That Stuck Feeling

The Huffington Post launches an ambitious new series on the poor and middle class

We all had a chuckle yesterday at the poor hedge fund marketing director whining about the difficulties of living in Brooklyn on $350,000 a year:

“I feel stuck,” Schiff said. “The New York that I wanted to have is still just beyond my reach”…

“I can’t imagine what I’m going to do,” Schiff said. “I’m crammed into 1,200 square feet. I don’t have a dishwasher. We do all our dishes by hand.”

If the ridiculousness wasn’t readily apparent to you, this quote from a Huffington Post story today will fix that:

“I feel like I’m stuck, like I can’t breathe, like I’m in quicksand.”

That’s Brooklyn Davis, a 23 year old who grew up poor and who just landed a $7.25 an hour cleaning job after a six-month search. His commute will take two hours round trip and cost $5.50 a day, a significant chunk of his earnings (and an amount he wouldn’t be able to afford before his first check without assistance). Even still it won’t cover his bills.

Davis is profiled in one of the first pieces of a promising new series in The Huffington Post called “Breakdown: Americans on the Edge,” which executive editor Tim O’Brien says will be a “year-long exploration and examination of the lives of middle class and poor Americans.”

The Huffington Post is putting two dozen journalists on this series—an incredible allocation of resources. The site is certainly stepping into a gap in business-press coverage of economic issues. I doubt there are half that many journalists in the entire business press focusing on these issues, which have critical implications for businesses and for the economy as a whole.

Tom Zeller Jr.:

For many young people born into the cyclic deprivations of urban poverty — failing schools, broken families, lack of jobs, violence, crime and drugs — such lessons come far too late in life. While Davis aspires to become a barber one day (he cuts his friends’ hair, he says), at 23, he is already locked hard onto a path that will make that dream extremely difficult to realize.

Statistically speaking, Davis, like his parents, faces surprisingly high odds against ever escaping from poverty — regardless of what happens in the wider economy.

That’s not quite like the struggles of the executive (working at his brother’s hedge fund) with a $32,000 grade-school tuition bill and no dishwasher.

Here’s to the Huffington Post’s ambition with this series, which is already off to a very good start.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , ,