Monday, February 28, 2005

NY Times in Touch With the Common Man

The New York Times, defender of the working stiff, was in fine form this Sunday as it chronicled the plight of oppressed wage slaves on the pages of the Styles section. In an article entitled "Six Figures? Not Enough!", Alex Williams tugs at the heartstrings with sob stories of poor saps struggling to make ends meet on a salary of $100,000—people whose lone extravagance is private school for the kids, or a $20,000 parking space.
There was a time not long ago when earning six figures was a significant milestone among upwardly mobile professionals....But $100,000 isn't what it used to be. It has been devalued, in the practical sense by inflation and psychologically because it is now a relatively common salary.
This "common," solidly middle-class salary (100 grand would put you in the top 5.2% of wage earners in the US) forces some to make unpleasant sacrifices. Take the Belden family, who "settled" for a loft in Boston's trendy South End. Or Maureen Spillane, who was forced to avoid "standard Manhattan indulgences—fancy food, fancy clothing—in order to afford a down payment on a one-bedroom fixer-upper on the Upper West Side." The Upper West Side is, of course, an impoverished area that's home to Michael Moore, Woody Allen, Jerry Seinfeld and, once upon a time, John Lennon.

So, to those who once defined success as a six-figure salary, $200,000 is the new $100,000. "The real point," Williams opines, "is the dreaming itself, the sense among many professionals that there needs to be some light flickering on the horizon to get you through the long hours and the stress of a career." Oh, and the sense of doing something meaningful with one's life. That's priceless.

If the pressure of middle-class life ever gets to be too much, the Travel section's Juliet Macur has just the right fix: "roughing it" in Anguilla. I think we can all relate to this:

I left in a huff because I had no time for distractions. This was serious business: I had to figure out how to get by on $1,000 a day.
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