My wife (who reads the Times so I don’t have to) sent me this story this morning. It tells the story of a Gallipolis, Ohio, couple that escaped poverty by working for the government. Careful to avoid the implication that the couple is overpaid at taxpayer expense, the Times makes sure to depict an ongoing struggle:
Jodi and Ralph Taylor are public workers whose jobs as a janitor and a sewer manager cover life’s basics. They have moved out of a trailer into a house, do not have to rely on food stamps and sometimes even splurge for the spicy wing specials at the Courtside Bar and Grill.
While that might not seem like much, jobs like theirs, with benefits and higher-than-minimum wages, are considered plum in this depressed corner of southern Ohio. Decades of industrial decline have eroded private-sector jobs here, leaving a thin crust of low-paying service work that makes public-sector jobs look great in comparison.
. . .
The Taylors are not college educated, but their public-sector jobs have made them middle class. Together they earn about $63,000 a year, a sum that puts them squarely at the middle point of earnings for American families, and higher than the $50,000 earned by the typical Gallipolis family.
Money is still tight. When their washing machine broke in November, they had to put the new one on a credit card. They could not afford college for either of their sons. One is in the Marines, and the other, a high school senior, just enlisted.
My wife and I both grew up middle class in the Midwest (she in Missouri, I in Wisconsin), so we instantly saw what most other New Yorkers, including the editors at the Times, evidently do not: For a household in most parts of the country — not just depressed areas of Ohio — $63,000 a year is actually a pretty nice income. Despite their lack of college, the Taylors make an above-average living by some metrics, and if they can’t afford a washer or (with the help of loans) college for their kids, it’s a budgeting problem, not the result of trying financial circumstances.
You can see a chart of household income in the U.S. here. The median — contrary to what the Times says — is right around $52,000. The median family of four in Ohio — one of the Taylors’ two children has already moved out — earns only a little more than the Taylors, $67,000. Bear in mind that much of Ohio’s population lives in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati, and suburbs thereof, where the cost of living is higher than in the more rural areas.
Here’s a comparison that New York liberals might understand better: If you look at Charleston, W.V. (which is close to Gallipolis), and adjust for cost of living, $63,000 is the equivalent of $147,000 in Manhattan, $123,000 in Brooklyn, and $108,000 in Queens.
And perhaps if the Times is concerned about the economic wellbeing of the non-college-educated, they should consider rethinking their position on immigration, rather than advocating for the overpaying of public employees.