified. All our pretty plans on how much we need to spend to get so much revenue from so many square feet of some specific vegetable or chicken species seem suddenly very ethereal when juxtaposed with our actual expenses. I have been in Madison County, VA for 4+ days now, fo … Read More

via The Clueless Farmer

Property Virgins (via The Clueless Farm Hand)

The Virginia welcome sign at the Virginia welc...

Image via Wikipedia

Update! Update! The Clueless Farmhands have a deal to buy their Virginia farm, complete with livable house. The bank suddenly decided to OK the short sale. See their update post here. It contains a long list of things they have to do to get the farm running this Spring. (Far from a leisurely idyllic existence, farming is probably more like endless work and 24-7 responsibility.) But I guess you’re your own boss and can work at your own pace, so far as Mother Nature allows. If the Clueless Farmhands can pull it off, maybe other people can do it! Opens up your limited career and lifestyle options, doesn’t it? Do you think you could do it?

End of Update.

You’ve had the fantasy. Admit it. What you really want is a few acres of farmland and a house. You’d like to buy it dirt cheap, because it IS mostly dirt, after all.

You want to chuck the career and the credit cards. Tell your boss to take this job and . . . Escape from the materialism, the congestion, the commute.

You’d trade it all in for freedom and simplicity. Life on the farm.

The Clueless Farmhand couple has done what you dream of doing. They’ve searched five counties in rural Virginia. They’ve looked at single-wides, double-wides, and actual houses. They think they’re ready to take the plunge.

I suspect most folks in Consternation-land will find their story enlightening. At last report . . .

Property Virgins You would think during these days of foreclosures it would be easy to pick up a nice old farmhouse with a bit of land and some serviceable outbuildings for a song. For the past six months or so … Read More

via The Clueless Farm Hand

March 9, 2011 Update: The Clueless Farm Hand has posted an update, detailing the bumpy road to buying a distressed property via a short sale. I had heard that buying real estate through foreclosures and short sales could be problematic, but this was an eye-opener for me. — John Hayden