If you have "no place to go," come here!

Who you gonna believe? Government statistics, or your lyin' eyes?

Methodology is important, and I like ground truth:

I spend 12 hours per week cruising the highways and byways of Montgomery County and Philadelphia as I commute to and from work and shuttle my kids to guitar lessons, friends’ houses, and local malls. I can’t help but have my antenna attuned to what I’m seeing with my own eyes.

[...] Montgomery County is relatively affluent area with the dangerous urban enclaves of Norristown and Pottstown as the only blighted low income, high crime areas in the 500 square mile county of 800,000 people. The median household income and median home prices are 50% above the national averages. Major industries include healthcare, pharmaceuticals, insurance and information technology. It is one of only 30 counties in the country with a AAA rating from Standard & Poors (as if that means anything). On paper, my county appears to be thriving and healthy, with white collar professionals living an idyllic suburban existence. One small problem – the visual evidence as you travel along Welsh Road towards Montgomeryville or Germantown Pike towards Plymouth Meeting reveals a decaying infrastructure, dying retail meccas, and miles of empty office complexes.

I don’t think my general observations as I drive around Montgomery County are colored by any predisposition towards negativity. I see a gray winter like pallor has settled upon the land. I see termite pocked wooden fences with broken and missing slats. I see sagging porches. I see leaky roofs with missing tiles. I see vacant dilapidated hovels. I see mold tainted deteriorating siding on occupied houses. I see weed infested overgrown yards. I see collapsing barns and crumbling farm silos. I see houses and office buildings that haven’t been painted in 20 years. I see clock towers in strip malls with the wrong time. I see shuttered gas stations. I see retail stores with lights out in their signs. I see trees which fell during Hurricane Sandy five months ago still sitting in yards untouched. I see potholes not being filled. I see disintegrating highway overpasses and bridges. I constantly see emergency repairs on burst water mains. I see malfunctioning stoplights. I see fading traffic signage. I see regional malls with rust stained walls beneath their massive unlit Macys, JC Penney and Sears logos. I see hundreds of Space Available, For Lease, For Rent, Vacancy, For Sale and Store Closing signs dotting the suburban landscape. These sights are in a relatively affluent suburban county. When I reach West Philly, it looks more like Dresden in 1945.

Absolutely correct. Of course, you can't see West Philly from the Acela, so it doesn't count. Then again, you can see North Philly. If you look up from your laptop or down from the ceiling as you talk on your cellphone.

NOTE Hat tip alert reader Jay.

No votes yet


Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

Love this quote from the link:

The only booming business in my suburban paradise is Space Available sign manufacturing. We probably import those from China too.

Kinda sums up America these days, doesn't it?

I tried to make a similar point last year with "Progressive Idiocy: All Economics Is Local", the idea there being that pundits who obsessed about certain numbers and didn't bother to see the country the way most of us see it are going to be wrong much of the time. The big office building in the photo is a bit more full than it was two years ago, but it's still nowhere near fully occupied. Ever since I moved here twenty years ago, there's been more commercial space here than was needed, but the bottom really fell out in 2008, and we haven't managed to find it yet.

There's also the question of why that link mentions the deterioration in houses and storefronts. My guess it the general impoverishment, meaning that even folks who do have jobs either don't have the time to fix things, or they don't have the money. Those out of work are far worse off.

I think the lies the politicians and their pet economists tell us are only comforting to those who are well off, and aren't too eager to look around them.

gizzardboy's picture
Submitted by gizzardboy on

I sent the article on to a bunch of friends under the subject line:

Happy days are here again!