Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Message for those Graduating from High Schools, Trade Schools, Community Colleges, Colleges and Graduate Schools ... The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It's graduation season. Congratulations to all those who have hung in there for many years and are now about to receive their college and graduate school degrees.  Congratulations as well to trade school graduates, community college graduates and high school graduates as well.

And if you're lucky enough to be an American, you're lucky enough. The world awaits you and you're free to make your own road as an adult. That said, you'll encounter plenty of potholes along the way, and it's important that you avoid the avoidable ones, not get discouraged and keep moving forward.

As Winston Churchill said in part to the graduating class of England's Harrow School in 1941, "Never give in, Never give in. Never, never, never, never . . . ."

Yesterday we quoted from a new book about the problems we oldsters are bequeathing to the young with respect to unfunded pension and Social Security obligations.

Today we'll look at what the authors have to say to this year's graduating classes in Dear Class of 2015, You're in Big Trouble:

"Over the next few weeks 3.5 million of you will graduate and try to find jobs. We’re sorry to tell you that achieving success will be more difficult than it was for your parents or grandparents. Not because you’re less intelligent, or lazier or less deserving of realizing the American dream. The primary reason why today’s graduates face a daunting future: Government is making life more difficult for you.

The youth unemployment rate for those between ages 20 and 24 is 9.6%, compared with 4.5% for those 25 and over. But America’s double-cross doesn’t start when you receive your diploma. It has been going on since elementary school, with too many American children badly educated at schools where ill-qualified teachers are protected by unions.

As a result, the U.S. has steadily dropped in international education rankings—to an estimated 27th in mathematics in 2012 among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, down from 23rd in 2003. For those of you who majored in education, guess what? When bad teachers can’t be fired, there are fewer job openings for you.

Harvard economist Raj Chetty has estimated that replacing a teacher in the bottom 5% of skills with a teacher of average quality results in an extra $9,000 in lifetime income per student. Replacing the bottom 5% of the nation’s 3.3 million public-school teachers would have collectively increased the lifetime income of 2015 graduates by $31 billion.

Seventy percent of you are graduating with student-loan debt, and your average debt is $27,000, according to the New York Federal Reserve. It is the current system of federal student aid that is raising your college tuition, and your debt will burden you for years after you graduate.

It gets worse. After an inferior education and taking on thousands of dollars in debt, you will find that state occupational-licensing requirements will stop many of you from starting a business. These rules are said to protect public safety, but instead they protect established businesses and hurt you....

Let’s say you do eventually find work. Then you will start paying taxes, mostly to subsidize government programs that increasingly benefit middle-aged and older Americans, many of whom have jobs and assets. The average household headed by an adult 65 or older has nearly 50 times the wealth of the average household headed by an adult younger than 35. In 1984, when the Census Bureau started compiling these statistics, the ratio was 10 to 1.

Yet programs to benefit older Americans, like Social Security and Medicare, increasingly are eating up the budget of a federal government that is $18 trillion in debt. Those two programs account for more than four dollars out of every 10 in the federal budget.

Oh, and many of you will pay taxes to help out state governments that are among those facing a collective $5 trillion in unfunded liabilities, mostly from unfunded promises made to government retirees.

You’ll even be expected to pay for the health care of older Americans with your higher health-care premiums under the Affordable Care Act, just so older people get to pay less. So considerate of you.

President Obama isn’t to blame for all of this (except for the higher health-care premiums and the vanishing of unpaid internships). Most of these destructive policies began long before the current administration. Protecting the entrenched interests of the old at the expense of the young is getting to be a U.S. tradition.

Ms. Furchtgott-Roth is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, where Mr. Meyer is a fellow. Their book, “Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America’s Young,” is out this week from Encounter Books."

Summing Up

Times are tough. They always are. But times are good. They always are.

So is the glass half empty of half full? It's both.

Soon after I entered high school in 1957, the Russians and Sputnik grabbed the headlines and the race to space began.

In the following twenty years, lots of "stuff," both good and bad, happened. President John F. Kennedy was elected and assassinated, the Cold War raged on, nearby Cuba became a satellite of Russia, Martin Luther King rose to prominence and was assassinated, Robert .F Kennedy did the same, Civil Rights legislation was passed, the Vietnam War grabbed the attention of the world, and especially the young potential volunteers and draftees, Richard Nixon ran for President and lost , then ran and won, then was impeached and resigned the presidency in disgrace, John Glenn walked on the moon, OPEC quadrupled the price of oil, we had double digit unemployment, interest and inflation rates, wage and price controls, 55 MPH speed limits, and my Dad, sister-in-law and father-in-law all died too young. And too many to mention other noteworthy events also occurred.

Meanwhile, and despite the odds, I managed to graduate from high school, college and law school, get married, secure a good job, start a family, begin saving and learn to minimize borrowing.

The point of all this is that "Stuff Happens" to us throughout life. Some of the stuff we can control and some we can't. Recognizing the difference between that which we can control and that which is uncontrollable is critical to our individual health, success and well being.

As Americans we are free to pursue our dreams and opportunities as we so choose. What we make of them is largely up to us --- each of us. To me that's fair enough.

Even though equal opportunity is never really equal, it's 'equal enough' for me. I wish the same for you, fellow graduates.

That's my take.

Thanks. Bob.

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