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More Government = Less Affordability

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Democratic Presidential candidate (and erstwhile Soviet aficionado) Bernie Sanders this week unveiled his plan to forgive an estimated $1.6 trillion dollars in student loan debt—a move that could impact up to 45 million people who are still paying off college loans.

The viability of this boondoggle is a subject for a blog post of its own.  Indeed, I grew frustrated yesterday with the number of people who supported the concept of the government forgiving private, voluntarily-incurred debt.  Maybe they could include the proposal in the Adulting is Hard Act of 2019.

One of the arguments in favor of the idea points to the skyrocketing increases in college tuition over the past generation.  This is a fair point.  Any study shows that those numbers are headed through the roof.  But why is that?

This handy-dandy chart from the American Enterprise Institute offers a clue.  It examines the increase in costs (since 1997) for several entities.

inflation

You’ll notice the ones whose costs have increased all have one thing in common…direct government involvement or oversight—be it through regulations or underwriting risk.  Those entities who costs are DECLINING are comparatively-free of direct government oversight.

In fact, as you go up and down the chart, you can see the DEGREE of government involvement is also a near-perfect predictor of the increase in cost.  I.E., the more heavily government is involved, the steeper the price increase.  And Vice-Versa.

The government has FAR less incentive than a private entity to keep expenditures down to a bare minimum.  That comes with the territory when you can *literally* print your own money and/or extract it from people.

As a result, when the government gets involved in what are otherwise free-market ventures by underwriting loans, those making the loans and those who serve as beneficiary can now behave like the government.  They have FAR less incentive to tamp down on ancillary costs while making their product available for the lowest price possible.

A Civil War-era privateer is quoted during Ken Burns’ famous PBS Series, “You can sell the government anything at any price you’ve got the guts to ask.”  When you are negotiating with someone that has unlimited resources, money is truly no object.

Therefore it should not came as a surprise that the cost of a college education has increased exponentially, with the precipitous rise beginning (more or less) when governments began underwriting and guaranteeing student loans.

Does this sound familiar?  That’s because you remember the housing crisis…ancient history…less than two decades ago.

Here is the bottom line.  The private sector isn’t perfect and the public sector isn’t 100% evil. But the vast majority of the time, the side that has the greater incentive to provide high quality service at the lowest possible price is the Private Sector.

Despicable Media

Demonstrating media bias in the age of President Trump is about as low as low-hanging fruit can get.  It is only slightly easier to find water in the middle in the Atlantic Ocean.  His chaotic and (at times) infuriating Presidency has served a noble purpose insofar as it has blown the lid of the thin veneer of impartiality that some outlets had been clinging on to like remoras.

But today produced an example that I couldn’t let go of.  Mostly because it involved so many outlets saying the same thing.  A “narrative,” if you will.  And it was packaged with the savvy of a Madison Avenue marketing campaign to elicit maximum consumer engagement.

fort sillFort Sill, Oklahoma is a sprawling Army munitions base that has been open for well over a century.  During World War II, it served as one of the sites where interned Japanese-Americans were held under orders from President Roosevelt.

This week, the Trump administration announced plans to temporarily house 1,400 migrant children at the base.   But the headlines this morning in many major outlets were constructed so as to make the consumer feel that Trump was rounding up children and sending them to Concentration Camps.  Here are just a few examples.

The Hill: “Trump administration to send migrant children to former Japanese internment camp”

CBS News: “Migrant children will be kept at Army base used as a Japanese internment camp in World War II”

Time Magazine: “Trump Administration to hold migrant children at base that once house interned Japanese.

Now, in true media fashion, if you read beyond the headline you discover that the fact that the base was once used for FDR’s infamous internment efforts is mere intrigue.  Really, it’s not salient to the story at all.  But the trivial connection offered Trump-hating media outlets a chance they could not pass up—a chance to link Trump with some of the darkest days in history.  Honestly, I’m surprised some of them did accompany their news tweets with images from Auschwitz or Dachau.

If this were the extent of the story, that would be plenty bad.  But there is another element that makes it altogether infuriating.  You see, in 2014, migrant children were housed temporarily at Fort Sill-Oklahoma, and not a single media outlet brought up the specter of them being herded into concentration camps.  Why?  Because Barack Obama was President.  In 2014 Fort Sill’s status as a “former Japanese Internment Camp” was still intact.  But it curiously didn’t make it into news headlines from the day.  I have run multiple search engine checks and have found nothing.  Curious, no?

Of course the carefully-crafted headlines have done their work.  They also served as a clarion call for lefty luminaries to weigh in and got their shots in at Trump.  Socialist Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ self-righteous pablum was representative of the outrage.

The internment of Japanese Americans is a stain on our history. It abhorrent that 75 years later, this administration now wants to hold migrant children in one of those same camps.  We will look back on Trump’s racist child prisons as an abomination.

I did a similar check and found nothing from Bernie in 2014 that held the Obama Administration similarly accountable.  Very strange.

Fake News doesn’t have to be factually incorrect. It just has to present facts in a manner that consciously advances a narrative. This is also achieved by OMITTING crucial facts.  Today offered a sterling and sickening example of that.

Tomorrow, many of the same agencies that vomited out this vile garbage today will claim they are victimized when Trump says something mean about them.  I will not go as far as Trump and call the Media an “Enemy of the People.”  But they sure as hell aren’t our friends.

Bill Buckner: Undeserved scorn and redemption.

bucknerBill Buckner died today at the age of 69.  He had been battling dementia for a couple of years.  His career is a testament to how cruel baseball can be, but also to how much it exposes character. It also shows us how redemption IS possible…if we possess the patience of Job.

Buckner was a superb left-handed hitter who came up with the Dodgers, played with the Cubs, and spent his golden years with the Boston Red Sox.  The numbers are outstanding.  A .289 lifetime average…including a battle title with the Cubs in 1980 when he hit 324. He is one of a handful of players to have played in four decades.

For his time, only Rod Carew was a better contact hitter.  Buckner struck out only 459 times in nearly 7,000 at bats.  He NEVER struck out more than twice in a game!!

But despite playing more than 18-thousand innings in his major league career, Buckner will be remembered most for a single inning…and a single ground ball.  A ground ball he should never have seen.

In 1986, the Boston Red Sox were leading the New York Mets 3-2 in the World Series.  Boston was about to shed it’s image as cursed losers, claiming a title for the first time since 1918.  They went into the bottom of the tenth at Shea Stadium, leading 5-3.

During the season, Red Sox Manager John McNamara often substituted Dave Stapleton for Buckner with a lead late in the game.  Buckner was playing with a severely injured Achilles, an ankle injury that had plagued him since 1975.  But McNamara chose to leave the hobbled Buckner out on the field as the Sox tried to get the final three outs.

The Sox got the first two outs quickly.  Then came a single.  Then another.  Then a third.  Then a wild pitch. Suddenly it was 5-5 with a runner at second.  The speedy Mookie Wilson hit a slow grounder to first.  Buckner wobbled to his left and stabbed at it—but it rolled between his legs.  Two runs scored.  The Mets won and evened the series.  They won the next day to take the Series 4-3.  The Red Sox frustration continued, and Buckner became the scapegoat.

Never mind that cleanly fielding the ball would have simply sent the game into the 11th inning.  Never mind that Wilson may have been fast enough to beat it out for a hit anyway.  No.  The mob had found their goat.

Baseball has a nasty habit of freely administering the “goat” tag in a most undeserving manner.  Fred Merkle’s infamous “boner” in 1908 cost the Giants a pennant, even though his sin (not touching second base on a game-winning base hit) was standard practice at the time.  Mickey Owen is forever remembered for his “dropped third strike” in the 1941 Series.  Never mind that it simply tied the game between the Yankees and the Dodgers, and it was simply one game in an otherwise-unremarkable series.  And this is to say nothing of pitchers who have given up significant homers.  One pitch, one swing, one decisions DOES a career make.  It is cruel as hell.  Imagine your entire career being determined largely by a singular event.

The hell of it is, not even FANS are immune.  Steve Bartman’s private life was ended when he tried to catch a foul ball in a playoff game in 2003 at Wrigley Field.  It prevented Moises Alou from making the catch.  Bartman was escorted out of the stadium amid fans tossing beer at him.  History doesn’t remember that Cub’s Shortstop Alex Gonzalez’s error on a sure double play ball later that inning was FAR more costly in the Cubs loss to the Marlins.  No.  The Baseball Gods had chosen their Goat.  And that was that.

It apparently took Buckner years to reconcile his undeserving place in baseball history.  At one juncture he moved to Idaho and began working in real estate.  But time heals all wounds.  And eventually, Buckner made peace with the Red Sox fans and with baseball in general.  He even appeared on an episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” where he made light of his infamous error.  Baseball is cruel, yes.  But all sins are eventually forgiven.  Even those that are not your fault.

On Bill Buckner’s passing, I will do all I can to NOT remember one simple ground ball hit in one inning of one game 33 years ago.  The only thing I choose to remember is one of the great contact hitters of his generation.  A throwback to a day when it was considered unmanly to strike out.

THAT was Bill Buckner.

(sigh) Another friggin’ post about abortion!

I *hate* talking about abortion.  Isn’t there a new gun control proposal I can bitch about?

abortion-debateUnfortunately, the issue I want to avoid like the radioactive hobgoblin that it is simply won’t go away.  And the latest incarnation of the debate is what happens when people reject compromise on a complicated and deeply-emotional issue.

Laws introduced and passed earlier this year that allow no-excuse abortion up to the millisecond before birth (and in some cases, AFTER birth) have been countered in the past few weeks by fetal heartbeat bills with codicils that could actually punish women who seek an abortion.  While I prefer that state legislatures be the places where such issues are dealt with, and not the federal level, I am not getting a good vibe from either extreme.

Yes, there are many things I will not budge on.  Most of them are based upon what I see as immutable characteristics of individual freedom that are outlined in the US Constitution.  The abortion debate doesn’t fall so neatly into that category.  What freedom-lover can claim they are opposed to “choice” under most any other circumstance?  How can someone claiming sanity be against “life?”

Both sides had lived for a generation under an uneasy truce that resulted, more or less, in third-trimester abortions being illegal except under mitigating circumstances.  But in today’s highly-polarized climate, uneasy truces are no longer allowed.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  My personal goal is to make abortions “safe, legal, and damned-near unheard of.”   How we achieve that will NOT be through legislation.  It will be through repairing our collective soul. And our individual souls.

Mueller Time leaves us with a giant hangover

Robert Mueller Named As Special Counsel On Russia ProbeThere is a reason I have written comparatively little on the Mueller Probe as opposed to, say, Brett Kavanaugh or the wonders of Democratic Socialism.  The entire episode has bored the hell out of me.

Yes I know it is MORE than significant that a sitting President was being investigated for possible collusion with a foreign entity in order to influence a US Presidential election.  But the genesis for all this felt wrong from the beginning.  The same people who called Donald Trump an insufferable buffoon would have us believe they were capable of coordinating a Spy-versus-Spy scheme that would confuse John Grisham.  The last two years of leaked information amounted to little more than a macabre Merry-Go-Round of innuendo/he said/they said/we think/they think/unconfirmed sources say horseshit.  It gave me a headache and made me drink beer.  Wait.  Scratch that last part.

I think there was enough smoke to justify the investigation.  Not a lot, but enough.  But I think it was clear to most folks early on that this was NOT going to produce the walk-off grand slam that Democrats wanted.  Of course, that didn’t stop political talking heads from yammering on like a coked-up auctioneer.  It also did not stop the more die-hard leftists from elevating Mueller to Demigod status.  For the last two years, whenever a proud member of the Resistance Army was confronted with uncomfortable facts, they were able to rock themselves to sleep with visions of indictment-bearing sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads.  I was thinking the whole time of what a letdown they were likely setting themselves up for.  No matter how many shitty tweets, impolitic statements or general inanity emerged from the White House, they were able to assuage themselves with this Ace in the Hole they were just SURE existed. Once again, I was right.

As expected, the report confirmed that Trump was a blundering fool in regards to understanding the way the Justice Department was supposed to work.  It showed that he was, at best, impolitic in the way he handled the whole affair.  Now.  Show of hands.  How many of you are surprised?  Now…more hands.  How many think that justifies impeachment?  Of course, that is entirely up to Congress now.  As it should be.  The Special Prosecutor investigates and submits his report to the DOJ, who then forwards it to Congress.  Now the choice is with House Democrats.  They can go shoulder-deep into the rabbit hole if they wish.  Or, they can convince Americans why we should vote FOR their candidate next year as opposed to AGAINST Trump.

I think a lot of the fuel behind this two year long effort was an attempt to justify the popular fanfiction that the 2016 Election was “hijacked.”  For a lot of people left-of-center, Trump being elected President was like Jethro Bodine being elected Pope.  To have the epitome of the brash, loudmouth American deny what you felt was Hillary Clinton’s birthright to break the two-century old Glass Ceiling was more than many could absorb.  A significant part of their coping was made possible by imagining dark agents at work in shadowy warehouses in Siberia, sharing Pepe the Frog memes in broken English.  How this translated into Hillary choosing not to campaign in Wisconsin still escapes me, but some of the more enterprising members of The Resistance seem to be comfortable with making the connection.

Occam’s Razor tells us that in most cases, the simplest answer is the correct one.  Face it, Democrats.  You lost fair and square.   You cast your net hoping for the Great White Whale. Instead, you’re sailing home with a handful of guppies.  It’s on days like this when I wish I actually *liked* Trump.  I can only imagine how happy I would feel.

Another 4/16

vt ribbon(This is an update of things I’ve written over the past few years ago on the anniversaries of the Virginia Tech shooting.  I was News Director at two radio stations in Danville, Va. at the time.  It is the one day a year that this Hokie gets a little maudlin.)

(April 16, 2007) — It was a little after 9AM in the newsroom when the AP Alert went off. Nothing unusual there. The damn thing goes off every time there’s a thunderstorm in Eastern North Carolina. I dutifully moved to my computer screen and looked. There was a slug.

AP-APNewsAlert- (Blacksburg)

I clicked on the header. It read:

(Blacksburg) — Shooting at Virginia Tech dormitory…developing…

Given the location and my close emotional ties to the school, I perked up. I was not particularly worried, though. Hey, it’s a big campus. These things unfortunately happen. I figured a couple of guys had gotten into it and someone fired a shot or two. The next update came minutes later.

(Blacksburg) — Shooting at Virginia Tech dormitory…West Ambler Johnston…two fatalities confirmed…developing…

Well this upped the ante. My News Director’s brain kicked in. “O-K. Maybe I’ll run a state story during my midday news. About thirty minutes later, the ante was upped again.

(Blacksburg) — Multiple shots fired inside Norris Hall Virginia Tech …developing…

“What the hell is this, I wondered.” Did AP screw up the earlier story? Did they have the location wrong? The stories I was working on concerning two large trees falling in the downtown area during heavy winds got pushed to the back burner. It was forgotten completely after the next AP Alert.

(Blacksburg) — Multiple fatalities confirmed inside Norris Hall, Virginia Tech campus locked down…shooter unknown…developing…

What followed seemed like a blur. I continued tracking AP and giving live updates on both stations. By noon, we knew this was catastrophic.

It didn’t hit me until early afternoon what had happened. Until then, I had kept my professional veneer and reported the facts as they came in—gruesome as they were. It wasn’t until I got a little down time and happened to glance at FOX News that it hit me. Seeing those familiar-looking buildings, juxtaposed against the backdrop of the kind of coverage reserved only for events like 9-11 hit me like a thunderbolt. This was MY school! I lived a couple hundred yards from Norris Hall! I had several classes there! Was I ever in the upper floor? I couldn’t remember.

After having done news for decades you learn to keep stories at arms length. Many of the stories we tackled had strong emotions attached to them, and you would quickly become overwhelmed if you got too involved. I thought I was tough. I thought I could handle anything in a news context. I was wrong.

After about 15-to-20 minutes of watching national TV coverage, I had to go out into the hallway and do something I hadn’t done in years. I cried. (only briefly, though—gotta maintain my man-cred).

The days that followed produced a full range of emotions. There was the obvious sadness. There was white-hot anger at the shooter, which quickly evolved into utter indifference.  It took several years but I was finally able to forgive the shooter. Evil takes many forms and envelops people. Such it was with Cho. I hope his tortured soul is finally at peace. His final resting place is not my call.

The most effective coping mechanism I’ve come up with has been learning as much as I could about the 32 people who were killed that day at Virginia Tech. These were winners! A Holocaust survivor who held the door while students escaped through a second-story window; begin riddled with bullets in the process. A French teacher who seemed to possess a special connection with her students. A former wrestler who was killed while tackling the gunman.

Even more impressive is the public service resumes that had already been compiled by folks in their late-teens to early twenties. These were people who were on their way to becoming outstanding adults. It’s trendy for middle-aged folks like myself to view the younger generation with benign disdain. To laugh at their ability to hold conversations while texting. The lives these young people led before their death should make all of us fifty-somethings rethink our views on the next generation.

bluhmOne in particular stands out. As a hopeless Detroit Tigers fan, I became familiar with the Motown Sports website years ago. Among the most frequent contributors was Brian Bluhm (pictured, right). He was also one of the best posters. I noticed that he had a VT logo as his avatar. I shot him an e-mail and he replied; talking about our shared love of the Hokies and the Tigers—and how trying both teams can be!

Brian was shot twice while sitting in an Engineering class in the second floor of Norris Hall. I wished I had e-mailed him more often.

But mostly, I’m bursting with pride today at MY school! It’s said that it takes our worst to bring out our best. We certainly saw the worst humanity has to offer on 4-16-07, but we also saw us at our best. God Bless all Virginia Tech Hokies everywhere today! Those with and without diplomas. Ut Prosim!!!

Shut up, kids! You never had it so good!

It’s very fashionable for middle-aged farts like me to point fingers and laugh at the Millennial generation.  As if the Baby Boomers didn’t do the same things to us thirty years ago…as the Greatest Generation did to them a few decades prior.

The reality is that most of the Millennials I know are just like anyone else who are young adults.  Yes, they have a maddening tendency to look at their cell phones while carrying on a conversation and their coffee orders include FAR too many syllables.  But all-in-all, they’re good folk.

But theaocre is a subset of Millennials (and the so-called “Generation Y,” which follows them) who are now beginning to come of age politically.  Their poster child, fair or not, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—the Freshman Congresswoman who pulled an upset in a deep-blue New York City district last year.

She is an unapologetic Democratic Socialist.  I’ve discussed elsewhere my thoughts on this philosophy so I won’t revisit it here.   But the dissatisfaction that fuels those policies has little basis in realty.

AOC was featured on the cover of Time Magazine this week…along with an appropriately-fawning article written by fellow Urban Millennial Charlotte Alter.  In promoting her story via her Twitter account, Alter tried to explain the popularity of AOC by suggesting she taps into the heart of Urban Millennial angst.  To wit:

“In order to understand AOC, you have to look at what she experienced— and what she didn’t. Red Scare, Reaganomics & prosperous 90s were all before her time. Her adulthood was defined by financial crisis, debt & climate change.  People our age have never experienced American prosperity in our adult lives— which is why so many millennials are embracing Democratic socialism.”

In her own odd way, Alter *has* fairly assessed the underbelly of urban Millennials.  It is built on a profound lack of wisdom and experience.  It assumes that things are terrible and are going to get MUCH worse unless significant government action is taken.

I hate to sound like a grumpy old man, but people who think like this are ungrateful little brats.

Here are the facts.  Millennials grew up in the most prosperous and peaceful period in human history.  And it is only getting BETTER.  Even former President Obama said, “We are fortunate to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history.”

200 million Americans today will eat a meal that (a century) ago would have been available only to nobility.  Two centuries ago, the difference between middle class and lower class was that the middle class had shoes and the lower class did not. Today, the difference is usually the difference between a Cadillac and a Chevy.  The Chevy may not be quite as nice, but basically it provides the same services.

Overall, the typical American defined as poor by the government has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a clothes washer and dryer, and a microwave. He has two color televisions, cable or satellite TV reception, a VCR or DVD player, and a stereo. He is able to obtain medical care. His home is in good repair and is not overcrowded. By his own report, his family is not hungry and he had sufficient funds in the past year to meet his family’s essential needs. While this individual’s life is not opulent, it is also far from the popular images of dire poverty conveyed by Democratic Socialists.

It’s also fair to note that many of you are reading these words on a device that grants you access to the sum of human knowledge.  I want you to read that sentence again.  Now I want you absorb just how truly extraordinary this is.

Do you want to talk about relative peace?  There is no comparison.  Just a perfunctory examination of war casualties from past and contemporary conflicts should convince you.  If not, check out this report.

Think things are going to hell overseas?  No.  The number of African AIDS cases is dropping like a brick. All this while more and more of the continent hooks up to running water and electricity.

More and more, where you live has little to do with the quality of life you can expect.  Human Progress cites in an article:

“In 15th century England, 80 per cent of private expenditure went on food. Of that amount, 20 per cent was spent on bread alone.  By comparison, by 2013 only 10 per cent of private expenditure in the United States was spent on food, a figure which is itself inflated by the amount Americans spend in restaurants.

In summation:  A century ago, poor people were toiling in fields with backbreaking work, eating the same gruel every day with no expectation of any improvement tomorrow.  Today, they are sitting on toilets with indoor plumbing in a climate-controlled environmental while scrolling through cat videos with full bellies.

No, things are not perfect.  They never will be this side of heaven.  There is always something to improve and we should always seek to do so.  But at some point you *must* appreciate what has been done and determine that the same strategies that were needed in previous circumstances would NOT produce the same results today.

The Urban Millennial’s view of a modern-day Dystopian Hell as an excuse to implement fundamental changes in the relationship between the Individual and the Collective simply doesn’t withstand even the slightest bit of scrutiny.

Of course, their version of “Socialism” is mostly-white, well-educated, upper-middle young people trying to make up for a lifetime of thinking primarily about themselves and their own well-being.  And they (predictably) would achieve it in the most cowardly way possible…by forcing other people to be altruistic under threat of government coercion.

My lawn.  Get off of it.

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