Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year to You! On to 2016!

Fire allows us to be forged into stronger (and shinier!) instruments / Hans Splinter, CC BY-ND 2.0

A lot (I mean, A LOT) of my friends seem to be *really* mad at 2015. And I've definitely given a thumbs up to more than a few of the "Goodbye, and good riddance, 2015, ya bastard!" posts that have come across my Facebook feed the last few days.
I've been through some major life changes this year. And sure, the end of a five-year relationship, the dissolution of my family unit, and renting out part of my ex's house while I shake the trees seeking gainful employment are "not my favorite." Coming in after several extremely, mind-bogglingly, difficult years – to put it mildly – these developments were not initially welcome.
But 2015 has had some magical moments, too. I’ve continued rediscovering my voice and my passion for writing, which has been extremely rewarding. The wonder of modern medicine (and ACA – thanks, Obama!) have helped thoroughly tame a couple of chronic medical conditions that have bedeviled me for most of my life. 2015 has been a year of rebuilding my sense of competence and my self-confidence. At this exact moment in time, I feel so much better – and more at peace – than I have in years, perhaps ever.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Big Short "Market Genius" - We're Heading Toward Another Crisis

Starting young / Source: _Dinkel_, CC BY 2.0 

New York magazine recently posted an interesting interview with Michael Burry, the "market genius" depicted in The Big Short.  For folks concerned about the current state of our economy, it's a quick read and well worth it.

I don't agree with some of Burry's comments, but it's all worth considering.  What I *do* share is a concern that we in industrialized nations cannot seem to get away from our drive to produce "economic growth" at any price.  This usually results in the accumulation of obscene amounts of debt - in the public AND private sectors - until the whole system becomes completely unsustainable.  The related belief that large profits are the birthright of everyone with "enough smarts" to identify and exploit economic opportunities results in the bidding up of residential properties sales and/or rental prices until prices are beyond reach of the vast majority even WITH the aid of consumer debt (at which point, the bubble pops), downward pressure on wages and benefits paid to workers (and eroding wages/hours) coupled with increased workloads ...

We Need to Get Past Simplistic Higher Ed Policy Debates

Contemplating repaying those student loans / Francisco Osorio, CC BY 2.0 

A friend passed along this great, detailed New York Times op-ed by law prof Paul Campos, where he critically examines the prevailing conventional wisdom that skyrocketing higher ed tuition (and student loan debt) is due to eroding state support for higher education. If you, like me, are interested in these issues and missed this back in April, give it a read.

Higher education policy is one of those areas where public - and legislative - debate often boils down to painfully simplistic talking points that completely obscure the *real* sources of our problems with achieving efficient allocation of tax dollars, optimized investment in our people (or our workforce, for those who think talking about "people" is too warm and fuzzy), etc.  The old polarized arguments - We need to support education! vs. Grads make a lot of money & should pay for their own degrees! - don't cut it.

I've been suspicious of the claim that the skyrocketing tuition/fees and increasing student loan burdens are due - or even mostly due - to dwindling state support.  My suspicion is compouded by the reality that we've seen similar inflation in the private schools, who've long seemed to be in a bidding war to prove how "prestigious" they are through their pricing ... and we've seen public graduate and professional programs follow suit.