Open thread

by Grace aka costofcollege

Today we have an open thread to talk about anything we’d like.

We can keep conversations going online here indefinitely.  But what about IRL, either in person or on the phone?

The best way to end a conversation, according to science

I sometimes have a hard time easing out of a long-winded conversation, particularly on the phone.

In other news, I’m excited about possibly having a chance to make a difference in the upcoming New York presidential primary.  I’m very curious to see how my neighbors will vote.

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183 thoughts on “Open thread

  1. That is one of the reasons I hate phone calls, with certain people it takes 30 minutes just to get off the phone

  2. I have a friend from church who will not get off the phone. I call her out of a sense of obligation, because I know she’s lonely, but I always have a firm excuse to get off the phone after 45 minutes.

  3. DW and I watched “A Walk in the Woods” from Netflix last weekend. I enjoyed it, but was disappointed by how far it strayed from the book. Bryson was 44 when he did his hike, and the movie writers decide that the story should be about two 70-something old men who feel like this hike is now or never because they’re staring down either the nursing home or the grave. They also fabricated a sort of “City Slickers” theme about conquering a big challenge after life has gotten too comfortably mundane. But that wasn’t really the story at all. The essence of the book was that it really was just a random walk, and it doesn’t need to be more than that.

    We also saw “I Saw the Light” about Hank Williams in the theater, but it seems that none of the critics shared my appreciation of it. It’s not as good as “Walk the Line,” but it’s still good.

  4. I have found that with the clients I inherited from the colleague who died, they are ALL really reluctant to get off the phone. (Mostly old ladies) I wonder if this will change when the texting generation gets older?

  5. My cube neighbor with The Grievances is very difficult to end a conversation with. Putting my hands on my keyboard and turning my face to my monitor has no effect. Now I reach for my headset and say I have to join a call. I do not like to be so rude, but I have things to get done.

    CoC, I think elections are more interesting when you think your vote can make a difference. I’m a bit of a political junkie anyway, but find myself riveted by this train wreck. There are still a lot of wild cards out there, and I have never seen so many people so dissatisfied with the choices available to them.

  6. DH spends all day on the phone or talking to people in person, and there are a few people who will not end a conversation. Oftentimes, before he starts those conversations, he asked me to call with an emergency at a specific time.

  7. I pull my abrupt NYer out, and say that I have to go. I really do have poor cell service in my house now that I switched to AT&T so that helps too.

    Is anyone watching Billions? I wasn’t sure about it when we started to watch in Jan. We watched the season finale last night, and I really enjoyed it. The story is fun, acting is great, and I love their houses.

  8. I find it curious that people can speak on phone for so long! I find it impersonal and rather talk with people face to face. But maybe if I was old and lonely, I would talk a lot in the phone too.

  9. My chair is the worst ever for long winded phone calls. He loves to call in the evening, and will stay on the phone for THREE hours if you let him. He just goes on and on and on. Once he called me on a Saturday when I was at the dentist, and I still could not get him off the phone. When I was TT, I had to just endure it, but now I have strategies – caller ID, so I can see he is the one calling and let it go to voicemail, important errands that must be run in a few minutes, or in a pinch, my DH is trained to interrupt with a kitchen emergency after about 30 minutes. Now, the new crop of TTers have to deal with it.

  10. I rarely use the phone. I prefer to conduct my business via email, so there is a record of what we are agreeing to. Almost no one calls me at home or at work (save for the aforementioned chair, who is pushing 70 and truly from a different generation). SInce the 90’s, I even mainly use email to talk to my family instead of the phone.

    I have heard that some tech companies have abandoned fancy voicemail systems because no one uses it anymore.

  11. OK, so here’s one that struck me: http://www.frugalwoods.com/2016/03/25/frugality-is-my-hobby/ — “True confessions: I enjoy the challenge of not spending money. It’s legitimately fun for me to uncover innovative methods of circumventing our consumer-focused society.”

    This reminded me of our earlier conversations about how people gravitate to what they enjoy. People who get runner’s high love to run, because it makes them feel awesome; for me, it’s drudgery and a relatively painful chore. I find it easy to not buy stuff because knowing I have money saved gives me a warm, glow-ey kind of feeling, in the Scarlett O’Hara “I will never be poor again” kind of way. But DH *loves* eating lunch out and treating people, because that’s what makes him feel successful. Some folks are naturally adventurous eaters, because everything tastes awesome; for me and DS, we’ve learned that a bunch of things taste overwhelmingly bitter or sour or just nasty, so venturing beyond M&C takes time and patience and effort.

    I think our current ethos is that everyone can be anything if they just try hard enough — with the flip side being that if you fail, it’s your own fault, because you just must not have worked enough at it. But the reality is that the guy who makes it to MLB isn’t just the kid with the most talent or the hardest-driving coach — it’s the kid with all those things who also just flat-out loves it enough to put in hours on his own throwing against a pitchback in the backyard (and is lucky not to get injured, to have parents sign him up for T-ball, etc.).

    I think the focus on the inspirational stories of those who made it are helpful for the individual who is inspired (a la “control the things you can”), but potentially harmful as a society. We seem to want people to learn from/follow the example of the one in a thousand who has the special combination of talent/resources/work ethic/desire/luck/joy to make it to the top. But our social policy needs to focus on the other 999 won’t make it to the top because of a gap in one or more of the above. I wonder if we’d be better off instead if our society/government/research looked at how to fill the gaps for all the people who *don’t* naturally gravitate to something. E.g., our national health would likely be a lot better if we figured out ways to get the non-runner’s-high crowd moving on a regular basis, or how to make vegetables taste like M&C for the taste-bud-challenged crowd. Because, honestly, there are only so many “shoulds” I can tolerate in a single day.

  12. I hate talking on the phone unless it’s with my sisters. My MIL is the worst, DH has actually fallen asleep while talking to her because she can talk on and on without even expecting you to participate. I mostly avoid talking to her on the phone because she also likes to call around 10:00 right as I’m trying to start going to bed but I’ve found saying, “x kid needs something right now I have to go” to be somewhat effective. In person, I usually just use “well it was so great to see you”.

  13. I have found that with the clients I inherited from the colleague who died, they are ALL really reluctant to get off the phone. (Mostly old ladies) I wonder if this will change when the texting generation gets older?

    It’s that they are lonely. I get the same thing with many of my patients – they love the weekly visit to chat so they exaggerate ailments (or just make them up) to prolong the visit.

  14. I think our current ethos is that everyone can be anything if they just try hard enough — with the flip side being that if you fail, it’s your own fault, because you just must not have worked enough at it. But the reality is that the guy who makes it to MLB isn’t just the kid with the most talent or the hardest-driving coach — it’s the kid with all those things who also just flat-out loves it enough to put in hours on his own throwing against a pitchback in the backyard (and is lucky not to get injured, to have parents sign him up for T-ball, etc.).

    Yup. You need to have the natural talent as a base and then you need to put in the effort.

  15. I agree with Lauren, though I don’t view it as much as a New Yorker thing as a guy thing in my case. I do, sometimes, just say “I have to go now.” Followed by something like “it’s been great to talk.”
    Re MM and the long-winded: much to DW’s chagrin, I realized several years ago and then started saying “the phone is a great outgoing device.” Sure sometimes you are waiting for that phone call re did they get the job/have the baby/pass the driving test/get back to school safely. But a lot of the time nowadays a text will do. Only a very short list of people who come up on the (private life) caller ID are always picked up; everything else I’m probably seriously doing something else that I don’t want to interrupt.
    L — long winded older woman clients…loneliness?

  16. “I have heard that some tech companies have abandoned fancy voicemail systems because no one uses it anymore.”

    JPMorgan did, except for client facing people.

  17. Whenever I hear about elderly people spending too much time on the phone with clients, service people, or other semi-strangers, it makes me really sad, and also makes me fear getting older and having my kids move away. I never want to be that desperately lonely. But it seems to happen to so many…

  18. “I wonder if we’d be better off instead if our society/government/research looked at how to fill the gaps for all the people who *don’t* naturally gravitate to something. E.g., our national health would likely be a lot better if we figured out ways to get the non-runner’s-high crowd moving on a regular basis, or how to make vegetables taste like M&C for the taste-bud-challenged crowd. Because, honestly, there are only so many “shoulds” I can tolerate in a single day.”

    Interesting idea, but, given how “shoulds”, talents, work ethic (e.g. preference for leisure), etc vary between people, would it be more productive to encourage people to understand what they naturally gravitate to?

    One of the things I find instructive about biographies/documentaries about highly successful people is understanding exactly how much work is involved in that success. I hung out in the Silicon Valley in the late 80s and early 90s and watched people go to work at startups, watch the startup go out of business, learned my own and other peoples’ tolerance for risk, and saw that there was more than chance involved in becoming a dotcom millionaire. Understanding what it takes to become one of those people made it harder to be envious of them.

    I have a kid who does NOT like M&C, who actually prefers boiled brussel sprouts. One child is a state speech champion, another has a speech impediment. The same path doesn’t work for both of them, but I believe they both need to find their own path.

  19. Starting when we were tweens, my mother would come home from work and spend a lot of her evening on the phone catching up with her colleagues in different departments. She was pretty high up in the organization so it was understandable to a certain extent but it would be very aggravating trying to get her attention. My MIL will be doing things around the house, while she talks on the phone. She says she doesn’t spend time on the phone but she does and doesn’t realize that she could be more efficient of she did one thing at a time. It is a generational thing, I think.
    On another note, I love watching The Goldbergs. My kids are afraid that I will morph into a Bev Goldberg type. I love teasing them, the look on their faces is priceless.

  20. DH and I have been watching :Jane the Virgin” on Netflix which my sister had been bugging me to watch for six months. We started it on vacation last week and have two episodes left of Season 1. We are both totally hooked. It’s soapy but in a funny way, I’ve been really surprised by how good it is.

  21. I haven’t mastered the art of getting off the phone, With known talkers I don’t pick up the call. I call back and tell them I had been out doing errands walking the dog, had a doctor’s appt and have to leave shortly for other errands, When the time is up, I tell the person I have to run to complete my errands,

    I have a question since many of you are younger than I am. I am going through boxes left by my FIL filled with report cards, letters from his wife to him before they were married, letters to and from my husband’s parents to their parents, and siblings, letters to my husband from grandparents and aunt, newspaper clippings from their hometown with news of relatives. I am weeding out a lot but find the letters fascinating and hope one day my children will enjoy hearing about the mundane and exciting news, The letters go back to 1937. I find the report cards interesting, The comment smade by teachers about my husband’s strengths and weaknesses are as true today as they were then (they go back to Kindergarten). I have gotten it down to one plastic tub. Is this something you would like to have and go through or would you consider it a pia to deal with?

  22. Old Mom I would love to have something like that but maybe scanned instead of in a box. I think that would be so cool to look at.

  23. I hate talking on the phone…unfortunately I have to talk on the phone for work. It is generational thing. My younger clients will email. Older clients always call, leave 2 minute long voicemails, and will continue calling until I call them back. I respond faster to emails. That being said, I typically don’t mind talking to the lonely claimants who somehow get my number and are scared and don’t know what to do. Even if I have something important to do, you can just tell by the sound of their voice that need a few minutes, or 30, of my time.

    When I get home from work the last thing I want to do is talk on the phone or be on the computer/ipad.

  24. OM – I would very much enjoy reading through those things. One plastic tub is not much at all to deal with.

    LfB – My old college roommate who became a SEAL used to go outside and do a 150 or so pullups, mostly for fun or as a study break. On this one field near our dorm, there was a series of maybe 25 pull up bars anchored into concrete blocks. He had a routine of doing about 15 on each one–on the first bar, he might do hands facing outward, then inward on the next bar, then left in/right out alternating on third, reverse that for the fourth…

    So I agree with you. It takes a ton of hard work, but it’s a lot easier for people who happen to enjoy the hard work.

  25. I guess that I’m that annoying friend who wants to chat all the time. I have moved so much (for school and training) that most of my close friends are scattered. It has been a long, slow slog to make nearby friends. Even then, the best local friend has two small children, an irregular work schedule, and lives four miles away. It is really difficult to get together. Phone and text helps us share our week to week lives. I get a lot of day to day updates from people on FB, but that has none of the honesty and give and take of real conversations.

    A good friend from childhood lives a few time zones away. We chat about 3-4x per week. Often my commute time aligns with her free time.

  26. Also, I’m pretty sure DH has never had work VM or a work number. If he did, he kept it secret from me. Per the above post, that might be understandable.

  27. “would it be more productive to encourage people to understand what they naturally gravitate to?”

    @Cordelia — on an individual level, yes — that’s certainly what I am doing with my kids. On a personal level, it’s always most effective to focus on what you can control instead of blaming what you’re not good at.

    I am thinking more back to our social policy debates, like how much do you focus on protecting people from themselves vs. let them do their own thing and deal with the consequences how they choose. Fundamentally, I get annoyed with any concepts/theories/instructions/articles that involve a “just,” because inevitably the speaker is one of the group for whom that “just” comes easily, and they just don’t get that other people don’t get the same physical/emotional payoff that they do from the behavior. Like the nutritionist (“if people would just eat more leafy greens”) who says fresh veggies taste “sweet” to her — duh, if they tasted sweet to me, I’d eat them all the time too. But the people who want to become nutritionists tend to be the kinds of people who enjoy healthy foods and want to teach people the glorious bounty of fresh veggies. So our policy focuses on better education of the value/importance of healthy food choices; meanwhile, the only people who are actually paying attention to the science of why things taste good are the mega food companies looking to design a more appealing chip or taco.

    Which is probably when, in policy debates, I veer toward “protecting people from themselves” vs. “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” — I don’t think everyone has the same bootstraps, so I don’t think the solution is to just teach them how to hang on more effectively and yank harder.

  28. “Which is probably when, in policy debates, I veer toward “protecting people from themselves” vs. “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” — I don’t think everyone has the same bootstraps, so I don’t think the solution is to just teach them how to hang on more effectively and yank harder.”

    I don’t think everyone has the same bootstraps, but everyone has some. I veer towards teaching someone to fish rather than giving them one. I see so much untapped potential everyday. I think that first and foremost, teaching kids, especially, the consequences of their actions and providing options/opportunities for them to successful rather than telling them that they are incapable of taking care of themselves in essential for the continuation of a free society.

    If people need to be protected from themselves, how in the world can they be trusted to govern themselves?

  29. We watched the Duggars last night in their cautiously revived reality series. God what a snore that was. The show could still be really interesting–perhaps even more interesting than ever–but they’re going to have to actually discuss and show how the family moves on with life, and with more than just a few brief interview comments about forgiveness and God’s plan.

    Over an hour-long show, all that happened is that Jessa, Ben, and baby son flew to St. Louis (and since when do super-frugal, marginally employed, buy-used-save-the-difference families fly when the drive would be only five hours–I checked) because Ben heard of some Christian hip hop artist he liked, and they hung out in the recording studio with him in some weird and unspoken symbiotic publicity arrangement.

    There was another baby shower, or maybe a wedding shower, or whatever, but some party with a bunch of kids and no alcohol, and everyone talked about how wonderful it was.

    Michelle and Jim Bob, who seem like they’re barely allowed to be on camera under the new contract terms, but likewise probably want to make sure that they get the tiniest bit of exposure just for precedent’s sake (like the way we purposely send ships within 12 nm of China’s manmade islands just to let them know that we don’t recognize their legitimacy) made a “surprise” visit to itinerant foreign missionaries Derek and Jill and baby son in “Central America,” which for some strange reason is as specific as they’re willing to get. Oh, and they gave the baby a haircut.

    Anna still hangs out at her in-laws’ house all the time, even though her husband is nowhere to be seen. And the unmarried adult Duggar children are building a tree house and Skyping with Jill and Derek.

    There’s no indication that anybody’s holding down a job. Nobody’s going to school. As far as we can tell, nobody’s even pursuing investments like flipping foreclosures into rentals. Nobody’s getting married–potential prospects have probably all dried up, at least until the dust settles. It’s just this enormous group of young adults desperately hanging around the big house in order to keep feeding on whatever the gravy train delivers. It’s turned into the Fundamentalist Christian version of MTV’s Cribs.

  30. Argh — “why,” not “when,” obviously.

    I agree that you start with teaching people to do the best they can with what they have. But I also think good policy recognizes that half of everyone out there is, by definition, below average — so we can try to lift the overall average, but we also need to have a safety net for those who will never be able to achieve “average” regardless of that effort.

    In terms of trusting people to govern themselves, my approach is to look for candidates who both know more than I do on those issues and who will in turn rely on people who know more than him (or her).

  31. What color purse goes with a coral dress (and nude to me shoes)? Bought the dress on an impulse at J Crew, it’s very 50s style Mad Men, looks fabulous on, will be perfect for upcoming client meeting. Except it is BRIGHT (which I can pull off with my coloring) and therefore none of my work purses go with it.

  32. Milo – I’ve only watch the Duggars a little bit, but if you had a blog where you reviewed every episode, I would read it faithfully.

  33. Old Mom, an elderly aunt gave me a packet of letters that my grandpop and his siblings sent home to Ireland after they immigrated. I really treasure these letters – they are a fascinating look into the life of my grandpop as a young man, and into cultural expectations of the time. (One son, halfway around the world from his mother, started one letter with the announcement that it was his annual letter home – I don’t think American families of today could fathom only hearing from a child once a year, and in a letter rather than a conversation.) I would definitely save them.

    Milo, I watched that, too, and had the same thoughts as you. They were talking about how the treehouse project had grown into some giant thing, and I’m thinking of course it has – what the hell else do you people have to fill your time? So then my child who happened to come into the room got a brief lecture on the mental health benefits of work and supporting yourself. I have a real need to be engaged in stuff, so that life of “hey kids, let’s put on a show!” would drive me crazy.

  34. Milo, ITA regarding “Walk in the Woods.” DH and I loved the book, but hated the movie.

    I only talk on the phone regularly with my parents and my sister, who lives in another city. I enjoy speaking with them, and don’t usually rush to get off. It helps that they’ve learned to call me outside of work hours.

    The kids mostly text me. DH will call about once a week, usually to convey information or ask a question.

  35. Ada – Thanks. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just write my recaps here, at least for as long as I keep watching.

    MBT – I really wonder how this is going to affect the kids who are still young children. When the show started, the whole household ran with lockstep and purposeful precision: breakfast, clean-up, Bible time, homeschool time, violin lessons…. I seriously doubt that that’s what it looks like now. JB and M seem shell-shocked to the point of lobotomy. If anyone’s doing any actual childrearing, it’s probably good old Jana, as usual.

  36. @Louise — I constantly ask DD if she needs me to whip out my inner Smother. :-)

    @Lark: white or ivory would look nice, too, and very spring/summer-ey.

  37. Milo – good recap. I’m home sick today and now will not be watching that episode! I find myself quite fed up w/ the parents and am happy not to see them. DD and I did see the previous episode, where they went to the lumberyard to get the materials for the treehouse. They trotted off in their flat bed with TONS of new lumber, and I was wondering what the grand total was for this completely unnecessary project. (Although they actually seemed somewhat industrious in that one, or two of them did–one had taken a car detailing class and one was starting to flip cars. That’s only 2/19 though … )

  38. “If anyone’s doing any actual childrearing, it’s probably good old Jana, as usual.”

    I did find it odd that JANA is the one “looking for ways to get the younger kids outside more often.” Though the way she looked when she said it, I wondered if it was less about their physical health and more about her own emotional health. She may very well be the one holding that family together right now.

  39. Old Mom- keep those letters! I have a letter from my mom’s great uncle who had immigrated to NZ and wrote to this mother (who lived in Europe) about how horrible an earthquake was and how it killed his wife and one child. It is a terribly depressing letter, but also fascinating. The description of the devastation is so detailed, and he even talks about his depression and what he needs to do to stay alive for the remaining children’s sake.

    My dad kept all my grade school report cards. The teachers comments from 1st grade are the same comments I get on my annual review. My strengths and weaknesses have not changed!

  40. Old mom, those are the sort of things my sibs and I could’ve easily spent hours reading when we were old enough to read but not old enough to be overscheduled, although that’s a much smaller (nonexistent?) window for many kids these days.

    It’s only one tub, so I say keep it.

  41. “150 or so pullups, mostly for fun or as a study break. On this one field near our dorm, there was a series of maybe 25 pull up bars anchored into concrete blocks. He had a routine of doing about 15 on each one”

    Interesting math.

  42. “would it be more productive to encourage people to understand what they naturally gravitate to?”

    That’s what we’re going through right now with DS, as he tries to figure out what to major in, since that would help him decide where to apply for college.

  43. Finn – lol. I didn’t bother to calculate it.

    “They trotted off in their flat bed with TONS of new lumber, and I was wondering what the grand total was for this completely unnecessary project.”

    I missed that episode, but seeing their plans, maybe $25k? The project is probably necessary for TLC filler.

    “one had taken a car detailing class and one was starting to flip cars.”

    I’ve always been fascinated by their apparent aversion to W2 wages. They’ll buy and operate tow trucks, used car lots, excavators, flatbeds, industrial warehouses, residential real estate. It seems characteristic of their demographic, too. The Bateses do tree removal, and probably a dozen other things.

  44. Lark – I agree w/Lauren. Navy would look great. I actually have a coral dress that I love and I’ve gone with a straw/raffia clutch.

  45. I can end phone calls–where I fall apart is gracefully ending conversations at parties. You see someone, say everything you’ve got to say, and then you all awkwardly stare at one another. It just seems like the ploys — I’m going to the bar, can I get you anything–are pathetically obvious.

  46. Maybe it works out well because kids from the ages of 12 and up, and there are a lot of them, can easily contribute to the family’s earnings.

  47. “also makes me fear getting older and having my kids move away.”

    Also reminds me to look for a phone plan for DS with unlimited talk and text, so he won’t have that excuse to not talk or text with us when he leaves the nest.

  48. Louise, I’d say beige / nude if you want to be staid and restrained, navy if you want to be professional / slightly fashionable, and lime green if you want the colors to pop.

    For work phone calls (I do have some with someone who clearly just needs to talk), I’ll let them circle back around once or twice after I’ve given them whatever I can provide, then firmly repeat the advice and wish them luck and say goodbye. For social / personal calls, the good old “I’ll let you go now” generally works. For in-person small talk at a party or whatever, just “It’s been nice talking to you” and moving away works with normal people — you don’t need an excuse when the conversation has reached a natural break. For in-person buttonholers who don’t want the conversation to end, that’s when you need stronger measures — “Excuse me, I see my spouse trying to get my attention / I see someone I need to talk to across the room / I have to duck out and return a phone call / I need to find the bathroom (do not use on same-sex buttonholer who will follow you in there / I’m going to check out the buffet”

  49. For phone calls with crazy people, you need to arrange for an emergency or staff meeting or something to call you away before you decide to fake your own death just to get off the phone.

  50. Lark – is this a meeting that you are traveling to? Navy works well, also plum or tan/beige, or with nude shoes you could do a fun bag like a leopard or zebra print. But also, IME no one notices the color of your bag at meetings – I am more likely to notice your dress then jewelry then makeup and only then do I look at shoes and bag. :)

  51. Milo – I love your recap. I don’t watch the show.
    I guess for the Duggar kids going into a professional environment must be foreign to them. They probably know only a few people with regular office jobs. Kids who go to school are at least exposed to more occupations. In my area most homeschooled kids have one parent with a professional job.

  52. Old Mom — Keep the letters, and I would say keep them in paper form (i.e. don’t scan them and then toss the hard copies). There is something about touching the actual document that your relative wrote that really adds to the experience of reading it, IMO. I threw away a lot of stuff from my mother’s house, but I kept a lot of old letters and other correspondence. I feel like they connect me to my deceased parents in a way that few other things do.

    Lark — I would consider going for a bold color with coral. I think a red or pink in the right hue could be really pretty. Or turquoise for a striking contrast.

  53. Quite a little stock market rally going on the past two days. We should all now be just about where were one year ago, if you include reinvested dividends.

  54. In terms of policy, I think the harms have to be clearly understood to determine when a nudge is appropriate and how strong/mandatory the nudge should be. I like automatic enrollment in 401(k) plans with the ability to opt out, for example. I’d like to have people understand their strengths and weaknesses at a point in time but also to have institutions (for me it’s church, but there should be others for non-religious people) that help them mature over time and grow into the kind of people they want to be.

    , I think it would be really helpful to show the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 90th percentile high school GPA and ACT/SAT score by major as part of the college data. At the colleges most kids will attend, admission isn’t that difficult but choosing a major appropriate to your academic strengths is. It would also be helpful to see the distribution of job categories people with that major are in 5, 10 and 25 years after graduation. As good at tracking people as alumni donation offices seem to be, this seems doable. For a large university, knowing that the average incoming ACT is 26 doesn’t tell you anything about whether electrical engineering would be a good fit.

    The question is much harder from a medical perspective. My favorite specialist saw me daily in the weeks after Obama had been elected and was excited about the prospect of a federal healthcare initiative, especially the opportunities in data driven medicine. I asked him about what about when the data tells you things that you don’t want to know. For example, people in the top quartile of socioeconomic status benefit after a stem cell transplant but people in the bottom quartile of socioeconomic status suffer after a stem cell transplant.

    Yesterday’s discussion about paid leave for life events made me think about my sister, who is single and childless. She would pay into a system for her whole life but have no relatives who would be eligible to take leave to care for her. When we create systems that are good for the average person, do we think carefully about the harm we may be doing to the people who are not average? (I bring this up to the vehemently pro-life people in Sunday School. I’m not just a contrarian on this blog.)

  55. That’s what we’re going through right now with DS, as he tries to figure out what to major in, since that would help him decide where to apply for college.

    I like the American college system where there is time for kids to change paths, if things don’t work out. Better, this way than be stuck doing something you dislike and not being good at it.

  56. Atlantamom – I also enjoyed Jane the Virgin, but I only watched the first season. I got a little overwhelmed with the soap opera story lines, even though I know that is the whole point of the series. Has she picked which guy she wants to be with yet?

    Milo – I also enjoy your recaps. I have only watched a few episodes of the original show, in much the same way I watch an occasional Kardashian show – flipping through the channels and I think, why not – this might be fun! The Duggers creep me out, though.

    Lark – I second or third the navy or straw recommendations.

    Old Mom – I think one bin is fine to keep, and your kids/grandkids will love going through it all in the future.

    On the election front, we Republicans in California may actually get a little attention this spring. While the state will certainly go Democratic in November, I understand that courting the Republican primary votes in more liberal areas will lead to a nice delegate pay off. It is too bad I am not excited about any of the candidates. I guess I like Kasich the best, but I don’t know if that is the best voting strategy if he has no shot. Will he still even be in the race in June?

  57. Old Mom– I agree that one tub of written documents would be priceless, and definitely worth keeping. (7 filing cabinets of old receipts, not so much.) I feel like a lot of those items in my family have been lost over the years, which makes me really sad. My dad used to have one drawer where he collected report cards, big reports and art projects, etc. Clearly not more than a couple of things per year, but it was nice to dig through all of that stuff, and I wanted to have it later. (He moved when I was in college and a bunch of it got destroyed by moisture in a garage, which made me really sad.) I’ve got a small snapping tub where I’m putting similar things away for each of my kids.

  58. @ L – yes, an on-site meeting I’m traveling to. Often I just wear a suit, but this dress is dying to get out and see people, so I am accommodating her.

    I had not thought about pairing red with coral. I have a really fabulous red purse. I do also have a green one, but I think it’s showing its age. I also have a black dressy purse but I hate it. It has a fold over top and is so impossible to gracefully reach into it for a pen or business card. It sparks the opposite of joy, I should just get rid of it and replace it.

    Regrettably I do not have a navy purse. This seems like a gross oversight. I have 2 beautiful brown purses.

  59. WCE – I agree about your comment on “the average person” and your sis is clearly not the average person wrt leave for child care (dare I say yet?). But she may be an overconsumer of some other benefit that I may never take advantage of. On average, we’re “normal”. Which is why we have the panoply of benefits/services paid for thru taxes and, even when there are sunset laws, the funding never stops for anything because there is always a constituency that will be vocal if their cherished benefit is ever closed down.

  60. (7 filing cabinets of old receipts, not so much.)

    Get out of my basement!

  61. As I write my periodic check to a home for widows and orphans in India, I have a question for those of you who feel a strong obligation to the economically disadvantaged in the US.

    Why do you prefer to support low income people in the US vs. even lower income people overseas?

    Part of the reason I support the home in India is that my limited dollars seem to be more effective there.

  62. SSK – just today I saw an electoral map
    showing Clinton beats Trump and Cruz but would lose to Kasich. I’d like to see him manage to stay in the running.

    WCE – part of it is because I feel like I can find info on US charities to make sure they’re on the up and up more easily than I can foreign ones. In my Kiva loans, though, I lend almost exclusively to those in countries where I think the poor can’t get a leg up. (I know, lending is not the same as giving)

  63. Lark – If you are buying a bag I might look for a straw or ecru cloth with navy trim. When I was a kid there was a preppy company called Etienne Aigner with a tiny horseshoe logo that made the bag I have in mind. Of course, in the northeast often a professional woman will not carry a purse at all, just a soft briefcase style bag with a foldover or zippered wallet that can hold a little bit more than money. For the person who wears full makeup a small makeup kit as well, but in Boston a lipstick and comb is more than enough.

  64. She would pay into a system for her whole life but have no relatives who would be eligible to take leave to care for her. When we create systems that are good for the average person, do we think carefully about the harm we may be doing to the people who are not average?

    What about someone who pays into social security their whole life and then dies at 62 before they get to collect anything? What about childless people like her who have to pay taxes to support public education? Etc. We all pay to support programs we will never use. Maybe we should get rid of taxes completely and everyone can pay for only the services they want.

  65. Why do you prefer to support low income people in the US vs. even lower income people overseas?

    Because it’s much more personal.

  66. Most of my giving to the truly poor is to a medical charity in Haiti. I also give to organizations that aim to protect women of all strata and locations from violence, and programs targeted at empowering lower income US girls. My religion’s umbrella charitable giving programs are unacceptable to me because of where so much of the money goes, so I tend to give to affiliated specific medical or welfare programs in the US. What little hands on work I do is local.

  67. protect women of all strata and locations from violence…

    I just read the article in the current time magazine (the one with Ted Cruz looking a little/lot like PeeWee Herman on the cover) about the terrible experiences of many women in Africa (rapes as a consequence of war). http://time.com/war-and-rape/

    It really got to me. What I’ll do about it? dunno.

  68. Thanks for the comments. I think the contrasting viewpoints of “It’s OK to force people into programs that are good for the majority, even if they’re bad for a minority” vs. “People should be free to make their own choices” are hard to balance.

    Depending on the type of choice (sex, money, discrimination), people have differing points of view on what it means to be a free people.

  69. The program might benefit your sister if she has to take care of a relative. It might be a parent, step parent or even you if something happened that was unexpected. A guy that worked for me had to take care of his brother when his brother broke his leg during a basketball game. The family leave policies might eventually be used by many more people than you might expect.

    Also, I’ve worked and paid every imaginable tax since I was 16. I don’t sit around and think how unfair it is that I’ll never get back what I’ve had to pay in taxes. I have one kid with no special needs. My neighbor has four kids, and her twins were born 15 weeks premature. She actually brags that our district has spent 100s of thousands of $ on her kids. You never know when you might need the system, or benefits that you paid for.

  70. SSK – I am only on Season 1 so I don’t know if Jane has picked a guy for good but I am team Rafael.:) DH is really hooked but he claims it’s because he likes Jane’s father.

  71. From what I read yesterday, siblings and in-laws are not “eligible family members”. I think I first looked into this when my FIL had cancer, because Mr WCE was eligible for FMLA leave but I was not.
    For a program like this, I would want the definition of eligible family member to include siblings, nieces and nephews. There will be many elderly people (often childless) who require care who won’t have spouses, parents or children to provide/oversee it.

    “Family members not covered by the federal FMLA include siblings, in-laws, grandparents and other extended family members unless those individuals stood “in loco parentis” to the employee when he or she was a minor.”

  72. “For a program like this, I would want the definition of eligible family member to include siblings, nieces and nephews.”

    If we’re going to do that, then we have to put a lifetime limit on either amount of benefits received or number of weeks taken.

  73. Finn, it’s stories like that that make me roll my eyes at the “Third Wave” feminists who seem to me to waste oceans of time navel-gazing and deconstructing gender. Go help some actual women already! And get off my lawn.

  74. Fred – I’m not a Twins fan, but I’m surrounded by them. Before the season started there was a wee bit of optimism. That has quickly died down and there is hardly any talk. It’s as if the season hasn’t even started. All the talk now is about the Wild and if Parise will play at all. It is going to be a long summer for any remaining Twins fan.

  75. Lauren’s comment about potential benefits from tax dollars along with other comments yesterday made me realize that I view insurance and charity as separate concepts. Some of you view a program like this as a combination of insurance and charity.

    If the program is insurance, it needs to be actuarially sound and we should discuss whether participation should be mandatory. I see arguments for and against mandatory participation.

    If the program is charity, forcing me to participate is forcing me to agree that subsidizing low wage workers in the US is more important than buying food and sewing machines for the widows/orphans I’m sending money to in India.

  76. Are you wondering if you would like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend? Here’s a video from this week’s episode. If you hate it, you will hate the show. I happen to like it, and I even had a lot of UTIs when I was younger.

  77. You guys might be amused that, while I’m cooking dinner, I sent my three kids to the basement with a home phone and my iPhone and told them to practice calling each other. They’re terrible at it. The little intricacies between pressing the green button on the home phone BEFORE dialing, but after dialing on the iPhone, the fact that you have to dial 1 first on the home phone, even how to answer, and how to end the call, are all unfamiliar to them.

  78. Genius, Milo. A real novelty to distract them from bugging you, *and* a life skill!

    I’ve resorted to giving my kids scripts when pushing them to do stuff like make their own RSVP calls or let a director / coach / extracurric know about a conflict. Scripts that we even practice together, with me playing the part of the other person on the call. But the good news is that they do learn how, eventually.

  79. But the good news is that they do learn how, eventually.

    In the late 70s, my sister had accepted a job (her first job out of school) with the Concord School District. She hadn’t signed the contract. At the last minute, the job in Palo Alto came through. She and my mom coaxed me into making the call to the principal in Concord because they were both too chickenshit. Sis and I have very similar voices and speech mannerisms. So teenage me called the principal and received the threats, lecture, and ominous insistence that I return the unsigned contract, and that it had better be unsigned. Sheesh.

    So sometimes, they don’t learn how, eventually.

  80. She and my mom coaxed me into making the call to the principal in Concord because they were both too chickenshit.

    That’s . . . wow . . . and you were the *younger* sister, what’s more. Wow. And your *mom* helped her talk you into it instead of telling he she needed to make her own phone calls. Wow. You’ve mentioned before that your mom could be difficult and wasn’t as evenhanded in her treatment of siblings as one would wish, but this little anecdote may be your best illustration of it yet.

  81. RMS, I watched the first couple of episodes of that show and couldn’t get into it. I do like the clip.

  82. Some of you view a program like this as a combination of insurance and charity.

    What is the issue with it being both?

  83. The problem with it being both insurance and charity is that WCE views the individual as the basic unit of society. Big time. Other people view the community as the basic unit. Still others think it’s really complicated and sometimes one view works better and sometimes the other works better. Many people think that if you benefited from a public college education, you might-could be a little nicer about other people using other social goods, because it’s not like every fucking person in Iowa went to Iowa State, but they all paid for it. But often, the benefits that you receive are entirely justified, and the benefits that others receive are forced charity and the skin off your personal ass.

  84. Rhett, I don’t know that it’s wrong to have the program be a combination of insurance and charity, but it shouldn’t be sold as an insurance program and then actuarially be a charity program. Truth in advertising, I guess.

  85. I’m not your children’s mother, WCE, but my tax dollars are going to support all the shit that your tax deductions are getting you out of.

  86. but it shouldn’t be sold as an insurance program and then actuarially be a charity program.

    It’s both.

  87. You said you couldn’t afford to go to MIT. So you really shouldn’t have gone to college at all then, should you? You sucked and sucked at the public teat to get that engineering degree. That’s evil. Evil. That was forced charity and you weren’t entitled to it.

    Done now.

  88. “You sucked and sucked at the public teat to get that engineering degree.”

    Hmmm. I guess I’d better not say anything. :)

  89. Rocky: If you’re calling WCE evil (in an ironic way), I guess that applies to 75% of the Board, as many here went to college via scholarships or state school. I, myself, hope that DS is evil, so that I don’t have to pay $60K a year for private college.

  90. Houston, I’m continually shocked by the number of conservatives who casually say that everyone should just go to a state school or two years of community colleges and then flagship state. What part of “state” and “community” do they not understand? Why is it so much cheaper? The congnative dissonance is astounding.

  91. Settle down, RMS. I pay over 40% of my entire income in taxes, plus I pay household employee taxes because I pay babysitters on the books. I had a full-tuition scholarship to a private college, so I had choices besides MIT and Iowa State. I am grateful for the K-12 public education I received, interstate highways and am strongly in favor of better support for disabled and mentally ill people. (I have voted in favor of most local tax levies.)

    I thought state universities were cheaper than private colleges because you sit in lecture halls with three digit numbers of students and either learn or don’t learn whatever the professor is talking about. There is some state subsidy, but class size is the primary reason for the lower cost of public universities, especially at current subsidy levels. I’m open to data if I’m wrong about that- it’s not something I’ve studied.

    Maybe you’re really wondering why I lack much of a communitarian ethos. I suppose part of it is reading books like The Road to Serfdom and The Bridge at Andau and being convinced that socialism is usually a very bad thing. Another part of it is being pressured on a daily basis (and losing my job once) because engineers in the U.S. are asked to match or beat costs in southeast Asia, where the social safety net is much weaker.

  92. “socialism is usually a very bad thing”

    It can be a bad thing, but there are many cases in which it works very well.

  93. because engineers in the U.S. are asked to match or beat costs in southeast Asia, where the social safety net is much weaker.

    Then it’s odd that you think engineering is God’s One True Calling and everyone who’s not an engineer is massively stupid.

    I thought state universities were cheaper than private colleges because you sit in lecture halls with three digit numbers of students and either learn or don’t learn whatever the professor is talking about.

    Can you possibly be serious? Do you know how many small public colleges there are? Do you know how big the Intro to Calculus class is at Stanford?

  94. Socialism can (but doesn’t always) work well in families, especially nuclear family units.

  95. I can see both sides of this issue. We pay a crap load of taxes. We use very few services. That’s ok, because we’ve been lucky and we believe in supporting others who are less fortunate.

    That said, DH turned from a Democrat to a Republican when he figured out that much of the pile of money he pays in property taxes goes to other school districts, even though DS’s school is 50% free lunch, old and rundown, and there are not enough chairs in the classrooms for all the kids.

  96. “Socialism can (but doesn’t always) work well in families, especially nuclear family units.”

    In that case, I prefer joint dictatorship with no guarantee of due process.

  97. So for socialism to work in a family, the more successful members share their income with less successful members. Or members who choose leisure, because they know that you’ll chip in. I see this all the time in Asia. FIL built a huge house that his brother lives in rent free. FIL pays for taxes and upkeep. Now brother wants a car. And an iPhone. FIL’s mom says that FIL should buy this stuff because he has more money (from his years of saving and working hard).

    When you say that socialism works or doesn’t work, it sure as heck is working for FIL’s brother. Not so much for FIL, who is constantly bombarded by new requests from family every time he visits.

  98. I agree with Houston. I mostly lean Republican but I think taxes should be used for things that are for the public good. I think subsidized maternity leave/paternity leave is a public good.

    State universities get less and less every year from state legislatures.

  99. Iowa has 3 public 4 year colleges. Oregon has 7, but most of them don’t offer very many degrees.

  100. California has 32 4-year public colleges and 113 community colleges. Colorado has 13 community colleges and 12 4-year public colleges.

  101. Since numbers carry weight, I will provide the following on U Mass. The University system (5 campuses – there are state colleges and cc’s as well) has a budget of roughly 3 billion, of which 500 million or 1/6 is paid by a yearly appropriation out of general state revenues.

    In state tuition, fees, room and board at state flagship is 26,500. Out of state tuition, fees, room and board are 43,200. (Engineers and honors college students pay 1000 and 600 surcharge, respectively, but they probably have merit aid, too.) Skidmore for the same 4 items is 62,000.

  102. The numbers are only for the University level – I didn’t look up the data for the other levels of higher education.

  103. “California has 32 4-year public colleges” and 39 million people.

    We have15 public colleges and 8 million people.

    It would probably make sense to compare total enrollment.

  104. The Google tells me average class size is 37 students at UMass and 16 at Skidmore. Without knowing whether honors projects for individual students count as individual “classes”, the delta seems about what I expected.

  105. 3 public 4-year colleges for 1.47 million people.

    Why are we comparing public colleges / population?

  106. A nuclear family is by nature a temporary institution. Parents care for dependent children by training them to become independent. How is that comparable to a socialist state with permanently confiscatory tax rates?

  107. We are not driving to your fair city, LfB, because DS started throwing up.

    The only thing less fun than taking a sick kid on a road trip is taking three sick kids on a road trip. And with my luck the other two would seem healthy until we were about an hour from the hotel.

  108. Colorado has 13 community colleges and 12 4-year public colleges.

    And many of them are not very big. Mines has an enrollment of 4,400. CSU-Pueblo is 5,200. Adams State is 3,700. Fort Lewis is 3,800. Public colleges aren’t all massive flagships with 25,000 students.

  109. HM, I think we have 4 4-year colleges, assuming we are counting UHM as one, even though it’s unusual to complete an undergrad degree in 4 years.

  110. In many nuclear families, all income is, in effect, confiscated for the use of the family. They often conform to the “from each, according to his ability, to each according to his need” mantra.

  111. 80 percent of the undergraduate student body at flagship is in state, I would expect an even higher percentage at the other uni campuses. So the citizens of the Commonwealth have chosen to subsidize the roughly 45000 in state University system undergrads to the tune of 11,000 per student per year. Just providing the numbers

  112. “Public colleges aren’t all massive flagships with 25,000 students.”

    Some are bigger. The ASU rep we talked to last night told us that one of their four campuses has 52k students.

  113. I was just totting up the universities, Manoa, Hilo, West Oahu, but I guess you could call Maui CC a four-year college since it does offer at least a couple of bachelor’s degrees.

  114. We pay a crap load of taxes. We use very few services.

    You use a lot more services than you think. Locally, you’re probably using roads, trash pickup, police/fire/EMTs, schools, etc. Have you ever been to court for any reason? Nationally, you benefit from military protection, the FAA, the TSA. I’m sure there are plenty more, I’m just listing stuff off the top of my head.

  115. It’s not MCC any more, it’s UH Maui College. 13 Baccalaureate degrees awarded in 2014.

  116. Some are bigger.

    I know. My point is that a lot of public colleges are small schools that don’t have classes with 300 students.

  117. The Google tells me average class size is 37 students at UMass and 16 at Skidmore. Without knowing whether honors projects for individual students count as individual “classes”, the delta seems about what I expected.

    n=2. Point proven irrevocably!

  118. ” So the citizens of the Commonwealth have chosen to subsidize the roughly 45000 in state University system undergrads to the tune of 11,000 per student per year. Just providing the numbers”

    I would interpret the $500 million in general revenue going to UMass as subsidizing graduate students, perhaps more than undergraduates. I saw the dirty underbelly of the system in my heavily subsidized, small graduate program and continue to see it talking to professor acquaintances.

  119. Finn, UH had better update its website, then, because they’ve still got it under community colleges: https://www.hawaii.edu/campuses/ .

    It was kind of weird that they decided the next location to build up a full-on university should be . . . not Maui, not any other neighbor island, but West Oahu!

  120. I probably pay a lot more taxes than I think, as well. : )

    We all do. I never think about how much I pay in sales taxes. I’m sure very few people think about what they pay for gas taxes because that’s never itemized. Taxes on airfares, rental cars, hotels.

  121. Is a conservative suggesting the military ought to be disbanded, state universities closed, and the interstate highway system dug up?

    If Trump tweeted it this morning, I missed it. (And he’s not a conservative; if you asked him about Edmund Burke he would look at you like you had two heads.)

    The concern many conservatives have about the NY policy is that it is (1) likely to cost more than predicted, (2) mandatory for large numbers of people who cannot benefit from it due to the restrictions, and (3) likely to impose burdens on small businesses that are real even if hard to quantify.

    No one has any idea what it will really cost. The terms of the benefits are not the same as in California, and evidently only 45% of Californians even know the leave program exists. If people start using it for the baby boomer parents and spouses as they age, instead of just babies, it could end up being a bigger surprise.

    And keep in mind that NY is losing businesses and population in part due to high taxation and the regulatory burdens imposed in Albany.

    There are serious concerns that adding to those burdens over and over again – even for good causes and with great intentions – drives people and their money out, and has a negative effect on the state’s future.

    See, e.g., NY’s health insurance rates, which are stratospheric not only because of the costs in NYC, but also because lobbyists successfully expanded mandatory minimum coverage to all sorts of things which may be wonderful in themselves but when taken together result in extremely high premiums.

    Nor has anyone considered whether it will crowd out the more generous leave programs currently offered by many NY businesses.

    It might still be a good idea and a workable program, but I would like them to try it for two years in Schenectady and report back first.

  122. And people get mad when you mention this, but the many companies of which you own shares pay taxes, which means you are paying those taxes.

  123. “I know. My point is that a lot of public colleges are small schools that don’t have classes with 300 students.”

    And I was surprised at the size of ASU.

  124. HM, click the Campus Profile link and you’ll see that it’s Maui College, and also see the 14 baccalaureate degrees awarded.

    The pie chart is interesting too; I’m guessing the UH system is the only one in the US that breaks out Filipino, Chinese, and Japanese as separate diversity categories, not to mention separating Hawaiian/part-Hawaiian from (I assume) other Pacific Islanders. So I’m also guessing that someone who is Japanese-Chinese would be categorized as mixed.

  125. I had 2 lecture classes at my Ivy that were 900 students, if we’re going for anecdata. ;)

  126. my public in state univ. has about 6K enrollment currently, class sizes were small, prob about 18-22 in most

  127. my taxes go to cover the public under grad fees, that is why out of state applicants have to pay more, they aren’t paying taxes towards it

  128. “The concern many conservatives have about the NY policy is that it is (1) likely to cost more than predicted, (2) mandatory for large numbers of people who cannot benefit from it due to the restrictions, and (3) likely to impose burdens on small businesses that are real even if hard to quantify.”

    I want the numbers to be sound for a program like this, #3 concerns me the most

  129. “I had 2 lecture classes at my Ivy that were 900 students, if we’re going for anecdata. ;)”

    holy sh*t

    my largest lecture class prob had only 50 or so

  130. “And your *mom* helped her talk you into it instead of telling he she needed to make her own phone calls. Wow.”

    Have you met Rocky? I’d like her to make my difficult phone calls too, please. . . .

    Re: state subsidies for public schools: this has changed dramatically over time as well. I found a chart (Figure 1 in “Fiscal Focus — State Appropriations, Tuition, and Public University Operating Costs”) that talks about this in Michigan. In @1986, state appropriations covered what looks to be about 60% of total university operating revenues, and tuition and fees covered about 30%. By @ 2008, those two income streams had switched places. By 2013 (the last actual data on the chart), tuition and fees were over 75% of the costs, and state revenues were under 25%.

    So basically, us old folks got a much greater subsidy than today’s young whippersnappers, who largely are bootstrapping themselves. And then I got a much worse deal than my FIL, who got a completely free engineering degree courtesy of CCNY (IIRC).

    The other issue is the lottery. Many states approved Powerball/etc. based on the promise that the $$ will go to education. DH once found (and I cannot find) a graph that showed that as lottery contributions increased, appropriations from the regular state budget decreased. So we are paying less in taxes for the schools, as more of that funding is paid for by the highly-regressive tax-on-people-who-are-bad-at-math.

    I just paid a ridiculous quantity of $$ in taxes — it makes DH nuts. I figure I have a pretty cushy life, what with the roads, schools, police, fire department around the corner, library 1/4 mile away, post office, parks, courts, water and power lines, trash disposal, wastewater/stormwater, etc. etc. etc. that make my life so easy on a day-to-day basis. So I’d rather pay my Civilization Fee and keep all that up and running.

  131. We just sent in our extension yesterday with a pretty big check. We will never get back in services what we pay in. But, that is how a progressive tax system works and I am fine with that. We always have the option of turning down income if we think the benefits are so great at lower incomes. And at certain times in my life, I was a net consumer of public services.

    I went to a big state school and had lots of really big classes (almost every general requirement was large). I loved it. Law school was a somewhat rude awakening when the classes that I had no interest in taking but was forced to do so only had 30 people and I had to participate. Very overrated.

  132. “Many states approved Powerball/etc. based on the promise that the $$ will go to education. DH once found (and I cannot find) a graph that showed that as lottery contributions increased, appropriations from the regular state budget decreased. So we are paying less in taxes for the schools, as more of that funding is paid for by the highly-regressive tax-on-people-who-are-bad-at-math.”

    Success!

  133. “I had 2 lecture classes at my Ivy that were 900 students, if we’re going for anecdata. ;)”

    I had a class with over 1,000 students at flagship state U.

    And then I got a much worse deal than my FIL, who got a completely free engineering degree courtesy of CCNY (IIRC).

    Both of my parents got degress at CCNY for free (or a nominal fee).

    So I’d rather pay my Civilization Fee and keep all that up and running.

    Yes, this. We can debate how much all these services should actually cost and how they should be paid for, but I can wake up, take a nice warm shower, eat a breakfast made from food that I know is safe, and safely drive to work on roads that are generally well-maintained.

  134. The income and sales taxes I pay directly support public higher education throughout the Commonwealth. There is also a distribution to cities and towns out of general tax and lottery revenue. My local property taxes, paid directly today or indirectly when I was a renter, support public el-hi education. They also provide town services to the tax exempt non profit institutions within town limits, including private educational institutions, although in larger municipalities non profits with large landholdings make a voluntary payment in lieu of taxes. That payment to the locality is far less than would be received from the land put to commercial or residential use, but presumably for colleges, that is partially offset by reduced density, private police force, and commercial activity generated by the students.

    The federal income taxes I pay directly support subsidized student loans, direct federal student grants to students at public and private educational institutions, (even for profit fly by nights), the income tax deduction for donors to non profit schools at all levels, work-study wage subsidies, research grants to faculty, deductions for student loan interest, foregone taxes on 529 plan earnings, tuition tax credits, the service academies, the tax exempt earnings on multi billion dollar university endowments (also exempt for state income tax).

    There is a perceived public good to all this. A taxpayer who was home schooled, did not attend an institution of higher learning, has no employees who made use of conventional education, and has no children who do so can be said to be paying taxes related to education for which he got no direct benefit. (The benefits of a general level of education in society are only indirect to him.) Those individuals are few, if any, and if he is off grid, he isn’t paying any taxes.

  135. I read WCE’s comments above basically saying if we are paying for insurance we should benefit

    there are lots of insurance premiums that never benefit us (or not to the extent of premiums paid)

    car insurance if no accidents
    probably not many of us have had our houses burn down or flooded
    unemployment insurance
    health insurance paid for years we only go to a wellness visit
    etc

  136. “We will never get back in services what we pay in.”

    ITA. For me, it’s more like the trite “pay it forward” adage. I benefited very directly from a *lot* of government programs when I was younger, from food stamps and subsidized “Great Society” daycare that allowed my mom to work and get her Ph.D, to experimental school programs that taught me things I still recall, all the way to subsidized federal loans for college and law school. I wouldn’t be where I am now without that early support, so I don’t mind paying 20-25% of it back going forward.

    Needless to say, DH, who required none of this kind of assistance as a kid and whose college was fully-funded by the Bank of Dad, does not feel remotely the same way.

  137. I’ve posted before about our issues with our kids’ school’s new principal. We’ve found out that three really good middle school teachers are leaving at the end of this year. These are teachers who have been there for years. Of course we can’t say with certainty that it’s because of her, but that’s where things seem to be pointing. We’re so glad we only have one more year there.

  138. LfB, not what you were looking for, but interesting:

    Forty-seven separate lotteries offer Powerball (it’s played in 44 states, plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). According to a press document [downloadable file] from the Multi-State Lottery Association (MUSL), the organization that runs Powerball, total sales of Powerball tickets since its inception in April 1992 come to roughly $55.8 billion (through January 9, 2016). Since that time, they have paid jackpot winners a combined $16.5 billion; non-jackpot, tertiary winners have won a combined total of around $11.8 billion. This means that roughly half of the money that has been made from Powerball ticket sales has gone to the winners themselves.

    As for the rest? Well, that depends. According to the MUSL, “All profits from the games are kept by the state that sells the ticket.” States must pay for expenses before counting the funds as profit, however. These expenses include advertising, salaries for lotto commission workers, vendor fees, and things like “central accounting and the purchase of government securities to fund annuitized prizes.” Once those are paid for, states can tally their profits—and that’s where things get interesting.

    Some state-run lottery programs make a pittance. According to a 2012 NBC News story, Rhode Island reported that their lotto program added just 11 cents per dollar of ticket sales to the state’s annual budget. Others, however, do much better. Oregon, for example, “generated 50 cents in profits for each dollar of ticket sales” in 2011. These revenues vary for a slew of different reasons, like the number of players in the state and the efficiency of the lotto program itself. According to the NBC report, some states “boost their take…by turning over their lottery operations to private companies.”

    Once net profits are totaled, it’s up to the state to decide what they’ll do with the money. A common benefactor of lottery profits are education budgets. (All profits for Virginia Lottery sales, for example, go to a K-12 education fund). Research has also shown that some states count lottery profits as general revenue, or use them to subsidize tax cuts promised by politicians, making them a sort of hidden, “voluntary tax.”

    Cool beans.

    Even better, you’ve got to figure that roughly half of the winnings go to federal and state taxes. So collectively, players are paying 50% in tax on the tickets, and then another 50% if they win.

  139. “If the program is insurance, it needs to be actuarially sound and we should discuss whether participation should be mandatory. I see arguments for and against mandatory participation.

    If the program is charity, forcing me to participate is forcing me to agree that subsidizing low wage workers in the US is more important than buying food and sewing machines for the widows/orphans I’m sending money to in India.”

    can we make Social Security voluntary?

    we are already forced to subsidize low wage workers in many other ways through our taxes

    I agree that this program would be a public good, such as public school

  140. @Milo — yeah, I just saw something similar for MD with the same sort of 50/50 split. Though I do quibble slightly with the “50% in income taxes” bit. Definitely true for the $16B in big jackpots, but I suspect a lot of the $12B in smaller winnings is like the $4 I won last week, which is never going to get reported anywhere.

    And yes, I do pay my stupidity tax when the jackpot is over $100MM — less about math skills than it is the triumph of hope over experience. :-) (although it’s true, I don’t recall any of my college calculus courses — maybe that’s my problem)

  141. My husband, too, was bank rolled by the Bank of Dad. I don’t find that to be a morally superior position compared to government assistance. In the words of the great Sunscreen Song, “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much. Or berate yourself either. Your choices were half chance. So were everyone else’s.”

  142. I have absolutely no idea whether I as an individual will receive more benefit from my personal taxes paid throughout my life than I paid in. I suspect yes, if you allow for mom’s taxes to carry me up to college graduation, and mine for myself after that and my kids up through college graduation. Four children educated, two entirely public, two a mix. Two private grad school stints for me. One with an NSF grant, one with subsidized student loans. Subsidized student loans for three of my kids. Three years of special needs outplacement for one. I drive very little, so my direct and indirect use of roads far exceeds my gas taxes paid. Public transit use my whole life. WIC coupons for three years. Frequent use of public parks, nature areas and playgrounds. National parks. It remains to be seen whether I will get more out of SS and medicare than I put in. Very likely. My husband definitely gets more back on his own account. His father was ill and family members supported them a fair amount of the time. He went to public school including NYC university system. GI bill for grad school. worked for a semi gov’t banking entity, now has a pension. His Son was public school through college. Medicare power user.

    This may be a regional difference, or an urban/rural difference in either actual use or perceived use.

  143. “I had 2 lecture classes at my Ivy that were 900 students, if we’re going for anecdata. ;)”

    More trivia – Cornell’s Psych 101 and Intro to Wines classes easily each had well over 1000 students. Most of my freshman and sophomore intro class had over 500 students, writing workshops and labs being the exception.

  144. “bank rolled by the Bank of Dad”

    As someone who is about to pay for college, I would rather say, “by parents who saved diligently for a long period of time in order to pay for their children’s college education.”

    The phrase “bank rolling” is accurate I suppose, but it diminishes the work that went into the process.

  145. “unless it was inherited wealth or lottery winnings”

    As someone who stands to inherit wealth, I resent that. too.

  146. Students taking the Wines course are exempt from NYs 21 and over drinking age limit, but the class is restricted to juniors, seniors and grad students.

    I wonder if only Hotel school grads could take the course or if it is open to the other graduate colleges?

    I still have my glasses and books from that course.

    (Thanks for indulging my stroll down memory lane.)

  147. Houston – from the parents’ perspective, sure. We were good little Totebaggers and opened up 529 plans for the kids when they were born. We diligently fund them every year.

    But the kids just lucked out that we are willing and able to do this. They haven’t done anything to deserve it more than a kid who happens to be born in to a lower income family who can’t. I think that underlying idea should be a strong basis when considering tax policy and programs.

  148. But there is a tremendous amount of college aid out there for those families that aren’t upper middle class.

    In Georgia, the publics get $ for each student enrolled so there is incentive to enroll as many students as you can. Publics like Michigan and UVA are essentially private in that they really don’t even need money from the state anymore to operate, their endowments are so large.

  149. Two points…

    In countries with no public safety net, the safety net is your kids. My inlaws consider it their right to be supported by their kids even though they have a decent bank balance. It has been almost impossible to shift them from this mindset. They will be frugal in asking their kids for things but at the same time will not use a penny from their own savings.
    We have gotten ridiculed by one set of relatives for wasting our tax dollars by sending our kids to private schools. It was extremely irritating because we can do what we want with our money that is legal. I hate it when people get all smug about their choices.

  150. “We have gotten ridiculed by one set of relatives for wasting our tax dollars by sending our kids to private schools.”

    That is a whole other level of frugal. Thought provoking, Louise!

  151. Even for the lucky children who have access to funds for college–Dismissing the hard work of the parents is disrespectful. Similarly, dismissing the hard work of kids (or ourselves) because they won the “ovary lottery”, is also not productive.

  152. In my day, the aid wasn’t nearly sufficient. For law school, I chose among the #1 ranked school which was willing to give me subsidized loans in the amount of $18,500 and the rest was unsubsidized and lower ranked schools that gave me fullrides. I chose a lower ranked school. My husband doesn’t even know the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. He just went to his first very expensive choice. I am happy with my choices, but let’s not pretend that having parents who have $ isn’t a huge unearned advantage in life.

  153. I think I messed that up. Total govt loans of $17.5k or 18.5k. The rest private loans. Whatever it was, it was way too expensive to consider.

  154. Spectrum allocation and utility regulation are two other areas of appropriate government regulation.

    Having participated in a federal program (I had lots of federal commodities in my school lunches) doesn’t mean you have to think that the program you participated in should be a government activity. You can think (or not think) that the government commodities program should exist, whether or not your kids have government commodities in their school lunches.

  155. Houston – no one is dissing those who worked hard to save money for their children to attend college. I merely pointed out that factually that is not always the case. Isn’t this board all about facts and data? (Forgetting generosity, justice, fairness . . . )

  156. I’m not dismissing the hard work of parents or their kids. I think people underestimate how much they benefit from taxes and/or support or their family background when they say that they were successful all on their own.

  157. I don’t think anyone is successful all on their own. Having children when you are ready to be a parent is important. I think the reduction in teen pregnancy is one of the greatest social successes since I was in high school.

  158. Rocky –

    Concord, eh? Now we’re talking. Do you happen to remember which school? Long after my time there..I left after 7th grade when my mom remarried.

  159. “The phrase “bank rolling” is accurate I suppose, but it diminishes the work that went into the process.”

    FWIW, that was not my intent. I actually see it as part of the cycle: FIL’s parents were immigrants who didn’t graduate HS. FIL got a free college education courtesy of the gov’t of NY (and FIL’s dad was a civil servant, too, so I guess you could say the gov’t paid for both FIL’s childhood and his college). That gave him the knowledge/skills to get a good engineering job, where he worked hard and rose to the level of VP in a chemical company. That, in turn, allowed him to fully fund his kids’ college (in DH’s case, at a private). Which now allows DH to feel like he made it on his own and thus complain about his tax burden.

    It’s not either/or — never is. Like others said above: success is *always* a combination of both personal character/choices and gov’t support, in varying amounts for different people. I am just closer in time to the “support” side and so am able to appreciate that contribution more than DH does, because all he saw growing up was his dad’s hard work, and not the support that opened the door to those opportunities to his dad.

  160. ‘Having children when you are ready to be a parent is important”

    but this choice is all your own (and your partners)

    if you abstain or are religious about taking your birth control regularly/using it correctly, there aren’t many accidents

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