December 9, 2023

Earlier today I wrote about how the MSM is all about narrative building. Ed, too, had a piece that demonstrated how the New York Times still fails to admit that they were taken in by Hamas, and lamely hold out the possibility that Israel bombed a hospital in Gaza.

Advertisement

Let me provide yet another example of how weirdly distorted the MSM’s view of the world is.

It is the story of a 49-year-old social worker in Washington state who lives out of her car. It is a sad story, but at least in my view different from the one the Times wants me to believe.

The story, as the Times tells it, is about the affordable housing crisis. There is, in fact, an affordable housing crisis, which has been made immeasurably worse by Bidenflation, increased interest rates, and the vast increase in the number of immigrants who have flooded the country. When 8 or more million people are added into a housing market that is already strained it will make things much more expensive and housing less available for the people on the market.

With all this said, the Times sure picked an odd poster girl for the housing affordability crisis. Chrystal Audet is presented as the victim of circumstances. A social worker, she makes $72,000 working for the state. This is not, I believe, exactly a poverty-level wage, and as a social worker presumably has access to some of the richest benefits available.

Advertisement

It seems odd that she is living in a car. It is odder still that the New York Times picked Ms. Audet as their primary example of a nationwide trend they want to highlight.

Chrystal Audet tried to get comfortable in what she called her “bedroom” — the back seat of her eight-year-old Ford Fusion. To stretch her legs, she had to leave a passenger door ajar, but September nights are raw in the Pacific Northwest, with sheets of rain that cut to the bone.

From her own “bedroom” in the front seat, her 26-year-old daughter Cierra Audet asked her to close it.

A 49-year-old woman living in a car with her 26-year-old daughter. One would think that together they could make enough to live in an apartment, right? Together they should be easily making over $100k. What is wrong with this picture?

Ms. Audet, 49, earns over $72,000 a year as a social worker for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. But a combination of bad luck, bad debt and a bad credit score priced her out of her apartment in Bellevue, another suburb of Seattle, one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. With an eviction looming, she put her furniture in storage this spring and began parking the sedan in a U-shaped parking lot outside a church in Kirkland.

The car, her biggest investment, became her home — the roof turned into a dining table, the trunk a closet. And a weathered stretch of blacktop provided by a Methodist church became her yard, her neighborhood and her safe place.

Advertisement

The answer is: a lot. First of all, Bellevue, WA is a very expensive housing market, and clearly Ms. Audet couldn’t afford it. That doesn’t mean that there is no place in the Seattle area she could afford. A quick Google search shows that there are in fact many apartments that provide amenities far nicer than a Ford Fusion available.

These are the cheapest rents available in Seattle, where  she works:

These are hardly luxury spots, but compared to a Ford Fusion to house 2 people? Uh, that is a pretty easy choice.

Even Bellevue has apartments in her price range:

So what is the sob story here that led Audet to these circumstances?

‘One Bill Too Many’

In 2001, Ms. Audet posted a bad check. It went to court and ended up on her record, one of several setbacks that have damaged her credit.

Her free fall into unsustainable debt began last December when her car made a horrible, sputtering sound, and died. With poor credit, the only loan she could find came at a punishing cost: For the 2015 Ford Fusion with over 100,000 miles, she is being charged interest of 27.99 percent, equaling a payment of $398 per month, one-tenth of her take-home pay.

Medical bills in the thousands arrived for her Crohn’s disease. She missed two rent payments. And then the landlord raised her rent $248 a month.

“It was a case of one bill too many,” Ms. Audet said.

Down the spiral that led her to homelessness were a series of forks — choices between bad and very bad that she made, many in moments of desperation. She spent a week at a hotel. Expedia offered to break up her payments, which she is now paying off at the rate of $138 a month. To avoid her unpaid rent going to collections, she signed an installment plan, agreeing to pay $495 per month.

Advertisement

Now I don’t disdain somebody for hitting hard times. It happens to many good people. But perhaps the Times could have found somebody who doesn’t have quite this long a history of making bad choices, a history that continues up until this day.

What is striking about this story is not that somebody wound up in this bad position; it is that the New York Times chooses to focus on somebody who works for a state government at a salary of $72,000, lives with a 26-year-old daughter who apparently doesn’t work, owns an iPhone Pro, and doesn’t seem to grasp the idea that living in a tony part of town is a bad idea when you haven’t the money.

She is, by the way, somebody whose job it is to help people in need. What kind of advice do you think she would give to others? The State of Washington employs her to help people navigate difficult times, and she clearly hasn’t got the skills to do so.

This story tells you little about how hard times are in Biden’s America–it tells you much more about how out of touch The New York Times is with average Americans. Audet makes more than the median household income in the US, which in 2021 was $69,700.

Even in New York City, the median household income is under $72,000. While there may indeed be tens of thousands of people living in their cars, few of them make more than the median household income. Most of us are housed, even in tough times.

Advertisement

In other words, the Times’ reporters and editors are so out of touch that they believe this story tells us much about America and not much about the bad choices of a relatively small number of people.

Ms Audet needs help, surely. What she needs is a competent social worker who can help her make better choices and a daughter mature enough to get a job.