Success Is One Percent Perspiration, Ninety-nine Percent Luck

Oh Gawker:

Two weeks ago The New York Observer, once a scrappy ankle-biter of gentrified Manhattan, published an utterly unaware column by 22-year-old New School grad Polly Mosendz about how she bought a $250,000 Manhattan apartment all by herself (and a parental nest egg of $50,000). The message was: you can do this, too! Mosendz even described herself as “normal.”

However, two very important details in the column appear to be factually untrue. The apartment, located in Greenwich Village, did not cost $250,000. According to city property records, Mosendz paid $345,000 for the apartment. The same records indicate that Mosendz did not buy the property all by herself. Her grandmother, Ludmila Lapchyk, served as a co-signer — though its unclear whether Lapchyk herself contributed the $95,000 difference.

The problem some people seem to be avoiding or incapable of understanding is that New York City has been rapidly turning into a city predominantly in existence for the wealthy and no one else.

With the astronomical increase in rents in the city, and the increase in owning a home, due to demand to live in NYC because it’s a rapidly growing economy, being able to move from poverty to middle-class is near impossible, nor is it much easier to go from middle-class to being able to afford your own NYC apartment like this girl was able to.

This really has nothing to do with this person in specific. What people should be talking about is the growing trend of society being designed to primarily and singularly serve the needs of the affluent.

Some people may praise Bloomberg, but no one should. He has done some good work but the fact remains that he has set the stage for a world in which NYC is a city only the affluent can live in. This is not entirely his fault since the recession has increased demand to live in NYC since population centers tend to be the places where job creation is strongest, but he has worked hard to make a city richer without doing enough to make the lower and middle classes richer.

Like I said, it can’t all be blamed on Bloomberg. This is really a national problem. When 95% of the recovery since the crash in 2008 is sucked up and kept within the top 5%, a lot of that 5% is going to be from NYC. That means NYC is richer, but the general public isn’t.

New York City is a place where you can afford to live there if you have money but otherwise you cannot live there (without a lot of subsidies). It’s always been this way, but it’s become like that more and more. Bloomberg has been building more rent-limited residences but a lot of those residences are going to eventually not be rent-controlled any longer, effectively ejecting those people from their homes because they will not be able to afford to live there any longer.

What’s happening in NYC is a story of what’s happening throughout the entire nation. Wealth is accumulating more and more in the hands of the few while wages and incomes stagnate, if at all move upward (and in many cases downwards), for the rest.

Mosendz wouldn’t be such a huge deal if it wasn’t for the fact that people are outraged at the outrageous wealth accumulation. People just wouldn’t care. We wouldn’t be looking for things to get mad about as much because we would be out doing more things and enjoying life a little bit more.

Instead, we get to be jealous and envious that Mosendz gets to be set up pretty much for life but the rest of the country is destined to live in a beat up van down by the river.

Transmission of wealth down from parent to child should not be discouraged.

This transmission of wealth isn’t outrageous. What is truly outrageous is when wealthy people do it and provide their child with an outset advantage over others beyond the imaginable. I’m not saying that it should be discouraged (though I afford that we should have a death tax starting at some point since it is an exchange of money much like a gift), but it’s understandable that people get upset about it when it’s big money changing hands.

The reason is explained by clneslmon in the comments of the link.. It makes a lie of the concept of a just world. The beneficiaries of good fortune often do nothing to earn it yet there are ideological parties who would argue that there is such a thing. We pretend our world is a meritocratic world in which our labors may or my not pay off but we have all have an opportunity, but we don’t all have an opportunity. In fact, most people have very few opportunities while others have more opportunities afforded them through the wealth handed down to them than hundreds of their peers put together.

The idea that people don’t need public services such as Social Security, Medicaid, and all forms of welfare because it’s taking from one to give to another – theft to aide the undeserving – requires us to have a meritocratic society where hard work and a little bit of luck produces wealth and success. We don’t have that. What we have is a society where it’s pure luck with some work required.

That is not to say that many who succeed and do better than their parents did aren’t hard workers and just lucked out, but most of it is luck, if not half luck and half sweat. Otherwise, we’d have a whole lot more people with decent incomes instead of what we have now: a crumbling empire built on labor.


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