Sunday, August 31, 2014

Dr. Walmart?

Fairly recently on this blog we looked at some topics that dealt with Distributist Economics.  Looming large in that discussion was the economic role of outfits like WalMart, which are sort of the antithesis of the Distributist concept at least on the retail end.

Well, this past week we heard on the news that Walmart is considering adding physicians in its lineup, adding to the Opthomologist it already fields.

Folks who worry about economic trends may want to consider what this means. Walmart already pretty much dominates the retail field in North American in many areas, and has expanded into about every niche it can, or maybe not.  By going from retail goods, into health care, it threatens to really impact this area of the service economy.

Well, what of this?  Is this good, or bad?  There's interesting elements to both sides here.

Traditionally health care has been incredibly individual in nature, although that started to die for various reasons about a a decade ago.  That is, the traditional nature of health care is that people had individual doctors, who had individual practices.  

We've blogged on this before, when we discussed health insurance here, a hot topic the past few years. What we'd note again is that up until World War Two, most Americans didn't have health insurance, although some who worked for large industrial concerns worked for employers who had "company doctors", that is full time physicians employed by those companies (now also a thing of the past). The Second World War brought in health insurance in a big way, as when the Federal Government froze wages, it didn't think to freeze benefits. So, employers started competing for workers, in a tight labor market, with offers of additional benefits.  Health insurance, which existed but which was not hugely widespread, really took off.  That gave us the system we have had basically since, in which quite a few people have health insurance, some don't, etc.  In the 1960s the Great Society programs modified that further by extending health insurance at the Federal level for the very poor, and then Richard Nixon extended it to the elderly.

Health care remained very individual, but starting in the 1980s and 1990s, insurance companies started boosting Health Maintenance Organizations, ie., practices with an established relationship with them, in order to control costs. About the same time, doctors themselves, finding their practices more expensive to merely operate, due to advances in medicine, increasingly came to associate themselves in group practices, which are nearly quasi hospitals and clinics. So consolidation has been definitely occurring.  Prices have also been climbing.  And as a result of the latter, a renewed emphasis on national health care came about, as people began to loose their health insurance as companies, which had gotten the whole thing rolling in the 1940s, found that they could no longer afford it in the 2000s.

Now we have Walmart threatening to enter the field. What would that do?

Well, one thing it would probably do is drive prices down.  Walmart doesn't enter anything that it can't compete at, and we can be assured that they'll undercut everyone else.  It'll be less personal, probably, but also a lot cheaper, I suspect.  They must also have studied the Affordable Health Care Act and they must feel that they can operate cheaply and efficiently within it.

In my prior post, I pretty clearly took a shot at Walmart.  When I heard this news, I was tempted to as well. But maybe this is a not so fast sort of thing.  Professionals are going to just hate this trend, and my suspicion is that if it works it won't stop with doctors, but on the other had as prices have climbed and climbed, perhaps this was inevitable and even corrective.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Looking at labor past. A photo for my friend Couvi.

A photo which reminded me of my friend Couvi, on the weekend we celebrate the fruits of labor and working men, including our own past labor.

Caption reads:
Herschel Bonham, Route A, Box 118, an 11-year-old boy cultivating peas. He belongs to a cotton club in school. Father says he can pick 200 pounds of cotton a day. Location: Lawton, Oklahoma

The Best Posts of the Week for the Week of August 24, 2014

Standards of Dress. The police. A semi topical post

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Theodore Roosevelts

10610586_10152219321546879_5172222764660045729_n.jpg (JPEG Image, 764 × 960 pixels) - Scaled (91%)

Theodore Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt, riding.

Insignia identification?

Does anyone here recognize this British insignia?  On British desert disruptive pattern smock, Jax's, Ft. Collins.

Whose weird scheduling idea was that?

The State Bar Convention in Wyoming is always in September.  It's a week long event.

September is also the month that all the hunting seasons start, as the weather turns cool. And after the blistering month (most years) of August, it's the first nice cool weather in awhile.  It's also the last chance for many rational fishermen (as opposed to the wet suit wearing denizens of Colorado) to get in some fishing before winter sets in.

All of which makes a person wonder who ever thought of scheduling the bar convention in September?  It must have been a person so dull and indoorsy that the thought of hanging around breathing in recycled air and drinking mass produced coffee sounded attractive..

And why do they keep on holding it in September?  I can't think of a rational reason to do it? Why not January when there's nothing going on and its really cold outside, or maybe August when its really hot and recycled air conditioning might not seem so bad.

Oh well.  September it is, as the traditional provides for it.  And, by tradition, and because I have other things to do, I shall not be there.

Business travel and communications

Commercial jet engine as viewed from my plane seat on flight from Oklahoma City to Houston.

I travel a fair amount in the context of work. 

So much so, according to my wife, I'm no fun to travel with for short personal travel, as I get tired of traveling all the time so that a hop to Denver, let's say, isn't that much of an adventure as it is something that's a bit routine.  It's an occupational hazard or feature of the type of law I do.

Convair at the Natrona County International Airport outside of Casper Wyoming, in the early 1950s.

But I'm sure that wasn't always the case.

In the context of this blog, travel and things we do while on business travel have struck me in a couple of ways recently, both of which I've noted about and blogged about here recently on individual threads, but which might make for some interesting discussion once again.

  U.S. version of British "Is this trip necessary" poster from World War Two, urging private citizens not to travel, if at all possible.  Trains were the planes of the day, and business commuters might recall small hop flights when looking at this poster

This blog, as the very few people who read it know, is theoretically a research vehicle for a book (or books really) and explores changes over time, to help me more accurately understand and convey the conditions of the past. And on the topics travel bring up, the changes are truly very vast, in a relatively short period of time.  Indeed, as will be noted below, some of the changes have been very pronounced even during my working life.

One of these topics is how routine long travel is now for quite a few occupations.  Recently, for example, I traveled from my home to Oklahoma City, worked a day there, and flew that afternoon to Houston, and then flew back.  This past week I was in Cheyenne for two days and then on to Denver.  While in Denver, I worked on a project that saw other people come in from Wyoming, one person come in from Lincoln Nebraska, and yet another come in from Newark, New Jersey.  Not particularly remarkable, but at one time not all that long ago this would have been frankly impossible.

It certainly would have been impossible during the 20th Century era when railroad transportation was the traveling norm, which was the case up into the 1950s.  Air travel appeared as early as the 1920s in some locations, but it was extremely expensive and most people didn't travel that way until much later.  Even in the 1950s air travel remained somewhat expensive and a bit of an event, with air travelers usually dressing for the occasion.

I don't even know if it would have been possible to go from Casper Wyoming to Oklahoma City in a day in the era of rail transportation.  I'm sure it would have been possible to go from Oklahoma City to Houston in a day, but the entire thing would have probably taken at least a week, overall.  Chances are that it just wouldn't have occurred in this context.  People did travel for business, of course, but in litigation it wasn't common to travel that far.  Most lawyers probably only traveled to neighboring states as a rule, and that only occasionally, depending upon where they lived.  I wouldn't be too surprised, for example, to find a Wyoming lawyer in 1914 traveling to Denver by train, and it wouldn't surprise me if a lawyer in New York City traveled to New Jersey or other local east coast locations frequently.  But a lawyer in Casper would have only traveled to Houston very rarely in this context, if ever.

 Train outside of Chicago.

Even in the early airline era this would have been somewhat unlikely.  I'm sure a person could have gone from Casper to Oklahoma City in a day by air post 1945, but it would have shot most of the day (which it does, as a practical matter, anyway).  And it no doubt was also possible to go the much shorter distance of Oklahoma City to Houston in a day, although it would have taken a lot longer than it does now.  That might have shot the whole day there too.  And getting back from Houston would be a long series of flights.  So, it could have been done, no doubt, but my three day example would, more likely, have been a four or five day example, and also less likely to have occurred.

 Houston, 1949.  I wonder how many of these tall buildings are still standing?

Commercial airliners in Casper Wyoming in the early 1950s, one taking off while another sits on the tarmac.

This week, as already noted, I've made the much shorter trip, by pickup truck (we don't own a true "car", just trucks, assuming a Suburban is a truck), from Casper to Cheyenne.  In Cheyenne I stayed overnight, as I had additional work the next day, and then I drove to Denver, where I again stayed the night.  Not particularly remarkable, and a trip which a person could easily make by automobile at any time since 1930 or so.  And by the 1930s that was pretty common within the state or to a nearby area, like Denver.  I've heard other lawyers speak of travel in that era many times, although one thing to note is that doing it in the winter would have been dicey, and unlike now local people generally traveling that sort of distance would have done it with a sedan, rather than with a pickup truck or 4x4, as is so common here now.

 Denver Colorado, 1898.  This photograph was taken somewhere int eh Capitol Hill District, based upon the few buildings I recognize in the photograph.  The rail line would be in this view, but it is not visible in this photograph.

But what has struck me this trip is the degree to which, even in my own lifetime, I no longer really ever leave the office, even when I'm on the road.

Office of the 1940s, note the lack of any office machinery, other than a telephone, on the desk. No computer, no Dictaphone, no typewriter.  While a Dictaphone wouldn't have been surprising, any other office machinery would have been, which says something not only about the lack of it, but the reliance upon secretaries to process any work at the time.

When I first started practicing law nobody had portable laptop computers and there were few easily transportable cell phones.  Basically, when we were out of the office, we were out of the office.  The only chance of finding out if we had messages was to call back to the office and have somebody read the pink "message" slips we received if we missed a call.

Now, that's all a thing of the very remote past.  On Monday, when I traveled down for a hearing, I had, as always, my Iphone, and I checked and replied to email on it.  That evening I plugged in my computer and worked on work stuff that I emailed off all evening.  The next day I checked my voice mail messages, sent instructions regarding the same, and went on to my next hearing.  When I arrived in Denver, I once again plugged in my computer and picked up and responded to my email, which I did again the following early morning (I woke up about 4:00 am conscious of the fact that I'd failed to reply to an email I'd received the day prior).  During all of this, from time to time, I spoke by cell phone to my office or other lawyers concerning various pending matters.

 Typical hotel scene for me.  Briefcase, book (Street Without Joy), and laptop computer.

At one time, therefore, this trip, which still would have occurred, would be a series of solitary events, mostly uninterrupted, and un-informed, by what was going on elsewhere. The actual amount of work accomplished would have been considerably less than it is now, but on the other hand the hours would have been considerably shorter as well.  The work at night would have not gone on into the evening, and the work during the day would not have commenced at 4:00.

Another thing worth noting, perhaps, is the extent to which some of us hole up in our hotel rooms on business travel.  I guess this hasn't always been the case.

A friend of mine, based upon an observation of mine that hotel rooms in the historic Plains Hotel in Cheyenne are really small, noted that in old hotels the rooms are small but the lobbies were big.  This is, I would note, very much the case, at least as to the vintage hotels I've stayed in here and there.  I frankly don't chose old hotels as a rule, as my luck is really mixed with them, but over time I've stayed, for example, in The Plains, Oklahoma City's Skirven, Tulsa's Ambassador and others.  The Ambassador in Tulsa is the nicest hotel I've ever been in, by far, and I always stay there when I'm in Tulsa.  It's a bit unusual, however, in that the rooms are a decent size, which is not the case for most vintage hotels.

Anyhow, as my friend observed, nobody hung out in their rooms. Why would have they, really, as there were no televisions, no Internet, no radios even if early enough?  You could sit in your room and read, but then you could also go down, get a table in the bar, and do that perhaps.  It hadn't occurred to me, but it makes sense.  Indeed since then I've noticed that every single vintage hotel I've been in has a huge, fairly ornate, lobby.  The Plains does, the Skirven does, the Oxford in Denver (which has little tiny rooms if the one I had is any indication), the Ambassador does, and even the Calvert in Lewistown Montana does, although it was converted from a public girl's school dormitory (distances were too great for parents to bring their girls into school for much of the year at the time it was built).
Lobby of the Plains Hotel in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  The vintage hotel has been restored in recent years.

Now hotel rooms are bigger and in some instances quite large.  There's usually a table to work in. The hotel I stayed in near the Denver airport (prices downtown were insane) was equipped with two televisions.  Why, exactly, a room that small needs two televisions isn't clear to me, but at the hotel I was staying at the bedroom, or area with a bed, was slightly separated from the entry way, where a work desk was located.  The second television was in the bedroom.  I've never had a television in a bedroom, save for the one room apartments I had when I was a college student, and I don't want one in my bedroom now.

I hardly actually ever actually watch the television in a hotel room, I'll note, and didn't here other than to flip through the channels.  I'll often do that, which is probably a hold over from my younger years in which hotels were the only places I was ever at where there were the "premium" channels like HBO.  Now, with basic cable, you get a lot more channels that you are ever inclined to view, or at least that's the case for me.  My basic cable comes with channels like the Bolivian Grade School Soccer League Channel, or whatever, and I have a hard time believing that anyone views them, but there they are.

The hotel I was at was part of the Hilton chain and when I noted what movie options were available there was a section, as there always is in a Hilton, for movies a person would be ashamed to watch at home. Weird.  I read somewhere once that one of the hotel chains (not sure which one) was the largest distributor of that kind of junk on Earth, which may or may not be true, but that is a truly odd thing about some business hotels.  These sorts of hotels cater to businessmen, and it's odd to think that a certain section of that clientele uses their trips to view such material.  Hopefully they aren't charging it to their clients.  On the other hand, the odd channels I like to watch with old movies and the like are never offered, so as always, I turned it off and picked up a copy of the book I'm reading, "Street Without Joy".  Had I stayed in old hotels, back in the day, I'd no doubt have stayed in my room with a book.  Pretty much like I do now, except when I'm working, which is often. 

Indeed, I have traditionally done an enormous amount of reading while traveling and still do on airplanes.  The invasion of work into evening hotel time has cut down on my reading in hotels somewhat, however.

Is this an improvement, or not, or neither, over prior conditions?  I can't really say, but I will note that even now I always worry about things while I'm on the road.  I worry about the calls I miss,, the mail, the whole nine yards.  I zealously check these things, so that I'm not worried as much.  Looking back I worried about them when I couldn't check, so maybe this is a personal improvement.  But also, it means that a person is more isolated in travel, and working more when they travel, which probably inspires my wife's observations that I'm not fun to travel with on short trips, as I travel so much.  Indeed, I'd note, if a short trip is a day trip for personal reasons, I'll go ahead and use my computer and cell phone to keep up with work, which probably isn't a good thing.

Case Illustrates Importance of Detailed Lease Provisions in Case of Drought | Texas Agriculture Law

Case Illustrates Importance of Detailed Lease Provisions in Case of Drought | Texas Agriculture Law

Friday Farming: A bull

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Standards of Dress. The police. A semi topical post

 Squad of Chicago Mounted Police
 Chicago Mounted Police, 1907.

I've done threads on standards of dress from time to time, as part of the general them of this page of tracking changes in the last century.  Probably the most specific one I did was on clerical dress, with most being of a more general nature. This is one of the specific ones, police dress.

I had intended to do one on service dress, but it's not really possible as that would include military uniforms which need their own category.  Indeed, that's several threads as the dress of the various services depart from each other, so we'll take up police dress by itself.  We intended to do this for some time now, but this is oddly topical due to the riots going on in Ferguson Missouri, which is reported on the news as being a "town", which it is, but it's a town that's a suburb of St. Louis.

Now, I'm not really going to comment on the Ferguson riots, and couldn't if I wished to as its one of those stories I haven't follows.  Wyoming is a long ways from there, and the news coming out of there is very foreign to us here in many ways. But it does tap into the topic here, and in a way to this topic nationwide, as apparently one of the things that happened in Ferguson is that the police came into the the distressed area with military equipment, and a military appearance, which relfects a nationwide trend that deserves some attention.

So, police uniforms.

I don't know when the first police adopted uniforms actually, but it's much more recent in general than people would suppose.  Indeed, police themselves are a more recent phenomenon that people suppose, and generally if we go back much past the mid 19th Century we tend to find that most policing was done by sheriffs, who have a different relationship to the sovereign than the police do.  Sheriff's are commissioned in a specific manner that really attaches them to the courts, or did, and sheriffs have not uniformly had uniforms at all, up until quite recently.  Policemen, on the overhand, tend to be a uniformed body and they're generally the law enforcement arm of municipal corporations.

American policemen have, traditionally, been dressed in blue uniforms.  The reason is that when New York City, which had one of the earliest and largest police forces in the United States, went to uniform its officers for the first time it relied upon the experiences of its members, who were largely Civil War veterans.

 Squad of mounted police, New York
 Classic scene of urban policy.  New York mounted policemen, 1905.

New York had a large police force (and still does).  In the 1860s and 70s, a very large number of those men had served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and the police uniform they adopted strongly resembled the last uniform they'd worn.  Indeed, not only did they rely upon the Army's uniform for inspiration, but they relied upon the Army for inspiration for almost everything at that time.  Tack for horses and firearms were also military inspired.  In terms of uniforms, that put New York's police force in blue wool trousers and frock coats, just as the Army's more formal uniform of the same period featured both as well.

Other police forces followed suit, and the blue wool frock coat and blue trousers became the American standard for police forces.  It's important to note that this was and is the American standard.  Other countries which began to uniform police had their own traditions and they tended not to follow the American tradition in regards to police dress.

 Gary police force
 Typical early 20th Century police uniforms.  For the most part, these officers are dressed in blue wool, although they're wearing a type of coat referred to as a "sack" coat.  The sack coat was also an Army item originally, adopted by the U.S. Army during the Civil War to supplant the frock coat in field conditions, where the sack coat was more practical.  These men also wear a military inspired cap, reflecting the kepi style adopted by the Army in the later period of the 19th Century.  Some urban police forces adopted helmets in this same period, following the U. S. Army which adopted a Prussian style helmet for dress purposes in the 1870s.

While never identical to the uniform worn by the U.S. Army, in the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century, basic items very much followed the Army's patterns. Frock coats and sack coats were uniform standards.  Officers hardly ever appeared without a coat.  For caps, some police forces adopted the Prussian style helmet adopted by the Army in the 1870s, and others wore the late pattern Army kepi in to the early 20th Century.  At the same time, however, police uniforms featured distinctive features identifying the wear as a policeman and not a soldier. Early on, they never featured rank insignia of any kind, unlike the Army's uniforms. And they fairly uniformly featured a large badge identifying the policeman as an officer of the law.

 [Anarchist riot, police on horseback driving people, Broadway and 14th streets, New York]
New York mounted police in action, anarchist riot, 1908.

That set the standard of American police uniforms for decades, and it was an American pattern.  North of the border the national police, the NWMP which was formed in the 19th Century, based their uniform coloration on that of the early 19th Century British Army.  I.e, red.  South of the border the various Mexican police had their own colors and styles.  In the United Kingdom, when police came to be formed, they also wore blue, but in other locations styles were different, such as in Germany where policemen came to wear green.
D.C. mounted police at horse show, 5/22/25
 Washington D. C. mounted police, 1925.

In the early 20th Century the police, like the Army, wore coats that buttoned to the collar, and by the early 20th Century most police forces had adopted the Army's wheelhouse cap in blue as a police cap.  Helmets were abandoned.  Still, the large badges remained evident and by that time had come to be the identifier for individual policemen, with the policeman receiving a numbered badge as a rule.

 [Metropolitan police officer with motorcycle. Washington, D.C.]
Washington D. C. motorcycle policeman, 1932.

In the 1930s, when the Army went to an opened collared coat, with shirt in tie, in one of he worst field uniforms ever thought of for Army field service, police forces generally followed suit.  Most policemen then wore, on a daily basis, a wool coat with an open collar as well as a blue shirt with a blue tie.

Heads White House police. Washington, D.C., June 25. Lieut. John M.D. McCubbin was today promoted to Captain of the White House police force. A Member of the force since 1922 he succeeds Capt. A.A. Walters, retired
Classic police officer uniform, captain of Washington D. C. police in 1930s, in a uniform typical for police from the 1930s through the 1970s in many locations.

Following World War Two the police uniform remained largely unchanged for decades.  One small change was that as most policemen came to be patrol officers, in cars, most forces abandoned the wool opened collared coat for regular officers and they normally wore, in warm weather, simply blue shirt and blue tie.  This was common by the 1950s.  In colder weather they almost all had jackets based on Air Force flight jackets, generally in blue, although some police force's, such as New York's, issued a leather flight jacket for cold weather use.  Here again, I suppose, they were following a trend first developed by the miltiary, although leather jackets came into common civilian use during the 1920s as well.

 Sheriff Of McAlester Oklahoma, 1930s. This sheriff is attired in a fashion typical of this and prior eras.  I.e., no uniform at all.

One thing I haven't noted, in all of this, is the uniform of other U.S. police forces, the most common of which are sheriff's departments.  For much of their history, U.S. sheriff's departments basically didn't have a uniform.  Sheriff's and their deputies were simply armed and carried a badge.  That's about it.  Starting about the turn of the century however, some sheriff's started wearing uniforms closely based on military uniforms, including their coloring.  It wasn't universal, however, and by mid 20th Century you'd often find the actual Sheriff simply wearing a coat and tie.  Deputies started to be issued uniform shirts, and sometimes uniforms, in this time frame, alhtough exactly when I'm not sure.  Post World War Two khaki became the common color for Sheriffs, with most Sheriff's departments adopting a khaki uniform shirt closely based on the World War Two officers khaki shirt.  Flight jacket type jackets also started to come in about this time.

Federal law enforcement officers, on the other hand, have mostly lacked a uniform for most of their history, although their history is fairly short.  There were Federal Marshall in the 19th Century, but their only identifier was a badge.  The FBI of mid 20th Century fame, and even up today for hte most part, dressed in business attire.  In the 1920s and 30s the use of "boaters" for hats was so common amongst FBI agents that the joke was that this was part of their uniform.  In recent years, however, this has changed so that Federal law enforcement officers do have a uniform in some instances, more of which will be mentioned in a moment.  In terms of daily wear, the Federal law enforcement officers most likely to wear a uniform are border agents and officers of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, both of which wear what we might regards as rural styles, the former somewhat recalling a sheriff's office and the latter one of a type that's common with a game and fish agency.

On game and fish agencies, these officers likewise didn't often have uniforms early on and it seems today there is a fair amount of variety in them.  The Wyoming Game & Fish at some point in the 20th Century adopted a uniform that was to make their officers visible in the game fields, the same being a red shirt in the era when read, rather than blaze orange, was the required color for big game hunters.  Other than that, Wyoming's game wardens simply wore blue jeans and a cowboy hat, both of which were official proscribed for them.

Well, what about now? This is a bland story, right?

Well, to some extent, this has been in the news recently, and the reason for that has to do with the appearance, in part, of the police.

How exactly it happened I can't say, but starting off about some ten or fifteen years ago, police departments started to acquire a lot of military equipment, and when they did, they also acquired a military look.  It really started some time prior to that, when they started to form "special", ie., SWAT, teams of special response groups, for particularly dicey scenarios, but its really gone from there.

These units within police forces, which in some cases seem to constitute entire police forces, bring a very military, i.e., combat troop, appearance to a lot of police forces, and that's not a good thing.

Policemen, like lawyers, or doctors, or teachers, are one of those occupations where people have a certain expectation of appearance, and in turn react accordingly.  If they look professional, but separate, but also part of us, as the classic "Adam 12" type policeman did, they receive a certain response.  On the other hand, soldiers are also a profession where people have a certain expectation of appearance and react accordingly.  If policemen look like combat troops, it's hard not to imagine them that way, and for most people, that creates a certain atmosphere of fear.

On military trends, police forces have gone from having no rank insignia to having the full military range of it, which also strikes me as odd.  Some big city police chiefs now wear the same insignia that Generals in the Army do; four stars. That's a bit much.  At one time, the police chief tended to wear suit and tie, which really sends a better message.

On the flip side of this, I'd note, some police forces have also become very casual in their daily appearance, which also isn't a good thing, in my view.  I've seen polo shirts introduced into policing, which I'm not sure what I think of.  If I were a policeman, I'd probably like it, so I guess I'm not complaining about it.  The Wyoming Game & Fish recently introduced polo shirts, I've noted, for some of its personnel, although I'm not sure if wardens are amongst them or not.  And I've seen blue polos in use for other law enforcement officers.

One thing along these lines I don't like is the adoption of baseball caps, but that seems to be something that is just so pervasive as to be inevitable.  They don't look professional for policeman, although I have less of a problem with them for game wardens and similar officers.

At any rate, while this would seem to be a minor matter, it really isn't for those enforcing the law, and those whose communities are being policed. The militarization of police seems to have gone too far, for example, and perhaps the trend towards casual has a bit as well.

Guernsey Chukars | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Guernsey Chukars | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Friday, August 22, 2014

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.