Let Them Eat – Student Debt!

This past Friday I like many others were waiting for my comedic coffee break to be broadcast over the financial media outlets. When the set up was told I grinned in amusement and expectation. When the punchline was delivered I almost fell off my chair as I buckled in uncontrollable laughter. That punchline? The unemployment rate now stands at 5.8% Now that’s comedy!

Just when I felt my sides couldn’t take any more unbeknownst to me the preceding line of comedic humor unleashed by the so-called “smart crowd” was one line of ridiculous humor laced drivel after another.

What made this whole laugh-fest turn from outright humor to a living tragedy is that many of the people discussing these “facts” are both in positions of power, or worse, positions of teaching. All I could envision as I listened was George Carlin looking down saying, “Man I need to get back there. What material! Who’s in charge here I need a cab?!”

The more one listened to the analysis given as they dissected the data – the more the laughs kept coming. It was a bonanza of comedy from one channel to the next  as it seemed financial media morphed into its own version of a standup open-mike show across the spectrum.

A few points that were laughable but made me down right angry is the continued comparison as well as instructional overtones we are told to perceive from Europe and other countries as they deal with their financial mess and unemployment horrors.

I have nothing against these other nations, however, what I do hold vehemently too is the fact: the more these pernicious meddling intellectuals try to solve our problems as if our solutions will come from following what’s happening over there? The more problems they create here. For I would like to remind the chin scratching set – We are not Europe nor anywhere else. Period!

Just for the record I would like to point out one or two general observations that seem to get lost (or purposely ignored) by the parchment pundits.

First, to the casual observer that has to actually start, run, hire, and all the other mundane things the intellectual crowd seems to have never done, I can’t help but notice; the more they treat or espouse solutions to U.S. issues as if we were under a monarchy or imperialist rule – the more stagnant, wage disparate, over regulated, job killing, centrally planned, __________(fill in the blank) problems we seem to have.

Imagine that, who’d a thunk it?

Second: If I hear one more so-called financial commentator be regarded as “brilliant” for his/her comparisons with other time periods in our own history as well as other countries using data points, charts, and every-other bottle of snake oil they can pull out of their wagons to show the “healing effects” all this has had on the U.S. economy. While conveniently leaving out the stubborn little fly in the ointment – QE was never present within their comparison data sets, I’m going to scream.

None of it is relevant in direct comparison if: there were no interventionist policies of size and scope relative to 4 Trillion dollars of QE during that comparison. Period.

We are in uncharted waters with no charts, no maps, no guides, no nothing to compare where we are. We are currently making and writing the history daily.

Again, not only at best is most of the data points irrelevant. At worst saying that they are – is intellectually dishonest, and dangerous thinking. But this is what passes today as “Intellectual, and informed financial analysis.”

I heard one discussion when reflecting on the widely glossed over U6 data (the stat that gives a more informed picture of employment health or weakness) that the “trend” is going in the “right direction.”

Well, yes it has but (and it’s a very big but) that’s according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. You know, the same one that brings us the 5.8 current unemployment data point. (I still laugh just typing that)

Other reports such as Gallop™ (who by the way are actually pretty reliable when producing data) disagrees with the BLS# at 11.1 and reports their findings more at around14.8% and flat-lining at best.

No matter how you slice it one thing about this stat can’t be brushed under the rug to anyone serious about the labor force. Today over 90 million people in the U.S. available or able to work – are not.

So when the discussion of improvement using the BLS number as to be “pleasantly surprised that the vector of the data is showing improvement in the right direction” what are we really talking about here?

Should we be encouraged (as a hypothetical) we went from about 92 million people in the U.S. labor force unable to find employment to let’s say 91.5 million?

Outraged is what comes more to my mind more than anything else. I guess that’s because I don’t have a parchment for if I did, well then – this would be great news! Sorry, its more like pathetic news in my opinion.

What’s just as pathetic is the intellectual argument that for the many that can’t find jobs, “They are smart to be staying in school.” When I heard this my thoughts went immediately to how this was so reminiscent of history’s immortal quote of the 18th century when then Queen of France Marie Antoinette in reply to the citizenry not having any bread to eat famously replied “Let them eat cake.” Is it any wonder why we’re in such dire straights?

Is taking on more student loan debt as to not have to face the cold reality of the real world not that dissimilar than eating cake for nourishment in the place of bread? Once again this is coming from both the intellectual crowd as well as the policy making crowd. I would just like to remind everyone how that all ended.

Today we see actions by many groups calling or demanding wage increases; especially when it comes to the minimum wage. Yet, isn’t the real underlying issue more in line with what was once an “entry-level” position filled by teenagers has now turned into the only positions available for the now “entry-level, unskilled, first time employed, degree bearing” 26 year old’s and older?

The very one’s whom constantly are being told by the “intellectual crowd” then burdened down with oppressive debt (which continues to fund as in employ those very same intellectuals) to accumulate degrees in some aspect of business (or whatever) that for all intents and purposes will be of little value. To then find themselves competing with others in similar situations for that “minimum wage?”

All that school and debt for what? To keep intellectuals employed? (Those are two questions that demand serious honest answers in my opinion)

I wrote an article years back dealing with this whole phenom titled “The Problem With Kids Today: They’re 26!” I feel stronger today about my assertions than before.

We are on a collision course that inevitably will end not in a hangover from a celebration of gorging on “cake” rather, on the harsh reality of many finding themselves suddenly thrust upon a starting line they needed to be competing at a decade earlier, malnourished, overweight, with a ball and chain affixed to their ankle in the form of student debt so large in size – it could be used to anchor an aircraft carrier.

Again, for I can’t make this point enough in my opinion. Show me a data point and chart where you want to explain why housing formation seems to not be doing what the analysts first pondered – and I’ll point out the absurdity of comparisons if you don’t equal into the equation the amount of people not even beginning serious life or working careers till near 30 years old! (re-read that number again for it says a whole lot more than near anything else)

It’s one thing if you need a degree for some sort career as a prerequisite. i.e., Doctor, lawyer, et al. However, to be encouraged by both policy makers as well as the intellectual elite to stay in school “as a smart decision” as a way to insulate oneself from the current employment consequences transpiring throughout the economy is nothing short of channeling 18th century European styled thinking that for over a century was repudiated in the U.S. and produced a middle class which was envied the world over.

Let me add just one last thing to back my argument on this whole idea of “the value of a degree” from what it meant just a few decades prior to what it has become now…

If you are an MBA holder from some Ivy league Alma mater, chances are your “Ivy league” cherished moniker might get you first in line position ahead of others competing for the same job opening at a major international corporation. Only problem is?

The position maybe for the reason: It is cheaper to hire you than to purchase upgrading to the “Auto-burger Flipper 2000.” But don’t worry. I hear the policy makers and intellectual crowd is promising there will be even more desert later. And they’re willing to finance you for as much as you can eat. Bon appétit!

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr