Student Loan Burdens Can Become Awfully Weighty

What’s fair about a college or university student loan program that leaves graduates facing virtually a lifetime of debt? This question is raised in a Wall Street Journal article “Financially Hobbled for Life”: The Elite Master’s Degrees That Don’t Pay Off”.

The writer of this post is retired now, but looks back on a college education that, thanks to devoted parents, after-class jobs and a reasonably priced school, left him free of any lingering student debt in the 1950s. The contrasting story of Zack Morrison, a 29-year-old filmmaker and Columbia University Master of Fine Arts graduate, is faced with paying off a student loan balance of nearly $300,000.

“Columbia University President Lee Bollinger,” the news story reports, “said the Education Department data in the Journal’s analysis can’t fully assess salary prospects because it covers only earnings and loan repayments two years after graduation. ‘Nevertheless,’ he added, ‘this is not what we want it to be.’”

That’s hardly surprising. Faced with the expenses of getting established in a career and having a family, if they can afford it, college or university graduates saddled with educational debt that dwarfs their salaries are in a really tough spot.

Morrison praises the quality of his Columbia master’s program but  wonders, “How the hell am I ever going to pay this off?”  That’s a fair question when his graduate student loans balance “now stands at nearly $300,000, including accrued interest. He has been earning between $30,000 and $50,000 a year from work as a Hollywood assistant and such side gigs as commercial video production and photography.”

Schools like Columbia have reason to be proud of their educational offerings, but their cost to students needs, it appears, to be reconsidered.

When an Association Owns a Building, Who’s In Charge?

Condominium – An apartment building in which the apartments are owned individually. – American Heritage Dictionary

Okay, but who’s in charge? Who’s responsible for the upkeep of a condominium building and for the safety of the “owners” who have apartments therein. In all fairness, who was in charge, or should have been, at the Champlain Towers South condo association before part of the building collapsed into deadly rubble in Surfside, Florida?

The condo building’s setting on the Florida shore made it especially vulnerable to erosion and other environmental factors.

“I’ve seen up and down the coast hundreds of buildings where you have concrete problems,” said Greg Batista, a specialist in concrete repair projects quoted by CNN. . “If not maintained, whether it’s a concrete problem or a settling problem, it could be a bridge, it could be a building, it could be a dam or a sea wall — these kinds of things happen if not tended to.”

But who should have been seeing that the condo building’s condition was being tended to in a timely, effective manner? CNN noted that the condo owners “were facing $15 million worth of repairs”. These, of course, are merely rhetorical questions at this point in the collapse that apparently took more than 150 lives early one morning.  But they are questions that matter, deeply so.

Heads Up to Avert a Covid-19 ‘Doomsday’

Rochelle Walensky, MD, the director of the federal Center for Disease Control, is a forthright person and for that she’s to be praised. On March 21, Ms. Walensky advised :

“When I first started at CDC about 2 months ago, I made a promise to you: I would tell you the truth even if it was not the news we wanted to hear. Now is one of those times when I have to share the truth, and I have to hope and trust you will listen. I’m going to pause here, I’m going to lose the script, and I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom.”

“Doom” because too many people, principally younger people, aren’t heeding appeals to continue taking COVID-19 seriously  and have been having a springtime fling. Witness, notes WebMD, the “spring break crowds (that)  have overwhelmed some areas, such as southern Florida. Governors and health officials have expressed concerns about the latest coronavirus data in their states.”

It isn’t fair when people turn aside advisories of the health risks their behavior might well inflict on others. Covid-19 is a silent killer – hence Ms. Walensky’s doomsday warning.

We need more community-based thinking and response in the midst of a continuing pandemic.  Look around – vaccinations are gaining ground, but there are risks aplenty remaining

At the Supreme Court, a Troubling Photo

This photo of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., “protected” behind a wire mesh fence topped by barbed wire, really gets to you. The “framing”, of course, was added after the capitol riots on January 6, 2021.

The Supreme Court is where ultimate justice is rendered.  Anyone with a grievance that rises to the level of being heard by the nation’s courts can expect it to be resolved fairly by the nine-member Supreme Court if the dispute gets that far. The building’s entrance is topped by the words “Equal Justice Under Law”.

The Supreme Court building shouldn’t need protection. Instead, its occupants protect all of us.

Texas Hit By a Climate Punch

 

Texas being smacked with an unexpected, and largely unplanned for,  cold snap in February 2021, demonstrates how important it is to think more strategically than defensibly about one’s readiness for weather and other emergency situations.

Events don’t always unfold as we expect them to and it’s only fair that we limber up our readiness to deal with unexpected challenges.

“A cold snap unusually powerful for the state crippled Texas’ electrical grid this month,” The Wall Street Journal reported.  “It left more than four million Texans without electricity and heat, many for days in subfreezing temperatures, and resulted in 80 deaths.”

“Nearly 185 generating units, mostly gas and coal-fired capacity, tripped offline. The resulting shortages and unexpectedly high demand led to soaring electricity prices,” The Journal reported.  “Wholesale power prices were more than 400 times last year’s average.”

Regulators are now reviewing the state’s electrical grid, which functions largely utility by utility and has little tolerance for weather emergencies. Yet they occasionally occur, more frequently, possibly, with Earth’s changing climate.

When a utility “system” collapse occurs, it can hit very hard. “We need to make changes, and rethink, from the bottom up, how we deliver energy and keep it reliable, ” said Gina McCarthy, head of the White House  Office of Domestic Climate Policy.

“Rethinking” may well be the need of our times for many of us, not only Texas utility executives.

(In the photo with this post, note how the traffic lights on a Texas street were off, like the electric power everywhere else there.)

Ever So Important: A President’s Priorities

There came upon my iMac screen a Washington Post story that made it exceptionally clear how President Trump has failed to serve as the leader the American people have needed during the coronavirus pandemic.  It should illustrate for all future presidents how to get their priorities right: The people first and always.

The Post gave the piece an appropriate heading:  “The inside story of how Trump’s denial, mismanagement  and magical thinking led to the pandemic’s dark winter.”

Should we need reminding on what a president is elected to do, it’s to pick the right aims on behalf of the people and to lead in accomplishing them. As, for example, wearing face masks early on to help check the spread of the virus while seeking ways to counter it, principally vaccines. Donald Trump still is hardly ever seen with a face mask.

A president also establishes his staff’s priorities: “After their warnings had gone largely unheeded for months in the dormant West Wing, Deborah Birx, Anthony S. Fauci, Stephen Hahn and Robert Redfield together sounded new alarms, cautioning of a dark winter to come without dramatic action to slow community spread.

“White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, among the many Trump aides who were infected with the virus this fall, was taken aback, according to three senior administration officials with knowledge of the discussions. He told the doctors he did not believe their troubling data assessment. And he accused them of outlining problems without prescribing solutions.”

“The doctors explained that the solutions were simple and had long been clear – among them, to leverage the power of the presidential bully pulpit to persuade all Americans to wear masks, especially the legions of Trump supporters refusing to do so, and to dramatically expand testing.”

On and on the Post’s piece goes, along with the virus’ largely unchecked spread.