Fly Like A Dipwad

Steve Miller — the Joker, the Smoker, the Midnight Toker — apparently acted like a colossal jerk when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last week.

First, he snubbed The Black Keys, who were big Steve Miller fans and signed up to make his induction speech.  They say Miller treated them like crap and, unbelievably, indicated that he didn’t know who the heck they were.  And then the Space Cowboy ripped the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in his acceptance speech, saying that they don’t respect the artists they are honoring and that the organizers of the Hall are a bunch of assholes.

flylikeaneagle316Like everyone else who went to college in the mid-70s, I heard a lot of Steve Miller songs in my youth, and I’ve still got a number of them on my iPod playlists.  You couldn’t go to a party in those days without hearing Fly Like An Eagle or Book of Dreams on the stereo, just about as often as Boston or Dark Side of the Moon.  Why not?  Songs like Jet Airliner and Rock’n Me were classics, and The Joker and Living in the U.S.A. are among the greatest rock songs ever recorded.  (“Somebody give me a cheeseburger!”)  I’ve even argued that, were it not for the revolving door of its members, the Steve Miller Band could reasonably be considered in the competition for being one of the best American bands, ever.

But if you’re going to accept being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, you don’t come to the party and take a dump in the punch bowl.  Rather than being a complete ingrate, why not at least learn about the talented guys that have offered to make your introduction and find a few nice things to say about the organization that has recognized your accomplishments?  It doesn’t cost you anything, and it suggests that you’re an adult with at least a decent amount of appreciation and class.

It’s always tough when you learn that somebody whose talent you’ve admired turns out to be a tool.  Go on, Steve!  Take the money and run!

Birds Of A Feather

IMG_0804Today two birds decided to roost for a bit on the ledge right outside the window in front of my desk.  I’m not sure what kinds of birds they were — mourning doves?  brown pigeons? — but I certainly understood their impulse to bask in the sunshine and enjoy some long overdue spring weather.

I would gladly have been out on the ledge with them.  Today was the kind of day where, in elementary school, you’d beg your teacher to let you sit outside for the math lesson — and the kind of day where a teacher sick to death of gray, chilly weather might just say yes.

Student Loan Scofflaws

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that 43 percent of the people who have borrowed money from the federal government’s principal student loan programs aren’t making payments or are behind on meeting their debt obligations.  The people comprising that 43 percent collectively owe the federal government more than $200 billion.

The figures are stark, and staggering.  3.6 million people who are out of school and in the workforce are in default on their loans — which means they haven’t made a payment in a year.  Another 3 million people are delinquent on their payments, which means they’re at least one month late but not yet a year behind, and another 3 million have received permission to postpone their payments because of some kind of financial emergency.

studentloandebt070313_0The federal government is trying to figure out why payments aren’t being made, and some consumer groups are contending that debt services aren’t letting the troubled borrowers know about available payment options.  Three realities, though, seem pretty clear.

First, many of the people who thought getting a college degree, any college degree, would be the ticket to financial security have learned that they were wrong.  Whatever their major or career plans, there just aren’t enough good jobs out there to allow them to repay their loans.  Second, the feds do virtually nothing to determine whether student loan borrowers are good credit risks — they don’t typically perform credit checks, require co-signers, or evaluate whether the borrower’s intended course of study or capabilities make repayment likely.  And third, once you’re out of college and trying to make it on your own, your student loan debt is the lowest of the debt priorities, behind your home loan, your car loan, and your credit card debt.  What’s the federal government going to do, repossess that diploma that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on?

It’s not clear whether the federal government’s experience is true for all student loan debt.  If so, that’s a troublesome fact, because the WSJ article also notes that there is now more student loan debt than credit card debt, car loan debt, and any other kind of consumer loan debt.  Student loan borrowers collectively owe $1.2 trillion.  If almost half of the federal borrowers aren’t making their payments, will the same thing happen to that enormous pool of debt?

Politicians love to talk about how everybody should go to college and the federal government should help them do so by making loans available.  That siren song sounds good, but the reality is more uncomfortable.  Readily available student loans have just allowed colleges to jack up their tuitions, and college degrees aren’t a guarantee of a good career and financial success.  College isn’t necessarily for everyone, and struggling students aren’t going to benefit from borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to scrape by and get a degree in a major that isn’t in demand in the economy.   And broken windows theory would tell us that it’s not doing America any good to have a growing body of millions of people who aren’t paying their debts.