February 11, 2016

Sanders supporters, the new populism, and the higher ed bubble

One of the defining features of this election season is the decline of the culture wars. If this were eight years ago, the Democrats were still solidly a party based on identity politics. The only question was which identity group would prevail -- a black man on the down-low, or a white woman on the down-low? This time around, though, the Sanders supporters are trying to bring the party back to focusing on class, economics, and the nature of government.

I've mentioned before that it's a mistake to think of the Sanders movement as one of the working class, since it is primarily young people who have gone to college, racked up student loan debts that they won't be able to pay off, and want some kind of government relief. It is a movement of failed middle-class strivers, who couldn't care less about bringing well-paying blue-collar jobs back to America from all the places where we've off-shored our once mighty manufacturing sector.

It is the Trump movement that is the clear working-class party -- he does the best with low-income voters, and declines in popularity up the class pyramid, and ditto for his support by level of education.

Still, Sanders is the clear populist candidate on the Democrat side. He's no different in this way from the original populist firebrand, William Jennings Bryan, who oddly enough ran against (and lost to) William McKinley, who is Trump's clearest earlier incarnation, including being the champion of the working class and domestic manufacturers alike, against the laissez-faire anarchy of the Gilded Age. The 2016 election is a major realignment, most closely repeating the 1896 realignment election, as the nation left behind the Gilded Age and moved into the Progressive Era (to be dominated by Republicans; it was the later New Deal era that was dominated by Democrats).

Bryan's main bloc of supporters was not the working class either. Rather, they were the frontier strivers who took out huge loans from banks to start up a farming enterprise or mining operation out West, but who made nothing back because the niche had become overcrowded. Wave after wave of new transplant strivers had visions of getting rich quick by colonizing open farmland or hitting the mother lode, hopefully with no competitors around. They wanted to get bailed out of their debts by having the government accept silver as a form of legal currency (bimetallism), and in particular at twice its going market value. Cut your business debts in half overnight -- not a bad way to become solvent.

Sanders' main bloc of failed strivers are not so easily blamed for the explosion of their get-rich-quick scheme -- "going to college". They're only kids -- technically in their 20s, but they're Millennials, so cognitively and emotionally around 10 or 11. They were lied to by their parents about the value of "going to college," as well as by their teachers, college brochures, the media, the government, and any other supposedly responsible and knowledgeable adult. They only found out too late that it was a con job designed to inflate the higher ed bubble, and that they wouldn't be getting anything valuable out the other side of graduation, while being saddled with unpayable debts.

If they were adult speculators in farming, mining, or real estate, then sure, tell them tough luck that their gamble didn't pay off. But these were naive, immature kids whose brains haven't fully developed. And going to college isn't one of those natural parts of life anyway, so it's not as though given enough time they'd learn that going to college was just a con job.

Part of being raised from childhood into adulthood is being taught about the ways of the world, how you get by and earn a living. In a hunter-gatherer society, the father teaches his son that they get food by tracking prey, killing it, and cooking it over a fire. Then he begins teaching him how to read animal tracks, how to prepare his bow and arrow, how to aim, how to follow a wounded animal, and so on and so forth. After adolescence is over, the son is ready to be a real hunter himself, earning his own living rather than only being provided for by his father or other adults.

Today, children still come into the world not knowing how adults earn a living, and what training and preparation they'll have to go through to earn a living of their own. However, today we live in a great big bubble -- the higher ed bubble, which began inflating with the Me Generation of the 1970s -- a phenomenon that does not exist in a primitive society. What the hunter father does, so will the son.

In a bubble, only the early entrants will be able to earn a living -- whatever they acquire from the bubble activity will be in short supply (they're the first to get it), and it will probably be of good quality (the highest-quality stuff gets picked first). Parents and grown-ups in general who teach the young generation that "the way you get ahead in life" is by participating in the bubble, are unwittingly dooming them to failure. They're foolishly assuming that the late-comers to the bandwagon will do just as well as the first arrivers.

So, when a high schooler is planning out life after 12th grade, they take the adults' advice to heart -- why would everyone be lying or at least mistaken, especially your own parents? Off to college they go. Yet, after 40 years of the inflating higher ed bubble, what they get out of it is no longer in short supply, since nearly everyone their age will have a college degree of some kind, and it will no longer be of high quality because all these new-comers are not "college material" and will be accommodated only by low-quality "universities" who ask nothing of the students other than tuition dollars and give nothing other than the piece of paper itself.

Now, some of these Sanders supporters are contemptible, thinking that just because they majored in business or communications at some school no employer has ever heard of, they ought to be able to leap-frog everyone already in some industry and get a good job straight out of college. But most of them were just doing what they were told by literally every responsible-seeming adult during their entire high school career. How were they supposed to know any better? It's as though the primitive father had taught his son the value of hunting prey, and then when it's his turn to earn a living, it turns out there's no prey left to hunt, and he has to learn how to plant and harvest crops instead -- while trying to pay off an impossible loan.

How will we get out of this great big mess?

Back in 1896, the Democrat populist lost (and again in 1900, also to McKinley). The United States did not adopt silver as legal currency (McKinley put us on the gold standard), let alone make it worth twice its actual market value. The get-rich-quick schemes out West quickly evaporated, but with tariffs and other protections in place, there were good honest jobs to go around.

I think we'll see a similar path forward for us too. Trump would win over Sanders, and he's not going to just let people pay down their student loan debts at 50% of what they owe. By curbing immigration and threatening tariffs if jobs go overseas, there will be plenty of good honest jobs here, so that kids won't need to go to college to earn a decent living, and the ones with massive debts will be able to pay it off. But the higher ed bubble will finally blow up, and won't be inflated again.

The only major difference this time around is that the bubble is more the result of con artists perpetrating a fraud on mostly naive and innocent children, and clueless other adults reaffirming what the con men are selling. Given how appalling the greed and bad faith has been by the higher ed sector, I wouldn't be surprised if we do see some kind of yuge forgiveness. Maybe not an outright jubilee, but Trump re-negotiating the terms of those federal loans so that only those made in clear good faith will be kept as they were -- a small size loan going to a kid admitted to the Ivy League, not a gigantic loan going to a kid who scored under 1000 on the SAT and attending a degree mill.

60 comments:

  1. I've been waiting for the higher ed bubble to pop. I think one reason it hasn't is that it is not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and banks can't foreclose on it and seize the "property", so people carry it with them their entire lives, so it gets paid at least enough to keep the bubble afloat.

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  2. You are 100% correct. Student loans are pure fraud, the kind that used to be punishable by law. But since the government made those loans, no one can ever declare bankruptcy and be free of them, as you can in the kind and forgiving private sector, as opposed to the tyrannical harsh government overseers. These poor kids' lives have been ruined and will probably die still living in indentured servitude. Can Sanders wave his magic wand and keep his liberal college professor friends rich and happy, while saving his student supporters lives? Can Trump find a way to make a trillion in student debt disappear? Can the USA find a way to make 21 trillion in debt disappear? Are we all government slaves?

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  3. You deserve to have more readers.

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  4. Major difference: McKinley had huge financial support from the plutocrats(Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, etc.), and if anything Bryan was the nativist of the two

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  5. Popping the student loan bubble is going to have some positive effects:

    - Reduced class sizes
    - Increased average graduate ability
    - Higher job market value for degree holders
    - Less money squandered on leftist "cultural studies" programs
    - Less power for the SJW's who run such programs
    - Reduction or even elimination of non-productive and unhireable degrees
    - Lower tuition costs
    - Lower debt loads
    - Increased discretionary spending by recent graduates
    - More scrutiny (and possible elimination) of cultural Marxist activities on campus "Take Back the Night" etc.

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  6. "They were lied to by their parents about the value of "going to college," as well as by their teachers, college brochures, the media, the government, and any other supposedly responsible and knowledgeable adult. They only found out too late that it was a con job designed to inflate the higher ed bubble, and that they wouldn't be getting anything valuable out the other side of graduation, while being saddled with unpayable debts."

    That's true with overpriced Ivy League colleges (mostly, unless you go into finance), but all the data still points to college being a good investment over a person's working life. Some quick Googling will bring back numerous studies showing that college graduates, on average, earn considerably more than those with only a high school diploma or associates degree, and zero studies showing the reverse. I think some kids make foolish gambles by attending high-priced Ivy League or other elite private schools and major in fields with very little opportunity to earn enough to pay back the outrageous student loans needed to fund their 4-year excursion. But that's a small minority of students. A state school diploma is more than enough to almost guarantee better earnings than without one.

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  7. "Major difference: McKinley had huge financial support from the plutocrats(Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, etc.), and if anything Bryan was the nativist of the two"

    Note that two of those rich guys were industrialists, so they would've benefited from protection against more mature British industry. They also would've benefited from cheap immigrant labor, but they were founding stock and had a sense of noblesse oblige -- probably the first two that people would name as examples of the principle, in American history.

    Morgan was a banker and like other middlemen (retailers, traders, etc.) would've benefited from laissez-faire uber alles. But he was also founding stock, and acted as a steward of the banking sector before his system was formalized as the Federal Reserve. He chose the Republican populist over the Democrat populist because McKinley favored "sound money" rather than bimetallism, which would've ruined bankers.

    I think Trump will get a lot of today's Rockefellers, Carnegies, and Morgans on his side, wherever they are.

    The difference in nativism between today's two populists is obviously influenced by Sanders being a Jew, probably the most paranoiacally anti-nativist group in the world (except when they're in Israel). The same goes for the difference in religiosity -- McKinley played down his religion, while Bryan was fervently Christian.

    I think if the Democrat populist today had risen from the non-Jewish labor movement, he'd be a lot more willing to refer to immigrants as "foreign pauper labor" like Bryan did.

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  8. "Some quick Googling will bring back numerous studies showing that college graduates, on average, earn considerably more than those with only a high school diploma or associates degree, and zero studies showing the reverse."

    And plenty of studies in 2004 would've shown excellent returns-on-investment for speculating in Southwest real estate.

    You're citing studies of cumulative / lifetime benefits of attending college -- how many Millennials were included in these lifelong studies? Or Gen X-ers, even? Remember these studies go back quite a bit in time -- a study from the 1990s would not have included any meaningful "lifetime" benefit to Gen X-ers who went to college.

    Those studies prove my point: if you got in on the higher ed bubble early, then you reaped massive gains. Few of your competitors had a degree, and you probably went to a flagship state school. And with demand for higher ed being so low at the beginning of the bubble, prices were not very high, so you didn't saddle yourself with crushing loans in order to get your degree. Shit, you worked a crappy summer job and paid off your tuition, room, and board for the year!

    Plus, by getting in early, you can entrench yourself and prevent the future waves of aspiring degree-seekers from leveraging their degrees into massive gains.

    In short, the studies on the lifelong financial benefits of attending college are self-flattering rags-to-riches stories of the Me Generation (Silents and Boomers). Anyone from Gen X or Millennials who falls for the bubble mentality is destined for ruin, now that everybody has already jumped on the bandwagon -- meaning, greater supply and lower quality of your asset, plus higher prices (debt) to get it.

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  9. "I think some kids make foolish gambles by attending high-priced Ivy League or other elite private schools"

    If you get into an elite school, either your family is already wealthy enough to pay for it on your behalf, or you will get very generous grants (not loans) from the massive treasury that the university owns.

    The real fool's game is going to a middling state school, no-name private school, community college, online college, etc. And that's precisely the audience who is being propagandized about how rich you'll be if you "get an education".

    I suspect you either work in the higher ed bubble, or have unwittingly sent your children to the higher ed slaughter and are trying to blank out the cognitive dissonance.

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  10. It's also easy to overlook the nativist component of prohibitionism (which Bryan had some support from), it was an easy way for the threatened Anglo aristocratic feminists to stick it to the beer-loving German and Irish immigrants.

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  11. Relevant post on "big data" being the biggest loser in this election:

    http://akinokure.blogspot.com/2015/12/big-data-is-biggest-loser-in-2016.html

    The higher ed bubble, or indeed any bubble mentality, is a perfect example of how people fool themselves into ruin by extrapolation from "big data".

    They never stop to think that maybe the late-comers to a get-rich-quick scheme won't make out so handsomely as the ones who showed up first when it was all just there for the taking.

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  12. "The real fool's game is going to a middling state school, no-name private school, community college, online college, etc. And that's precisely the audience who is being propagandized about how rich you'll be if you "get an education"."

    The data simply does not support this view. What are you basing this on? Every study shows college graduates significantly out-earning high school graduates.

    "I suspect you either work in the higher ed bubble, or have unwittingly sent your children to the higher ed slaughter and are trying to blank out the cognitive dissonance."

    I don't, I work in IT for a health care company. My oldest son is finishing up junior college and transferring to a UC in the fall. I have an English Lit. degree from a state school here in CA, and like most of my English Lit. degree brethren, my career has nothing to do with English Lit., but I wouldn't have my job without a degree. I'm a hiring manager, we don't even consider people without a college degree.

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  13. If higher ed really paid off for the 50%-and-above who are going to college these days, then why are so many moving back in with their parents, or living with roommates into their 30s, or working several crappy part-time jobs?

    And why, back in the 1950s and '60s, did hardly anyone go to college, and yet no later than age 25 had gotten married, started having children, owned their own home, and had savings in the bank?

    Time for a reality check.

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  14. It's still possible, blue-collar jobs are great and better paying on avg, but millennials are too faggy to get their hands dirty.

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  15. "The data simply does not support this view. What are you basing this on? Every study shows college graduates significantly out-earning high school graduates."

    Re-read my earlier comment about how "the data" don't tell us what's going to happen to people who are further and further into the higher ed bubble, or any kind of bubble.

    Those studies only tell the story of the initial entrants into the higher ed bubble. The studies were done longer into the past, and the meaningful ones are cumulative and lifelong. Necessarily, they do not tell us what is going on more recently and with later cohorts.

    Cite one study on the benefits to Millennials of going to college -- taking into account incomes and debt payments. You can't, because the Millennials are maybe 30 years old at the most, and a good number of the degree-holders took until age 25 to finish college.

    You're assuming that today's degree-holders will enter the same economic world that yesterday's degree-holders did. But it's the exact opposite world -- today's enter an over-crowded niche, yesterday's entered an uncolonized niche. Today's will be lucky to scrape by, yesterday's had the world as their oyster.

    "The data" as a static picture do not tell us what's going on in a dynamic system. And there couldn't be anything more different-over-time than the fate of entrants into a bubble who showed up earlier rather than later.

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  16. "It's still possible, blue-collar jobs are great and better paying on avg, but millennials are too faggy to get their hands dirty."

    Lord knows Millennials are the faggiest generation we've ever seen, but a good amount of their blindness toward good-paying blue-collar jobs -- the ones that are actually still here -- is due to their parents raising them wrong. Again, as though a father trained his son to earn a living by hunting, in a world where it's planting and harvesting crops that gets you by.

    The Millennials have been raised from infancy to be set on the path toward higher ed -- no matter what. No big deal if they're going to score over 1300 on the SAT, but most of them will not.

    Shop class and all other kinds of apprenticeships and entry-level jobs have been shuttered by the parents, the school administrators, and the politicians, who would all feel a great big collective shame if young people these days had to work with their hands. To enrich our national, regional, and familial prestige, all children must grow up to "get an education" and do high-paying white-collar work.

    So for a good amount of the Millennials, it's not so much an aversion to good honest work, but ignorance that the jobs are out there and need doing. Their entire upbringing has only shown them the higher-ed / white-collar part of the economy.

    And to the extent that they do have a feeling of haughtiness and disgust, that's also on their parents and other responsible adults. They have modeled the worship of education and managerial careers, and the disdain for anything else.

    How are the kids supposed to know that all of the supposedly responsible grown-ups have their collective head up their ass?

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  17. "If higher ed really paid off for the 50%-and-above who are going to college these days, then why are so many moving back in with their parents, or living with roommates into their 30s, or working several crappy part-time jobs?"

    Lots of reasons. Firstly, if those people are having a hard time getting a job "in their field" with a college degree, imagine how much harder they'd have it without one. Secondly, a lot of those kids are looking for jobs "in their field" right out of college, and then when not finding one, giving up and moving back home. Of course, that's not how life works. I worked all kinds of gigs after graduating, NONE of them "in my field", finally landing in tech via a tech writing gig, then gradually moving to more technical positions as I gained experience. Took me six 4 years of slogging it out before I considered myself in a "career." And hey, it had nothing to do with my major, but was absolutely dependent on having a degree of some sort.

    "And why, back in the 1950s and '60s, did hardly anyone go to college, and yet no later than age 25 had gotten married, started having children, owned their own home, and had savings in the bank?"

    Well hell, that's a HUGE topic right there. The types of jobs have changed from relatively low-skilled manufacturing to high-skilled tech jobs. I absolutely consider my self a modern day factory worker. I make a good middle-class income, comparable to manufacturing jobs in the 50s and 60s. The tech industry is the new manufacturing industry, and these jobs require a degree. Also, labor unions in the 50s and 60s negotiated living wages for those manufacturing jobs. With the decline of labor unions comes the decline in real income for those kinds of jobs. Also, globalization. Corporations have shipped those jobs overseas. That is something that Trump speaks to, although there's no way in hell he'll get any traction on fixing that if he does become President.

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  18. "Cite one study on the benefits to Millennials of going to college -- taking into account incomes and debt payments. You can't, because the Millennials are maybe 30 years old at the most, and a good number of the degree-holders took until age 25 to finish college."

    That is a valid point, although the same could have been made for Gen X graduates in the 90s when numbers for them had not accumulated enough to have shown a result. On either side in this argument, when it comes to Millennials, the jury is still out. My interpretation of trends and data lead me to believe Millennials will see the same benefits of a college degree as my fellow Gen Xers over time. For the record, I went back to school in my late 20s and didn't have an actual career until age 35, so I'm not too worried about the college educated Millennials' earning potential.

    "Shop class and all other kinds of apprenticeships and entry-level jobs have been shuttered by the parents, the school administrators, and the politicians, who would all feel a great big collective shame if young people these days had to work with their hands."

    Shop class, along with arts classes, were shuttered due to decreasing states' funding of education, full stop. When the funding isn't there, the first things to go are arts and ROP classes. If we don't like that, then we should consider supporting policies that better fund our public schools.

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  19. Sorry, didn't see this comment of yours:

    "Those studies prove my point: if you got in on the higher ed bubble early, then you reaped massive gains. Few of your competitors had a degree, and you probably went to a flagship state school."

    Is Gen X considered "early"? How about late 90s? How about state schools? Seriously, unless you're considering a career at a Big 4 accounting company, or high-profile law firm, or writing for Saturday Night Live, it doesn't matter where you get your degree from. State schools are FINE.

    "Anyone from Gen X or Millennials who falls for the bubble mentality is destined for ruin, now that everybody has already jumped on the bandwagon -- meaning, greater supply and lower quality of your asset, plus higher prices (debt) to get it."

    So would your advice be to forgo college because it's not worth it? As a person who regularly hires Millennials (along with other age groups), I would say that is terrible advice, unless you are in the trades. I would advise young people to forget about the prestigious Ivy League and private schools, and instead go to community college for general ed classes, then transfer to a state school. WAAAAY cheaper and just as effective. I've yet to hire anyone from elite schools, and we honestly would not give such a person any more consideration.

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  20. This is a great thread. A great, great thread.

    With respect to college-educated Millennials eschewing blue-collar work, that's true, but I am not so sure that there really are too many high-paying blue collar jobs available these days.

    In the 1970's and 1980's a skilled plumber or electrician could make as much money as a dentist, but is that really true any more? These days most tradesmen seem to struggle to make a lower-middle class living, you don't see too many of them driving around with bass boats and jet skis. They have to contend with cheap illegal labor, for one thing. I know several journeyman plumbers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters and none of them are really doing all that well. Most of the guys in orange aprons at our local Home Depot are qualified union plumbers and electricians. Also, there aren't big building booms going on right now like there were in the 1950's-70's, so the number of people in existing homes and business who need to call a plumber or electrician is limited.

    Also, I hate to say this because it sounds so crass, but money is a big motivator, if hipsters could earn $60k - $80k by getting their hands dirty, I'll bet a lot of them would get their hands dirty. Here in Los Angeles a lot of hipsters are willing to work in unglamorous industries like real estate and restaurants. Plenty of college grads have food trucks (the food truck is the Gen X restaurant because we don't have the access to capital that the Boomers had and it's a lot cheaper to turn a roach coach into a food truck than lease a storefront and build it out into a restaurant), and are trying to gentrify South Central by fixing up houses. If some factory in Long Beach were paying high wages, I'm sure that plenty of Millenials would go to work there.

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  21. IMO the problem is that the places in Long Beach aren't paying high wages - there just aren't that many high-paying blue collar jobs to be had.

    The days when factories employed thousands of assembly line workers and tool-and-die makers at $40/hour are over, these days the assembly lines are mostly automated and the few UAW jobs that are left are occupied by late 50's Boomers who refuse to retire. Once they do retire, the auto companies will probably eliminate those jobs. A few blue collar people do well as contractors and the like, but a lot of them are heavily leveraged, too.

    Here in Los Angeles, the choice faced by a Millennial with a degree from a third tier state university seems to be working as a waiter, bartender, receptionist, or secretary and making $15/hour or so, on the one hand, or driving a box truck or working at a garment factory alongside Jose and Esmeralda and earning $12/hour, on the other hand. Either way you're screwed, given that (1) a 1,300 square foot tract house in a safe neighborhood with decent schools $600,000; and (2) you have $100,000 in student loan debt. There is no clear way for those kids to win. There's no clear way for Jose and Esmeralda to win, either, but from their perspective, at least they are doing better than they did in Mexico and Guatemala, and they have regular work at the garment factory as opposed to standing around in the parking lot outside of Home Depot. That's the worst part about illegal immigration. The illegals aren't bad people, they are hard-working people who are willing to tolerate a much, much lower standard of living than Americans. It's tough for a young American blue collar worker who doesn't want to live in a converted garage with 10 other single men to compete with the low prices charged by illegals.

    So JV may still technically be right, opportunities for college grads may be "better" than opportunities for HS grads, but in today's dystopian economy of $600,000 houses, it doesn't really matter much.

    I also think that the advice to forego an Ivy League college is terrible. That's just reverse snobbery, the job prospects for Ivy League graduates are much, much better than those for grads of a third-tier college. I am NOT suggesting that the Ivy Leaguers have it made -- they are struggling too. But in the legal business, for example, going to a top law school versus a third-tier school means the difference between working as a lawyer and working as a waiter. I don't know the percentage of people who graduated from crappy local law schools like Southwestern and have actually gotten jobs as lawyers in the past 10 years, but it cannot be more than 20-30%, and a lot the jobs those folks got pay next to nothing. And Southwestern costs like $70k/year whereas Harvard costs $85k/year. This is kind of a moot point though, because not many people who are in a position to go to Harvard would choose Southwestern. Again, I am not saying that an Ivy League education is a golden ticket, it's not, but it's better than a third-tier education, let's be honest. Sure, you'd be crazy to spend $200k to get a degree from University of Phoenix but a good education (or a name-brand education, at any rate) still has real value.

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  22. Advising against attending an Ivy League school is not reverse snobbery at all, just plain good advice for most people. You might have missed my earlier comment here:

    "Seriously, unless you're considering a career at a Big 4 accounting company, or high-profile law firm, or writing for Saturday Night Live, it doesn't matter where you get your degree from. State schools are FINE."

    I should have added high-profile financial institution in there. So I agree with you, to a point. For some people going into high-earning fields where alumni connections carry a lot of weight, an Ivy League school is a good deal. But for the VAST majority of people, it isn't. The vast majority of college graduates end up in skilled but not specialized fields, where a four-year degree in any major is both sufficient and necessary.

    "So JV may still technically be right, opportunities for college grads may be "better" than opportunities for HS grads, but in today's dystopian economy of $600,000 houses, it doesn't really matter much."

    Agreed. So move out of LA. I had to move out of the Bay Area, the place where I was born and raised, to afford a house. Boo hoo for me. It's people who won't except reality and cling to a dream of living in the big city who are caught in that trap. Move almost anywhere besides coastal CA and urban East Coast, and you'll find affordable housing with decent job prospects. The housing bubble has permanently made some areas unaffordable. Too bad. Move. I did, and I don't regret it for a second.

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  23. And, there is data for Millennials' earning power among college vs. high school graduates. Here's one study:

    http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/02/11/the-rising-cost-of-not-going-to-college/

    Pullquote from that article:

    "The economic analysis finds that Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 321 who are working full time earn more annually—about $17,500 more—than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma."

    $17,500 multiplied by 30 years, the typical working life of a person, is $612,500. That's more than a significant difference. Of course, that's no guarantee of future earnings, but no one is guaranteed future earnings. This study if from 2014. By all measures, the economy has improved since then.

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  24. Sorry, that should be 35 years, not 30 years.

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  25. But JV, you don't understand what Agnostic is saying, or how times have changed. These days, a lot of jobs just aren't accessible unless you have an Ivy League degree, because there are so many worthless degrees. And I am not talking about high-profile jobs -- I am talking about ANY job.

    Back in the day, if you wanted to be an assistant DA in Los Angeles County you could attend Third Rate State U and still get hired right after graduation. And a job at the DA's office was not considered terribly glamorous, it's not the same thing as a Supreme Court clerkship or a job at a white shoe firm, it's a government job with low pay. The DA's office was a typical entry-level job that trained a lot of young lawyers because, assistant DA's spend a lot of time in court and learn the mechanics of trial practice and how to talk to juries. And once you gained experience at the DA's office, you could go into private practice at a law firm or open your own shop. Maybe you'd make it big, maybe you wouldn't, but there was opportunity.

    These days, the Los Angeles DA's office does not hire ANYONE AT ALL in most years. Every 3-5 years or so they'll hire a "class" of new prosecutors. And lot of the people that they hire are not fresh out of law school, they have 5-10 years of experience. And the recent law school grads that the DA's office hires either went to Stanford or have a connection with someone who works in the office.

    The same thing is true in lots of other jobs. Academia -- in 1970, if you graduated from Third Rate State U with a Ph.D in English Literature, you could get a job as a professor at Third Rate State U. Now? Forget it. Only people with Ph.D's from Yale are considered for tenure-track academic jobs. The Ph.D's from Third Rate State are unemployable, you're lucky to get a job as an part time adjunct assistant lecturer at the local community college.

    Things are so tight that quality education matters MORE than it used to. I'm not defending the status quo. I don't think it's a good thing. It strikes me as unfair, because many of the graduates of Third Rate State U are capable people who would make fine prosecutors, given the opportunity. But these days, they don't have the opportunity. Instead, the Stanford grads get the "prize" of a low-paying government job where they spend their day prosecuting crackheads, homeless people, illegal aliens and aspiring gang members who are so stupid that they actually post videos of their crimes on social media. The people who attended schools that aren't as well regarded don't get a job AT ALL.

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  26. "These days, the Los Angeles DA's office does not hire ANYONE AT ALL in most years."

    The key phrase here is "Los Angeles." As I mentioned in my previous comment, it's tough in the big city, especially coastal cities, and especially in CA or NY. If you have a law degree and are looking to work for a DA office, apply out of state. I bet you'll get a few bites. Or even in other counties in CA. Or maybe look at legal positions not in DA offices. Or hey, you may end up being a corporate legal counsel, like a lawyer friend of mine is. He never envisioned himself in his current position, always wanted to be a trial lawyer. He loves what he's doing now and is making a shitload of money. BE FLEXIBLE.

    Academia is tough too. The gist of all my comments on this thread is, prepare to look outside "your field." There's simply more competition in certain fields, academia being one of them, plus less funding there than in previous decades. If you're not flexible and open to out-of-the-box opportunities, you'll end up frustrated. Your examples are more a product of increased competition than they are of a failure in higher education.

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  27. Random Dude on the Internet2/11/16, 4:28 PM

    I work alongside electric lineman and many of them are in their late 20s and are making $150,000 a year. Sure, it might suck to work in an ice storm or a thunderstorm but by 30, they all own their own houses, a brand new F-250, and then some. I have an MBA from a top program and who knows if I will ever make $150k before I'm 40.

    They are always looking for good people and can never completely fill all of the job openings. The reason why is that they drug test at random. The underclass has such an issue with drugs that they pass up six figure jobs because they'd rather smoke/shoot/snort instead.

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  28. It is true that housing costs are lower outside of the coastal cities, I agree with this. But are things really so great for the Millenials in the heartland? The high school I attended sent a lot of its graduates to a third-tier state school called Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. Today, the estimated official cost of attendance at Northern Illinois is $30,000 per year. Suppose you attend NIU and take just four years to get your BA in "business administration." You'll probably have what, $70-$80,000 in student loan debt? Your next stop is what, a job in some cubicle farm selling web hosting or VOIP phone service to small businesses? That sounds like a realistic scenario, doesn't' it? How much are you going to make at that job, $45k? Is there a path to promotions, raises, etc.? Not really. And you are almost certain to get laid off and have a series of jobs like that, punctuated by bouts of unemployment. Your monthly take home will be around $2500 if you are lucky. In theory your monthly payments on $80k in student loans should be around $800, but maybe they are just $500 thanks to financial alchemy, so let's assume that you net $2000 per month. Honestly that seems a little high. Houses in Lake Zurich cost $200k, as opposed to $600k in Los Angeles. A 20% down payment is $40,000 -- try saving $40k on $2000/month in today's economy. Even if you do manage to do that after 10 years or so, or 8 if your wife works too, then your PITI payments on a $160k mortgage will be approximately $1250/month, or 2/3 or your salary. You'd better not plan on having kids, and you'd better hope that the car doesn't break down or the roof doesn't leak. Also, no 401k savings for you, and remember -- you will lose your job every couple of years and will need to be unemployed/underemployed for a while.

    It didn't use to be like this. When I was growing up, the people with degrees from Northern Illinois were doing well. They had to endure the stresses and strains of supporting families, sure, but things were possible. You could buy a house in your mid to late 20's, take the kids to Disney World and drive newish cars. If you needed extra money, your wife could get part-time jobs working at the the JC Penny jewelry counter, that was enough. It's not like that any more.

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  29. That's all true, but the argument here is whether a college degree is worth it or not. Even with your numbers, it's still worth it in the long run, unless you go into a trade, and as Anon mentions above, the struggle there is to fill open positions. I totally agree college tuitions are out of whack, outside of CA. (That's one thing CA is getting right, for now). This can be traced directly to policies that continue to strip away state funding for education, placing more and more of the burden on the individual. Although college administrators share some of the blame too.

    "Houses in Lake Zurich cost $200k, as opposed to $600k in Los Angeles. A 20% down payment is $40,000 -- try saving $40k on $2000/month in today's economy."

    It's ideal to have 20% down, but it's in no way necessary to get a loan, especially for a first-time buyer. FHA loans require only 3% down, and you can even have the seller cover that if you get a good realtor on your side. That's 6 grand for a 200K house, totally doable for an employed person with a college degree. It may take a couple years to save, but that's the way it's always been.

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  30. You say "be flexible" and "consider moving," but I'm sorry, that advice just doesn't resonate what what I see around me, every day. I know exactly one person from my childhood in Illinois who became wildly successful. He flunked out of a Ph.D program in computer science in the mid-1990's because he was too lazy to study and wasn't smart enough to get by on brains alone. Harsh but true. At that point he had to get a job. He wound up working as an entry-level programmer in the financial industry. We all know how much the financial industry has grown in the past 20 years, so.... EVERY OTHER PERSON that I went to high school with is worse off than their parents. EVERY SINGLE ONE. And I grew up in a lower-middle-class exurb of Chicago, it's not like we were all rich and can't equal the rarified standard of living of our peers.

    My guess is that this is generational, given that you have kids in college. There may only be a 10 year age difference between us but you've got to understand that things have changed. It's the same with me -- because I am a Gen X'er, I am doing much, much better than the Millenials. I've always been underemployed, they have to do unpaid internships or work for ridiculously low salaries. But things really are different and they really have gotten worse, much worse. I just don't believe that "be flexible" and "move to a different city" are realistic answers any more. Times have changed.

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  31. If you don't have kids, and especially if you aren't in a committed relationship, then there's no excuse to look outside the region you currently live in for opportunities if you're struggling. I don't doubt it's tougher today, but it's not dire. And I'm not talking about becoming "wildly successful." I don't know anyone personally who is that, financially. I'm talking about a slow, steady climb to a career that pays enough to raise a family, and not necessarily "in your field of study." You can lament that times have changed (they certainly have, as always), or you can adapt while fighting for policies that help enable the average person (hint: not the GOP).

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  32. Wow, didn't expect this many comments. I'll have to post more on Bern-arino. To much to respond to, won't rehash anything I've already covered.

    "Shop class, along with arts classes, were shuttered due to decreasing states' funding of education, full stop."

    OK, but it wasn't a meteor from outer space that blew up those parts of the school budgets. It was parents, administrators, politicians -- all adults responsible for raising the next generation -- who decided that shop class for guys, and home ec for girls, was just too backward and embarrassing. In the future, all children will score above 1300 on the SAT and get wonderful managerial jobs -- so there goes the funding for shop, home ec, and the rest.

    "So would your advice be to forgo college because it's not worth it?"

    If they're not college material, then no, they shouldn't go to college. What a waste of time, and MONEY. You don't ask your Millennial applicants how many tens of thousands of dollars they owe in student loans -- and getting bigger all the time because of interest.

    The vast bulk of those kids will go to college, acquire no useful knowledge or skills, be saddled with $50K and up of debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy court, and have to take crummy jobs and live with their parents or roommates.

    Guess what -- they don't ask for you to have a degree to work at Starbucks, or the thrift store, or answering phones. That's where the "not college material" students will wind up. They might as well start working there right out of high school and maybe work their way up to a manager's position by age 25, instead of getting their first barista job at 25 because there's nothing better for them.

    "$10 says agnostic went to college."

    I'm not personally angry about the higher ed bubble since I got huge grants from my school's treasure chest. They didn't cover 100%, but I walked out of graduation with comparatively low debt.

    I'm angry at where the schools, the economy, the youth, and the nation as a whole are going with the whole higher ed bubble. You can't be even remotely invested in the repair, maintenance, and improvement of your country and not be disgusted by the fraud and exploitation that's going on with the colleges, and sadly with the striver parents who ought to know better but are blinded by visions of "every child a doctorate".

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  33. "These days most tradesmen seem to struggle to make a lower-middle class living, you don't see too many of them driving around with bass boats and jet skis."

    Or they're putting money into savings / retirement, and supporting a family rather than living for themselves.

    You're right that they wouldn't be upper-middle class by practicing a trade, but it would still be a quantum leap from working as a barista and living at home.

    I don't want to emphasize the trades too much, though. When all those off-shored sectors come back during Trump's first administration, it will bring back all sorts of managerial jobs too -- but ones that you have to rise through the ranks to get, not just land from out of nowhere with an MBA.

    It's not as though manufacturing plants only had line workers there -- there were layers of foremen, supervisors, managers, couriers, bookkeepers, mailmen, secretaries, etc., supporting the whole operation. Some of that has been mechanized, but there's still going to be a lot more than just the lowest-skilled jobs coming back to our shores.

    That's important to keep in sight when we tell kids what kinds of work awaits them in the not-too-distant future.

    "The days when factories employed thousands of assembly line workers and tool-and-die makers at $40/hour are over, these days the assembly lines are mostly automated"

    Well, the plants still left here have been heavily automated, but if you look at the plants where they make all of our stuff overseas, they have multitudes of workers there.

    Making clothes is still done by individual garment workers and their sewing machine.

    Foxconn, the electronics behemoth in China, employs 1.3 MILLION workers.

    And on and on.

    The highly automated plants you're talking about are the last line of defense after shipping the jobs overseas, or bringing in hordes of scabs to do the work here. Failing that, let's get cheap labor by mechanization.

    But the jobs lost through the first two changes -- off-shoring and importing scabs -- are still out there, ready to be taken back. And that's a lot of people around the world, and immigrants here. Way more than we have to worry about being lost to mechanization.

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  34. "$10 says agnostic went to college."

    Isn't he still in grad school, with no end in sight?

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  35. "It's people who won't except reality and cling to a dream of living in the big city who are caught in that trap."

    Smaller towns are worth keeping alive, but for Millennials and even the later Gen X-ers were not raised there. They have distant roots there at best. Their Boomer parents left their small town and never looked back.

    So when the Millennial is deciding where to go, they aren't even going to have "small town" or "flyover state" in their experience to draw on.

    Plus with so many of them living at home, they're restricted to the big city or big city suburb/exurb where their Boomer parents settled into after leaving their home town.

    Re-establishing small towns would be nice, but we also have to balance that with stability -- if a bunch of Millennials who had disillusioned themselves of living in the big city decided to pour into the nearby small towns, there goes small town life as we know it. Too many transplants with too many foreign beliefs and habits coming in too quickly.

    I think the best intermediate way is for them to move back to a smaller town where they have family roots, or marry into a smaller town. Don't just descend en masse on a place where you have no connections.

    This is going to be a tall order for them, and it's not going to do to just tell them "stop being a spoiled brat and move out of the fashion mecca where you want to live out your fantasy lifestyle." Their parents boxed them into the megapolis, severing a link in the chain, and restoring that link is much harder than breaking it.

    We shouldn't keep stoking their anger against their parents, but their Boomer parents do deserve a lot of roasting, and it'll reassure them that we're not clueless and out-of-touch about how they got to where they are. Just set it up about being boxed in by where your parents raised you, and it's not going to be easy, but you're going to have to move somewhere more affordable and sustainable.

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  36. Anyone who thinks Trump is going to impose a tax on offshoring such that megacorps are going to repatriate manufacturing to the tune of millions of jobs is dreaming. Trump is a trumpet for the malcontented lower middle class whites who have to compete with desperate Vietnamese making iphones for $5 a day, but that's all he is. Even if he were to get into office, he'd just tweak things around the edges like every president does, and spin it using his talent for bullshit. Minor tweaks and predestined inevitabilities dressed up fantastic opportunities, amazing plans, and basically, "WINNING". Trump's shtick is literally as retarded as Charlie Sheen's. He's got a 5 word vocabulary. Does anyone really think things are going to change because a lot of whiners are whining?

    Better stop listening to people on internet, go to college, get a degree in engineering or at the very least a millwright ticket, and stop fucking around. Trump ain't going to change your life, loser.

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  37. "The economic analysis finds that Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn more annually—about $17,500 more—than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma."

    I emphasized the qualifier of all qualifiers -- assuming that a college-educated Millennial is actually working full-time... big assumption.

    In reality, the majority of them are employed part-time, perhaps at several part-time jobs (by definition crummy jobs), or not employed at all. Labor force participation it at historic lows, and is far worse among Millennials. I'm too lazy to look up exactly how bad it is, but wouldn't be surprised if working 10 hours or less per week accounts for nearly half of Millennial 20-somethings.

    And remember that college-educated Millennials who are working full-time, includes the 10-15-20% who are college material, and do not fall under my trashing of the higher ed scam.

    And that doesn't include the comparison at the other end -- if you're unemployed or underemployed, then going to college is a huge negative because you're not earning anything, but still have a giant student loan debt accruing more and more interest.

    For the cases I'm talking about, it's obviously a net loss. Otherwise Bernie Sanders wouldn't have caught on so much among Millennials. Just like if there were so many good blue-collar jobs, Trump would not have caught on with the working class.

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  38. "I don't want to emphasize the trades too much, though. When all those off-shored sectors come back during Trump's first administration, it will bring back all sorts of managerial jobs too -- but ones that you have to rise through the ranks to get, not just land from out of nowhere with an MBA."

    Yeah, Trump is just going to go against the tidal wave of prevailing economics wisdom, the entire business establishment and upset the global order to bring back the 1960's rust belt so that that he can satisfy some loud cranky lower middle class losers who are scared of competing with Asians for jobs. It's just not going to happen.

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  39. "I totally agree college tuitions are out of whack, outside of CA. (That's one thing CA is getting right, for now). This can be traced directly to policies that continue to strip away state funding for education, placing more and more of the burden on the individual."

    No, the main cause of higher costs is soaring demand. Exponentially more kids attend college now compared to 40 years ago. Supply cannot keep up because the existing stock of colleges was meant to accommodate the 15% who are college material, and founding entirely new colleges is not easy or persuasive -- "Come get your degree from Fly By Night University, only $99,999 -- ask about our financial aid packages!"

    It's no different with the prices of real estate -- soaring demand, from immigrants, from transplants descending on desirable locations, from whatever else.

    When people stayed where they came from -- social station and geographic location -- prices were a lot lower and more stable. And the status-strivers and transplants didn't bury themselves under debt by jumping on the higher ed / big city bandwagon.

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  40. Chagal: doubting the Trump army's power can be pardoned as cuckist defeatism, but for actively calling for the great big Asian termite mound to replace good American jobs, we're going to have to hog-tie you and throw you to the unemployed termites for use as a waifu pillow. Hope you like the smell of rice rotting your rectum.

    Don't comment anymore. Banned.

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  41. Aside from the direct benefit to our economy and government, the best thing about the Trump phenomenon is delighting in all these cuckservative glibertarians waving their limp magic wands, trying to make reality and the march of history go away.

    To hear them tell it, the laissez-faire hegemony of the Gilded Age was never broken, there was no McKinley tariff or further tariffs, no closing of the immigration gates, no New Deal, and no golden age of the American economy and government.

    The best part is that changes move so long in one direction that these cucks won't see even the beginning of any reversal back toward libertarianism within their own lifetimes. They're going to be feebly cursing Trump and his successors until they drop dead.

    It's going to be hilarious and righteous. Keep it up fellas, you couldn't be making us happier.

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  42. "Wow, didn't expect this many comments. I'll have to post more on Bern-arino. To much to respond to, won't rehash anything I've already covered."
    Have you considered starting a forum? Many thought criminals have been quitting social media recently due to censorship, so there could be a niche.

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  43. Running a forum would take way more time and attention than it would be worth.

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  44. Looking at earnings alone, it doesn't look to much to me like young people in the US today get a lower income out of college than 30 years ago, but of course there is the question of higher debts, and whether a lot of big costs are increasing above inflation (housing, and having a family).

    A few GSS graphs on the question of educational returns

    1. http://i.imgur.com/GWknOkW.png - Educational level of different age groupings across the years of the GSS. You can see that across the cohort I've bracked as older (aged 45-60) there's a huge change, with relatively few highly educated in 1974 and many more in 2010. OTOH the younger set (age 22-30) doesn't change too much in educational levels from 1974-2010, with a little expansion in junior college and bachelors and less high school only (but less change overall than the older group).

    The conrinc variable is income adjusted for general inflation measure.

    2. http://i.imgur.com/z6Ixeuh.png - what the young group today is making for different educational levels, today (2000-2015, Millennial era), in constant dollars. Not much of an educational premium to a bachelor's, quite a bit of one to an graduate degree (but grad degree holders are also older than bachelor's).

    3. http://i.imgur.com/BF5nPzA.png - Equivalent for the older 45-60 year old group. A much larger magnitude of change for each group, and a big advantage to the bachelor's. So education (or, possibly more likely, what education is a proxy for) takes time to accumulate income returns.

    4. http://i.imgur.com/CFEkSbj.png- Young group in 1974-1990

    5. http://i.imgur.com/nVWIHag.png- Old group in 1974-1990

    Comparing the older groups, if the conrinc variable is valid (big if), it doesn't look so much like the older, career end group were getting a higher premium to education back in 1974-1985 compared against their equivalents in the Millennial era, when education is more crowded. Instead they have more advantage if anything.

    At least for those periods and age groups, it looks like more educated didn't mean that the highly educated were thrown into competition and had reduced incomes.

    Comparing the younger groups, to me it looks like the educational premium is about the same as it was, except that graduate students have really taken off and left less educated behind.

    This doesn't mean that it's not correct that the market for education has become saturated, and that there won't be different associations for income and education in 20-30 years time, compared to how it is for old in 2000-2010 and old in 1975-1990.

    It also doesn't mean that for younger people today, everything is just as good, if the cost of education (debt) has increased, while the return stays the same (that's less wealth in their pocket, moved to finance and the education industry and they'll be feeling it). Esp if the costs for real estate, cars and childcare have all outpaced the kind of inflation measures the conrinc variable is based on (and I think they often do).

    Re: employment status among the young, the transformations across the years, that have happened looks like the strongest trend is displacement of housewives into part time and full time employment (50% of young women housewives in 1974, 10-15% 2014), while male employment looks to have displaced a little to accommodate (but possibly there may be more of a change in terms of male wages?) - GSS : http://i.imgur.com/Ih60AKB.png. Young male full time employment looks like it's at the worst it's been at least since the 1970s though, for sure.

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  45. "OK, but it wasn't a meteor from outer space that blew up those parts of the school budgets. It was parents, administrators, politicians -- all adults responsible for raising the next generation -- who decided that shop class for guys, and home ec for girls, was just too backward and embarrassing. In the future, all children will score above 1300 on the SAT and get wonderful managerial jobs -- so there goes the funding for shop, home ec, and the rest."

    People don't vote to defund public schools because of specific programs, they do so out of misplaced animosity towards teachers and administrators stemming from the tiresome pretend fight against "big government." But you're right, it is the fault the voters and politicians, and to some extent, school administrators, although they can only work with the budget they get.

    "The vast bulk of those kids will go to college, acquire no useful knowledge or skills, be saddled with $50K and up of debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy court, and have to take crummy jobs and live with their parents or roommates."

    I'd like to see some data on that claim. It's true that crushing student debt deflates people's real income years after graduating, but without a degree and without interest in / aptitude for a trade, a person will ultimately earn far less. I think instead of discouraging people, even those who may not have gone to college in previous generations, from getting a degree, we should be emphasizing degrees in fields with growth potential. When we're hiring, it can take us a few months to fill some positions because there aren't enough qualified candidates. As I stated earlier, mid-level tech jobs are the new manufacturing jobs. These jobs ain't rocket science, but they do require some education and training, so anyone who would have worked on an assembly line in previous generations can easily learn to code well enough to get hired.

    "You can't be even remotely invested in the repair, maintenance, and improvement of your country and not be disgusted by the fraud and exploitation that's going on with the colleges, and sadly with the striver parents who ought to know better but are blinded by visions of "every child a doctorate"."

    It's not about "every child a doctorate," it's about every job requiring a degree. As we've established, unless you're going into the trades, you need a bachelor's degree to get a career type job. Parents sending their kids to college are merely equipping them for the MINIMUM requirement. Sure, if they hang around grad school, that's different.

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  46. "OTOH the younger set (age 22-30) doesn't change too much in educational levels from 1974-2010"

    There's data through 2014. Having no more than a high school diploma among 22-30 year-olds fell from 81% to 66%, from 1972 to 2014.

    But that only looks at what degree you have -- you can attend college and not get a degree (more likely if you're not college material, and are part of the malinvestment bubble).

    The variable EDUC measures how many years of education you've had. Looking at this across the years, for 22-30 year-olds, having 0-12 years of education (no more than high school) fell from 57% to 36%, from 1972 to 2014.

    Much bigger change, because some of those in the first look at degrees still have only a high school diploma as their highest degree, but now also several years of college, but with no degree to show for it.

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  47. College enrollments (count, but per capita will show a similar rise since population is not increasing exponentially):

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_z3IIJQrNlnA/TSNXqFlUOZI/AAAAAAAAAIY/IGwq5R1WOQA/s1600/College%2BEnrollment.jpg

    The higher ed bubble begins during the 1960s, probably the later part of the decade.

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  48. "Not much of an educational premium to a bachelor's, quite a bit of one to an graduate degree"

    Again let's look at EDUC for years of education rather than highest degree. Still 22-30 year-olds. Comparing only those with 0-12 vs. 13-16 years of education (doctorates, professional degrees, etc. -- they're college material, getting higher-quality degrees). And looking over time in 5-year periods.

    For income, we can't use mean since there's a long tail. Rather than get fine-grained, I'll just look at who makes from $30K-70K, roughly middle to upper-middle class. (It doesn't say which year these dollars represent, so may be a more upper-middle class compared to today's dollars.)

    In 1970-74, this middle-class income was found among 5% vs. 7% of no-college vs. some-college people.

    Gradually, this difference widens toward a maximum in the late '80s. In 1985-89, the middle-class income was 12% vs. 24% of no-college vs. some-college people. Someone who was in their 20s during that time was a late Boomer -- therefore, ignore all advice about higher ed from late Boomers. They struck the mother lode, and there's less and less available for young people today.

    Gradually the gap *narrows*, so that by 2010-14, the middle-class income was 6% vs. 15% of no-college vs. some-college people.

    So, good incomes are less common for no-college and some-college types, because the economy today has primarily benefited those at the top. But even worse, the boost of college education has shrunken.

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  49. "So education (or, possibly more likely, what education is a proxy for) takes time to accumulate income returns."

    Or, you're seeing a cohort effect -- 50-somethings in the '70s were Greatest Gen, who came of age before the higher ed bubble. 50-somethings in the 21st century, when the gains are much greater, are Boomers, who timed the higher-ed bubble perfectly.

    With the boost to post-high-school education already shrinking among 20-somethings nowadays, I doubt it will look much rosier for them as they go through middle age.

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  50. "it doesn't look so much like the older, career end group were getting a higher premium to education back in 1974-1985 compared against their equivalents in the Millennial era, when education is more crowded. Instead they have more advantage if anything."

    Well remember a 50-something in the '70s, college-educated or not, was a Greatest Gen. Not part of the careerist Silents and especially Boomers. Those Greatest Gen members who did go to college were college material, but didn't try to leverage their degrees into world domination -- more like stewardship of a company, keeping their home town operating smoothly, and so on.

    The 50-somethings of today are careerist Boomers, who used their degrees in a no-holds-barred contest to the top -- and for them, there's no upper limit on where the top is.

    When Millennials get into their 50s, the ones who went to college will not have been very "college material" types, plus they're not ambitious, plus the Boomers will have clogged up the career advancement anyway. So they'll see a lot less of a return on their college education.

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  51. "Esp if the costs for real estate, cars and childcare have all outpaced the kind of inflation measures the conrinc variable is based on (and I think they often do)."

    Right, one of the main effects of higher-ed uber alles, which is almost impossible to reverse, is the emptying out of small-to-medium towns and rural areas. There are no colleges there, certainly not the ones that someone would go to merely in order to make more money.

    College-seekers are ratcheted toward geographic locations where there is a higher and higher concentration of residents, and in particular of wealthy or striver residents, all of which sends their real estate costs through the roof, compared to if they and their parents had stayed where their family was originally from.

    The Greatest Gen college grad might have temporarily left his small/medium town to get a bachelor's degree, and then returned to manage a local or regional manufacturing plant, serve as a small-town lawyer / doctor / engineer, and so on.

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  52. "When Millennials get into their 50s, the ones who went to college will not have been very "college material" types, plus they're not ambitious, plus the Boomers will have clogged up the career advancement anyway. So they'll see a lot less of a return on their college education."

    So you're saying college is still beneficial, just not as beneficial as it was for Boomers? I agree. Boomers hit the motherload in just about every facet of life. But, that still doesn't mean college isn't worth it for people not going into the trades.

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  53. "As we've established, unless you're going into the trades, you need a bachelor's degree to get a career type job."

    Right, but even with the piece of paper from Degree Mill University, they won't get a real job -- meaning full-time, decent pay, decent benefits.

    It's really more like gambling -- you need to buy a stack of chips in order to play at the roulette table. But most people aren't going to get anything back. Actually worse than that -- as if the other roulette players could crowd you out of betting on a given number, and you're desperate to play your chips wherever there's an open space.

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  54. Something obvious that we haven't talked about is student loans that are in various degrees of delinquency and default. If the return to degrees was so great, there should be no such phenomenon.

    Instead, not only does it exist, it is getting worse and worse over time.

    And it's not because their incomes are great, but they're choosing to spend on luxuries rather than repaying their loans. They live at home or with roommates, they drive a beater, "dining out" means Panera, and so on.

    Conclusion: their incomes are too low to pay back the loans.

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  55. "So you're saying college is still beneficial, just not as beneficial as it was for Boomers?"

    We shouldn't think of "college education" as a fungible bunch of stuff, or "college grads" as monolithic.

    If the Millennials are college material and go to a good school, then they'll benefit from it. That is not the bubble.

    The bubble is more and more kids from farther to the left on the intelligence curve going to college, and to lower and lower-quality colleges.

    They aren't going to get anything from higher ed, and they'll be saddled with huge loans on top of it. Big net loss.

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  56. Also think of the lost income from going to college vs. working straight out of high school. You earn nothing by going to college.

    Say they would have gotten a crummy $10/hr job, but still working 40 hours per week (across however-many crummy jobs they may have). At 50 weeks a year, that's $20K, and accumulated over 4 to 5 years, that's $80K to $100K of lost income, merely from attending college rather than working.

    And that's not even factoring in if they put it in something that would begin earning interest from such an early age.

    They also avoid a further $80K to $100K in loan debt -- not even to mention interest -- by working crummy jobs instead of going to college.

    So the full difference that the college grads have to make up is between $150K and $200K.

    For those who are part of the bubble, that's beyond hope. Even if those who don't belong in college, and who got worthless degrees, still eked out an extra $5k per year over no-college peers, they would only pay off that extra $200K by the time they retired in their 60s.

    Hardly the bonus they were promised.

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  57. Interesting comment section. I will look at my general experience from somewhere near the top of the higher ed perch and from somewhere that is getting sucked into the bubble:

    I went to one of the elite East Coast universities (US News top 10) where there were a good number of people majoring in some form of basket weaving. Ironically, these elite schools are definitively cheaper to attend for poor people due to their absurdly hedge fund like endowments and financial aid. Fortunately, for a good number of these basket weavers, they are much more able to get jobs in the more glamorous form of sales at companies like Google or IBM (like the client has been found, you just tell them what they need). The smart basketweavers can nail some case interviews and suddenly find themselves working for a Goldman or a McKinsey. That doesn't even take into account the opportunities at more available at start-ups due to significant alumni presences in Silicon Valley and Boston. The dirty secret for a lot of companies is how little they care in what you majored and moreso how you can prove your intelligence...provided you went to an acceptable school.

    On the other end of things, I am now wrapping up medical school at a place that 10 years ago got attached to a garbage state school, some place that can only retain 70% of its freshmen with an on-time graduation rate somewhere less than 25%. Looking from a distance, these undergrads at best get to go to job fairs with more regional companies and a bunch of some form of insurance sales. The attached graduate schools, unless they are Medicine or Pharmacy, do not exactly pump out inspiring people either. What I see is an extremely real higher education bubble for people who were never college material filling into school that should not have 20K enrollment.

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  58. Social conservatives have been screaming for years that the decline of the family and its replacement by the educational system would ruin the latter institution, too. Schools are now a place for socialization for the state's interest, not the students' interests. There aren't enough married moms and dads around anymore to make the schools compete based on future opportunities for their graduates instead of the immediate value of daycare.

    Secularist strivers took the wrong road a long time ago, generations before the education bubble became a consequence of their decision. They are only "populists" because they failed to be elites, or rather what they imagined the elites to be. They never had a political ideology in the first place, because their status/identity is in fact their ideology. This has become such an important phenomenon to Democrats that the Republicans cannot help but react to it, and look ugly because it's still the 60's to the establishment trapped in a time warp.

    They won't ever listen to the religious pro-family conservatives who predicted all of this even in the Victorian era, when women were being granted political power. Most of them haven't even read Brave New World, published in 1932, so even the old left remnant is alien to them. They just like "feel the Bern" and they think he'll open up the next round of gibsmedats because he's a self-proclaimed socialist. Sure.

    They're hopeless. Growing up without a healthy family background does this to people, and all of it has happened because of state policy!

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  59. The underemployment rate (measuring those working a job for which they’re overqualified and underpaid) for young adults below age 30 is 60%

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  60. "Overqualified" only if you think having a meaningless bachelor's degree qualifies you for anything.

    They are not even overqualified to be stocking the shelves at a supermarket. That would be if they had done that job inside and out as teenagers, and should have moved up to a more managerial position at the supermarket, or higher as a regional manager, etc.

    This isn't a pointless nitpick about semantics. We have to remind ourselves that most kids are graduating from college with absolutely nothing worth anything to any employer.

    If their degree is from an elite school, that's marketable per se. But then most kids aren't going to elite schools. No employer is impressed by the degree mill name on their bachelor's (and most state schools, including "flagship" schools, are de facto degree mills nowadays).

    They major in pointless crap on top of it.

    And they picked up no domain-general and transferable skills -- they still don't know basic tasks in Excel, they can't use online databases, and their only skills with word processors are adjusting the margins and spacing to hit a page count, and bullshitting a last-minute paper.

    They get an A on that paper due to grade inflation, but they pat themselves on the back for their excellent BS-ing skills. A real-world employer reads a report like that and concludes that they're braindead, clueless, lying, or shamelessly self-promoting.

    If we're going to burst the higher ed bubble, we need to drive home how UNDER-qualified it leaves the kids when they're done with it.

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