CSotD: A Crisis of Politeness

On the topic of things you shouldn’t have to be told, Gary Varvel (Creators) depicts a kid gleefully heading off to the College of His Choice, leaving a pair of apparently bankrupt parents behind.

He’s got a point, given that the kid is headed for State U and not Rich Kid Private Emporium, because even public colleges are becoming outrageously expensive.

The system is, at best, unresponsive to the needs of families, starting with the notion of “saving for college” which simply means that much less financial aid when you get there.

Whether a college kid needs a refrigerator or a car is considerably secondary to that, though I note that, when my kids went to college, the school put them in touch with their prospective roommate so they could sort out who was bringing what. A drop in the bucket, but those drops add up.

The more important point being that one of my boys finished college and one dropped out and joined the Navy and they’re both doing well, while my stepdaughter managed to get a full ride and she’s good, too.

Today I have three college-aged granddaughters and only one of them tried the “College of Your Choice” gambit and that only for a year.

Gen Z is learning to evaluate things.

Voc-tec, for instance, is an excellent alternative, as are community colleges, as is the GI Bill, as are all sorts of alternatives to four-year college.

I am pleased that administrators no longer seem to brag at high school graduation about the number of kids headed for four-year colleges because I always felt it would have been only fair to disclose how many of the previous class had flamed out and been home again by Thanksgiving.

Not that you shouldn’t go if that’s what you want and need.

But “The College of Your Choice” isn’t necessarily the hardest, most prestigious place you can get into. It should be the place that offers what you want and need.

Impressing your guidance counselor and your parents’ friends needn’t be part of it.

But analyzing as major an investment as college is well beyond most of us.

As Lee Judge (KFS) depicts it, we’re much happier reacting to momentary distractions and personal inconvenience. After a lot of screaming over the price of eggs, that crisis has passed, but we’ve always got gas prices to complain about, even though anyone who has been driving a car for more than a year knows gas prices go up and down often and with little permanent impact.

Dear lord, we’re paying as much now as we were four months ago. Not nearly as much as a year ago, mind you, but we have to have something to complain about.

This’ll do.

There are, however, more substantive problems in the world.

Christian Adams offers a term that is new to me, though perhaps it’s something British folks already use. “Guppies” are more numerous than “Yuppies” and there’s nothing shameful in being priced out of the market, given the state of the market.

I take some grim comfort in knowing that the suffering is not confined to the US of A.

Fact is, it also extends to Australia, where Cathy Wilcox adds the fact of unaffordable rents to the problem of unaffordable ownership.

I don’t have specific numbers to compare, but I do monitor political cartoons from various countries and it’s a much-commented-upon issue in both the UK and Australia.

My suspicion is that it’s not any greater an issue there but that cartoonists are more focused on it, which is a way of pointing out that political cartoons in those other countries seem to have some fearsome and enviable edge.

One of the few times you’ll ever hear Yanks being accused of being too polite, but we do seem to tiptoe around topics that others eagerly charge straight into.

F’rinstance, we have homeless migrants being shipped up from Texas to New York City and winding up homeless there, and Matt Davis points out that, meanwhile, our cities are chockful of empty office buildings.

This should provoke outrage, but we’re polite, so, instead, it provokes head-scratching.

Some of the office buildings are being converted into chi-chi apartments and some “can’t be” which sounds more like whining than analysis. Bottom line is that we have a situation where, whether for migrants or natives or whoever, we can’t manage to rustle up affordable housing.

Maybe it’s not that we can’t rustle up the housing.

Maybe it’s that we can’t rustle up the fury.

Point being, it’s not that Joe Heller is wrong. All these things indeed combine to make housing unaffordable, and as we fight inflation with higher borrowing rates, it does force people who own houses to stay put rather than sell out and move up. Meanwhile, construction costs are, well, through the roof.

But analyzing the issue doesn’t get people off the sidewalks and into housing, and if we persist in thinking of “affordable housing” as housing that people with good jobs can barely squeeze into, we’re leaving out a large segment of the population.

We’re also prolonging, rather than addressing, the issue.

The characters in Cornered (AMS) always seem to be in their mid-40s, but maybe that’s suitable for this gag, because our solution to the housing crisis is a combination of passive acceptance and an assumption that we need to solve the problem for ourselves.

I suppose it’s part of our historical heritage, deriving from Jamestown, where Captain John Smith famously declared “He that will not worke, shall not eate.”

Lovely philosophy, so long as you don’t object to the fact that roughly two-thirds of the Jamestown settlers died.

And as long as you don’t look around and see that nobody else on the globe sticks to that heartless rule, or, at least, nobody admirable.

When the Weavers were accused of being socialists, Pete Seeger would point out that the Indians were socialists, and he was right: If Crazy Horse brought 20 horses back from a raid, he’d distribute them to families that needed them, and when a Lakota family made themselves a new tent covering, their old one would go to someone who whose cover was worn out and inadequate.

Jesus Whatshisface preached the same concept, but Crazy Horse is long dead and nobody listens to Jesus Whatshisface anymore either.

So it goes.

I’ve often marveled at the righteous fury of folks from blue-collar Ireland. They combine well with Woody Guthrie.

16 thoughts on “CSotD: A Crisis of Politeness

  1. The biggest obstacle to converting office buildings to apartment buildings (I read it somewhere on the Internet so it must be true) is lack of plumbing and electricity capacity–giving each office/apartment its own bathroom and kitchen would require a lot of extra pipes and outlets. You could probably manage with communal bathrooms and one large kitchen (think Asimov’s Caves of Steel or Niven/Pournelle’s Oath of Fealty or my college dorm back in the 1970s where every room had a sink and the bathroom was down the hall), but that would be Communism, doncha know.

    1. Older buildings are also filled with asbestos, making any remodeling project prohibitively expensive, if not impossible.

  2. First, we drastically raise the roof on taxes for the top money-earners and the corporations, so that the government would have oodles more money to go back to building affordable houses around the country. Then we drastically raise the minimum wage and working-class people would have oodles more money and could afford to buy those houses.

    Sorry—that’s what comes out of me before I’ve had my coffee …

    1. Drastically raising the minimum wage would price “low skilled” laborers out of the market. I did landscaping for years for a mid sized company, and I promise you that they would simply not hire as many people or keep everyone working during the slow winter months if the minimum wage suddenly doubled.

      Besides the fact that “drastically raising the minimum wage” would do absolutely nothing to address the underlying problem, it would just exasperate them.

  3. On college costs: The tuition at the public university I got my degrees from was double what it cost then for a year at a private high school. The current tuition is four times what I paid (adjusted for inflation). The per-semester fees that subsidize student activities alone are more than my tuition was (again, adjusted). Sending me to college was a reasonable expense for my parents, and most of my fellow students were financed by their families – student loans were almost unheard of. If I’d had children, I could never have afforded to send them to college without outside financing.

    On housing costs: Several times a week, I pass a location where a new apartment building is being built, causing traffic detours, bus rerouting and general inconvenience. I checked out the building’s web page, and found that the monthly rent for a studio apartment is three times what I pay for a two bedroom unit in a humbler neighborhood and their two bedroom apartments cost twice my monthly income – enough to pay my rent for seven months; an apartment somewhat comparable to the one I inhabit is four times what I currently pay (and also more than my monthly income).

    In my entire working life, I never had an income high enough to afford the rents this place is charging, even adjusted for inflation. I sometimes wonder what kind of people can live in a place like that, but they are probably the sort I wouldn’t want to be around anyway.

  4. A $20,000 tiny home could provide comfortable shelter for millions of people, except they are not permitted by most building codes (or the neighbors).

  5. And there’s a very good chance that half of a new college student’s classes are being taught by adjuncts who get paid roughly minimum wage (if you include grading/class prep time, which you should.) I just retired as part of a larger wave of resignations. My university just lost about 2 dozen profs (and we’re a small! school). If more than 1/4th of them are replaced by tenure-track full-timers, I’ll eat my mortarboard. In the meantime, of course, the number of administrators keeps increasing. (“we have how many asst vice-presidents and asst provosts now?”)

  6. Mike, once again you hit the nail right on the head! (pardon the bad pun). The underlying cause of all of this ‘out of balance’ societal grief is unquenchable Corporate Greedflation and it is a communicable disease. This results in society is tearing itself into two drastically separated parts. The sparsely populated ‘have’s’ and the majority of struggling ‘have not’s’. As Gordon Lightfoot wrote decades ago: “The hands of the have not’s keep falling out of reach”. Am I ranting? Or, am I saying the ugly part out loud that Snews outlets won’t allow to be whispered. Let me know if you want me to shut up or if you agree.
    As a matter of perspective, in the 1960’s the Calif. state college system tuition was a few hundred dollars or sometimes even free. Community colleges charged ~$10 per semester and granted valid Associate Degrees. At that time a 1,000sq. ft. home in L.A. often cost $30,000. (yes I know that wasn’t adjusted for Greedflation) O.K, that’s enough, I’ll shut up and go hide from the pervasive insanity.

    1. I know the history of a house in the LA area, about 1400 sq.ft., with a pool purchased in early 60s for 22,000. Now worth 808k per zillow.

      1960 UC fee (no ‘tuition’) was $75 per semester and dorms cost 1K per year.

      A new Chevrolet Impala, not stripped down, cost 3k.

      1. In 1988, I told my father, “Congratulations. You just paid more for a car than you did for your house.”

  7. “Jesus? Who’s he?”- any moron unfortunate enough to be a character in a Chick Tract that takes place in the US, where you’d have to live under a rock to have never heard of Jesus

  8. Mike wrote: After a lot of screaming over the price of eggs, that crisis has passed.
    I reply: the figures on inflation reported by main stream Snews are ‘free market bankster’ selectively cooked propaganda. I reviewed food prices that we ACTUALLY experience and find that in the past ~2+ years our grocery store food bill has doubled for the same items. That is not 4-9 percent annual inflation. And, many I know are now reporting they are having trouble paying that Greedflation increase. Also, they surely qualify as Guppies.

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