Songs that Say Something about Generation X

I know we’ve done variations on this theme before, but I there was a search query for this topic over the weekend and I aim to please.  As you  might know, I consider search queries the blogging equivalent of Letterman’s CBS Mail Bag, so here we go.  Nominations are open.  As you consider,  remember the Daily Cocca’s proposed gradations of Gen X.  And don’t forget the Pixies.


And Now a Word from Our Libertarian Friends

Just got this in the in-box.  Are they right?  Do lobbyists have too much power because the government has too much power?  And if so, which government?  The government of incumbent elected officials? The government of tenured bureaucrats?  And don’t get me wrong, people in both groups do wonderful things.  But who’s really hog-tying the People’s latent political power?  Probably everyone.

A word for our Libertarian friends, for your consideration.

I don’t like the trope that everything can be fixed by shrinking government, nor the promise that all will be well if we simply vote for Libertarians.

Ross Perot Was Not My High School History Teacher (The Election’s Not Achtung Baby)

Ross Perot at the United States Department of ...
Not my 11th-grade history teacher.

This grew out of a response to comments by Mr. Salk and Chad Hogg (not a friend of Buddy Roemer, necessarily), but I thought I’d share it here, lest ye forget, lest, as my 11th-grade history teacher used to say, ye be bored.

Before Perot left the race in ’92 (only to come back later), he was polling double digits nationally, leading many or most of them. He was at 39% at one point in the cycle. In a three-way race, obviously, that’s saying something. Yes, his numbers started to fall as the summer went on and he made some critical blunders (or was compromised by outside forces, which he claimed).

Could he have ever won in the first place? It’s not likely, but it’s conceivable. Had he not dropped out of the race under bizarre circumstances, only to come back later, I do believe he would have polled the 20 percent nationally required for federal funds. That whole process itself is out to lunch, but it would have made enabled Perot to build what could be, by now, a truly viable third party. If if if if.

Incidentally, Perot advocated for electronic town hall style democracy 20 years ago. That’s actually possible now. Nevermind the fact that he owned an IT/data company with government contracts at the time…

Around here, we all know I heart the 90s.  But this “we’re really done with you, Republicans and Democrats” thing isn’t just some flight of nostalgic fancy.  It’s not that Legends of the Hidden Temple marathon you watched a few weeks ago or the forthcoming Achtung Baby reissue.   Still, the changes in the air in early 90s Europe resonate with me here, and that’s not just because of how hard the Scorpions rock.

Americans Elect: Common Ground Between Tea Partiers and Occupiers of Good Will?

Citizens registered as an Independent, Democra...
Image via Wikipedia

Our good friend Chad alerted me to the Americans Elect project a few months ago in a comment here on The Daily Cocca.  Americans Elect aims to by-pass the major parties and nominate a centrist candidate directly on the internet.  I love the concept, and yesterday’s post about the Tea Party and Occupy needing to recognize common ground comes from same anxiety that motivate most third-party pushes on a popular level.  Since the head’s up from Chad, I’ve been getting Americans Elect email updates and have been quietly following their presence on Twitter.  We’ve all learned to be cautious about these kinds of things, and I’m far from saying that Americans Elect will be the vehicle to bring substantive change over the next decade, but it certainly could be one important piece to the puzzle of which Occupy and the Tea Party are clearly a part.

In addition to having an outstanding name, Doyle McManus has a  piece up about Americans Elect in today’s LA Times.  An excerpt:

Americans Elect is a collection of RepublicansDemocrats and independents who say they’re fed up with the polarization that has poisoned American politics. Some of its backers have previously contributed to Obama, Romney or other candidates. Several are fans of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has flirted with the idea of running as a third-party centrist. The group’s central figure is Peter Ackerman, a wealthy investor and former banker who considers himself an independent and who was active four years ago in a similar effort called Unity08.

Chad’s friend Buddy Roemer even gets a shout out.  Chad asked yesterday if I still have hope about 2012 being different.  I said that the election may not be (I hope it is), but the year must be, and the year after that.  We can’t have another 1992 fizzling into another 1996 (at least not politically. I still miss you, The 90’s).  We need to think of efforts like Americans Elect or the drives toward unity between disaffected groups less as “third-party” movements and more as logical responses to the truth that the entrenched parties are ridiculous and don’t really speak for most of us at the national level.  Why is it that in 2011, I have no one to the left of Obama to consider no one in the GOP field besides Ron Paul that’s worth my time?  And why no unity tickets, no great American middle, no options that make real sense to most of us?  Are we free or aren’t we?

Americans Elect should have a presence at every Tea Party event and every Occupation.  I said yesterday that we all need to work together to move beyond the b.s. status quo.  Most of us hate it.  Most of us have grown up hating it.  We’ve allowed ourselves to divorce the faithful execution of our other civic virtues from the basic failure that is our federal government.  We might be good neighbors and community leaders, but as long as we let slash-and-burning sycophants set the national agenda, we enable false choices and division and we give away our power.  Enough of that, already.

I remember learning as a child that Athens had a system of direct democracy, and that one day, maybe one day, with advancements in technology, maybe the US could do the same.   The Tea Party and Occupy are analog versions of this kind of shift.  Is Americans Elect the technical piece that helps us with real change?  Doesn’t that depend on us?

Sundry Anecdotal Evidence That Things are Really, Really Bad (and We Must Be Good)

Yesterday, in an historically upwardly mobile local neighborhood,  I talked with a women who had stopped to load a broken air conditioner into her car.

“Need help?”

“I think I got it.”  She was struggling. “I’m going to recycle this.  They always say whenever you see an air conditioner out for garbage, grab it.”

“You’re going to take it to scrap?”


“How much is scrap going for these days?”

“I don’t know. I got 15 yesterday for little odds and ends.  And this is heavy.  I need everything I can get. I have cancer.  I can only work 2 or 3 hours a day.”

I didn’t ask if she had insurance.


Yesterday, Amazon papered the Lehigh Valley in “come work for us” post cards.  There’s just one problem with that.

Last night, I heard the Executive Director of Turning Point, a regional shelter, counseling, and advocacy organization for survivors of domestic violence/partner abuse say that this year, demand for services has increased 40%.  This was in response to a question from another non-profit director about possible correlations between the continually failing economy and increased instances of domestic abuse.


A few hours ago, I found out about Hallmark’s new line of job-loss sympathy cards.  They are selling well.


A few minutes later, I saw that infographic showing the percentage of Americans who are millionaire (1 percent) vs. the percentage of Congress with that kind of wealth (50).


Things are really, really, and I mean really bad.


Thank God for good things like this:



Things are bad. But we can be good.  Quite simply, we must.

Mark Cuban, Occupy Wall Street, and Your Predatory Student Loans

Mark Cuban
This man is the only person making sense.

I’m one of those people who tends to love Mark Cuban.  I love that he’s outspoken, I love that he takes risks, and I love that he’s a goofball who often acts, like my grandfather might have said, “like he doesn’t know what to do with himself.”   In short, Mark Cuban is good for America.

Last week, Cuban posted “soapbox advice” to the Occupy movement.   He talks about the evils of Wall Street, the lie that companies act in the best interest of their shareholders and other things you’d expect from a corporate (I’m sorry) maverick.  He makes a lot of great points, my favorite of which is his stance on student loans:

3.  Limit the Size of Student Loans to $2,000 per year

Crazy ? Maybe, maybe not.  What happened to the price of homes when the mortgage loan bubble popped ? They plummeted. If the size of student loans are capped at a low level, you know what will happen to the price of going to a college or  university ? It will plummet.  Colleges and universities will have to completely rethink what they are, what purpose they serve and who their customers will be. Will some go out of business ? Absolutely. That is real world. Will the quality of education suffer ? Given that TAs will still work for cheap, I doubt it.

Now some might argue that limiting student loans will limit the ability of lower income students to go to better schools. I say nonsense on two fronts. The only thing that allowing students to graduate with 50k , 80k or even more debt  does is assure they will stay low income for a long, long time after they graduate ! The 2nd improvement will be that smart students will find the schools that adapt to the new rules and offer the best education they can afford. Just as they do now, but without loading up on debt.

The beauty of capitalism is that people like me will figure out new and better ways to create and operate for profit universities that educate as well or better as today’s state institutions, AND I have no doubt that the state colleges and universities will figure out how to adapt to the new world of limited student loans as well.

Finally, the impact on the overall economy will be ENORMOUS. There is more student loan debt than credit card debt outstanding today. By relieving this burden at graduation, students will be able to participate in the economy

Okay, so we need to think more fully about the real issue of getting more low-income students into the nation’s best schools.  I agree that Mark’s not really there on that.  But you know what?  Schools like Princeton (Princeton!) are starting to give need-based breaks to students at levels never expected, in some cases forgiving the bulk of tuition out the outset.  They’re not doing it because the market or the government is making them.  They’re doing it because they are progressive, and because they can afford to.  I mean seriously, why should I go to a Michigan State, as great as it is, if I can go to a Princeton for (close to) free?

The bigger question:  why is no one but Mark Cuban talking about the outlandish cost of government and the outlandish ease with which one can secure outlandish student loan debt as anything other than an academic bubble?  That’s exactly what it is.  Worse, many, many of the folks who took out those loans banking on the kind of employment degrees from prestigious universities used to guarantee are currently unemployed.  Why?  Because the economy sucks, for one, and because everyone and their brother has an advanced degree these days.   The market is over-saturated with overqualified, over-debted talent.   We’re talking about an entire double-bound generation getting screwed on both ends of the equation.  Should everyone have known better and not taken out those loans?  Maybe.  Should all of the people whose homes were foreclosed have known better?  Saying yes to one of those questions is saying yes to both.

Let’s go ahead and say yes to both.  That doesn’t negate the predatory practices of commercial real estate lending during the housing bubble, and it doesn’t get student loan providers, including, ahem, the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, off the hook, either.  Demonize the bankers till the cows come home, hang effigies of bad mortgage writers in Zaccotti Park, but don’t forget the role that cynical, opportunistic lending to aspiring students (we’re talking about 18-year-olds here, in many cases) who geeked out enough on the American dream to go to college in the first place play. Let’s not forget the indefensible tuition charged by many colleges, either.  In some cases, these institutions offer loan forgiveness for people in public service or low-income community-building vocations.  As a divinity school student, I spent a lot of time thinking about forgiveness, and it seems to me that we, the double-bound, aren’t the ones who need to be forgiven.

Mark, let’s burst the academic bubble.  Presidential candidates, what say you?