Friday, February 20, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: It's (Still) the Economy, Stupid

I'm running a little late today, so let's get straight to it.

The average balance for each borrower has grown by 74 percent in the last decade, mushrooming from $15,000 per person in 2004 to $27,000 in 2014…
[T]hings are not looking up for a growing slice of borrowers who can't keep parting with the chunk of money needed to make monthly payments toward their debt. The share of loans that were delinquent -- having payments at least 90 days overdue -- rose to 11.3 percent in the last three months of 2014, up from 11.1 percent the previous quarter.  

This is my number one concern for my kids.  We can help them through school to a certain extent, but there’s no way that we could afford to put them through elite private colleges for four years.  At the same time, it’s an incredibly competitive world out there; even very smart people are struggling to compete in this economy, and it’s not going to get better anytime soon.  
The people I know who’re struggling with school debt now are trapped in semi-permanent adolescence, working endless to pay off debts that they’ve already accumulated without being even close to getting houses of their own and beginning to accumulate real assets.  That’s a  problem that is very likely to have serious second-order effects in the not-too-distant future.
In a provocative new book, the critic and historian Steve Fraser tries to explain why mass protest on the left has become so scarce in what he aptly calls The Age of Acquiescence.  For Fraser, the main culprits are not such usual suspects as right-wing politicians and the market power of global corporations but public admiration for workaholic entrepreneurs whose self-serving definition of freedom legitimizes their reign.
Fraser blames the pervasive image of leading businessmen as “populist heroes” for quelling mass outrage about how corporations rule both workplaces and politics. It’s difficult to malign a mogul like Steve Jobs, a wonky “striver from the middling classes” who invented such lovely, addictive gadgets. And a female CEO like Meg Whitman at eBay or a black American CEO like Stan O’Neal at Merrill Lynch seems to prove that capitalism can be a mighty force for social change.
In that same vein, Fraser describes how freedom, which bygone progressive movements and liberal icons like Franklin Roosevelt defined as a collective goal (“freedom from want,” “freedom from fear,” etc.), has now become synonymous with the “free market” in which every man and woman supposedly has the same chance to rise or go under.
People are taking to the streets.  Did we already forget about Ferguson?  Occupy New York?  Clive Bundy’s ranch?  A lot of people are ready to take some pretty drastic action, but although I’d argue that the roots are economic, many of the expressions come out as social justice.
Don’t get me wrong: I liked this article, and I think I’d probably like the book it’s reviewing, but the idea that people are just sitting on their asses is incorrect.  The white middle class is sitting on its ass, but the rest of America is trying to get organized, both at the top and the bottom.

Friday Hair Metal: Love Me Like You Do
Not hair metal.  I know.  Sally requested this one.

If Bush's goal is to present himself as his "own man," that list of advisers undermines the point somewhat: 19 of the 21 people on it worked in the administrations of his father or brother. We've identified the roles each played in the past three Republican administrations, divvying them up as needed in the following Venn diagram.
I’m not going to republish the diagram because of copyright concerns, but by all means, click through and check it out.  Vetting the advisors is a lot like vetting the policy, and we’re living in a moment where the policy needs some vetting.  I have very little heartburn with this list, but I cannot fucking believe that Paul Wolfowitz is on it.  From what I’ve seen online, Wolfowitz’s presence has scared the living crap out of the Washington press corps, who’ve gone from supporting Bush in a bland “they say he’s a lot like his father” sort of way to, “Holy shit!  This is the second coming of W!”  If we start seeing a shitload more negative press on Bush’s candidacy, you’ll know I’m right.
Believe it or not, I think this may actually cost Bush the election.  America will not under any circumstances vote to go back to the “W” years.  I don’t think that electing Jeb Bush is necessarily endorsing “W”, and until yesterday, I think my view on this was the predominant one.  However, Bush and Clinton are not particularly far apart on most issues, and speaking personally, I’d rather vote for her than for another administration involving a crop of self-deluding neocons.  If all else fails, I’m in favor of truth and reality.  The Washington establishment would like to agree with me, I think, which is why this is such a big issue.  Since Jeb Bush is trying to run a centrist campaign in a very conservative party, he really needs the support of the Washington establishment.  It’s hard to believe that a single advisor could cost him that, but people really hate Wolfowitz.  His counsel led this country down a dark and ill-considered road.

House of Cards

You know you love it.
February 27th is almost here!

That's all I've got.  Have a good weekend.

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