Student Loan Forgiveness? Where’s MY Check!

The Biden administration is floating the idea of forgiving up to $50K of student loan debt per individual. Not surprisingly, this news did not bring hoorays for the unprecedented economic and entrepreneurial boost this would provide to our struggling economy, rather it brought a deluge of “Where’s my check?!?” demands from anyone who doesn’t currently have a student loan.

The “Where’s my check!” crowd are filled with Horatio Alger tales of Herculean sacrifice and even more abundant lessons on thrift. If only everyone were more like they. With each comment comes a demand that others take the same road, make the same choices, live the same life. From none come the slightest recognition that each has benefitted from our “socialist” state and that, perhaps, they might think of the state benefitting others not just themselves?

Privilege is when you think something isn’t a problem just because it’s not a problem for you. Similarly, good economic policy is not just about what benefits you, it’s about the greater good for our country, economy, and our society.

Consider the following:

  • My neighbor deducts $6,000 per year off his income for his three children. I don’t have any children. Where’s my check?
  • My brother deducts $38,000 each year for mortgage interest on his two homes. I rent. Where’s MY check?
  • My marginally-employed brother-in-law just got a $600 stimulus check. I’ve been working two-jobs all year. Where’s my check?
  • My property taxes fund public schools and playgrounds. I don’t have children. Where’s my check?
  • My neighbor just picked up free groceries from a local food bank. I just paid retail for all my groceries at Kroger. Where’s my check?
  • My state taxes subsidize public universities. I went to a private school in another state. Where’s my check?
  • My brother died of cancer at 54, and never collected social security. Where’s his check?
  • I’m a teacher; my husband is a nurse. My sister manages a hedge fund. She makes a lot more money than we do even though we are essential workers. Where’s OUR check?
  • My co-worker took a leave of absence to attend to his sick mother. My mom died in a car accident? Where’s my check?
  • I always wear a mask. My co-worker refuses to mask up. She just got Covid and was hospitalized. Where’s MY check?
  • My sister deducted almost $20K in child care expenses last year. I’m a stay-at-home mom. Where’s my check?
  • My city just opened a recreation center with a pool. I don’t swim. Where’s my check?
  • My retired neighbor just got a free a cell phone and a discount on his utilities. I work full-time and pay full-price for all of my utilities. Where’s my check?
  • I’ve never called the cops or fire department. Where’s my check?
  • My brother just got into college. I don’t want to go to college. Where’s my check?

Too often we view education as a “thing” that you “get” and it “belongs” to an individual, like a car, or a necklace. But unlike a vehicle, or a piece of jewelry, an education is not an item of private property – it is something that is shared – whether through work, school, or raising children – and, it is something that benefits everyone. From the cell phone in your hands, to that vaccine going into your arm, to the sneakers on your feet, all of these things were created, maintained, and improved by individuals who borrowed money, worked hard, and made sacrifices to EARN an education. It wasn’t “given” to them. And, in many cases, these educated people commit themselves to a lifetime of learning so that they can continue to contribute to their communities and professions.

From the cell phone in your hands, to the vaccine going into your arm, to the sneakers on your feet – even if you never went to college, you directly benefit from those who did.

Wealth is not a zero-sum game; wealth is created by individuals whose hard work and innovation bring the tide that raises all boats. While an educated and examined life is important to personal well-bring, it is the work that college-educated individuals do in the decades after college that has resulted in our unprecedented prosperity, and a plethora of social benefits too numerous to count. Even if you never went to college, your life, your family, and your well-being is improved by those who did. This is no different than a college graduate benefitting from those who chose jobs and professions that offered a different path. We all need each other.

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This country doesn’t have a money problem, we have a priority problem. And, for those of you who contend that we really DO have the money, take a look at graph below, and then let me know if you have any suggestions.

Copyright 2021 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

The Winter of our Discontent

To most of the world, success is never bad. When Hitler moved unchecked and triumphant, many honorable men sought and found virtues in him. And Mussolini made the trains run on time, and Vichy collaborated for the good of France, and whatever else Stalin was, he was strong.

Strength and success – they are above morality, above criticism. It seems then, that it is not what you do, but how you do it and what you call it.

Is there a check in men, deep in them, that stops or punishes? There doesn’t seem to be. The only punishment is for failure.

In effect no crime is committed unless a criminal is caught ~~ some men get hurt, some even destroyed, but this in no way deters the movement.

John Steinbeck, The Winter of our Discontent, 1961

11 Things that Are Better Because of Covid

We are changed by every failure, set-back, disaster, or crisis we encounter. Covid is the most profound of events because it has affected each of us personally, and our communities and nations globally.  No one has escaped. No one is immune.

As vaccines are distributed and the smoke begins to clear, we need to ask, “What is the gift?”  Here’s 11 of ‘em…

~ 1 ~ Our Neighbors

I’ve met more of my neighbors in the past eight months than I have in the past eight years. People are home. They have time to chat.  The want to chat…! Pre-Covid, I would be socializing with my co-workers at after-work happy hours, but that’s not going to happen when you’re on Zoom. 

There’s little doubt we will see our social lives shift from work-centric to community centric. Maybe that’s why we’re all moving someplace else….

~ 2 ~ Our Technical Prowess

We’re using our laptops, pads, mobile and Bluetooth devices more effectively, and for things we never did before.  This is important because technology doesn’t improve without user feedback.

User feedback allows technologists to improve software quickly and more meaningfully.  Be prepared for a big leap forward in our quality of connectedness.

The great thing about technology is that the more people use it, the better it gets.

~ 3 ~ Our Cooking

Tearing up your own lettuce at .89 cents a bunch isn’t as burdensome as once thought. Kids are cooking real meals, planning menus, using fractions, and everyone is wondering why we weren’t doing this before.

Don’t get me wrong: I love eating in a restaurant and having people bring me stuff. But, I also realize that eating out used a lot of my disposable income that probably could have been spent on investment, not, literally, consumption.

~ 4 ~ Our Savings

Not eating out, not commuting, no coffee snacks, dry cleaning, happy hour(s), multiple vehicles, soccer fees, miscellaneous mall trips….Perhaps Wall Street is doing so well because there’s not much else to buy?

For those who have escaped lay-offs and can work virtually, the cost of going back and forth to an office is abundantly clear. And, after a year of gitn’ er done from home, it’s doubtful anyone is going to cough up a big chunk of his/her net income just to commute into an office again every day.

~ 5 ~ Our Employers

Employers now realize they actually need their employees! They’ve become obnoxiously pro-family – almost to the point of being anti-single — and many (sheepishly) admit that their 1950’s insistence that everyone be on-site every day was more about tradition (and control), not so much about collaboration and teamwork.

The more people work virtually, the better they will get at it. 

Virtual work has its advantages (and challenges), and not everyone is going to survive (or thrive), in a cyber office. But, make no mistake, those without the self-discipline to meet deadlines and the responsibilities of a virtual team and managers who cannot manage virtual teams or projects will soon find themselves on the shelf (next to the thermal Fax machine).

~ 6 ~ Our Weight

At the beginning of this pandemic, I saw a big increase in people on the hiking trails and local jogging routes.  Many were clearly new to exercise.  A few months in, some potatoes have returned to their couches, but not all. 

Exercise isn’t about motivation; it’s about habits. And bravo to those who have changed theirs to reflect a commitment to their health.

~ 7 ~ Our Compassion

Racial inequities, disconsolate healthcare workers, grieving families, food lines that stretch for miles.  Pain has a unique way of stripping away all the bullshit and exposing the true essence of humanity.

Covid has been an accelerant of social change.  With sickness and death all around, we’ve been forced to see parts of ourselves and our lives, and others, in a way we never did before.  We’re all better for it.

~ 8 ~ Our Supply Chain

While military logistics plays a huge role in vaccination efforts, companies like Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, CVS – millions of restaurants, processors, growers and the myriad of private delivery services pivoted in a way that could never have been accomplished by a government bureaucracy.

Urban warehousing, drones, and delivery-o’-everything will improve to provide for our just-in-time toilet paper needs.

~ 9 ~ The News

At first, everyone was grappling with how to produce a show using just video.  But, they figured it out, and it has a lot of advantages.

Because there’s no need for the guest to physically be there, we’re able to hear voices, insights, and opinions that probably would not have made it to the “lame” stream media. Audio and video quality that would have been unacceptable 12 months ago isn’t even questioned now.

More of us are actively seeking unfiltered information. We want to hear exactly what was said, not some politically spun version of alternative facts.  That doesn’t mean anyone will change her/his mind, but it’s good to know that real information is out there, and lots of bona fide journalists are, too.

~ 10 ~ Our Homes

If you drive for a living, and you would need a different vehicle than you would for occasion use.  The same is true for the home office.  A small bedroom was fine for the random WFH day or to check email on Sunday.  Eight-to-nine-hours-five-day-a-week-and-weekends.  Now, you’re under house arrest. 

The connected home, IoT, learning centers and the need for multiple home offices will force a change in residential architecture. The need for both functional and attractive family “business” centers has just begun.

~ 11 ~ Our Government Services

Yeah, I said it.  Bravado and bluster are part of America’s global bad rep’ (We’re #1!), But, when people are sick, dying, afraid, and the economy is in shambles, you begin to recognize that integrity, hard work, and statesmanship is the social compact we really entered into.  We pay taxes for leadership, macro- planning, infrastructure, and services that cannot be provided by the private sector. I’m happy that Amazon can deliver my socks.  I think I still want the CDC or NIH to be in the public health business. 

Finally, I think this pandemic has ended the, “Teachers don’t work very hard,” fantasy.

This has been a difficult year for everyone – no one has escaped loneliness, sadness, and at times, the overwhelming feeling of hopelessness.  Perhaps a moment to reflect on the good that has come from this can help ease these pains. We will never return to where we were, but now that we can see where we’re going, it looks to be pretty okay….

Happy Holidays!

Copyright 2020 Pierce/Wharton Research, LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this post shall be reproduced without permission.

How Would YOU Caption This?

This cartoon and it’s original caption, “Describe what you can bring to this company,” has gone viral on Twitter and FB. I’ve collected a few hilarious – and a few very pointed – responses off the various feeds, and I would like to hear….

How would you caption this?

~Well, you are the most qualified, but I’m not sure I want to get a beer with you.

~I don’t disagree with your recommendations, but you need to tone down your presentation. You don’t want to sound bitter.

~We are ready to begin the inquiry into the sexual harassment complaint you filed.

~If you work really, really hard and prove yourself, we might consider hiring you full time.

~I’m not sure that the team will respond to your management style.

~The most important thing is we hire someone who reflects our culture and values.

~I’ll have the turkey wrap, and make sure there’s enough cookies and water for the afternoon.

“~~my life debating Republicans in committee each week.” – AOC

~I’m not sure you have the leadership skills for this job.

~We’re looking for a team player. Are you a team player?

~If all you bring is your gender and skin color, then you aren’t worth very much.”

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