Backwards through Time

For some reason, I typically read news magazines backwards.  I’m not one, usually, to defend mainstream rags, but there is still something nice about sitting down with a magazine and perusing it from begging to end—or in my case from end to beginning (while on the exercise bike).  Here is a recent passage through Time.

Outrageous: Former (thankfully!) Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said, regarding the Citizens United case, “If followed out to its logical conclusion, that would have provided First Amendement protection to the Watergate burglers.”  Really? Allowing people to spend their money on mass communication with the public (otherwise known as Freedom of the Press) is comparable to protecting burglers?  Just because both might be politically motivated?  Stevens should join with retired Justice O’Connor to form a book group where they can read all the good stuff they were too busy to read when working.  The could start with, say, the US Constitution.

Hilarious.  In my view, Joel Stein’s “Awesome Column” is, by itself, worth the subscription to Time.  He usually isn’t all that political, but he can be insightful in addition to being the funniest guy in the commentary business. A couple of snippets:

So I guess it is up to me to point out that all this anger about income inequality is misplaced because, unlike any other time in history, these days the 1% don’t live that differently than the middle class.  Never before has $10 wine tased so much like $1,000 bottles…A $15,000 car breaks down as rarely as one that costs $250,000 and has far more cupholders.  The middle class and the rich watch the same stuff on TV and in movie theaters, have equal access to Wikipedia and pay the same college graduates to do nothing but make us complicated coffee drinks.  It is so difficult for the 1% to live differently that they have to collect art.  Collecting art is so boring, there aren’t any reality shows about it…

…I do not believe that the worldwide recession was caused by financial derivatives created by the 1% who tricked the 99%.  I blieve it was created by the great wide middle class who took out loans to live out the techno-bling dream we deified in rap songs and reality TV.  Credit-card debt went up 75% from 1997 to 2007.  We’re now a nation of really poor people with a lot of frequent-flier miles.

Troubling.  An informative article discusses how the number of girls who are starting puberty at early ages—8,7, even 6–continues to increase.  This is a complex, multi-causal, poorly-understood phenomenon [self-promoting advertisement: I’m guest editing a special issue of Economics and Human Biology focused on obesity and the family; watch for it next year].  But it is pretty clear that childhood obesity (or the factors leading to obesity) plays some role.  Adiposity kick-starts puberty for girls but, I didn’t realize, delays it for boys.  Early puberty can have serious physiological and psychological problems that can be permanent.  Michelle Obama has made childhood obesity her signature cause.  Some people like to criticize her for this effort (really, for having the last name Obama). I’d just like to say the following to those critics: Shut Up!

Pathetic:  An article on student debt talks about how so many young college grads (especially those without jobs) are having a hard time meeting their debt payments.  The OWS crowd’s drive to forgive student debts is probably a motivation for this article right now.  The article highlights, among others, a Lyndsey P., who racked up $169,934 in debt studying documentary film-making at NYU.  Now, the world economy can support approximately 6 documentary film makers.  The others need an independent source of income, which no one–not her guidance counselors, her parents, or especially the faculty of NYU— apparently bothered to tell young Lyndsey.  My guess is that a sizable share of the OWS movement is made up of unemployed graduates of the NYU film school.

[And, in case you’re wondering, I’d rather save my money so my own kids can study the arts rather than paying off Lyndsey’s debt.]

2 thoughts on “Backwards through Time

  1. On “pathetic”: I appreciate the predicament in which Lyndsey P., and so many others like her, find themselves. They were sold a bill of goods about the moral necessity of going to college, about the value of whatever it is they would do there, about the opportunities to which it would lead. All the people who have told them, and who continue to tell them, that nonsense should be ashamed, and they should stop saying such things now to avoid more bad consequences in the future.

    On the other hand, Lyndsey P. is, I presume, an adult. She was probably an adult when she began taking out all those loans, and she was an adult during the entire period during which she continued to take out loans. She could have spent the whole three minutes it would have taken to look around and discover what kind of demand there is in the world for documentary film makers. She could then have spent the further ninety seconds it would have taken to estimate the likely return on her $170k assumption of debt. She is probably smart; this elementary reasoning is not beyond her.

    She is certainly in a pickle. But that pickle is the one she is actually in—meaning, no one “forgiving” her that debt will change the fact that she has allocated $170k in the way she has, and that $170k now cannot go to other places. She, and all those in similar situations, will have to face the music sooner or later. Given the general fiscal situation this country is in now, I would say it should be sooner. Like now.

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