What bozo complains about home values but buys cable TV?

My morning ritual is to get up, put on shoes, wade through the flood created by my neighbor’s over-watering of her lawn and pick up my nicely bagged copy of the New York  Times.

That’s service for you: They even bag it on sunny days. I begged for daily bags after my neighbor’s daily floods soaked a week’s worth of papers, and the NYTimes said sure, happy to do that.

Today’s paper had a couple of interesting stories: Homes are no longer a value-producing goose, but Cable TV still is.

First, homes: As this story makes clear, the American Dream to buy a home, have it triple in value in five years and then sell so you can buy another home that will triple in value, and so on, seems to be dead.

Frankly, I am disappointed that this is not the lead story on the paper. It markes the end of a too-long era of greed and sloth, fed by unearned money, and this means that we will have to return to the America of old where you actually earned your money.

The myth that homes never lose value fed the last boom/bubble. It generated trillions of dollars in phony “wealth” that fed an equally mythical economy. To go back to an era when homes are merely worth what you pay for them will be good for everyone, even if it does mean that the economy will take longer to “recover,” and I say that that way because, get real, recovery to what the nation was in 2006 is never going to happen, never can happen and never should happen. If would be like telling someone in the throes of heroin withdrawl to “recover” by getting high again.

Do this mean my kids won’t be able to sell my house after I die and retire on a couple of million? ‘Fraid so.

It will mean a huge mind-shift for Americans to start thinking of homes as places to live, again, not investments. I know people who have no kids and bought huge homes precisely because they were investments, guaranteed to pay off, and now they’re stuck.

I’m having a hard time feeling really sorry for them.

And, think of it: A home is still something that is very likely worth what you paid for it years later. Homes don’t depreciate. If you keep them up, they hold their value and inflation will automatically be adjusted for as the price rises to match what buyers can pay, based on the laws of supply and demand.

But that’s still pretty amazing.

Name me one other commodity besides precious metal that can do that. Considering that you can buy a $100,000 home today and still have it worth $100,000 in five years, that’s pretty amazing. A $50,000 car, by comparison, will only be worth $10,000 in the same amoung of time.

Speaking of thowing money away: This story also in today’s Times (click!) talks about how people have tried, really tried, to get by without cable TV and they just can’t do it.

The example they use is someone who subscribes to some $130 a month service so his family can watch a couple of shows, which is extreme. My friend Larry has basic cable for less than $20 a month, but my question remains the same: How in God’s name can anyone, in this day and age, justify paying that much to watch TV?

It would be fun to know if these are the same people complaining that their homes aren’t gaining value, and you never know. One amazing aspect of the American mind is that it seems incapable of irony. Here people worry that their house isn’t a goose giving them golden eggs to live on for free, but they’re more than willing to drop $100 a month so they can be entertained.

No, not just willing.  The guy in this story says he has to, he’s forced, he sees no alternative. Sounds a bit like addiction, you ask me.

He also complains that he’s “forced” to buy a bundle of shows he doesn’t want to watch the few he does, but if he and his ilk had any dicipline they’d boycott the cable company until it sold them what they’re willing to buy.

Supply and demand works both ways. Notice how the NYTimes, anxious to keep a customer, is happy to sell me just a sunday paper, or just a weekend paper?

And how they’re happy, if not overjoyed, to bag my paper even on sunny days, anything to keep me happy?

The cable company doesn’t have to be nice to its customers. Like any good drug dealer, it knows its customers are hooked.

Yeah yeah, I know: It’s the customer’s money.  And it is. I just find it amazing, in this day and age, when people scream about a $10 increase in annual taxes, that they’ll pay whatever cable TV asks with only the mildest of wimpers.

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16 Responses to What bozo complains about home values but buys cable TV?

  1. Steve Schultz says:

    Dear Charles,
    We are currently paying $85 a month to Comcast for our internet and television services. Next month, our rates we have been told, will go from $85 to $170. Same exact plan we have now. (Quick math- that’s DOUBLE in my book!) I have spoken to my brother-in-law who has worked for said Comcast for nearly a decade. He said that their customers are dropping like flies. Hhmm, I wonder why? After attempting to get a reduction in cost to no avail, I have searched elsewhere. Sadly, not much better out there anywhere. $20 a piece for digital converter boxes is really all we can do. I’m not trying to sound ungrateful but, 12 months after signing up a 100% rate increase for the next 12! WOW, what happened to customer loyalty programs, and incentives? Local news, and Leno is it for me, and to tell you the truth, Comcast will be sorry in the end not I. I know I’m not alone concerning this matter. Obviously the home will have to wait. Hopefully no longer than 7 to 10 years. Thanks for the great writing, looking forward to more from you. : )

  2. Steve Schultz says:

    (home) -*house home is what you make it!

  3. Charles Trentelman says:

    ya know, i get a lot of those “teaser rate” ads from Comcast in the mail and often wonder what it really costs. They never, ever, say what the real rate is.

    $85 a month is more than I’d be willing to pay for Internet and anything else (and about what I pay Qwest for internet and phone service) — double THAT, I don’t blame you for quitting.

    They don’t care about customer loyalty, obviously.

  4. Sylvia says:

    Always like it when we agree on something ;-) We pay way too much for cable that we never watch because otherwise, we have no reception and for the two or three times a year we want to watch TV, we want to watch TV! It’s crazy.

  5. Carl says:

    We dropped cable TV in 2008 and we have not looked back. We love the free HD digital TV that comes in over-the-air. (Plus we are supporting our local stations by watching their advertising) For those rare cable shows that are actually worth it (Mythbusters, etc.) we have Netflix streaming ($9/month) that we get now over our Wii. Even if you add in the cost of the internet (which we don’t mind since we have multiple uses for the internet) the cost is still EXTREMELY lower than what comcast was charging to rip us off. According to the Television Advertising Bureau, the Salt Lake market is 29% without cable or satellite and growing. According to Yahoo Finance and CNN Money, more people are leaving to return to free Over-the-Air TV. No wonder Comcast wants to buy NBC. No wonder some groups are trying to push free TV by trying to grab their broadcast spectrum. Bye-bye poor customer service and poor business planning.

  6. laytonian says:

    We pay $42 for Comcast internet – which is less than anything we’ve had before (including the DirecTV safellite that’s still on the bck of the house).
    With that, you can watch nearly everything that’s on cable TV, for free or cheaply.

  7. tom says:

    Maybe that’s why they call them “idiot boxes”

    By the way Mr. T, My tribune comes every morning in a double plastic bag year around and I didn’t even ask for it.

    Great stuff you write about, keep it up. You, Gibson and Saul are the onliest thing that keeps me coming back to the Standard site.

  8. Bob Becker says:


    You don’t want cable TV and you think the price not worth the product, don’t subscribe. But you seem annoyed, almost angry, and certainly contemptuous, of people who do find it worth the price. You ask: ” How in God’s name can anyone, in this day and age, justify paying that much to watch TV?” Here’s a simple answer: because they and their families find interesting or entertaining or both the programing available on the cable network they subscribe to. Our family does. Four in the household, all watch cable TV at times during the week. Sure, I’d like to get it for a lower price, but in the end, I enjoy having a wide range of college football games on in the fall and early winter, for example. No other family member watches what I choose to watch, nor do any of them watch what any of the others watch on the cable nets. [Tube watching is not a family activity in our house.] But we all watch at some point in the week. So we think it’s worth it. Which makes us neither dumb or foolish or wasteful. It’s a product, we know the price, we can afford it and, for us, we think it worth the price. When and if we no longer think so, we’ll drop the subscription.

    And our decision impacts you… how? No way that I can see. It’s the “I don’t think paying to have cable TV is worth it, and you do, so you must be pretty dumb” tone I find — well, more than a little arrogant.

    Don’t want to pay for cable, don’t think it’s worth it, don’t subscribe. Fine with me. Whatever floats your stick, hoss. But I see no reason then for snootily proclaiming that anyone who sees the matter differently than you do must therefor be foolish or downright dumb for having the temerity to choose to spend their entertainment dollars differently than you would.

  9. ctrentelman says:

    you missed the point bob — i have no problem with people buying cable if they want. I think it’s silly, but it’s their money. You got 4 TVs all going simultaneously, go for it.

    I’m just fascinated at the contradiction of a nation that screams and yells in rage about tax hikes, and expects homes to be geese that lay golden eggs, but that does not complain in the slightest about cable tv that is priced ever higher and higher and higher, to the point that they don’t even have the consumer strength of spine to protest and demand products that they actually want and can afford.

  10. Don says:

    Yeah, I’m with Bob on this one, Charlie. I went the DirecTV route last year; it’s pricey, but worth it for us. I pay my taxes, and expect them to go up when I want more or better services. I don’t expect my home to be anything more than a comfortable place to live — and watch my expensive teevee. This means I don’t have “strength of spine”? You’re beginning to sound like one of those old cranks the kids make fun of, which I’m guessing is not your goal.

  11. Salt River Project says:

    Cable was originally marketed as better quality viewing with NO commercials. Back in the good old (pre-cable/pre-sattelite) days the price of watching the five channels I got on my rabbit ear powered B&W console TV was having to suffer through commercials.

    Gee..I still have to suffer through commercials, but now pay $70 a month to get the signal to my house. What’s wrong with this picture (pun intended).

    I gave up my sattelite dish three months ago and don’t regret it a bit. If enough people do it, maybe these idiots will stop treating us like ATM machines now.

  12. Bob Becker says:


    The reason there is so much [and very often irrational] angst over even small tax increases is that many voters believe it’s being spent on things they don’t want it spent on, or the benefits of its being spent they cannot see, day after day, in their own lives. Buying cable is voluntary, and they decide whether to do it or not do it. But they don’t look on taxes as voluntary on their part, and they certainly didn’t choose, in most cases, how a particular tax is to be spent [except indirectly via election of representatives]. Example: I voted for the County transportation tax. I had no idea, and certainly do not approve, of $175K of it being spent on Hizzonah’s Faux Toonerville Trolley-Bus “experiment.” I can understand why someone might get annoyed about being told by someone else [state legislature, Congress, County Commission, City Council] that he has to spend an extra hundred a year on an increased tax for a purpose he might not approve of, but not be at all exercised about voluntarily shelling out ten times that amount a year, or more, to play golf because he enjoys that and it’s his choice to spend his money in that way.

    Now, all that said, I agree that many who whine about their taxes are the same ones loudly demanding increased government tax-supported services. They just don’t want to pay for them. There are two principles at work here, one applying nationally and one more peculiar to the west: (a) The national principle: “Don’t tax me, and don’t tax thee, tax that fellow behind the tree.” Gimme gimme gimme so long as someone else pays for it. And (b), the principle more typical of the western states: Benny DeVoto nailed this one when he wrote the the western attitude toward the national government can be summed up by “send us money, then leave us alone. ” But send us money first.

    PS: we don’t have four TVs. We have two.

  13. Di Lewis says:


    You just have to threaten to cancel your service. We are paying $75-$80 for cable and internet and have gone through the end of two “teaser” rates. When they tell you they’re gonna jack up the prices, we tell them to cancel. Somehow they always come back down in price…

  14. Sarah says:


    You’re complaining about being taxed for things that you don’t want – what about all the channels you’re paying for that you don’t want? You’re paying alot more for those than an annual tax increase.

  15. Owain says:

    Yes, cable does offer channels I don’t want, but because they bundle all those channels together, they can provide me with the channels I DO watch cheaper than otherwise. Sure, I’m subsidizing the various Home Shopping Channels that I never watch, but by the same token, people who watch those channels subsidize the channels I prefer, so I figure it evens out.

    I get TV, internet, and telephone through my cable provider for what I feel is a reasonble price for the various services they provide, despite Trentelman’s hysterical handwringing. But then, I consistantly disagree with Trentelman on just about everything, so why should this be different.

  16. Jeff says:

    I agree cable has downgraded into a vast wasteland. However, I do not condemn those who like it and find it useful for their family viewing needs. I do not really have a complaint about rates per se, I complain about the quality, lets take for instance, TVLand. I like classic tv, however today TVLAND is bad. more reality shows, and the classics they do so, they repeat to kingdom come. Andy Griffith comes to mind for that one. I like Andy Griffith show, but come on. I figure I can buy the DVD set, play it over and over, same result….much cheaper.If we get more selection I may consider going back, but for now goodbye comcast.

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