Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Stupid Students Become Stupid People. More At Eleven…

8 July 2008

A recent email from “Student Loan Justice” has moved me. Yes, I have been moved to pity these poor hapless oafs who were duped into thinking that a student loan was in actuality a charitable gift. Poor, poor… idiots.

I took many student loans back in the ’80s to complete my undergrad work. I also worked , on average, two jobs to help fund my collegiate habit. This made for a slow-go as you cannot heap on many credit hours when carrying such an outside load.

Upon graduation, the hounding for repayment promptly began from The Loan Servicing Center in Lawrence, KS (yes, they made such an impression on my then-young mind that I recall EXACTLY where things were handled from 20 years later) – they greedily demanded I repay my loans, and craftily provided a payment coupon book to facilitate the task. The evil, greedy bastards! The payment book sitting on my desk silently chided me to pay… pay… pay them off. So? How did I respond? I got a job and paid them all off as quickly as I could, that’s how! Unfortunately, during that same time, many of my contemporaries chose to ignore these loans and defaulted on them. Their irresponsibility is what precipitated the changes in the laws (ca 1997) to allow collection of penalties on these loans. Oddly enough, the highest percentage of Student Loan Skippers are also those who landed the highest paying jobs. Huh! So just who are the greedy bastards and who are the wounded victims in this case? I’m confused.

Here’s the bottom line, kids: when you take a loan of any type, it is a loan; not a grant. It is a responsibility. It is YOUR responsibility to repay these loans. Unfortunately, our society currently does not accept responsibility and accountability as valuable tenets. We think it is “OK” to sign contracts, then default on them. And we don’t think there should be any repercussions for our careless actions.

The recent laws now punish all. It used to be that those few who defaulted on their student loans did not burden the system to the point that lenders were unwilling to issue these loans. These were usually the folks upon whom some hardship or other had fallen – back in the day when accountability and responsibility were cherished. In my era, it became just about everyone who took a student loan and something had to be done to protect the lenders and preserve the program. As a RESPONSIBLE ADULT who took advantage of student loans, accepted the responsibility of them and promptly repaid them, I accept what the loan industry has done as right and in measured response to the situation. Otherwise, low-cost (to those who act responsibly) educational loans would have dropped out of existence.

Banks aren’t charities. If they cannot recoup the loans, they lose money. No bank doing this as a matter of course would exist for long. Go and default on a car or home loan and see what happens (or, in this economy, just watch your neighbors – I’m sure someone nearby is in foreclosure or having possessions repossessed). At least there, there is something to repossess. What are they to do for defaulted student loans? Repossess you brain? Apparently, based on the arguments at StudentLoanJustice.org, there’s no value there; that brain isn’t worth much to start with…

It is a shame. It is a crying shame that this is what our society has come to.

-Pateratic

Congratulations, Teamsters!

17 June 2008

I’ve long held that labor unions should be a thing of the past. The time of the widespread labor abuses of the early twentieth century are almost 100 years dead, and the institutions created to protect the workers against big business are now big business themselves – and have been for decades. Frankly, with current labor laws in the US, aren’t labor unions a bit redundant?

Yes, labor unions have garnered great things for their members. Originally, they gained the workers simple human dignity, and a fair wage for a fair day’s work. That all changed in the latter half of the 20th century, though: the UAW decided that a worker who may have partied his or her college years away should make as much as a person who sacrificed time and treasure to gain an education to “ensure” themselves a better life. In the modern auto industry, many line workers make as much or more than those who design the products those workers work on. Rah, rah, UAW!

Time and again over the years, industries have sacrificed their white collar workers to appease the ever hungry monster that is the labor union. “Oooo! Sorry about those COLA increases, Mr. White Collar! Mr. Blue Collar needs another raise!” “Ya know, we’re really sorry we can’t afford any bonuses or merit increases for you folks – we had to pay profit sharing to our union brothers and sisters.” “Darn, Mrs. White Collar Retiree! I’m afraid we’re going to have to severely reduce what we’ve been paying you. You see, the unions have made us uncompetitive, and we can no longer afford to give you what we promised when you retired (but rest assured! Your poor, poor, blue collar contemporaries will be taken care of…)”

When tough times hit the auto industries, for example, the unions are delivered juicy severance packages for their personnel – a year’s salary or more; tuition (so they can shaft themselves like all the other white collar workers in the industry, I guess – don’t fall for it! Stay uneducated! There’s far more profit there!), while the white collar folks shiver in terror for their livelihoods as yet another “downsizing” rolls through; as management apparently randomly designates those who will no longer be on the payroll…

Union greed – and, just as guilty, corporate pandering to these unions – had, as we’ve all seen, nearly decimated the US auto industry by creating pay and benefits packages for these basically unskilled, uneducated workers, which made the US auto industry non-competitive on a cost-per unit basis when compared to similar products of other countries – save, perhaps, those countries in western Europe; most of which also have labor unions…

But don’t think that it’s just the auto industry that has been hurt by these little pockets of socialism. No! Our entire economy has been time and again rocked by the effects of “unionism”. Lucrative union pay packages impact the cost of all of the goods we buy, and this impact is compounded for any given item since, along the way to becoming the product you buy, many and varied union hands have had a hand in its creation – the materials used; transportation between the various suppliers, distributors, and retailers, costs in communications, electricity… they’re everywhere, growing like a fat leech on the life-blood of the US economy.

Thankfully, Gettelfinger seems to have had a Dickensian vision – a glimmer of the future yet to come – and the UAW, like Scrooge before them, have avoided that alternate fate by backing down from their usual “gimme, gimme, gimme” approach to negotiations. It bears mentioning that even this posture is self-serving: without the concessions the UAW so magnanimously granted the US automakers, there would be no UAW as the last of the Big Three slams closed their factory doors, decimating their dues-paying ranks. Without the Big Three, the vast majority of the unionized suppliers would soon be bobbing belly-up at the top of the fish tank as well, obviating the UAW as the de facto largest labor union in the US. And, without the UAW, many of the other unions would find it difficult to remain in place. So the UAW, a very, very big business, was smart enough to barter a deal to prevent their own demise.

So, why do I congratulate the Teamsters? Why, for upholding their principles, of course! Sticking to their guns! Few will note the passing of Performance Transportation, a car hauler. Fewer still will note that they are the second largest car hauler in the United States! Car haulers rely on business from an industry that is contracting at an alarming rate: the US auto industry. It stands to reason that they may need to reduce their cost basis as well – after all: there is far less business these days.

But the Teamsters would have none of that! Clearly, they were being lied to!

Rather than support the company in their bid for survival, the Teamsters struck against the company and assured their demise, victoriously sacrificing the livelihood of each and every Teamsters member there – not to mention those of all the others who depended on Performance for their income. Bravo, Teamsters! Way to work for a better tomorrow!

“Management and many of our Teamster members were willing to make the required sacrifices to save the company,” Performance CEO Jeff Cornish was quoted as saying by the Automotive News. “But the leadership of the union had a different agenda.”

Yes, an agenda made clear in the following:

“The company did not present us with a viable plan to get out from underneath its debt,” Fred Zuckerman, director of the Teamsters’ vehicle-hauling division, said in a statement to Automotive News. “Instead, the company wanted to force our members to bear the lion’s share of the cuts and to shoulder a grossly disproportionate share of the ongoing risks relating to the company’s problems with its lenders.”

So the mighty Teamsters union forced their members and everyone else at Performance to bear 100% of the burden “going forward”. Thanks for your efforts, Fred. Thanks for working for a stronger America.

Pateratic