There are people that cause problems and there are people who solve them. Life can be exciting when you get to the batter’s box — when it’s your turn to contribute your thoughts on a relevant issue and you’ve been given an audience. At The Next American City, stories and ideas are birthed from conception between problems and solutions. Whether it’s connecting our readers with innovative people or pointing the way towards resourceful information, TNAC’s modus operandi is to allow the reader to see the problem, hear from the people who have presented solutions, and engage in the process by motivating conversation. We’re not incubating a stack of right answers — even though the temperature in our office provides the perfect environment.
Unfortunately, there are people who neither cause nor solve problems. Kurt Badenhausen, senior statistics editor for Forbes.com, gets paid to simply list the problems. His latest contribution, America’s Most Miserable Cities, gives you, America, exactly what you want — a new ill-researched fact on human suffering to drop with lunch at the company can. It’s a 700-word vomit full of quips and Entertainment Tonight-style attitude, sans substance or solution.
I’ll ruin it for you — Detroit is Forbes’ most miserable city. Why? Crime, Unemployment, Pollution. What now? Nothing. Forbes just wanted to let you know. The other cities are New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia … should we continue or have you already figured out that these cities could go on any top whatever list of cities? Modesto and Charlotte are thrown on the list for the “surprise factor,” like when the loveable middle-aged substitute teacher gets voted off of a game show, you can almost hear the rondo of “ooos” at the water cooler:
“Hey Bob, did you know that Charlotte is a miserable place to live and that people there are miserable?”
“Ooo, no I didn’t. Where did you hear that?”
“Ooo, that’s interesting.”
Where’s the engaging discussion? Where is the problem being addressed? Where are solutions being formed? And how the hell do you measure misery? If there’s one thing Badenhausen did research, it was how to accurately calculate and assess misery: “… we decided to expand on the Misery Index and the Misery Score to create our very own Forbes Misery Measure. We’re sticking with unemployment and personal tax rates, but we are adding four more factors that can make people miserable: commute times, weather, crime and that toxic waste dump in your backyard.”
What about breakups? Breakups make people miserable. Or how about the death of loved ones? Did they figure that into The Forbes Misery Index? Who knows? The article doesn’t even explain the scoring systems. It merely states that “we ranked cities,” which promises the reader nothing. They could have tallied it on a 7-eleven napkin, for all we know.
These types of news articles take advantage of paranoia and exiles cities and neighborhoods that desperately need help. By branding Detroit “America’s Most Miserable City,” Badenhausen and Forbes.com are advertising and promoting the destruction of a community. It’s hard to imagine anything more miserable than being behind the pen of this article.
So Detroit, if you want to share your misery with Kurt Badenhausen, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
He claims to be swimming in a sea of statistics and research and well, he’s senior statistics editor at Forbes.com. Since he’s looked so intimately into your lives as miserable people, he may provide you with the help you need to stop being so down on your dump.
P.S. — A comment on a previous TNAC post concerning Ronald Reagan brought up Arthur Okun’s “Misery Index.”