Jesus as an economist

By David Grima | Jun 27, 2019

The intersection of Park and Main streets has been a dust bowl, a howling desert, for so many weeks that I am having a hard time believing it was ever any less worse than it is today.

They say it is all because the roads are being fixed. I do hope they are telling the truth.

When it rained June 21, the dust from the crushed rock that blows around there actually formed a cement-like mud in some places. Cars crossing the intersection with their windows open – i.e. when it is not raining – soon fill with the white dust. White dust filters along Main Street and into nearby buildings.

Still, it has been worse. I distinctly recall reading in an old Courier from the days before roadways were hard-topped, that loads of crushed limerock would be spread and raked all along Main Street at certain times of year to temporarily create a more solid roadbed.

Believe it or not, people used to insist that the limerock dust, not to mention the dust that came from the kilns all along the waterfront, made for a very healthy atmosphere in town.

They must have been quite mad.

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Speaking of roads, we had our first current construction-related traffic accident in the South End June 16, when a vehicle trying to turn left out of Crescent Street onto South Main hit a truck that was coming up the temporary one-way lane from the direction of town.

The Crescent Street driver apparently told police that the traffic-diversion sign (I can only suppose she meant the one outside the Maritime Farms gas station) made it difficult to see the oncoming truck.

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Here is some news I found, believe it or not, on the website of a country radio station:

“A recent study done by the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home, a Maine resident would have to make $19.91 an hour. A stretch, as the average renter makes only $11.82 an hour.

“Alternatively, the average Maine renter would have to work 72 hours per week to afford the same home.

“Keep in mind, these numbers are averages. If you want to live in Portland you'd need to be making $26.67 an hour. The average hourly wage needed in Kennebec County is $16.31, Somerset County is $16.46, the Lewiston Auburn Area comes in at $17.60, while coastal Lincoln County is $18.15 an hour.

“According to News Center Maine, these prices place Maine as having the seventh-largest affordability gap in the country.”

A meeting of local nonprofits the other day suggested that one reason rents in Rockland are so high is that the market will stand them. It’s another way of saying that there will always be somebody who is willing to pay more to rent a place, so they are more likely to get a lease than people who need a home just as badly.

Consequently, all kinds of people are finding themselves unable to rent.

Meanwhile, there are a number of renters in Rockland who would love to move up and become homeowners. However, this route is barred to many, because the cost of house ownership in the Blessed Lime City has risen and risen.

In turn, this increase in the cost of home ownership is being driven, in part, by the fact that Rockland got its act together in recent decades, and has turned out to be a most desirable place. The South End, especially so. But not exclusively.

And so, when renters cannot afford to move into owned homes, they remain renters, thus blocking the way for others who would be renters. See how it works?

(When my poor house sank into the mud one unseasonably hot spring half a dozen years ago, I was lucky enough to find a vacant cardboard box in the concrete towers at the foot of Mechanic Street, where I am forced to live, along with the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse, some of the most miserable creatures in the Known World.)

Prosperity is rarely shared equally in our system, as we know. It tends to put a few of us at an advantage, while others end up stuck in a corner. This, I suppose, is why Jesus mentioned that we will always have the poor with us. Jesus as an economist? Why not!

However, one note to the religiously inclined sticks-in-the-mud: the fact that Jesus said we will always have poor people does not imply that he approved of the situation. On that simple point of difference (for many today insist that Jesus was requiring there to be poor people) hangs the whole political divide.

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Here is a bit of Coast Guard news I stole from the Martha’s Vineyard Times.

“Station Menemsha said farewells to Chief Robert Parent Wednesday morning. After serving three years on the Vineyard, Parent is transferring to Rockland, Maine, to serve on the 140-foot icebreaking tug Thunder Bay.”

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Speaking of marine things, I heard from Thomas Lie-Nielsen, who owns the tool works in Warren, after I wrote about the sailing vessel Whitehawk that his dad built in 1978.

“It has been fun for me to see the references to Lee's Boat Shop and my father recently… My father built that eccentric A-frame on Park Street as a boat shop and it served very well until the Whitehawk job came along, whereupon he added a 'temporary' addition to the water side. I spent many a summer day there as a kid sweeping up, painting and doing other odd jobs.”

This note suggests that I have now reached a stunning total readership of at least five known people! Surely I am bound for greater things! Can’t imagine what that would look like, of course.

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Isn’t it a bit odd that the Martha’s Vineyard Times insists on the apostrophe in the name of the island? In almost every other case, apostrophes in U.S. place names were abandoned many moons ago. Owls Head doesn’t have one, for example, although some insist on trying to sneak one in. Here is what my dear friend Wicked Pete says on the subject:

“Place names in the United States do not use the possessive apostrophe on federal maps and signs. The United States Board on Geographic Names, which has responsibility for formal naming of municipalities and geographic features, has deprecated the use of possessive apostrophes since 1890 so as not to show ownership of the place.”

The first place I heard that explanation was in a book by Bill Bryson, years ago. And isn’t “deprecated” a wonderful word? Fashionable Bob once confused it momentarily with a similar word that has a quite different meaning. Most amusing.

* * * * *

Speaking of apostrophes, some wag at the office has pinned up a cartoon near my cardboard desk. It shows a man selling apostrophes at a table, while two people stand nearby admiring them. One says to the other: “I’d love to have one but I don’t know where to put it.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jul 09, 2019 12:25

Bless your pea pickin' heart for lightening up our day in a harmless way.

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