Friday, August 22, 2014

Lex Anteinternet: Costs over time, and Education over time. A discus...

Lex Anteinternet: Costs over time, and Education over time. A discus...:  A World War One vintage poster urging the conservation of bread.  The value of bread has been the measure of costs since anitquity.  &qu...

Costs over time, and Education over time. A discussion.

 A World War One vintage poster urging the conservation of bread.  The value of bread has been the measure of costs since anitquity.  "Give us this day our daily bread"

I subscribed to a World War Two list populated by students of history, both professional and serious amateur.  The discussions are often very in depth and quite good.  Recently there was a particularly fascinating one that strayed off into all sorts of topics, but which might best be regarded as one on the costs of things over time, and on education. As it was so interesting, I'm patching in pieces of it here, as that related to a frequent topic here.

The discussion started as follows below:

 U.S. Soldiers training with M1 Thompson Submachineguns during World War Two. The Thompson, it turns out, was an extremely expensive weapon.

I have always been intrigued by the cost of WW II small arms.  Thompson submachine gun cost $225 1940 dollars ($3175 in 2013) while a Reising only cost $50 ($705).  Does anyone know what a M 3 Grease Gun cost?  How about a
MP 1940?  
The reply soon came:

 View of M3 submachinegun's internal parts.  It was a fairly cheap weapon.  These were still in use by armored vehicle crewmen when I was in the National Guard in the 1980s.

A Sten was 4 pounds 3 shillings.

An M3 was $18-20 as I recall.
For those who may not know, the weapons mentioned there were the Thompson Submachinegun, the Sten Gun, and the M3 submachinegun.

There was a lot more on the costs of military firearms during World War Two, and the decline in costs during the war, but I'll not post that here, interesting though it was.  Instead, I'll go on to the diversion in the conversation, which took some very interesting turns.

From here, things took a really interesting turn with an analysis of costs over time.  This particular method isn't that unusual, but in this instance its unusually developed:

My Dad always converts costs to the APEGGA salary report for Geologists. His working theory is if he had to work 1 day for an item in the '40s then he can compare if to how long a geologist has to work today for the same item.

It has been interesting over the years hearing about the broad decline in labour to purchase a good, and growth in the share of time that has gone to tax and services.

We have had a few conversations about what to compare his cable
(TV/Internet) bill to.
I find things like this interesting, but the analysis more complicated than we might at first suppose, even though it is routinely made.  So I replied:

A good theory, but you have to use items that are static in terms of basic production.  That is, they themselves have not changed. So, how long for a loaf of bread, or how long for a bottle of Coca Cola, or how long for a good wool suit, etc.

So you couldn't use, for example, automobiles, which cost a great deal more
(presumably) per unit, but last a great deal longer, and are a great deal more technologically advanced.
Even my reply isn't really very in depth analysis, but it raises the point that looking at costs over time, in real terms, is more complicated than we'd suppose.  His reply in turn:

For him it is a starting point in comparison. Dad's consistent argument is a good is a good - a 1950s 'quality car' had the features/ safety/ reliability expected and a 2015 'quality car' will align to expectations. Not a perfect argument - but consistent with his working point: how much of my time do I spend working to obtain something. The $ measure was 12-17x.

Did enjoy my nephew building a head of steam about his tuition for a Geology degree in 2005. Turns out to be 1/3 to 1/4 of the labour cost of a Geology degree in 1946...
Another participant replied with an analysis similar to that above:

Using the newly devised Camaro Cost Labor Index (CCLI) [trademark pending] a new 1969 SS Camaro cost about $2,500 new. With the minimum wage at $1.60@hr. In 1969, it would take 1,562.5 hours to buy that car. A 2013 Camaro 1SS is about $32,000, and with a national minimum wage of $7.25@hr. you are looking at 4,413.79 hours to get that bad boy. I did not calculate for withholding, FICA, but just a rough calculation.

If you do the calc with Seattle's $15 minimum wage, you get 2,133.33 hours.
Another participant brought in the example of private aircraft, which is something I wouldn't have thought of or known about, although I have wondered from time to time why private aircraft seemed so much more commonly owned in the 50s and 60s.
1969 Cessna 172K sold for $12,500 or 7,812 minimum wage hours
2015 Cessna 172SP will be around $288,000 or 39,724 hours (19.8 years)
Quite a remarkable difference, naturally causing some surprise.  A reply came asking:
Is the avionics that drive up the cost, or weight-saving materials or both?
 The response.
Both, plus cost of inspections and certifications required by the government.
 And an addition by a different participant, which raised a point I was thinking.
The body is the same and most of the avionics are the same. Where they are different Liability and certification testing are a huge component.
Both planes operate under the same base certificate
Insurance cost for Cessna that is added to the cost of the aircraft is one of the larger components.  In 1969 people weren't suing Cessna when a piece that they failed to inspect or maintain broke on a 45 year old aircraft.

Cessna stopped building aircraft after defending themselves from too many lawsuits.  Congress passed a product liability law putting a cap on how years after an aircraft was built that the manufacturer  maintained liability.  That allowed Cessna to start producing aircraft again.
I had at one time read that Cessna had indeed ceased making aircraft and when I'd mentioned it to somebody, they informed I was in error. As it turns out, I was and I wasn't, I just hadn't realized that Congress had stepped into limit liability in regards to aircraft or at least this class of aircraft.  I probably should have realized that.

I said, in response to that statement.
I don't know anything about the cost of aircraft, but this would have been my guess also.

As I'm employed in the field,  I guess I can spout off about it a bit.
Protection against liability has become a necessary plague in the US.  Any one, can be sued for anything, no matter how stupid it is, at any time.  We like to say that we have the best justice system in the world. Whether or not that's true is questionable, but we sure have the most over exercised one.  And I say that as a person who makes their bread and butter defending people against those suits, so I suppose I'm profiting by that.
Lawyer, late 1930s or early 1940s.  I've used this photo before, and while I haven't previously noted it, this particular lawyer is an African American lawyer, an occupation for blacks that was not as uncommon as it might be supposed, as the law has always been one of the occupations that had space for minorities in the United States and the United Kingdom.  This lawyer is in a law library. Chances are that he's fairly typical for the era, and is a solo practitioner or in a small partnership, and litigation likely made up on a percentage of a general practice.

This is a topic on which lawyers aren't really supposed to voice this opinion, but we all know it's true.  The costs of litigation are a major factor in the price of American goods, the question is whether that's just or not.

A person can argue both ways, but the problem with the argument is that people who make it, one way or another, tend to have a vested interest in the argument, or they tend to acquire the views of their clients.  Plaintiffs attorneys will commonly dismiss this argument claiming that this isn't a real factor, and then going on to some species of the Homer Stokes argument, which I tend to think is something they absorb over time, and start to believe.* Truth be known civil litigation in the U.S. is at least somewhat out of control and a large number of fairly specious suits are brought.  Some will claim that this serves the interest of justice for all, by insuring that the courthouse doors are open, but it probably just gums things up.  I shouldn't complain, of course, but a person shouldn't pretend the truth isn't the truth, even if they happen to benefit by whatever the problem may be.  After all, policemen don't pretend that there aren't crimes, although that is undoubtedly a poor analogy.

Of course, part of this here might also reflect our concepts of risk.  We've gotten really used to aircraft and we pretty much assume a level of safety analogous with them that's equivalent to cars, which get safer every year.  So perhaps the increase in liability exposure reflects that.  In the 30s, 40s, and 50s, we knew that they were dangerous and perhaps we just figured people took their chances with aircraft.  Now, they're safer, and we don't view it that way perhaps.  So, if something goes wrong perhaps we're more inclined to sue about it now, on this sort of topic.

Indeed, I definitely think there's something to that. Plenty of cars made in the 1950s lacked seat belts, had vacuum windshield wipers, and gasoline tanks that were probably dangerous.  Indeed, the frame design was dangerous.  People didn't sue for any of those reasons if they got into an accident, and indeed failure to wear seat belts was not allowed as a defense of any sort until quite recently.  But, as cars can now be built with all these features being much safer and there being many more safety features in general, if a car manufacturer came out with a car built like one in the 1950s, there would no doubt be lawsuits, and well there should be too.  And lawsuits frankly drive things towards being safer, whether we like to admit it or not.

At this point another participant brought in the cost of a college education, which brought in a new analysis.

 University of Wyoming College of Education, center, 1950s.  Geology building, a much older structure, to the left, the College of Education to the right.  The University of Wyoming got rolling as part of the state's bid for statehood, as the thought was that if a Territory had a university, it deserved to be a state, or at least was pretty darned civic minded.
Do the same calculation on attending college!  In 1982 I was able to pay state school tuition based on working a summer job at minimum wage.  For the vast majority of institutions of higher ed that cannot be done anymore!
At this point, I noted:

Coincident with that, note that the college degree has become much more common, as well as the need for a degree.  If you take that back to World War Two, the change is stunning.

I've forgotten the percentage, but a relatively high percentage of U.S.servicemen in World War Two hadn't graduated from high school.  A high school degree at the time, in comparison, was much more valuable in terms of the work place than it is now.  A university degree of nearly any kind pretty much entitled a person to a white collar business position, although there were a lot of men (and we're speaking mostly of men) who had white collar jobs who had not gone into college.

In contrast, a college degree of some sort is now an entry level requirement for many jobs that previously it was not.  And certifications have spread to everything.

So college costs more, is more common, and a degree is worth less.
This is at topic which as already been addressed on our site here, but it's still an interesting one.  And it was followed up by another poster, who noted:

My father joined the Navy while in 11th grade when he turned 18.  Served for 4 years to be discharged after the war.   When he got home he was awarded a degree by his high school based on his Naval experiences.  He always complained because he thought surviving a three shore bombardments, a strafing, a kamikaze attack, and a ship-to-ship engagement with two other Japanese destroyers was worth at least a two year degree.

I am curious as to if it was a common practice for high schools to award degrees to men who left early?
 And my reply, which I'll note wasn't the universal reply in regards to granting degrees:

2012-11-28 17.08.21 by WoodenShoeMaker
 My high school Alma Mater, Natrona County High School.

It wasn't common here.  I don't think it happened at all here.  At least some returning veterans actually came back into high school to finish their degrees.

One of my father's friends left the local high school when he turned 18 to join the Army.  He served in the ETO and then went on to serve in the post war Constabulary in Germany.  When he came back home he joined the Fire Department, which had been his lifelong dream.

This is interesting, in context, for a variety of reasons.  Now it wouldn't be possible to join the Army with no high school degree for the most part (there is a small program that opens up the service for GED holders).  Of course, there was a huge war going on.  But also, now it wouldn't be possible to join the Fire Department without a high school degree.  Indeed locally the city firemen all have two year fire degrees.
 I also added:

This causes me to recall an interview I'd heard of a World War One veteran.  He'd graduated from his local high school back east, and then been told of an office job with an insurance company in a nearby neighboring town.  He'd gone to work there and, but for World War One, had worked his entire career there, rising up in the ranks in the company.

Again, now, I don't think you'd be let in without a four year college degree.

Indeed, I can think of a relative of mine who entered a large Anglo-Canadian company as an office boy and rose up to very high in the company.  Pretty much impossible now.  One of my grandfathers left home, with his parents' permission, to go to work in another state at age 13 and ended up owning a substantial local company by the time of his premature death in his 40s.

The point, I guess, of all of that is to compare not only costs, but value. It's interesting how some things have increased in cost, but decreased in value.  Perhaps the world's just that much more technical, or perhaps it's just that the education is that much more common.
 A participant added this very interesting detail:

In 1940, about 29 percent of white males 25-years-old and over had completed four years of high school. It was 9 percent for blacks and other non-whites.

Stunning information, isn't it?  That's an incredibly low graduation rate.

Today, in our state, it's regarded as a crisis that nearly, or rather "only" about 80% of the students at NCHS will graduate. In the 40s, 30% was regarded as good enough. Granted, there was a Depression going on and people found work as their families needed the money, but I doubt that this percentage was actually all that different from 15 years prior in good times.

 NCHS students, 1946.  The boys are mostly wearing JrROTC uniforms, as JrROTC was mandatory at NCHS at the time.

Indeed, around here the high school graduation rates tend to go up in bad times, as there's no tempting work for students.  Not that the same analyiss would apply to the 30s and 40s, as the economic situation of a Depression, in an era in which assistance was often wanting, was completely different.

My somewhat shocked reply:

Wow, that's a much lower percentage of graduation than I'd realized.
Another poster added:

And many degrees, such as -Studies degrees are worthless, if we go on the assumption that employability in a real job that pays wages, as opposed to sinecures like, say, community organizing is the determinant.
 I weigh in again, now mixing the topics of vehicles and education:

One of the old vehicles I've owned, a 1958 Willys M38A1 Jeep.  It cost me $500.00 at age 15.

You know, going back to this example, it strikes me how interesting but difficult these sort of analogies are (keeping in mind that I like this sort of topic).

Anyhow, I've had a lot of cares over the years.  I've owned new ones made in the 2000s and really old ones, with the oldest one I ever owned being a 1946 CJ2A (most of my vehicles have been 4x4s).  In thinking on it, and thinking back to my father's vehicles, prior to at least the 1980s if a vehicle made it past 65,000 miles it was doing good.  Usually my father's were shot by that time.  The vehicles I had made prior to 1960s models were pretty worn out by that time.  We all thought it amazing if a vehicle went past 100,000 miles.  I had a 1974 Dodge D150 that went to 145,000 miles before it died, and I was amazed.  Now this is nothing.   For example, a few years ago I sold a 1996 F250 diesel that had 195,000 miles on it and the only thing really wrong with the vehicles is that the body was rusting out.

On that vehicle, I'd never even had the brakes serviced.  I have a Dodge D3500 diesel right now that has 112,000 miles on it and the brakes have never been serviced.  In comparison, the vehicles I had made prior to the 1980s always had something that needed to be worked on.  The CJ2A I had practically required a full time mechanic. 

My point here is that I'm not really sure that the old ones were cheaper.  If you keep them until they fall apart, and I tend to do that, some of them last forever now.  Getting up to 200,000 miles isn't uncommon, when once that was unheard of.  And with good vehicles, while servicing them is more expensive, they really don't have to be serviced as often.  Maybe we really brake even with them over time and they're no more expensive than ever.

 The S. H. Knight building at the University of Wyoming in 1986, the year I graduated with a geology degree.

In contrast on the educational aspect we talked about, I wonder if here we get less bang for our buck.  We used the example of geology degrees.  Up into maybe the 70s finding somebody with a geology degree higher than a BS was uncommon (I'm told).  I knew working geologist in the 1980s who were near retirement age who had worked their whole careers with BS degrees.  By the time I had the BS, you needed an MS just to find an entry level job.  I think that's remained the case.  And I'm sure there are a lot of other examples.

Anyhow, what I wonder is if the price of material goods has stayed flatter than we suppose, and maybe even declined in real terms on some things, while the investment in education for a vocation has had to dramatically increase.
 The conversation returned to automobiles, with degrees still remaining a topic.

I recently purchased a time machine; a 2014 Camaro SS. When I get inside, I feel 18 again. Anyway, the service manager is a real car guy and we were talking about the various generations of Camaro cars (mine is considered Gen V, and a Gen VI is coming out in 2016 or so). I had look at a 1969, but realized that with the 2014 I'd get ABS, fuel injection, traction control, air bags, computer controlled everything and so on. He went on to say that even the cheapest car Chevy sells, the Spark ($12K) will go 100,000 miles with just oil changes and basic service. He said the 1969 SS's you see today are around because they have been rebuilt extensively; he said getting 60,000+ miles out a 1969 era American car was an achievement. If I keep this 2014 Camaro to 120,000 miles, it would have taken two 1969 equivalents to match that feat with the same level of service and care.
I agree strongly on the MA/BA point. I went to grad school in 1989, and had a teacher that talked about Barbara Tuchman, and what she was able to do with a BA. I think another point is the age people are getting a masters. A lot of schools of education have a MAT (Masters of Teaching) where the BA and MA are run together as a five year program. I have an uncle who got a MBA in the 1970s. He graduated from a prestigious undergrad school and applied to an Ivy League school. He was told he had an impressive resume and then they said go work for a year or two and then we will let you in. The drive in education today is that everyone gets a masters as soon as possible. I am working on my second masters, a M.Ed. at almost 50, and I think I am getting far more out of it with 20 years of life/professional experience behind me than if I had done it at 25.
To which I replied:

Indeed, I'd say that the amount of care it took to get a 1969 car to 60,000 miles was much greater than the amount it generally takes to get a present model to 120,000.

Indeed, this is something that my vehicles out front exhibit.  In front of my house right now are three Dodge 4x4s, a 1962 W300 (a true Power Wagon, a very heavy truck), a 1997 D150 and a 2007 D3500.  They have 63,000, 120,000 and 112,000 miles on them respectively. 

Of the three, the 2007 requires the least amount of attention.  The brakes have never been touched on it.  When it was new, as it is a diesel and had a new model engine at the time, it had some problems with the diesel particulate filter, but those were long ago worked out.  It's had one major computer/filter thing occur with it, but that wasn't expensive.  The 97 was a very cheap truck when we bought it and I don't know anything of its history before we owned it.  It had over 100,000 miles when we bought it.  We have had its brakes worked on, but that's about it.

I love the 62, and it's a very heavy truck of a type basically not made anymore.  When I need it, I need it. But I drive it very little.  Since I've owned it (a very long time) I've had a variety of interesting mechanical things that have had to be done, none of which are abnormal for a truck of its vintage, but all of which would be odd for a modern truck.  It hasn't been rebuilt, but I've paid very careful attention to it in the 30 years I've owned it.  I've completely replaced the extremely heavy brakes, which are barely adequate for a vehicle if its weight to start with.  I have to watch the old bias ply tires carefully.  The clutch has been replaced.  And so on.  On a 1962, that was typical.  For a 2014, that'd be so aggravating you'd think it a lemon.

The other thing about vehicles is that at some point, they crossed into a nearly new, or perhaps just highly evolved, class of implement.  So at that point the comparison starts to break down.  Having had a lot of old vehicles, I used to agree with a friend who held the position that there wasn't much difference, in terms of fundamental mechanics, between cars of the 1930s and modern cars, but I no longer agree.  It was true of the vehicles I had that were made before 2000 or so.  My 1990 F150 wasn't all that much different, in basic terms, than my 1974 D150, which wasn't all that much different in basic mechanical terms, from my 1962 W300, save for that the 1962 doesn't have power anything.  But now new vehicles have crossed some threshold where they are starting to bear about as much resemblance to earlier vehicles as the F35 does to the Sopwith Camel.  So a person isn't really even buying quite the same thing anymore.

On education again, you raise a very good point about how that worked.  Even when I was first out of school with a BS, I routinely heard people speak of "going back" to get a Masters.  Now, they just often go on.  I was friends with several grad students when I was an undergrad, and probably 1/3d of them had worked as geologist before "going back" for a masters.   The other side of that is that if we go back further, into the 50s and 60s, a BA was so marketable that a person who held one could gain entry into the white collar corporate world irrespective of the major.  When I was a kid adults still spoke with a little bit of awe about somebody "having a college degree" or "being the first one in their family to get a college degree" without mentioning what the major was.  When I've heard that recently, for young people it brings a big yawn.  

Some of that, I'd note is self inflicted in that I really think the degrees themselves have become much cheaper.  When I was an undergrad at UW we took one class that had a set 50% failure rate, just to weed people out.  It was frightening, but that's what they did.  Later, in law school, they didn't worry much about attrition.  Now it  seems like concerns for keeping people in programs is much higher.  The state bar here used to have four sections, two being national portions, one being a state test, and one being an interview with the bar examiners.  If 40% failed, oh well was the attitude.  Over time they eliminated the interview, and finally as of last year we wiped out the state test, so now all we have is the professional responsibility exam and the UBE, a national test.  We don't even test on state law topics.  Perhaps cutting the other way, however, there is now a state test to be a Registered Professional Geologist.
And I added, throwing in the topic of real property, which I've discussed elsewhere here:

While we're on all of this, one thing I should note that is definitely different is the price of real property, specifically agricultural real property.

As we go back towards World War Two, it's interesting to note that the Homestead Act only came to an end with the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act, which was passed into law in 1934.  That was only a mere seven years prior to the start of the war for the U.S.

The peak year for homesteading in the U.S. was 1913, which was a real record breaker.  More homestead were filed in 1913 and more land transferred out of the Federal Domain than in any other year before or after.  It's common (and I've done it myself) to attribute the peak in homesteading in the teens to World War One, but in actuality, the peak came in advance of the war.  The war did boost homesteading as there was a boom in the North American wheat and horse markets due to the war, however.

As late as the 50s it was still not too uncommon to look down a bit on rural residents as bumpkins, etc.  And it was a pretty common goal of rural people to get their kids off the farm and into towns.  For that matter, that attitude has lingered on and you'll still find it in families that have been in agriculture all along.  Its sometimes pretty hard for really rural families to grasp that people in town actually work.  However, what has really definitely changed is that at least up into the 1950s a person could still get into agriculture if they wanted to.  Locally, due to various factors, it was still possible to do that in the 1980s.  I know at least three families that were not wealthy that acquired substantial ranch lands in that period.

Now, that's very far from true.  Ranch land values are so high that it would be absolutely impossible to pay the value off on production over a lifetime, indeed a couple of lifetimes, and so true producers hardly every simple start up. Even existing operations have to be very careful about that.

That's a pretty fundamental change really, and not really a good one in my view.
 An interesting standard of living addition was made by one poster.:

School facilities, West Virginia, 1921.

If I recall this statistic correctly, the 1940 census showed that only 45% of households had indoor plumbing. I say 'only' but people back then would have looked at it as simply reality. A different world.
It's odd to think of, but if we do look at the American population in 1940, the year prior to Pearl Harbor, certainly a lot of people had grown up without indoor plumbing.  That was probably as revolutionary to them as all the electronic stuff around is to people my age (51).

And a return to the discussion on college costs:

One reason college costs so much today is the salaries they pay the administrators.  Here in Atlanta, the head of Georgia State University is paid $750,000 per year - for keeping a bunch of college kids in line!  That's more than the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he is responsible for the defense of the U.S.!
A person in academics replied about the tremendous rise in costs of academics from internal forces.  It was a remarkable rise, which drew reactions from a professor, noting that he didn't share in the rise in salaries that went to administration, and to a person outside of academics who generally objected to the costs of administrative salaries, comparing those salaries to civil servant salaries.

I added this on the topic:

I was sort of confronted recently, by my young German co-worker, about the amount of money that goes into school athletics in the US.  It's a bit of an irony in my case, as I don't follow college level athletics at all.

I would note that the amount of money that college big sports coaches receive seems very high to me, no doubt very far in excess of what any professor receives.  I always hear it justified in terms of "it brings money into the school".  Maybe it does, but that always seems to be sort of a lame explanation to me.

Seeing as this thread tracks changes and costs from the WWII era until now, I've sometimes noted that it seems to me that college sports were pretty well followed in the 1940s.  Football in particular really seems to have been a college sport at the time, more than a professional sport.  I'm sure that there were sports scholarships and all, but it does seem that the "student athletes" were more likely to actually be students at the time.  I wonder what coach pay was like?  My guess is that they didn't make much more than any other professor and maybe less, but I don't really know.  For that matter, I don't know when college athletics really took on their present status.

It is interesting that athletics in general had enough of a lesser status such that some individuals, like "Whizzer" White, chose to go on to other careers after World War Two rather than go back into pro sports.
 I was surprised, on the last item, when this information was posted:

In the 30's Dana X. Bible was hired by University of Texas with a 15 year guarantee contract for $15,000 per year. In today's dollars $$250,000.
Sort of shows how important college level sports were, even in the midst of the Great Depression.  I would never have guessed that. 

That whole diversion in the conversation was surprising to me.  I"m not sure that I agree at all that professors are overpaid, that's for sure.  I think they're underpaid. Are administrations too top heavy?  I have no idea.

I do think that there's a smouldering crisis in university eduction, however.  The cost of it is unsustainable long term, and we've gone from having serious, if not always economically lucrative disciplines, to a plethora of disciplines that are not either always serious or lucrative.

Quite frankly, we just shouldn't have a situation where everybody has a college degree, as if we require that much education just to work in any field, we're doing something wrong. That view has tended to cheapen degrees. Most parents dream of having their kids attend college, but society cannot really accommodate that dream. Basically, if a person doesn't have the personal makeup to attend what a college or university of the 1940s or 50s was like, they probably shouldn't be in college.

Unless the hold up is money, in which case we should address it, but only where it serves society's interest, in my view.  We're presently doing this through college loans, but we as a society will loan on anything.  A while back I saw a young woman protesting her student loans which she wasn't going to be able to pay back. Well, she was working on a masters in Art History.  Of course she isn't going to be able to pay that back, and the United States had no business or need to loan her the money to do that either.  If she wanted to pursue it on her own, the more power to her, but if the public trust is involved, the loans really ought to be for something the US needs. Right now, that would be in engineering and the sciences, and probably also medicine.

It wouldn't be in things like Art History. Quite frankly, it wouldn't be in law either, which is flooded as a market.

Universities should also be made, somehow, to avoid watering down degrees.

On the other hand, at least in my state, the state does a tremendous job of finding ways to send kids to school.  It's fantastic.  I went to the local community college today with Marcus to help him register for a college class he's taking, even though he's a junior in high school.  And because of a county program, the school district picks up the tab.  It's a great opportunity for high school kids.

*  Homer Stokes is the character in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? who is running against Governor Pappy O'Daniel.  Stokes claims to be representing "the little man" and travels with a midget in order to make his point.