Sunday, February 24, 2013

Roof On!

This is the view of the back of my house from on top of my shop roof.
My roof is finished! Brand New 30 year roof, any color I wanted as long as it's black!

I got the recommended three estimates and that was an interesting process.  In years past I have been on the other end of this process, one of those giving out the bids.  This time I was receiving them.  I knew because 25 years ago I put the roof on myself, that it takes 27 squares and one bundle to complete my roof.  Two of the estimates said I had 30 squares, that is a ten percent overage!
The low bid was Steve Williams Homes, LLC and I found him honest and likable.  He bid the job at $5,551 and the highest bid was for $7,100.  I took Steve's bid but raised it to an even $6,000
and he was a bit surprised by that.  He repaired a little rot in
the sheathing and replaced some downspouts without charging me extra.
So it was a fair deal all along.  He had a great crew and they
were in and out in 4 days, leaving a clean job site.

It is inspiring to have this new roof.  I am already replacing some
wooden railings on a back deck and look forward to painting my house
this summer.
Moss is the destroyer of roofs in Oregon 

It is still only February but I have already planted Snow Peas
and the greenhouse is clean and ready for tomatoes next
month.  It is going to be a great summer!


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Middle Class

That is where we want to be, huh?  Live in a "regular neighborhood" and have a $675,000 dollar house like Marco Rubio?  In the "old days", the fifties and sixties, early seventies even, all wages were within twenty dollars of each other.  I remember when I bought my house in 1970.  I paid $8,375 for it and was working seasonally at the local cannery earning $1.90 per hour.  The good jobs in our little town were at the lumber mills where my cousin worked.  I think he made five or six dollars per hour.  An electrician or plumber, workers at the top of the trades might be making seven to ten dollars per hour. A CEO of a top corporation could earn six times the average wage of his workers.  Six time two, or six time five or even six time ten, as much as sixty dollars an hour!
   Wages have changed a little bit, to $7.25, the Federal Minimum Wage, over $9.00 in Oregon, about five times as much as when I bought my house.  If everything had floated evenly, a young couple struggling on minimum wage should still be able to buy a house, at least a fixer upper starter house. So, five times my house cost would be about $45,000.  Clearly inflation doesn't float evenly. Wages have gone up five times while housing has gone up 15 times!  Some CEO's make $35,000 PER DAY!
   It is difficult to keep abreast of inflation.  Retired people on fixed incomes no longer take the newspapers, have stopped cable television, decide on buying food or medicine.
We have a brand new category now:  The working poor.  Some big businesses love this class, most workers at Walmart are able to collect food stamps and public assistance because Walmart doesn't pay them enough.  Another way to think of this is the Taxpayer is subsidizing the wages of those who work at minimum wage.  I like private enterprise,  don't get me wrong, I am just not too keen on subsidizing it.
    I have my new roof on!  It really needed it, a couple sheets of sheeting had to be replaced because of rot.  It wouldn't have lasted much longer.  I delayed it as long as possible because of the money and also I kept telling myself that I would continue to get stronger and be able to do it myself.  Well, I outlived that denial and hired it done.  I live in an older neighborhood and am conscious of roofs now.
These are houses built in the 40's 50's and 60's mostly on much bigger lots than today's houses. Mine is a third of an acre in the middle of the city, room for my house, my shop, garden and studio.  It is a working neighborhood where working people and retired people live.
   I see the occasional "Blue Tarp" here and there, moss covering the shingles and missing shingles and realize that my neighborhood has become poor.  We are the "old middle class" and have run out of money.  I wonder if my little neighborhood is a microcosm of the USA?
   I have no answers, no solutions.  It is difficult enough to try to understand the problem.  But my thought are pretty simple.  We sometimes long for the heydays of the 50's, 60's and 70's but fail to remember that then most wages were within $20 of each other and the very few who made tons of money were subjected to a progressive income tax.  Then you paid 90% tax on money over a million bucks!
   As an X school teacher I know that goals have to be made reachable and it helps to speak the same language.  When Marco Rubio with his $675,000 dollar house talks about his Middle Class Neighborhood, I wonder what planet he is from.  Who gets the moss off his roof and at what wages?
   Are YOU Middle Class?  What does that mean?   

Saturday, February 16, 2013

We are not "First"

Except maybe in murders!  I just saw on the news that USA is number 25!!! in infrastructure: roads, bridges, communication and public transportation!  How in the heck does this happen? Where we are tied with what used to be Czechoslovakia!  Infrastructure creates immediate employment and future
investment from the Private Sector.  It is the single best place to spend money, every dollar spent on infrastructure doubles to two dollars in the economy, and, as we all know, wherever there is an intersection, there will be a Walmart!  In the '50's, '60's and '70's we used to spend 5% of GPA on Infrastructure and now that has been reduced to less than 2%.  Whose brilliant idea was this?
I swear it should be illegal to be a Congressman unless you have passed a basic economic course.
We need Russia to fly us to the Space Station, the Chinese make our Train engines, all of our electronics are imported and we are just allowing the country to fall apart!  Full Steam Ahead,
Backwards!  It is not amazing that we lost our AAA credit rating, with Congress not being able to solve a single issue we will soon lose our Double AA Credit rating!  Can't even pass a Violence Against Women Act!
   The Republicans were against raising the minimum wage to the current measly $7.25 an hour and will certainly object to raising it to $9. an hour.  They should get such wages!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Nine Bucks an Hour?

Do you have to have poor people in order to have wealthy people?  In the Sate of the Union Speech the President encouraged increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour.  Who works for the current $7.75 or so minimum wage?  No one in Oregon, that is for sure.  Our minimum wage is $9.40 per hour and that supersedes  the minimum in every state.  There will be a fight over this in Congress, mostly because that is what they do and because the Republicans are against this raise. I don't know why, it is all nuts.  $9. per hour is $18,000 per year, you still can not buy a house and barely buy a car.  I wonder if Henry Ford was a Republican or Democrat?  He said he wanted to pay his workers enough so that they could afford to buy the cars they were making.  I agree with that.
   In Oregon we still have the McDonald's Dollar Menu and everyone thought the price of fast food would go through the roof if we increased our minimum wage.  It didn't.  In fact, sales increased.
More people could afford more crap.  It is the American Way.
   Someone made a chart on how much time one would have to work in order to buy a "Big Mac" all over the world.  It is interesting to look at and available on the net.
   So, what is the minimum wage in your State/Country? and how much time to work for a "Big Mac"?
In today's dollars I paid my workers $12 to $20 dollars per hour.  Much more than minimum wage.
Fairness had little to do with this.  Those were better economic times and my workers would just go elsewhere if I didn't pay them that much.  Good help is hard to find and valuable to keep.  Or at least it used to be.
   Did you like anything about the President's Speech?  Did you hate something?  Did you bother watching it?


Friday, February 8, 2013

A New Roof!

My house needs a new roof and I am going to hire this done.  That hurts.
   My house was a little 900 square foot "fixer-upper" I bought in 1971 for $8,375 (no typo there, that was the cost).  The roof then, when we bought it was in bad shape, 900 square feet of moss and failing roofing.  I was a school teacher then, had no money and no construction experience and really no tools at all.  I bought a hammer and a box of roofing nails and nine squares of three tab composition roofing.  Twenty-seven bundles, each weighing about 80 pounds, placed one at a time on my shoulders and up the ladder we went.  I had never done roofing before but it is pretty simple and the directions are on the package.  My first roof!  It was summer and I had the summer off from teaching.  My neighbor saw me hand nailing these shingles one at a time and wanted me to put a roof on his house!
Then his neighbor saw me and so that summer went, one roof after another, each bundle hand carried up the ladder and each shingle hand nailed!  I was strong by the end of that summer!
   Two years latter I tore most of it down.  We decided to seriously remodel the house beginning with the foundation which was missing.  I have told this story in an earlier blog.  I was teaching school. My wife was in England. I was getting drunk with my neighbor and saying stuff that I can't remember.  I came home from school the next day and half my house was gone!  What remained was the living room and the kitchen and a bathroom without any walls!  I must have said something!
   Anyway, we remodeled and added to the house, keeping the remaining 400 square feet and adding about 2000 square feet.  A fun summer project and I learned quickly.  Now, this new house took 28 squares of roofing. 84 bundles, each weighing about 80 pounds and up the ladder we went!  Another bigger box of nails and each shingle was hand nailed, one at a time!
   I have since put on hundreds of roofs, finally bought an air compressor and nail guns and, for a few dollars more have the roofing delivered on the roof!
   But now it needs it again and the existing roof needs tearing off.  Simply, I can't do it.  I am 66 years old, a cancer survivor (my other blog) and have horrible neuropathy in my hands.  I do not have the strength!  I do not like growing old.