NYT says the memory of the Holocaust is fading, eh?

That’s what they’re saying today.

This is because of our abysmal schools which no longer actually teach history. The Times knows this, because the Times has been complicit in the Gramscian damage done to our educational establishment since the end of the 2nd World War.

To fix this problem, we need to start teaching history again, not “social studies” and propagandistic crapola about how all cultures are equally wonderful and should be celebrated as such. All cultures are NOT equally wonderful, and quite frankly, some of them should be permanently erased from the face of the planet.  (If you want to know which ones they are, consider which ones get a free pass from most of our shitty media — not the ones that are constantly being beaten up in the UN General Assembly.)

A nation which has forgotten its history will not long endure.  I hope I don’t live long enough to see that denouement.

The bill will come due in due time.

A friend commented this morning on Facebook that he drove through Carmel, Indiana’s downtown.  He noted how lovely the area is and also the fact that he didn’t have to dodge a single pothole, and said how great Carmel’s mayor is and how shitful the mayor of Indianapolis is.  (If you’ve driven through Indianapolis lately on the surface streets, you know what I mean.)

Well, now.  How about that.  Because I think BOTH mayors are shitful, just in different ways.

The mayor of Indianapolis is a typical Democrat, working with a majority Democrat City-County Council.  Nothing substantial is ever going to get done because Dem politicians in this town are too busy looking for ways to line their own pockets at the expense of their constituents.  This is as it has always been when Democrats run the city, and the way the demographics look, they’re going to run the city for a long, long time.  The one good thing Dick Lugar did for this city was also one of the worst things Dick Lugar did for this city, and it was called UniGov.

In 1970, Lugar and the powers that were managed to con the General Assembly into consolidating the city of Indianapolis and Marion County (less 11 “included” towns, e.g., Lawrence, Speedway, Beech Grove, etc.) into a single governmental unit, under the mayor and a new City-County Council.  You can argue the whys and wherefores of this move till you’re blue in the face, but the bottom line result of the change was to breathe new life into the city’s Republican governing majority by bringing GOP voters who had moved into the county outside of the “old” city limits back into the fold.  And this worked for nearly fifty years, even as the city started to turn purple again and then the blue stain started moving up from the southern end of the county.  Sure, there were a couple of Democrat mayors, but they were fairly conservative as such things went, and the city-county council got to where it had only a thin GOP majority but was still presided over by a Republican.

That finally blew up in the GOP’s face during Ballard’s second term and now we have a thin-majority Democrat Council and a Democrat mayor.  And as GOPers continue to flee the city, you’ll see that Council turn more and more blue.  (This is one of the reasons why I’m less and less opposed to my wife’s idea of retiring to Florida — specifically, Collier County, Florida, the reddest of the red SW Florida counties.)

Now, frankly, as much as I rail about UniGov and yearn for the good old days when we were serviced by the county out here in the sticks, the fact is that that’s my old curmudgeon yelling at clouds.  While I believe the snow plowing service is pretty horrible compared to what it was when I was a kid, a lot of things have improved as services were consolidated and the county no longer had a big doughnut hole in the middle where the city ran things.  I don’t even have a problem with the consolidated police force at this point; it’s proven (other than the occasional drunken cop) that it can do a pretty decent job, for much the same reason (no more doughnut hole for the county sheriff to drive around).  The downtown area, which was a hole when Hudnut took over as mayor, is a pretty sweet place to be, at least during the daylight hours (and that’s a policing problem, not a civic one — although a crackdown on all the panhandlers is long overdue, and in my opinion there is a large swath of the East Side that ought to be surrounded and gone through house-by-house to take out the drug gangs.  But that’s my opinion).

The problem today is that our Democrat mayor can’t keep his promises.  At least, he can’t keep his promises about fixing the potholes.  You can look back in this blog and find a couple of mentions of a four-day assault on potholes.  Well, that failed utterly.  And weeks later, after they had finally filled holes in our street that you could lose a Smart car or a Mini in, we had more snow, the plows came out, and voila, the crappy patches all got yanked out of the holes and we had bigger holes.

This is what happens in a city that places big spending on sports venues and 10-year tax abatements to lure large companies to relocate here, rather than keeping up with infrastructure maintenance.  Face it:  Paving roads isn’t as sexy as building big stadiums and putting lipstick on the pig that’s downtown.*  And frankly, I blame every mayor and every city councilperson we’ve had for the past 50 years for this mess, regardless of party.  But the guy in the hot seat right now is the target of everybody’s ire, so we’ll just go with that.  We’re looking at millions of dollars of infrastructure repairs that are needed just to fix the damn roads.  But we’re spending those millions of dollars enriching the owners of sports teams and subsidizing community development in areas that we’ve already dumped millions of dollars into over the years.  Oh, and the fucking worthless Red Line.

The hell of it is, Marion County can afford that kind of thing, at least at the moment, because it has a huge tax base.

Carmel, Indiana, however, is a different story.

Carmel is a small city in a large county.  Granted it has a high-income component to its tax base.  But there are a lot of common middle-class folks who live within the city limits of Carmel, too.  Carmel used to be a sleepy bedroom community inhabited by a lot of families of privilege.  Then, 20 years or so ago (I can’t arse myself to look it up), a guy named Jim Brainard carpetbagged into town from Ohio, and ran for mayor under the GOP banner.  (Which is interesting, because by all reports, he was a Democrat in Ohio.)

Since then, Carmel has spent millions of dollars on a revamped downtown that includes a new city hall, a performing arts center, shitloads of roundabouts that most people hate (even if only secretly), and outside of the downtown it’s taken over responsibility for at least one road corridor that used to be a state highway and turned it into an expensive parkway with roundabout exits that nobody can figure out how to use.  Carmel has also annexed (over the protests of the wealthy folks who moved out there to get away from Carmel) areas to its west to help pay for this, under the aegis of “you use Carmel services like sewers and first responders, so you can help pay for them.”  Well…maybe.  Because the real story is probably more along the line of, “we need to expand the tax base so we can service all the debt we’re going to have to pay back when the bonds we floated for all this work come due in less than 10 years.”

So sure, Carmel has great roads and always has the snow off of them quickly, and it’s a beautiful place to drive through if you can negotiate all the fucking roundabouts.  But I’ll bet on paper it’s practically bankrupt.  I know people who have served on its city council over the last decade or so, and they all think the mayor is nuts, and skirting the law in the bargain.  And if you talk to the general public up there, they all think the mayor is nuts.

But he keeps winning re-election.  He’s in like his fourth or fifth term.  And the same people who complain about him keep voting for him; I have no idea why.  You’d think they’d throw him out in the primary, or hold their noses and vote Democrat in the general, just to get rid of him.  I mean, you could always vote the Democrat back out in four years.

So going back to what my friend opined about this morning:

I question whether or not having a lovely downtown and no potholes is truly better than having a reasonable downtown and a shitload of potholes that will eventually be fixed (I mean, spring IS coming, it’s just not coming real fast) if you’re sitting on a ton of debt because of it.  Carmel isn’t that big of a city, and it is constrained from growing much larger because it’s surrounded on all sides by other municipalities and/or county lines it can’t cross.  And it’s building up its unimproved areas very fast.  Sooner or later it’s going to grow to its limits and it won’t be able to easily increase its tax base, at least not with the kind of people it can tax at a high rate and expect to keep around to help pay off its bonds.

Stein’s Law informs us that if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.  In that vein, Maggie Thatcher (apocryphally) told us that sooner or later, you run out of other people’s money.**

Well, that’s Carmel, Indiana, in another decade or so.

Indianapolis?  Who knows.  And since I don’t intend to be living here in another decade, I don’t honestly much care.  But we’ve seen what Democrats do to cities, and I don’t see Indianapolis regaining a GOP hegemony any time soon.

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* This is a fair metaphor, because while we have a beautiful downtown on the surface, what’s going on underneath the surface is pretty much a dog’s breakfast.  The work never ends underground at North and Pierson Streets, for instance; I’ve been watching them dig big holes in the road there for the last 10+ years.  And the rest of the downtown infrastructure isn’t much better — remember the vault fires that were blowing manhole covers out of the street, a few years back?  And let’s not discuss the 150 year old sewers and ancient water distribution system.

** Whether she actually said it or not is unimportant; it is simply an illustration of Stein’s Law, and she did say things like it about socialism.

Musings on the GDPR and other insanities

I wonder what would happen if a company that has absolutely no presence in the EU, but which may from time to time service customers who are citizens of the EU, were to basically toss GDPR requests into the trash and refuse to respond to them?

This doesn’t apply to the company I work for, since we do have a presence in the EU, but to me, the GDPR is yet another attempt by a national or multinational entity to make its law hold sway outside of its borders where it has no business poking its nosy legal nose. Consider for instance the Polish law that recently went into effect stating that any person anywhere, regardless of nationality, could be prosecuted under that law for insulting the poor widdle psyches of Polish citizens by asserting that the Poles were responsible in any way for the Holocaust. Which, by ignoring what was going on in their own back yard, they were. If that be a violation of Polish law, so be it. The truth is still the truth. Soylent Green is still people.

Consider, for that matter, the ICC, which the US refuses to ratify, because to do so would, among other things, leave American warfighters open to spurious charges of war crimes to be tried by the ICC.

Consider also the strange tendency of late of our courts, including the Supreme Court, to take the laws of other countries into account when deciding matters of strictly American law. The problem with doing that is that there’s absolutely no basis for applying what foreigners do in their own countries to what Americans do in the US. Our judges are supposed to apply American law to American questions of law, and if some other country’s law conflicts with American law in such a case, it is of exactly zero moment.

It is a strange world we live in. Sometimes I wish we’d have told the world to go police itself after the Second World War. Although I probably would have used a word other than “police”. Probably one that started with “F”.

This. Exactly fucking this.

Nailed it:

That leaves one really effective solution: Eliminating victim disarmament zones. Nothing takes the cachet off your trenchcoat massacre more than being shot in the ear by the pink Kel-Tec .380 of Mrs. Perkins, your remedial grammar/comp teacher.

And that’s the thing! There’s no need to force teachers to play hunter/killer SWAT commando. The training requirements outlined in Florida’s hasty-ass legislation are ridiculous, and I say this as someone with a reasonably extensive firearms training resume.

The shooting problem here is the easiest possible one there is. There’s no need to go in search of anybody; just get all the kids out of sight of the locked classroom door, post yourself up in the blind spot against the wall between the doorway and your young charges, and wait. If the disturbed youth somehow manages to force the door, you send him to the respawn point like a proper camperfag.

This is the kind of snark I despair at creating, and why I read Tam religiously, on Facebook if not on her blog directly.

But besides that, it’s the only real solution to the problem of school shootings.  Or shootings anywhere, for that matter.

Go home, Mother Nature. You’re drunk.

Mother Nature:  (After dumping 7″ of wet snow on us yesterday) “What?  You don’t like sunshine?  It’s spring!”

Us:  “Bitch.”

GOPeity GOPeity GOPe.

Well, apparently Ralph Peters (former Fox News contributor) and John McCain (soon to be former US Senator from Arizona, God willing) have both lost their minds over the President today.

Peters, who ought to know better, is pissed off because he believes Fox News is little more than a propaganda machine for Donald Trump.  I’m not so sure I’d go that far.  But Peters is just another Nevertrumper who can’t see the forest for the trees.

McCain is bashing Trump for being a nice guy and congratulating Vladimir Putin on his “electoral victory”.  I put that in scare quotes because anybody who doesn’t know that election was rigged is a naive dreamer.  I will guarantee that Trump’s message of congratulations was heavily steeped in irony.

But these are just continuing reminders that, with friends like establishment Republicans (otherwise known as the GOPe), who needs enemies? No wonder we call it the Stupid Party.

This is how you lose the House and Senate, boys.  The Democrats know that you have to close ranks and maintain party discipline (they’re very Soviet in that way).  The GOPe has a problem understanding that survival as the reigning political party requires adhering to the party line, booting people from the party who won’t toe that line, and backing the president to the hilt when he’s from your party, regardless of what you think of him as a human being.

Peters in particular is an egregious ass, with his statement that Fox is acting as a “propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.”

You can be as patriotic as you want and you can be as honest as the day is long, but the fact of the matter is that politics is our great national sausage machine — and if you can’t deal with the way sausage is made, maybe you ought to stay the hell out of the political commentariat.

Besides, if Trump is so “destructive and ethically ruinous”, why hasn’t Special Counsel Mueller managed to toss anything at him that sticks?  Mueller has no reason to handle Trump with kid gloves, and plenty of reason (he’s a Democrat, you know) to do otherwise. It’s clear that there was no Russian meddling in our elections (or, if there was, it was mistimed and completely ineffective), and it’s just as clear that there was no soi-disant “collusion” between the Trump organization and the Russians…but plenty of evidence that a whole bunch of Democrats, up to and including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, were awash to their necks in nefarious dealings with the very same Russians.  Can you say “Uranium One”?  Of course you can.  If you can find the news articles about it in our left-wing press.

I won’t even discuss what John McCain has to say because John McCain is a dying and possibly borderline-senile old man who believes he should have been president.  Anything he says at this point about a sitting Republican president is sour grapes and has to be viewed in that light.  I respect the hell out of John McCain for his service (and time as a POW) in the military, but I’ve never really respected him as a Republican senator, and it’s high time he was removed from his comfy seat in the Senate by the good people of the State of Arizona, who could probably do a lot better.  He’s a shining example of someone who’s been in government far too long (31 years this coming November) and it shows.

The fact is, after eight years of Barack Obama, what exactly did either of these men expect?  No normal GOP politician would have had a chance in hell of beating Hillary Clinton, because no normal GOP politician would get out and fight for the job like Donald Trump did.  The fact that Trump won as many votes as he did is testament to the fact that people on the right are sick and tired of the pale, stale political pablum served up by the GOP establishment — a thin gruel, indeed! — and they, like Lincoln before them, could not spare this man — “He fights.”

What’s truly sad about the GOP is that so few of their tenured officeholders got primaried out of their seats in the last cycle, and we’ve been treated to another round of the same old same old by the GOPe.  And now a bunch of them are probably going to simply lose those seats to the Dumbs in November, which is hardly an optimal result.  You want a Constitutional crisis?  Because that’s how you get a Constitutional crisis.

No thanks to people like John McCain and Ralph Peters, we’re probably going to get one.  Hang on tight, folks, and keep your powder dry.  This ride ain’t over yet.

UPDATE, 21 Mar 2018:

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* There may be a reason Peters retired as a LTC — who retires as an LTC?  The one I know personally at least got a promotion to full bird when he retired.

Stupidity, thy name is Legion

Idiot Canuck spouted today in comments on Facebook,

I am Canadian, eh….I agree but IMO assault weapons should NOT be available for purchase at Walmart. Assault weapons should only be available and legal for use by law enforcement or the military.

Beside the fact that this person is Canadian and should simply shut the fuck up when it comes to matters of American law and custom, it’s just more evidence that idiots simply regurgitate talking points they’re fed rather than do any actual vetting of those talking points before they mindlessly repeat them.  So I responded, somewhat irked, because I’m tired of typing the same words over and over (perhaps I should assign them to a macro),

Damn it, an AR-15 is not an assault weapon. It’s a civilian rifle tarted up to look like an M-16. It fires a tiny bullet that is designed to wound rather than to kill, and it’s difficult to actually kill someone with a single shot unless you hit something vital.

You can buy a standard wood-stock rifle that fires the same cartridge and nobody calls it an assault rifle.

“AR” stands for ARmalite, not “assault rifle”.

Finally, an AR-15 cannot be switched to full-auto, and is in fact designed to make it extremely difficult if not impossible to convert it so that it can be switched to full-auto.

You can shoot just as many people just as fast — and more lethally — with a semi-auto pistol, which in fact is a better weapon for the purpose the young madman intended.

When you people can wrap your brains around the difference, maybe you can contribute intelligently to the conversation.

Sadly, she did not block me (or maybe she did).  If not, more’s the pity.

To what I said, I could add (and others did) that Wal-Mart is bound by the same rules as any other merchant who sells guns (4473 and NICS check (or equivalent*) required for purchase), and (gee guess what) the young perp down in Florida passed all that with flying colors because his prior offenses were in juvie, locked down and inaccessible to NICS or anyone else.

After she apparently deleted her original comment (taking replies with it, although I have screen caps of the whole thing — the Internet is forever), I added my own comment:

For our Canadian friend, I should add: Your country tried to create a comprehensive gun registry some years back. Tens of millions of dollars were spent before it was recognized that maintaining a gun registry that preserved privacy and maintained network security was a practical impossibility (citizens scofflawed the registry, just like they do today in Australia; the registry admitted it was unable to count the number of times network security on the database had been breached), and the Harper government finally laid it to rest in 2012 (pending a failed appeal by the government of Quebec) and the registry was dissolved in 2015.

Yet a similar registry has been touted for years for the US. We have roughly 10 times the population you have, and better civil rights protections as well. Estimates for creating a US gun registry have run into the billions of dollars. And yet, the vast, vast, VAST majority of the 350 million guns in private hands in the US have never been fired in anger, and never will be.

The solution is not to ban gun ownership. The solution is to find the ill-intentioned people before they snap. The Florida perp was a walking, talking poster child for someone to jump in and institutionalize him long before he shot up that school, and blaming the NRA and private gun ownership don’t do a thing to solve that problem.

And as we are finding out more and more about what really happened in Florida, it’s clear that the perp was never expelled from school as was originally asserted (so there was no indication to the rest of the world that he was a problem child) and the sheriff’s deputy who was present when the massacre started didn’t even go into the school to try to stop him.  It took the local city police to actually do that.  The deputy has since resigned.  But as was noted by one of the Instapundit crowd, it’s no wonder the Broward County Sheriff was trying to deflect blame to the NRA.  He should resign as well, or be fired immediately.

And to be fair, as Michael Bane noted on Facebook, we can’t know until the event what our reaction is going to be.  To his credit, the deputy did the honorable thing by resigning when he found himself unable to risk his life to protect those children.  The sheriff, on the other hand, is despicable and has no honor.

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* I.e., handgun license that serves as an automatic NICS check, as some states already have, and as we will soon have in Indiana.

The solution is not what the left wants.

Look, I’m sorry as I can be about the loss of life down there in Florida.  It’s all the more horrific because it happened at a school.

But the FBI failed to follow through when they were warned, months ago, about this idiot.  They can make all the excuses they want, but this is on them.  I mean, here’s a completely opposite read on what can happen if people are alert and the cops take them seriously.  And that just happened on Tuesday, the day before the Florida shooting.

And as usual, the chattering classes all want more gun control.

To which the only answer is to remember the Gospel of Professor Reynolds (Glenn, not Malcolm):

When people say things like “don’t let this moment pass without acting on gun control,” what they’re really saying is our arguments are so unpersuasive that they can only succeed when people aren’t thinking clearly.

So think clearly.  Keep your powder dry.  Firmly but politely remind gun-grabbers that we already have a surfeit of laws that are supposed to prevent the kind of thing that happened in Florida yesterday, but don’t, because oddly enough, criminals don’t pay any attention to the law.  In fact, as Bobbi mentioned on Facebook this morning, young perp dude violated the law the instant he crossed the curtilage line of his family’s home.

The solution to the problem of school shootings is not to keep guns out of the hands of well-meaning citizens.  As usual, one armed teacher or staff member could potentially have put paid to this clown before things got out of hand.  Instead, one unarmed teacher was killed because he placed his body between the attacker and his students.  I submit that I’d have been happier if that teacher had been carrying a gun yesterday and had blown the jerk’s head off, instead.

Also, the media need to stop giving these shooters their 15 minutes of fame.  Never mention their names.  Concentrate only on the victims.  Never show video of the perps.  Don’t publish details of their planning, or go into their thinking or psychological issues.  If they live, let them be stuffed as far back in the corners of the criminal justice system as possible, never to be heard from again.

Why?  Because the kid in Washington who was arrested on Tuesday was a self-confessed copycat, out to make a name for himself.  You don’t get copycats if there’s nobody to copycat.

Sadly, yesterday’s tragedy wasn’t just a fuckup on the part of the FBI for not paying attention to the warning they were given.  It was also a wholly-owned production of the sensationalist US media who have made these assholes part of the mainstream, ever since Columbine.

All for the sake of headlines.

The media should be ashamed.  But they’re too busy vying for eyeballs and clicks to care.

Damn bloodsuckers.

And the next Trumpian budget idea to be complained about: Giving people food instead of debit cards.

The best short exposition of this was found at Instapundit:

PEOPLE: Poor people live in “food deserts” and can’t get anything good to eat.

TRUMP: Okay, let’s send them food boxes instead of SNAP cards.

PEOPLE: That’s terrible and racist!

Can’t fucking please anybody.

Let alone the fact that food deserts are a figment of the left’s imagination (H/T: Instapundit), what is wrong with providing the poor with actual food they can prepare and eat, rather than handing them SNAP/EBT cards which are regularly abused?  Why should my hard-earned taxpayer money be spent for the poor to eat snack foods and sodas instead of healthy foods?  And don’t tell me those stories aren’t true, we’ve all read and heard them for years, even back when actual paper “food stamps” were the means of exchange.

Look, I worked briefly in a convenience store, many years ago.  I remember full well people coming to the register with items they could not purchase with food stamps.  And they knew damn well they couldn’t purchase them that way.  So they’d hand me a $10 food stamp for a low-dollar purchase, for which I had to make at least some change in real US fiat money, and then they’d buy the stuff they couldn’t buy with food stamps.  Like cigarettes.  There was some limit to the amount of change you could give on a food stamp purchase but I don’t recall what it was.  (It may have been limited to amounts under $1, as I think about it, or maybe it was more if you didn’t have food stamps to make change with, but anybody with a brain could game that.)

EBT and SNAP just made it less embarrassing to use food stamps while making it marginally more difficult to buy things that were forbidden.  It was still a case of my dollars feeding you (or perhaps more to the point, borrowed Chinese dollars paying you that I as a taxpayer was responsible at some point for paying back).

I don’t want people to starve because they can’t afford to buy food.  But by and large, people who buy food with food stamps tend to manage to have nice things that often I can’t afford.  I’ve been in plenty of homes in my past life as a service professional to note that the downtrodden in our society generally have a few luxuries like big screen TVs, nice stereos, expensive tennis shoes, and the like.  Most of that past life was before the advent of cheap computers, so I rarely saw a computer in those homes — but there was often a nice game console given pride of place.  Meanwhile, my family didn’t have a color TV till my grandmother passed in 1979 and we got her 19″ Zenith.  There was no game console in my home until I married my wife in 2000 (it was hers), and we didn’t have a new 40″ flat screen TV until Black Friday 2009.  And we’re still using the refrigerator my parents bought 40-odd years ago and in which my dad replaced the compressor about 30 years ago, instead of dropping $3K on one of the cool new french-door fridges with the freezer on the bottom that would make my back a lot happier.*  We still have the clothes dryer my parents bought in the 1980’s, and we’d still have the matching washing machine too, except it packed up about 12 years ago and we bought a new one that required a new agitator/pump motor almost immediately — thankfully, before the warranty period was up.  We replaced the dishwasher my dad and I installed in the early 1980’s just a couple of years ago with the second-cheapest Maytag Home Depot had.

But we’ve always had decent food in the house, and we’ve always eaten in a relatively-healthy manner (admittedly, I hate most vegetables, but we have them).  We live comfortably, in a reasonably large house in a decent suburban neighborhood, and we don’t complain about not having a lot of money after expenses (as noted in the previous article, expenses always seem to rise to the available amount of take-home income around here).

And I don’t see how handing people a box of food instead of an EBT card is somehow demeaning or inappropriate.  The other day, Larry Correia fisked the hell out of some proggy idiot in Texas who wrote an article entitled “Please stop telling poor people to ‘just cook’ to save money”.  Dude had apparently never heard of dollar stores and discount groceries like Aldi, or even farmer’s markets where you can get produce inexpensively, and talked some bullshit about how expensive it is to set up a kitchen and how expensive spices are and all sorts of crap that pretty much proved he was born with a silver (or at least sterling) spoon in his mouth and never actually had to live in poverty.  Even at that, we just splurged on a set of Caphalon cookware that I’ve been drooling over since before we got married, and we were able to afford it because it was on sale at Kohl’s, plus my wife had a 30% off coupon, plus she had Kohl’s Cash.  By the time we were done, it was half price, just over $100 for the set.  And we’ll probably use those pots and pans for the rest of our lives.

For what it’s worth, I just looked at the SNAP program’s allowed purchases, and I see it doesn’t cover “hot foods”.  Given how cheap a grocery store rotisserie chicken can be (often cheaper than buying the same bird frozen to cook at home, because the dirty little secret is that’s how the groceries dispose of chickens that are about to go past their sell by date), that seems a bit restrictive.  And you can eat the chicken and throw the carcass in a slow cooker with various and sundry things like veggies and spices to make soup, so it’s really a win-win.  But typical of the government, throw the baby out with the bath water.

But to get back to the main point:  What’s so damn wrong about giving people food instead of giving people other people’s money to buy food?  There is plenty of surplus food in this country (and don’t get me started on “free cheese”, which exists because of dairy price supports that make milk products hella expensive for those of us who pay retail).  If the surplus food sits around for too long, it spoils.  And keeping it around till it spoils just takes up warehouse space that costs the government — er, the taxpayers — more money.

Plus, if you take choice (“buy more or less what you want”) away from the people to whom you’re giving the food (“take what you get”), maybe they’ll get bored with the same staples all the time and actually arse themselves to find decent jobs so they can pay for better food.

Workfare works every time it’s tried.  Most people on the dole would rather work, and companies are going around begging for help in this economy.  So why not create more incentive for that?

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* Refrigerators with the freezer on top were clearly designed for midgets.

 

Damn deadbeats.

So the usual suspects on Facebook are complaining about the Trump budget ending student loan forgiveness.

You know, I genuinely like most of those guys and gals I interact with over there.  We have various interests in common that have nothing to do with politics.

But you know what?  They’re full of shit when it comes to insisting student loans should be forgiven.

I paid back my fucking student loans.  Every damn dime.  In ten years after I took two years deferral after I finally left school for good.

I owed close to $20K between the federal loans and the state loans, for both my undergrad and grad school.  I never consolidated them.  I wanted them over and done with, I didn’t want to be paying on them for 20 years and handing the banks even more in interest.  And I’m here to tell you, that was NOT easy on what I was making in those days.  Even after I got married in 2000, the second income (and the nice raise I got at the same time) didn’t help as much as they could have, because my wife had student loans, too.  Difference between hers and mine were hers had actually gone into default, and she was paying them back under an agreement with the DoE.  And of course we had two cars, and two cats, and trips to visit her folks out of state, blah de blah de blah, so expenses generally increased to meet the available income.  Plus we got hit with the marriage penalty and owed the IRS $2K that first year before we realized we had to have more deductions on our 1040’s and fewer exemptions on our W4’s.

But we both paid back our fucking student loans, in full (and in her case, with the extra interest added while she was in default).  Because we took those loans out in good faith and always intended to pay them back.  Just like we took out auto loans and a mortgage and credit cards and commercial credit to buy our wedding rings (well, mostly her engagement ring; as I recall, our wedding bands were only $100 each) and all that good stuff.  Because, God damn it, when you give your word on something, you keep your fucking word.  My wife wouldn’t have defaulted on her loans if she’d had the money to pay them (and would probably have been able to defer them if she’d known to talk to someone about it at the time).

I cannot imagine someone going to school for four years and borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to do it, and then walking away with a degree and deciding, “fuck that, I’m not paying them back.”  That’s not how that works.  That’s not how any of that works.

Let’s enumerate a few things.

1. Not everyone needs to go to college.  That’s a lie perpetrated on every generation since (and including) mine.  A college degree is not for everyone, and not everyone needs a college degree.  There are lots of jobs out there that don’t require one (but may require different kinds of training) and which will probably pay you better money right off the bat, and in the long run, too.  Not everyone needs an English Lit major, but everyone is going to eventually need a plumber, or an electrician, or an auto repairman.

2. If you choose to go to college, you don’t need to go to fucking Harvard or Yale.  Try your state school system.  Try junior college if you’re not really sure what you want to do.  (Credits transfer, and they’re cheaper that way.)  The fact is that most employers in the real world don’t give a damn where you went to school, they want to know that you went to school at all.  It’s about completing things you start.  It’s about learning how to think logically and how to apply knowledge and skills you already have, while learning how to pick up knowledge and skills you don’t.  (I don’t have a degree in IT, I have a degree in History, but my title is “Senior Product Engineer” at a software engineering firm.)

3. If you choose to go to college but don’t have the money even for junior college — look for grants.  Look for student aid.  Read up on available scholarships.  There may be a scholarship sitting out there for left-handed red-haired stepchildren of mixed-race families.  If that describes you, go for it.  (There are scholarships out there with odder prerequisites — trust me.)  Closer to home, if your father or grandfather is/was a Freemason, reach out to the Grand Lodge in your state to see if they have scholarship money.  Ours does. You have to apply, there is quite a bit of competition, and the awards aren’t huge, but every little bit helps.  The K of C, the Odd Fellows, the Grange, they probably all have some kind of scholarship program.  Oh — and if you have a parent who works at a university, and that university has a tuition waiver program, plan for that university to be your alma mater.  (I worked full-time at my university for two years and got a 50% tuition waiver as an employee.)  And of course, if you’re a veteran, you’ve got the GI Bill and whatever other educational incentives the military throws your way.  I had a cousin who got a Masters in Nuclear Engineering while he was in the Navy (which he joined in 1967).  Of course, they expected him to work for that, and he did — he retired as a lieutenant commander with 20+ years in, and immediately went to work for a shipbuilding company as a senior engineer.

4. If you do in fact have to borrow money — borrow the bare minimum each semester that it takes to pay tuition, buy books, and cover other education-related expenses.  Don’t take everything they offer you, and don’t plan to borrow enough to get by without working.  That’s the first mistake a lot of people make.  Plan to work at least part time, even if it’s a work-study position at the university.  My Dad held no fewer than two jobs the whole time he was in school, even though he was on the GI Bill, because in his day, the Bill barely paid for tuition.  Especially when the university raised tuition every time the Bill got an increase.  It was uncanny…

5. Finally  — Plan to pay your loans back.  And make sure to graduate with a degree that is immediately useful so you can do that.  Despite what I said above, if you’re going to an expensive school or taking out a lot in loans, you have to be adult enough to decide to go into a field where you can afford to pay your loans back.  Which means, don’t go to a fancy dancy liberal arts college and graduate with a degree in English Lit, or Women’s Studies, or Political Science, or (even) History and have $50K in loans hanging over your head to pay back when you finish — because you never, ever will.  Not even with consolidation giving you 20 years to pay them back.  The banks will fuck you in every orifice you have if you consolidate.  It’s like taking out a mortgage on your brain, the only difference between that and a home mortgage being that they can’t foreclose on your brain.  But they can certainly fuck you over six ways from Sunday if you go into default.  And if you ever want a mortgage on a house, or hell, a loan to buy a new car, that will still be hanging over your head forever.

If you can’t do these simple things, and aren’t interested in STEM and/or aren’t the latest high school sports phenom that every university in the country is trying to sign, for Christ’s sake, DON’T GO TO COLLEGE.  Go to community college if you truly must have some sort of educational credential — an Associates degree takes only two years and can generally be obtained inexpensively, and if you apply yourself, you’ll be smarter (and better able to get smarter on your own) than you were when you started.  Or try trade school.  They’re cheaper, they’ll take it out of your pay at the job you’ll like as not get when you’re done (because a lot of the trade unions run their own schools), you’ll be making the big money right out of school while your friends with their basket-weaving degrees are still asking if you want fries with that, and you’ll be doing something worthwhile instead of pouring coffee at the local Starbucks.

At least have the decency to understand that by defaulting on or getting forgiveness for your student loans, you’re forcing me, my wife, and every other American taxpayer to underwrite your four years farting around in higher education to no particular benefit to any of us.  And that’s why President Trump’s budget zeros out practically all federal student loan forgiveness, streamlining it down to one program that ensures students will pay off a significant portion of their loans regardless.  You made a promise, now keep it.

And don’t whine about leaving school without a degree and still having to pay those loans back.  I did that myself, when I was 18, and spent two years working mostly to pay back that set of loans.  I didn’t go back to school till I was 24 and got NO financial aid until I worked two “F’s” off my transcript from that first abortive attempt at getting an education.  Between Pell grants and federal and state guaranteed loans, I graduated in 1991 with a BA in History and went directly into the MA program — which would have been impossible had I not been awarded a one-year $10K fellowship and 50% fees to do so.  (See — scholarships DO exist.)  After that I went part-time while I worked for the university, and finally walked away in 1994 when I went to work where I still work today.  I was able to defer repayment on the loans till 1997, when I had to admit I made too much money not to be paying them back, and they were totally paid off in 2006.  In the meantime, I’d financed and bought a condo on my own, then got married a year later.  I can guarantee you that I would not have been able to get the mortgage on the condo had I defaulted on those loans.  As it was, the fact that I never missed a payment helped immensely in establishing credit.

I do not regret getting a degree that I’ve basically never had any use for (other than to be able to say I’m a college graduate).  But I do know a lot about history and how to study it and write about it, which has made me a reasonable blogger and observer of the human condition (in my opinion).  If I regret anything about those years in the academy, it’s that I didn’t write my master’s thesis and graduate with the MA.  But oh, well — shit happens.

And I don’t regret for one moment being a man and a responsible adult who paid off his student loans honorably, and didn’t shift that responsibility onto the backs of my fellow Americans.

If nothing else, it gives me a bully pulpit to shame those of you who fucked off that responsibility so you could have nice things instead.  Fuck you all, you fucking deadbeats.  (I do NOT include in that group the victims of the Obama economy who spent years in the wilderness unable to find a decent job so they could pay those loans back.)

 


 

Now.  All that vitriol having been spewed, it boggles the mind that anyone can actually run up the kind of student loan balances I keep reading about, particularly when they aren’t enrolled in a STEM program or business school or med school or SOME school that will actually prepare them for a reasonably-paying job where they have half a chance to come up with the scratch to pay them back in 10 to 20 years.  (Although I continue to maintain that loan consolidation is a rip-off.)  What are the reasons for this?

Tuition increases since 1990, among other things.  (I left school in 1994 and was only marginally affected by tuition increases which have amounted, by some measures, to six times the rate of inflation.  However, I think the 6x increases came at the truly expensive schools, e.g., Ivy League, etc.)  This site compares tuition to CPU from 1990 to 2017 and concludes, “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, prices for college tuition and fees were 369.75% higher in 2017 versus 1990.”  If you change the start year to 1994, it concludes, “[P]rices for college tuition and fees were 229.04% higher in 2017 versus 1994.”  Wow.  So depending on where you start (and most of these studies I’ve seen begin in 1990), the average increase in tuition in the US has been between 2.3x and 3.7x since then.  And that’s about right; my wife, who obtained an MS in 2015, paid three times per undergraduate* credit hour what I paid at the same university thirty years ago.  I think the same ratio applied to graduate credit hours, but I don’t remember exactly what I paid.

So let’s apply that to the $20,000 I borrowed during my academic years.  I started borrowing in 1986 when I went full-time, and tuition didn’t change that much while I was an undergraduate.  So if we plug a start date of 1986 into that calculator I linked above, we get:

Between 1986 and 2017: College tuition experienced an average inflation rate of 6.14% per year. This rate of change indicates significant inflation. In other words, college tuition costing $20,000 in the year 1986 would cost $126,807.79 in 2017 for an equivalent purchase. Compared to the overall inflation rate of 2.63% during this same period, inflation for college tuition was similar.

WOW.

I could not have paid that back.  That’s like buying a freaking house — the one I live in, in fact.  My condo cost half that in 1999.  And I don’t know where they get that last sentence, because 2.63% overall rate of inflation is NOT “similar” to 6.14% tuition rate of inflation.

What the hell are universities thinking?  What in God’s name makes a college education three times more valuable today than it was in 1990?

This is mostly the fault of the Clinton Administration and subsequently Bush 43’s and Obama’s, all of whom let the student loan establishment run completely the hell out of control.  Go back to where I wrote about my Dad’s experience back in 1946.  The university raised tuition on vets every time the GI Bill was voted an increase by Congress.  You may think of tuition prices as being governed by a corollary of Parkinson’s Law, viz., “The price of tuition will increase to gobble up all available government tuition assistance.”  It was true of the Bill; it’s true of government student grants-in-aid and government-guaranteed student loans, too.

At the same time universities were sticking it to students, they were also collecting record amounts of research grant money — again, usually, from the government.  They were building grand edifices to education, too.  And hiring far more administrators to fill positions for which the need was, to be blunt, questionable.  In most cases, the new crop of administrators were more along the line of commissars or political officers, who were hired to administer things like diversity, harassment, quashing of conservative student organizations, and other general mopery and dopery.  And they were being paid far more than they were worth — of all that money extracted from students and taxpayers over the years.  (And we couldn’t get a simple parking garage built when I was at school, because the parking garage did not fit into the “academic mission” of the university.  On a commuter campus where 90% of the students drove in every day.  The university blamed this on the state government, of course, while in actuality not giving a damn one way or the other as long as faculty had a place to park.  But by God they built their fancy campus hotel and conference center on a tenuous claim that it furthered the academic mission.  Go figure.)

So now Donald Trump has proposed a budget that, according to CNBC,

would sharply curtail income-based loan repayment plans, scratch the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, embolden the government to go after students who don’t pay their loans and cut funding for federal work study in half.

OK, PSLF is just a taxpayer-funded sinkhole that builds on earlier programs that allowed certain teachers and Peace Corps volunteers to “work off” their student loans, so it can go. Frankly, PSLF isn’t needed; they can go into the income-based repayment plan.  It’s questionable to me whether they’d pay more or less that way; PSLF forgives loans after 10 years of on-time payments, but of course you also have to remain in a public service position during that period to continue to qualify.  I suspect the income-based program, even though it’s 5 years longer (see below), would either make this a wash or would swing a little one way or the other, but not enough to make that much of a difference. CNBC’s student loan expert bemoans that this will cause fewer people to go into public service careers.  I call bullshit, because most of the people I know who are in public service careers are in them because they believe in public service, not because they expect to make a ton of money at them.

Federal work-study funding ought to go and be covered by universities directly.  That’s what they have endowments for, and the work supposedly benefits the university by not having to be done by full-time staff who require benefits and all that.  If work-study is that important, and the university pleads poverty, let the state take up the slack.  (FWIW, I think work-study is a perfectly fine program, I just don’t think taxpayers should have to pay for it.)

The other, income-based, repayment plans would be cut from four separate programs to one.  Monthly payments would be capped at 12.5% of income (I can’t determine at the moment if that’s gross or net).  Currently the typical rate is 10%.  At the same time, the number of years needed to fulfill the program would be cut from 20 to 15. As CNBC notes, “[T]hey’d be paying more per month, but less overall.”  Well, duh.  Graduate students are not so lucky — they would have to pay back for 30 years.  Which makes sense, they borrow more money.  I borrowed as much for the 2 years of grad school I had to pay for myself as I did for my entire undergraduate degree.

And people who become delinquent will face stronger enforcement when DOE gets better access to IRS income data.  Well, tough noogies again.  You promised to pay those loans back.  We’ve been over that already.

The budget also eliminates subsidized student loans.  Good!  Subsidized student loans are funded by federal money borrowed from the Chinese.  Not having to service more Chinese loans is one less cost for taxpayers, and less money in the pockets of the Chicoms.

And all the changes to loans would not apply to borrowing that takes place before July 1, 2019.  So it’s not like this is going to happen tomorrow.  Besides that, Congress has to approve the budget, and you know damn well this is just the opening salvo in the budget negotiations. So if Congress has the ultimate say over what’s in the budget, and if Congress approves all of these student loan changes, how is this then Trump’s fault?

But all the MSM news bites are about the Trump budget cutting student loan programs.  Ain’t nothin’ been cut yet, boys and girls.  Cool your jets and have another craft ale.  There’ll be plenty of time for pissing and moaning later.

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* When you take an undergraduate class for graduate credit, which is common, you pay the undergraduate rate.  This is at least partly because you have to sit in class with undergraduates because there aren’t generally sufficient graduate students to create graduate-only sections for 300- and 400-level classes.  I paid graduate tuition for the two 500-level colloquiums I was required to take, as well as the 500-level class in Historiography that was required.  I also paid graduate tuition for the six hours dedicated to my MA thesis, which of course, I never wrote.

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