Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Collin County Reds and Blues

Earlier this week, The Dallas Morning News examined the lifestyles of affluent Collin County in a multi-part series called "The Price of Prosperity." I think most of you can read it without needing a big box of tissue nearby.

Located north of Dallas, Collin County is the wealthiest county in Texas and one of the most conservative, yet its red-voting citizens tend to be further in debt than those of other similarly wealthy counties around the U.S. Collin County outpaces the wealthy county pack in the amount of bankruptcy filings, too.

How to explain this seemingly hypocritical disconnect between traditional fiscal conservatism and out-of-control spending?

In interviews with residents, the theme of hyper-consumerism rears its head again and again. One guy speaks of being beckoned to buy stuff at every intersection like a junkie running a gauntlet of dealers. A woman relocating from Sacramento to Plano recalls her SUV-driving neighbors deriding her 1996 Honda Civic. A dad who buys his daughter a 2001 Camaro is held up as a model of thrift.

You don't need to spend much time driving through places like Plano, Frisco and Allen to realize the area's most beloved cultural resource is an endless stream of ugly retail barns with acres of under-utilized free parking. Although the DMN is hardly a progressive voice, even they admit we can't go on sustaining this model forever.

But does the paper ever suggest plain ol' human selfishness might be at the root of all this? Hell, no! Check out this juicy rationalization from the same editorial page that endorsed George W. Bush as the candidate of personal responsibilty:

"Some say 'personal responsibility' is the answer. True enough when it's a fair fight, but it's not. As individuals we are grossly outmatched by enormous propaganda campaigns, market studies, Ivy League psychologists and 'perception managers' who do just that – manage our perceptions of everything. Sadly, they also manage the perceptions we have of ourselves."

I just knew those evil "Ivy League psychologists" were behind this! It's probably the same bunch of bastards who wanted to analyze the terrorists after 9/11.


Kat said...

Thanks for alerting us to this series of stories!
I find great irony in this apocalypse of wealth in North Texas -- my dad was born at the beginning of the Depression in the NE corner of Collin County at Blue Ridge, the oldest of eight kids in a family that didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing until after WWII.
Now my cousin is principal of a Plano ISD school for delinquent PRE-teens. . .
I think there's an interesting story to be told here about Texas' urbanization: from bare feet to Escalade in less than a century.
Is having the feeling that we're in END TIME just letting the right-wing uberchristians win?

Anonymous said...

I spent four years working at the Borders in Plano. I've never encountered such rude, selfish people. And the kinds of books they was either hilarious or frightening. Once, while I was the manager on duty, a young Christian couple complained to me about the Gay/Lesbian Studies section and said if we needed to have a section like that we should have it in a back room somewhere. What an awful place.


jennifer said...

Is Plano still the Teen Suicide Capital of the USA? And if it is, I wonder what the correlation could POSSIBLY be...

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