Student loans

One of the guys running for congress has a commercial where he says that he was raised by a single mother. Is that supposed to be a good thing? Is that supposed to make me want to vote for him? I like guys that had a father. I don’t see this single mom, good and well intentioned as she may be, taking him fishing or hunting or onto the golf course or hitting grounders to him. Probably wouldn’t let him play with b-b guns. So maybe he only has half an education, the wimpy half. I might feel better if he had said he was raised by his grandparents. As it turns out, I wasn’t planning to vote for the guy anyway but if I was on the fence, this would have pushed me off.

I have a theory as to the origins of all the current financial problems. My theory is that student loans are the culprit. I’ve tried to put together what was different about my life at the start of my career and that of my kids and the thing I finally settled on was student loans. Many kids graduating college in the mid to late 80’s and thereafter, left school with a heavy load of loans to deal with – in many cases the equivalent of starting out with a traditional home mortgage style debt load. Twenty years prior to that, there were no student loans. Either your parents paid for it, you worked, or many joined the service and went to school later on the GI bill. The start up burden for the student loan generation was so high that many recipients just blew off the loan and the sense of obligation to repay it. That was understandable because the jobs you got just out of college were not sufficient to finance starting a new life and paying off a giant debt. So this generation didn’t have the fear of debt that earlier generations did and also didn’t take the payoff of debt as seriously. My theory is that this kind of thinking led to ideas that everybody should be a homeowner and that taking on the debt was just not that big a deal. Somehow it would all work out in the end. It did.

I don’t know the technical details as to whether these student loans were guaranteed by the government, making them the culprit, or whether the banks jumped into these unsecured loans on their own. My gut tells me that somehow the feds are behind it. Like many government programs, the premise would be that the whole country benefits if we have a more highly educated population and there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that premise but the unintended consequences of going the student loan route has, in my opinion, brought with it big negatives. Personally, I would prefer a more robust scholarship program for well qualified students and drop the loan programs or loan guarantees completely. I think there are plenty of ways to determine which kids are ready for college scholastically.

Big, unpleasant surprise in the garden. I am getting ready to start putting out new plants for fall harvest, among them new tomatoes plants. My new method is to dig a deep, wide hole, line it with newspaper, and then fill it with mulch and various chemical goodies. I dug down to start the process and about 8” down hit pure white sand, builders sand. What’s that all about? I kept deepening and widening the hole removing the white sand and loading a wheel barrow. About a foot further down, I hit limestone gravel. No wonder the soil tests I had done a few months back showed the PH at 7.8. The layer of gravel was a few inches thick and underlying that was nursery shade cloth which would have kept the sand and gravel from gradually leaching downward. Thankfully under the nursery cloth, which I cut away, was regular soil. Out of the one hole, I got a full wheel barrow load of sand and gravel; out of 3 holes, three full loads. I lined the holes with palmetto fronds and then filled them to the brim with fresh compost so I think anything I plant there will be ok. It literally took 2 days to get 4 planting areas cleaned out instead of the 20 minutes I had programmed for that job. Luckily I had a perfect spot for the sand and gravel as fill in a section of the path to the lake that had subsided into a bit of a depression -nothing scary, but this load filled it back level with the rest of the path.

But all this once again proves the old adage, nothing is ever easy. There is something poetic about trimming the palmetto fronds along the path to fill the holes from which the sand and gravel came and which was used to level the path. The balance of nature, Carbone style.

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