Better Than Drugs

I’ve never taken ecstasy in my life (that’s the Lord’s truth, Ma). Just about anyone who has will tell you it’s the best feeling in the world. Don’t listen, kids. I’m not willing to test their theory mainly because I totally reject the idea of chemical recreational drugs, especially ones that melt my brain. But also because you can reach a balance of serotonin and endorphins that will leave you wanting for nothing more. Strictly. Legs. Sunday. Even being self employed, I get a bit of the end of the weekend blues that set in between 3 and 5pm on Sunday. Gym time. For an hour to an hour and a half I lift as much as my scrawny legs will let me. I try to minimize my break time so that it’s a cardio challenge also. After that, it’s sauna time for a deep stretch (deep for me anyway). But the comfort doesn’t really peak until right after I get out of the shower. Bonisimo. The rest of my evening is spent, eating a gigantic meal of comfort foods, lying on my parent’s couch watching my weekly dose of tube, and going to church if I haven’t already. That’s my zen. Alcohol, caffeine, or (legal) Ritalin never make me feel as good. I love snack attacking chicken finger subs, White Castle sliders, double fudge Keebler Elf cookies, Coca-Cola, and anything bathed in butter and cheese. Some times all at once. But it never makes me feel as good as when I eat grilled chicken with broccoli and cauliflower and zucchini and green beans and drink a ton of water. An hour of martial arts or a dozen hill sprints with calisthenics will make you feel better about life. I promise. If you’re like me, your mind is a BQE traffic jam most of the day. Physically exhaust yourself through exercise, eat raw vegetables, get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals, and call me in the morning. It is my non-expert, personal opinion that physical health is paramount for emotional well-being and mental clarity. What do you do when you feel like crap? What wellness method makes you feel better than ever?

National Debt: Diet AND Exercise, Not Diet OR Exercise

Even among third party candidates, I’ve never found anyone who completely lines up with my values. The national debt is around $16 trillion. The wick is already lit on that bomb. One party says, “cut taxes and cut spending”. The other party says,  “raise taxes on only the rich, and spend away”. Seth and Amy could do an entire Really?! segment about it on Weekend Update. When you are 16 trillion dollars in debt, a trillion is a thousand billion for everyone as bad at math as I am, you  do not raise taxes OR cut spending. You raise taxes AND you cut spending. As popular of a position as it may be among politicians pandering to the masses, only raising taxes on the wealthy. and only cutting defense spending ain’t gonna cut it. We have to cut spending in medicare, medicaid, social security, and safety net programs like unemployment. My immunity challenge reward is reserved for education. I would like to protect and raise infrastructure spending too, but I only get one. We also have to raise taxes on almost every income bracket. It’s my opinion that most people would support a progressive tax rate if it wasn’t an excuse to rob people. Being wealthy isn’t a crime. It can be a good thing. So if we are going to make rich people pay a higher tax rate it should at least go toward paying for only the top priorities. I HATE the idea of paying higher taxes and getting less. I’ll say that again to be clear, I HATE the idea of higher taxes. I’m not trying to go Walter Mondale on anybody. But we have to balance the books. When we’re back in the black again, THEN we can argue about lowering taxes OR raising spending. Gosh, that  would be a nice luxury to have. You’re probably nodding your head, agreeing with me by this point in the post. You might even wonder “yeah, why isn’t there a candidate that proposes cutting spending and raising taxes? Because you wouldn’t vote for her. No candidate could ever be elected by saying, “Vote for me. Get less. Pay more,” Too bad, really. Paying for interest on our debt already accounts for 6% of our national budget. When that goes up, something will have to go. And they’ll be bringing in all kinds of ways to pay for it. Now or later, pain’s a comin’. It’ll hurt less if we do it on our terms.  Why not do it now?

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=1258

The Indentured Servitude of Student Loan Debt: Serve Your Sentence

Someone at an Occupy rally once told me, “student loans are a form of slavery.” I won’t go into how that is horribly wrong on so many levels. But in the literal sense, I will argue that student loan debt is a form of indentured servitude. It’s a horrible thing isn’t it? You’re told your whole life that you have to go to college. Going to college will mean that you will make more money so that you can live out your dreams. A college education will lead you to the money you need to buy a house, some toys, pay for a marriage, and support children. You were conned. Why should you have to pay for a lie? You were 18 years old. Beyond that, you’re overwhelmed. You can’t pursue any other dreams because of this debt. You are indentured. What should you do? Serve your sentence. I was conned too. I paid tens of thousands of dollars for an education that set me behind. I paid my debt (on point with the national average at the time) in three years. I worked as hard as I could at a job that I hated. I lived with my parents. This is not a “woe is me” comment. I am telling you this because it is the first of three reasons why government relief of student loans is immoral and selfish. I served my sentence. I will not serve anyone else’s. The second is because our country is 16 trillion dollars in debt. No different from the graduate who is paralyzed by his debt, our country will soon feel the same suffocation. Especially because the fundamental problem has not been corrected. It is a quadrupedal bypass with a high trans fat diet,  a prohibition from exercise, and all the tasty cigarettes we can smoke, prescribed for recovery. The third is because, despite and in spite of this, we do need to invest MORE in  education. That education is in skilled trades, engineering, language, renewable energy, medicine, technology, and environmental science. We cannot add to the bill by retroactively covering debt for useless education. It is paying twice. We MUST spend money on education, but that of the future and not of the past. The student loan crisis is a generational test. Please, let us pass this one.

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/student-loan-ranger/2012/03/21/learn-what-the-student-loan-forgiveness-act-could-mean-for-you

Studying For the Wrong Test

A bachelor’s degree in the social sciences is a relic of the late industrial age. There were few learned scholars. Books and manuals were scarce. There was little to no way of broadcasting to and sharing that information with the rest of the world. A college degree may have been the only way to preserve certain knowledge in that era. It is not an investment, but a liability in the digital age. It is a liability because the likelihood of employment is decreasing, while the cost of a college education is increasing. To pay for a four year college education in French history in 2012 is like paying for a boat to take you from New York to London to deliver a hand written message. You could exceed bachelor level knowledge in most social sciences or humanities through online videos, digital archives, and Skype interviews with experts from around the world; all free to little cost. Are we losing nuance, rigor, and perhaps even a bit of thoughtfulness? A little. But mostly we’re just reducing time and cost. Before my thoughts are misrepresented, let me be painfully clear. Knowledge of French history (just an example, not picking on anyone) has an intangible value. The cost of a bachelor of arts has a much more tangible price. Therefore, a bachelor’s degree in that or any similar field is ineffectual. Knowledge of current medicine, engineering, and technology have a tangible value (as well as an intangible one), partly because its cost can be justified by employment and income. The world has changed. The speed at which it is still changing is ever increasing. The new economy favors precise and technical knowledge. There is an increasing pool of available jobs in this country that employers cannot fill because there are not enough Americans with the matching skills to apply. These are well paying jobs. Most of them are high-skilled manufacturing or trade jobs, but not all.  A former client of mine had to use his advertising budget for hiring because he said “there are more accounting jobs available than there are qualified accountants”. These are the fields on which we have to focus our efforts and resources. We are economically crippling ourselves otherwise. More on that in the next post.

Are you a skilled tradesman? Please share your thoughts.

http://www.bizjournals.com/birmingham/print-edition/2012/06/22/but-manufacturers-cant-find-enough.html

Kids: It’s Okay Not to Go to College

If you’re number one reason for going to college is not for better employment thereafter, don’t go. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly half of students say the main purpose of college is to teach work related skills (count me in that camp) . Just under 40%  say it is to help the student grow personally and intellectually. Fiat me this: most of those people believe that by growing personally and intellectually, they have a better chance of  being employed, and earning a higher income. This assumption is being exposed by the broader weak economy. In a bubble era of inflating home prices, surging public spending, untenable tax cuts, and the booming stock market they all supported, a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts MIGHT have been an adequate point of differentiation. It never will be again. One of Paul Harrington and Neeta Fogg’s characteristics of malemployment is when a person has more education than his or her position requires. More than a third of people with humanities and liberal arts degrees are malemployed. Do not expect this to improve more than temporarily if at all. The last four years have made employers experts in paying only for people that they perceive as directly influencing their top or bottom line. This is why you hear about major corporations shedding thousands of jobs, while recording year to year profits. They have figured out how to be profitable with less people. Thus a liberal arts degree competing for lower paying jobs is less valuable than when competing for higher paying ones. Go to college only to get a job. Growing personally and intellectually is my continuing dream. I hope it’s everyone’s. There are simply better ways to do it than to attend a four year college. Most of them are considerably less expensive. You can volunteer on an organic farm in exchange for room and board, (http://www.wwoof.org/), you can truly develop your sociological or anthropological insight (http://www.volunteersouthamerica.net/), or you can still work at the same job you might have if you had paid for four years of tuition. You can do any or all of these while studying for your own betterment online (http://www.loc.gov/library/libarch-digital.html). Those are a few ideas out of thousands that will leave you with less debt, (none if you do it correctly), real experience, and consequently more marketable skills.

Tell me in the comments section, what would you have done to better yourself if you hadn’t gone to college?

http://www.drexel.edu/provost/clmp/docs/CLMP_RisingMal-EmploymentandtheGreatRecession.pdf

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/05/15/is-college-worth-it/