Just As I Thought

Don’t know much about economics

There was an entry on Fark today that simplified the economy down to one pithy remark:

5.6% unemployment rate under Clinton = good, 5.5% unemployment under Bush = bad

Yeah, yeah. Of course, the link goes to a right-wing “news” site.
I don’t pretend to understand the economy or its indicators, but it seems to me that the statistics are manipulated and disaggregated until they it makes little sense to try to intepret them.
I would guess that the reason the unemployment rate fell while at the same time job creation was in the toilet is because so many people fell off the unemployment rolls — after all, they’ve been without jobs for so long that their unemployment benefits have lapsed. And I’m certain that people who have been jobless for a long time are also, at this point, homeless… and thus no longer count on any kind of government statistics.
I don’t quite understand the dynamics of the economy. I know from personal experience that there are no decently paying jobs out there in my line of work, and thus I stay where I am, lucky to have the job. According to salary surveys, I make approximately half what the average salary for a Creative Director is in Washington, DC. But frankly, I’m happy to get it. I haven’t seen these creative jobs that pay over $100,000.
Then again, there’s a flip side to the economy that makes no sense to me: housing prices.
The housing market is still booming. Homes are selling almost as soon as they come on the market, and at incredible prices. A couple of my neighbors have sold their little townhouses here in Arlington (just outside Washington, DC) for about twice what they paid just 4 or 5 years ago. They both went to young — twentyish/thirtyish — professionals, and I just wonder: where do they work? Hell, I couldn’t afford to buy my house today, how much are they getting paid?

This is getting long-winded. Let me continue after the jump.

I do okay. I make decent money — while it seems to be far below the DC average, I still managed to buy a nice house at the right time. It’s worth more than twice what I paid for it. I refinanced my mortgage last year, paid off all my debts and bought a new car, computer, furniture, and a trip to London. And I still owe less than half it’s value. I have no dependents other than pets. I have a cell phone, cable modem, and satellite tv. Those, along with my electric bill and insurance, are my only monthly bills. All in all, I lead a comfortable lifestyle and I carry little debt (well, it’s all consolidated into my mortgage now).
But you know what? I still live paycheck to paycheck, because I don’t make that much money. If I lost my job tomorrow, I have enough in savings to pay my mortgage for about 4 months. And there’s no way I could afford another place here in DC at the current prices.
So I wonder who is buying the $1.2 million homes in Fairfax; the $2 million condos in Arlington, and the $700,000 cottages in Silver Spring. Where do they work? And do they have any openings?
Lately I’ve been trying to work toward a goal of moving from Washington, DC to Austin, TX. I thought there might be more job opportunities for me there, a more eclectic and creative community. Washington has a lock on boring, unimaginative paper-pushing, but it is seriously difficult to be creative here. No one wants creative, and when they need something in that vein they shove a computer in front of a secretary and tell her to use PowerPoint.
Because of the value locked up in my house, I could sell it and move to Austin, where I could buy a nice 3 or 4 bedroom new house, and still pay less per month in mortgage. That plan relies on finding a job that pays about the same as I’m making now. Easy, I figured: I’m paid a below-average salary here, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.
Boy, was I wrong.
There are pretty much no jobs in Austin. There are approximately zero creative director or art director jobs, and what jobs are listed in the newspaper are entry-level, food service, retail… so much for the booming economy.
So, only a month or so after I began to paint and clean the house preparing it for sale, my kitchen is still only 2/3 painted and I’ve put my fabulous life-changing move on hold. It just seems so obvious and safe to stay where I am, keep living a relatively safe existence in a job that’s frustrating yet unchallenging.
A friend forwarded me an ad from WUSA-TV here in Washington. They’re looking for a “senior designer/animator.” I was frustrated looking at the ad because one thing I’ve always wanted to do was design graphics for television — I’d love to go in to Channel 9 and re-do all of their on-air graphics, because frankly, they stink.
But I realized as I looked at the ad that it wouldn’t give me that power. I’d be subject to the typical bureaucracy that permeates everything here. I’d have to answer to various marketing types — probably the same ones that oversee the current uninspired and amateurish graphics. It didn’t help that the ad indicated morning, night, and weekend work. Nothing in the ad about salary, but considering that WUSA has careened to the bottom of the ratings here, I’m sure it doesn’t pay all that much.
You know what I’d like to do? Move to Austin and become the creative director of a tv station there, like KLRU, the public station. I’d like to demolish their old look and create something completely new, brand it like a steer. Total control. That whole Leo thing.
Speaking of Leos, I was out yesterday with Ian on 14th Street downtown, and saw these little plaques describing the traits of various star signs. It occurred to me that I am far more Virgo in my traits — constant complaints, moodiness, high maintenance, etc. — than Leo. Although, there are plenty of Leo traits in me as well: bossiness, creativity, big ego. August 14 is pretty far into Leo territory, isn’t it? Perhaps I was meant to be born closer to Virgo, on the cusp as it were.
Do you see how sitting down and writing a blog entry has effectively served as a way to put off the dozens of things on my to do list today?
I’m good at that. You can tell by the cobwebs up in my hallway.

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