And More Gossip From the Mechanic

Last night, Jonah drove home from an evening of Fortnite at Jimmy’s house and announced that there was a bad smell coming from the car. Bad smells aren’t enough to move us to deal with car problems. But when black smoke started coming out from under the hood this morning, we agreed that prompt action was needed.

I wasn’t in the mood for prompt car action, because I had a full day of work planned out. Instead, I had to drive 30 minutes to the mechanic and pick up a spare car from my parents. Any trip to my parents now requires an additional 30 minutes on simplistic tech problems and lunch and tea. On the way back, I had to pick up groceries.

The day is shot. Ugh. Might as well blog.

When I dropped off the car, I had to do some mandatory chit-chat with Jimmy the mechanic. Jimmy fixes my extended family’s fleet of Toyotas and Subarus. He’s honest and hardworking and worth the 30 minute drive.

Jimmy was in a bad mood this morning, too. His best worker, Dave, quit, after working with him for eight years. Dave went to work for a dealership where he will get paid more money and get health insurance and benefits. As a small business owner, Jimmy can’t offer health insurance. His own health insurance is 20K per year.

Jimmy needs to find a replacement and is stuck. He had one guy for two weeks, but he showed up late every day and he only lived a block away. He fired him. He said that all the guys coming out of tech school are terrible. They don’t want to work hard or get dirty. I guess tech schools aren’t attracting the highest quality workers. I also guess that not too many people are willing to work at a job without health insurance.

Anyway, this gossip is interesting mostly because it is almost the exact same story that I heard from my contractor two weeks ago.

I’m interested in these stories not just because I think it’s a sign that there is great unraveling of the economy. I’m paying attention, because it’s personal. I can’t imagine that Ian is going to be able to attend a traditional four-year college. His reading skills aren’t on grade level, and he certainly could never manage the social skills of dorm room.

He does, however, have mad computer and engineering skills, so I’m started to dip my big toe into information about technical schools and community colleges. What’s the best way to get him in a cubicle with a computer? There are lots of stories about how vocational schools are the wave of the future, but I suspect it’s more hype than reality.

77 thoughts on “And More Gossip From the Mechanic

    1. Yeah, I’ve been hearing a lot about this program. I think Ian might be too advanced for it, but I’ll look into it.

      Like I said he has really good computer skills and is a genius at pattern recognition. I could see him working for a data security company. He could find a virus in a haystack. Luckily, computer companies are on the look out for autistic kids like Ian and have changed their interview protocols so they aren’t screened out for poor social skills.

      This summer, he going to a three week camp for social skills, a one week computer camp, and two weeks of reading summer school w/a computer internship. We’re working on strengths and weaknesses.


      1. He sounds SO much like many of the first gen developers at Microsoft that a pal of mine worked with back in the day. Super smart, amazing at coding, and not much in the way of social skills. This was when there were paper pay cheques – they’d stuff them in a desk drawer at work and pull one out only when the bank account was at zero.

        In other words, there are places for his skill set/personality.


  1. Could Ian work for Jimmy? Car maintenance is not going away, and Jimmy might be highly motivated to make the accommodations necessary. The son of a cousin is on the spectrum and has, after a disastrous spell at Dominos, settled into working doing deliveries for a local dry cleaner. The dry cleaner is eager to make it work, defining the work in a routinized way, mostly regular customers and he has learned the route. Car maintenance is not going away any time soon, is fairly routine – a Toyota brake job is a brake job, generally. It’s important to do it right, the work is checkable by a good supervisor.


  2. Maybe you want to look for work which can be rules based but which is not susceptible to being done by machine?


  3. “I also guess that not too many people are willing to work at a job without health insurance.”

    Nope, nope, and nope.

    I sure hope Jimmy votes straight-ticket D, because otherwise there’s no chance that situation will change either.

    I hope I don’t have to remind anyone here, but in Germany (to take an example I am familiar with), small business owners spend exactly zero hours of the day worrying about health insurance for their employees. Obamacare took the US part of the way in freeing people from employer-tied insurance (and also freeing employers from this major responsibility that isn’t a core part of their business) but only part of the way. Still much to do, and the Republicans are uninterested in doing any of it.


    1. Umm, the likelihood that a white (just a guess, since Laura doesn’t say) small business owner in the suburbs votes Democratic approaches zero. But what does he know? His educational credentials are minuscule compared to every commenter here.


  4. We had an HVAC guy come in a few weeks back. He was working for some other guy, but then struck out on his own. He told my husband he’s making 200K per year. Clearly, I should have gone into HVAC instead of getting a PhD – seriously. We have a great voc high school here, but now a lot of the parents think that it’s a great way to get a leg up on college admissions. So the kids who actually want to do this kind of work are getting squeezed out of admissions as grades and attendance are the key factors in getting in to the voc. I suspect that most of the kids who are interested in the trades don’t have great middle school grades – not because they’re not smart, but because school isn’t targeted towards their strengths. So I am a bit skeptical about all of this focus on voc schools and their success as I am not sure we’re doing them right. Done right, I think they’re a great way to train kids for whom college is not a good fit. Right now, I think they are quickly turning in to another way for UMC parents to game the system.


  5. A repair shop near us just changed owners, and it’s doing wonderfully. The younger owners modernized a lot of things. They get great reviews on all the online sites. The demand for good tradesmen seems to be high enough that they don’t have to take low paying jobs with no benefits. Jimmy probably needs to market his good services, to get big enough to afford to pay for employee benefits.

    I recently heard an ed reform podcast that noted that a study found that associates’ degrees were out-earning BAs. (IIRC) I think that’s probably due to the demand for computers skills. I think they were talking about this report from Georgetown:

    Associate’s degree holders who studied STEM earn $60,000annually. This is more than bachelor’s degree holders who majored in the humanities and liberal arts.


  6. Would he enjoy iphone or laptop repair?

    I see we have a couple of phone repair places locally.


  7. I’ve been thinking about trying to compare results from different education and career paths. This was interesting, although it’s four years old:

    I’m not a Bloomberg Professional whatever, so I can’t read the article linked to in the article. However, the principle of the piece is that the plumber does very well in comparison to the doctor. He only has $423 less to spend per year than the doctor.

    As I said, the piece is 4 years old. In the interim, the average student debt load has increased, and interest rates have risen.

    Google has an article on their blog (who knew?) about community college and computer science degrees.


    1. There are lots of plumbers who make a great deal of money, but I think the skills they have are often beyond plumbing (e.g. running a business, sales, reassuring nervous wealthy people). I suspect doctors with those same skills out-earn the average doctor by quite a bit.


    2. As someone with lots of doctors in the family–my father-in-law was a cardiologist, my brother and sister-in-law are doctors, and so is practically my entire sister-in-law’s family, that article is confused. First, many doctors make a lot more than 185,000 at their peak (the article was supposedly about peak earnings, but the doctors salary they chose was average for all doctors according to a quick google. Meanwhile, the average plumbers salary was almost 30,000 off, being only 50,000 according to google). Second, it assumes everyone finances their education through loans, which is not true. The whole point of being a doctor is to have the ability to finance your children’s education THROUGH medical school (or some other professional school) without loans. My brother and sister in law, both children of doctors, did not take one loan to go to medical school. On the other end poor kids may be able to get scholarships to medical school. My former university, a working class college, had a program where students who graduated and went to med school in our state could go completely for free. Third, it assumes people can be plumbers till the same retirement age. Getting down on one’s knees and crawling around in crawl spaces is something I might have trouble doing now, at 52. Doctors can keep going till relarivrly later (and I know professors who keep working till eighties–which definitely increases their family wealth!)


  8. I think that the trades are an underrated option. Fantasy education: BA in liberal arts-ish classes then a trade school for plumber or electrician or or or… It’s the type of work where there’s a reasonably low barrier to entry but if you are good at it, you will do well.

    Of course you need the right personality/skllset as MH notes, you will be running a business in addition to the actual skill. But there’s no shame in being the person who is the skilled worker and leave the business side to someone else (the vocational equivalent to taking someone who loves teaching and having them continue teaching rather than making them part of the administration).

    Amongst many of the UMC, cc are seen as lesser than college/university. I think cc and the trades and other ways to make a living that aren’t lawyer/doctor/programmer/teacher should be on the table for high school students.

    And as to the doctoring? We probably all know people who went into medicine because it was what was expected or because they were good at sciences. My close friend’s daughter is in grade 11 now and her school counselor is encouraging her to follow her dream of medicine AND also advising her to keep her eyes open once she’s there as there are many medical/science careers that are not just being a doctor.

    A GP is a grind – piece work with people rather than widgets.


    1. sandrat212 said,

      “Of course you need the right personality/skllset as MH notes, you will be running a business in addition to the actual skill. But there’s no shame in being the person who is the skilled worker and leave the business side to someone else (the vocational equivalent to taking someone who loves teaching and having them continue teaching rather than making them part of the administration).”

      I’d say that there are three elements for the independent tradesman:

      a) the actual work
      b) being reasonably personable
      c) running the business (marketing, bookkeeping, taxes, etc.).

      You can avoid problems with c) by being an employee. b) is tougher, because it’s harder to detach from a) than c) is. Nobody expects a chatty Cathy plumber, but there’s a bare minimum of civility and social skills that you need if you’re going to be going into multiple strangers’ homes every day–fall below a certain level, and people will get creeped out.

      So, a certain amount of self-awareness (or kid-awareness) is necessary.


      1. Or you marry the right person to take care of bookkeeping and marketing. Isn’t that the traditional model? In the modern context, I see quite a few ads for summer internships for kids to do online marketing for home services.


      2. Though if you have to pay for a bookkeeper, you have an additional (and very expensive) cost. Even if it’s a spouse, that is the loss of a whole additional income. Many doctors nowadays marry other doctors (that they meet in med school or residency), so they have two high incomes, greatly increasing their wealth. My brother and sister in law (both surgeons, both in lucrative private practices) live like kings.


    2. There used to be a commenter at 11D who worked in a trade. I think it’s dangerous for those who have never done that work to fantasize about its viability is an occupation. For one thing, many of those jobs are pretty physically demanding.

      I am frequently thankful that I never followed the physician route — I would have been the kind of doctor I would hate, dismissive and distant.

      I think parents keep looking for something that will reduce risk for their kids, and that there isn’t anything, other than amassing an extreme level of wealth (which, in turn, has its own consequences — I’m listening to “Uneasy Street”, which is an “anthropology-style” study of a group of wealthy, progressive, New Yorkers, and seeing a lot of my community reflected back at me.

      I think our kids are going to have to be more willing to negotiate risk, be more entrepreneurial to attain comfortable lifestyles.


    3. “Fantasy education: BA in liberal arts-ish classes then a trade school for plumber or electrician”

      I see the appeal, but the first part costs $300,000, plus the lost earnings. I say with confidence: not a single person here would fork over $300,000 plus four years’ earnings for a(nother) B.A. degree. Neither would the average plumber.


  9. And I’ll respond here to Laura’s tweets about the efficacy of AP classes. I feel like my husband and I are swimming against the stream because we’d rather our 12 year old do a variety of clubs/sports AND do well in her academics than load up with AP classes. Even if a particular AP class is at a university level, what’s wrong with doing high school in high school and university at university?


    1. “what’s wrong with doing high school in high school and university at university?”

      I haven’t read the tweets yet. S took 5 AP courses and got credit for only 3 even though she qualified for credit for all of them. At HSs, AP courses are seen as higher value/weight courses, so students want to take them. S moved up 2 spots in the rankings almost purely on the basis of taking APUSH from the teacher who always gave her 99 or 100.

      Have I mentioned here that AP Lang is a carrot for E? If he takes it and gets a 4 or better, he can test out of a college English course, which means one less English course to take over his lifetime. That is a big motivation for him.


      1. Yes – I can see why kids take AP classes. Just lamenting the pressure in high school that ends up making it a slog rather than something enriching.


      2. High school is broken for a certain social/economic demographic, of which I am a part. Everyone talks and talks about the weights that we are putting on kids shoulders to direct them towards the goal of winning the college lottery, and everyone blames someone else (the schools, the college board, the colleges, . . . .) and nothing changes.


      3. The elite private high school where my husband works eliminated APs for just this reason. APs are now for the nervous UMC, not for the wealthy.


      4. Yes, about nervous UMC v wealthy. We also do not have AP classes because the school doesn’t want to teach to external standards and expects colleges to know the school well enough to believe that the classes are rigorous without the testing.


      5. “We also do not have AP classes because the school doesn’t want to teach to external standards and expects colleges to know the school well enough to believe that the classes are rigorous without the testing.”

        Interesting. At Exeter (which I think qualifies as elite), I recall being told on more than one occasion, “We aren’t doing that because it isn’t on the AP syllabus.” (Mostly in math, to be sure, where Exeter faces some competition from the likes of Bronx Science.) I wonder what they’re doing now.


      6. Exeter does its own thing now:

        Then again, it’s not unusual for 9th graders to arrive, having completed the equivalent of Calculus. Especially from Asian countries.

        Most AP courses have been revamped since the ‘80s. Having taken some in my day, I don’t remember the courses focusing on busy work to the extent now reported online.

        I have the impression that for many private schools the insistence on curricular approval from the College Board was kind of the last straw. It restricts teacher autonomy, and makes the courses less interesting. For example, I would have preferred my children to have had the opportunity to take any of Exeter’s history courses in the place of AP US History, as much as I enjoyed the course at the time.


      7. Wow about Exeter in the 80’s? I went to a private college prep school in the 80’s that had already decided it wouldn’t do “AP” classes because it wasn’t willing to use an external curriculum.


      8. Just to be clear, if my nym is not sufficient for that purpose, my time at Exeter well predated the 80s.


  10. I don’t get it. Why is Dave getting paid more a bad thing (unraveling)? It’s not, it is a good thing. If Jimmy wants workers he needs to pay more. Not a bad thing for anyone he would hire.


  11. Is Jimmy sure he can’t make a competitive offer? It looks like a complicated topic, based on a quick internet search, but this may be one area in which he has to invest the time in finding a good insurance broker. If he’s losing his good workers to competitors, somehow those competitors are able to afford the plans. Of course, their auto shops may have to charge more for their work.

    And the quality of his workers likely makes a big difference in his shop’s overall profit.


  12. Your Jimmy-the-Mechanic story shows why we should be moving to single-payer health care.

    As important as individual access to health care is, I think that it is equally important for our economy, especially small and mid-sized business. The present crazy system is too much of a burden for small businesses.

    I think Canadian-style single payer is the way to go

    And yeah, I wonder about my kids future jobs. Maybe a mechanical or trade job is the right choice.


  13. cy said,

    “Your Jimmy-the-Mechanic story shows why we should be moving to single-payer health care.”

    …which Jimmy will wind up paying for, which he can’t afford when combined with NJ’s high property tax.

    Next chapter in the Jimmy story: Jimmy moves to Florida.

    Also, Jimmy votes for Donald Trump.


    1. None of the countries with single-payer spend anything close to what we spend now per capita. Not having people covered doesn’t save anybody money, unless somebody manages to die from something treatable. It raises costs because nothing happens in a coordinated way and preventative medicine gets skipped.


      1. Yup – single payer does work. It isn’t perfect up here in Canada (of that I am well aware – it’s a challenge to manage) but don’t believe the anti- health care propaganda that you hear down there. I have a GP that I chose who I can see with a few days notice. And I can see any doctor in her practice same day if she’s booked.

        My fellow citizens and I deserve free k-12 education as we deserve free healthcare. As do you. The sky is not falling.

        The only downside of universal coverage is that I keep walking out of the vet with our standard poodle forgetting to pay! A lifetime of free heath care – for humans, not dogs.


      2. “None of the countries with single-payer spend anything close to what we spend now per capita.”

        Costs are not lowered by moving to single payer and rates of increase in health care costs are all very close across OECD and similar to the U.S. Moving to single payer may be the way to go, but don’t kid yourself that costs will miraculously go down. They won’t.


      3. I agree with Tulip that if we are going to argue that another health insurance system costs less, we have to talk about where the cost savings will come from. Otherwise, we’re doing the reverse of the arguments on education where people like DeVos argue that vouchers will deliver better education for less than government, without saying how.

        I have never been personally confident that the form of cost management that insurance companies engage in produces benefits (the reason why I don’t believe the voucher/education argument, too). So, I propose some of the cost savings to come from eliminating the middleman of insurance providers. But, I also imagine another significant savings depending on lower labor costs, particularly for doctors, who are paid much less in other countries. Then, I would hope that some benefits would come from preventive medicine, but am unsure, in the end, whether that argument pays out, since everyone dies, in the end, and, in the end, we seem to spend substantially in the period before they die. In addition, some of the treatments we are developing are actively expensive (some because of the pharmaceutical companies, who will have to provide some of the cost savings, but some because they are expensive to produce and are lifetime treatments — expensive pharma for 50 years is going to cost something).

        Ultimately, my commitment to providing health care for everyone is a moral commitment, and I am willing to be careful about the cost benefits I promise.

        One of my great hopes was that the health care act would provide mobility of movement, better access to part time work, and support for entrepreneurship and small businesses by taking out a significant risk factor (health care and how to pay for it). It hasn’t panned out as well as I had hoped because of the Republican modifications to the plan 1) the states that did not sign on to medicaid and 2) the lack of universal coverage, limiting the spread of risk and 3) the high deductible systems that were nevertheless expensive, thus leaving payers feeling like they were paying a lot of money but not getting anything (most of the time, unless they were catastrophically ill).


      4. BJ,
        You will, at best, reduce the rate of growth (e.g. Obama’s ‘bending the curve’). But it is unlikely. The ‘bending the curve’ or save money because you provide preventative care, doesn’t work. It seems like it would, it SHOULD, but it doesn’t. Because unhealthy people who don’t get preventative care die fast and cheap from things like lung cancer or heart attacks. People who do get preventative care die slowly and expensively from Alzheimer’s disease. That doesn’t mean providing preventative care isn’t the right thing to do, it just means it won’t save money.

        I don’t think doctors are going to be willing to take less money. Are you going to force it? How? And, again, although we start from different levels, with the US much higher, the rate of growth in per capita health care spending in the OECD is similar to that of the US. Just limiting the growth rate is a very big task, actually cutting costs – fantasy.


      5. Tulip, maybe my writing wasn’t clear, but I believe the case for providing health care is moral, not economic. I do hold out the hope that there might be economic benefits, but they would be from of providing health to the population, and limiting risk (with some potentially minor effects from preventive care, lowering wage, hospital, and drug costs (through monopolies and regulation), and eliminating middle men).

        And, although heart attacks might kill people quickly, high blood pressure, strokes, lung disease, diabetes, and a host of other illnesses that can be mitigated both significantly limit work and result in chronic (and sometimes expensive care). Though facilely suggesting that preventive medicine will decrease health costs isn’t justified, it is also not the case that the question is decided.

        I do believe health care costs will go up because we can now provide more health care. We should expect to see more of our economy consumed in its provision, because the system will be providing more value (than, say 70 years ago, when children with Downs, as an example, just died).


      6. The reason that single-payer won’t save any money in the US is that our doctors and nurses get paid a LOT more than doctors and nurses in other countries. That’s really the only way to reduce what we as a country pay for medical care – reduce the amount paid to doctors and nurses. See, for example, Megan McArdle’s columns at Bloomberg and the WaPo for details.


      7. “See, for example, Megan McArdle’s columns at Bloomberg and the WaPo for details.”

        Or don’t.

        As Henry Farrell put it, a mere eight years ago:

        “Megan McArdle believes that we would all benefit from more intellectual charity in the exciting cut and thrust of the blogosphere. There is indeed a plausible case for this. What there is not a plausible case for, in my opinion, is more intellectual charity towards Megan McArdle. … While there is an excellent case for intellectual charity when one is dealing with someone whom one does not know, or who usually seems straightforward, intelligent and honest, it is positively harmful to intellectual life to extend such charity to people who engage in persistent obfuscation and shoddy argument over a period of years.”


      8. Well, Doug, my continuing experience with McMegan is that I learn from her writing and often agree. I think she is thoughtful, an extremely good writer, and very smart. So, my opinion now goes down for Henry Farrell and remains high for her.


      9. Quoting Abe Lincoln, or Mohandas Gandhi, or the like might be a moderately persuasive argument from authority, although arguments from authority are always pretty weak. Quoting a conclusory statement by Henry Farrell not an argument at all.


      10. McMegan is a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like. She is hardly the first person to be so described, but she may well be the most appropriate.


      11. Henry is a personal friend, and Laura knows him in real life, too. For the rest of you, the remainder of the argument is at the link that I provided. Someone commenting as Y81 is active in that discussion too.

        The argument is amply illustrated with years of examples of McArdle writing with regular reckless disregard for facts and the plain meaning of words.


      12. I think it is getting to the point where many doctors will take less money if the exchange is less time filling out paper work. The health insurance industry is now over a half million people and growing. Most of that number have multiple counterparts in medical offices to send in the forms they are working. It is very frustrating to work like that.

        I know the statistics on preventative medicine and cost savings show that it isn’t a panacea, but they underestimate the savings because they, like the insurance companies, focus on procedures and the things directly billed for. They (mostly) don’t try to capture the ability of good medical care to keep people working or at lower levels of care or the way regular medical care can push people toward healthier living. To use the example of Alzheimer’s disease that was mentioned above, you can’t prevent Alzheimer’s, but you certainly can slow the progression of dementia. This can mean years of somebody being able to live at home or in a low-service assisted living environment instead of a full nursing home.

        It’s a personal boon for me, salary-wise, that Trump fucked up the health insurance market more than it was before. It turns out that if you bang on the side of a market with a stick, they hire data analysts to figure out what is likely to happen. I’m thinking we’re in for another 90s-style boom and bust, except with the boom not as long or widely distributed, but I still have to be nervous because I need to keep health coverage.


      13. I recall the Farrell/McArdle discussion well. (Y81, semper idem.) The underlying dispute was between Alex Tabarrok, and I don’t recall that either of them admitted error. Farrell lapsed into rather childish insult, while McArdle took the high road, which she doesn’t always.

        More generally, I have read both Crooked Timber and McArdle’s various blogs quite a bit over the past 15 years. (Though lately, I have been kind of video et taceo at Crooked Timber.) Both of them sometimes wrong but usually interesting. On any particular issue, if you want to have an informed opinion, you have to read carefully, review the author’s use of facts and logic, and reach a conclusion. On the particular issue of American health care costs, I have found McArdle’s analysis persuasive, but if Henry Farrell has written a refutation, I will certainly read it. I have changed my mind on a lot of issues over the past 15 years.


      14. I know both parties IRL and both have been very good to me professionally. I did not follow the fight back when it happened like ten years ago, and won’t follow it now.


      15. David Anderson, who wrote for several years under the pen name of Richard Mayhew, has a doggedly reality-based approach to health insurance and the related business and economic issues. When he started writing, he worked for an insurance company assembling the plans and networks that would allow them to meet their obligations and turn a tidy profit. He’s an insider, but not in the tank.

        I think that anyone who reads 11D and who is not already professionally involved with healthcare economics would a lot from Anderson/Mayhew.

        (Parenthetically, while the dispute that Y81 mentions was the starting point for Henry’s post, he had literally years of McArdle’s hand-waving, goalpost-moving, tendentiousness and general unreliability to point toward. To claim that Henry’s argument rested on one disagreement is just wrong. Similarly, if Y81 has read as much Crooked Timber as he claims, then he must know that Henry is not and never claims to be an expert on healthcare costs and economics.)


      16. This is a typical Mayhew/Anderson post. He focuses on a concrete problem, and looks at one or more approaches to solve it. In this case, it’s a couple of interlocking issues: state regulators and state-level health care providers are worries about counties that will likely have one or no private insurance companies offering coverage. At the same time, state regulators want to minimize the ways that companies game the system to soak up subsidies.

        He looks at some of the concrete proposals in California — an economy the size of the UK — to address these concerns. Lots of nitty-gritty.


    2. AmyP: A more likely scenario if the US moves to single-payer health care is Jimmy has $20,000 more dollars in his bank account because he is not paying for his own for-profit-private health insurance. (Minus, of course, the taxes he will pay for single-payer. But it won’t be $20,000 a year.)

      . . . and, his best employee decides he had a better deal with Jimmy and since he now has health insurance that isn’t dependent of his place of employment, he decides to resume his job with Jimmy.

      . . . also, since Jimmy is not spending hours and hours of his time or having to hire someone to do all the worrying and paperwork that goes along with our very complex for-profit-private health care, he ends up being an even better mechanic and all-around relaxed guy.

      And what is this random thought about him moving to Florida because of property taxes?? . . . he won’t save that much on his property taxes if he moves to Florida— their property taxes are in the middle range of the states.

      And finally, great, Jimmy votes for whoever the heck he wants to. Viva la democracy.


    3. If he’s really paying 20K for his own insurance and unable to hire employees because he can’t provide insurance for them, his business is going to fail, he’s going to apply for social security disability and everyone else will be paying for him.


      1. It sounds like Jimmy is being blamed for being unable to make it in this system. I’m saying that while it’s his problem right now, it is going to be our problem when the only businesses left are franchises or large corporations.

        Providing health care is a massive problem for independent small business. Single-payer health care would solve that.

        It would make it more possible for small businesses to start and to survive, instead of being overwhelmed and defeated with high payroll obligations. (And maybe hire our children)


      2. “Single-payer health care would solve that.”

        Single-payer is not the only path to universal coverage. Germany, where I am now, does not have single-payer, but it does have universal coverage, and the amount of time small-business owners like Jimmy spend worrying about their employees’ health insurance is precisely zero.


  14. Of course not everyone should go to college, and of course we should invest in quality vocational education. But I get bothered by the constant drumbeat of attacks on higher ed. It’s a theme being pushed heavily by Koch brother-supported institutions and perhaps coincidentally professors like Bryan Caplan, who works at Koch-brother supported George Mason University. I can assure you that except for the elite of the elite–families that own private jets and can support their kids and their kid’s kids for life off the interest of what they already own–every wealthy person is sending their kids to college, and the more elite the better. That is why 45,000 per year elite private schools exist, to get these kids into Yale and Princeton. What do you want to bet that Bryan Caplan’s kids not only go to college, but expensive, elite colleges?

    The upper middle professional class follows the same pattern. Near 100% of students at my children’s elite public high school go to college. We have immigrants from South Asia and East Asia flooding into our district because it’s highly rated–their kids all go to college, while the less wealthy of these immigrants scrimp and save while crowded into one of the five apartment complexes in our district. They know what will bring wealth. College. (And what do you want to get that wealthy plumber uses his wealth to send his kids to college?)

    No, the war on college is the war on college for the less wealthy, for the working class and the poor. First they destroyed public higher education in many states, including mine. They spread the anti-college propaganda, which doesn’t mean suburbanites won’t send their kids–it just means they feel justified in voting against funding for their state universities. Next they will attack Pell grants, so the poor simply can’t go. And disability claims will continue to rise, and iPod use, because it is very difficult to do most non-desk occupations until you are seventy.

    One last point, from someone who taught for twenty years at an institution where around 90% of the students received Pell grants–for the working class a college education is not just about the income they will receive at their future jobs, or even the type of work they will do. Parents said “God bless” to the faculty at graduation because they knew it’s also about life and death. The college educated live longer. They have more social capital. They exercise more. They are less likely to get addicted to opioids. They read more to their own kids, who do better in school, are less likely to run into trouble, and more likely in turn to be second gen college students. And the cycle continues. It is not individual, it is generational.


    1. Yeah, totally agree. But sometimes I wonder if the college educated do better, because they have less issues than the kids who go to vocational school.

      In this UMC suburbs, 90 or 95 percent go to college. The 5 percent who don’t have some serious issues. Their issues are emotional/behavioral. They are doomed not because they didn’t go to college. They are doomed because they can’t be employed due to long standing mental health issues. They were getting expelled back in high school for vandalizing the band room and those issues aren’t going away. (Yes, I have a particular kid in mind as I’m writing this.)


      1. And that gets us to the drastic spending cuts to children’s mental health…and even if you can afford to go private, it’s a challenge to navigate the system and figure out what your child needs/who is the best person/agency to provide that service.


      2. “In this UMC suburbs, 90 or 95 percent go to college. The 5 percent who don’t have some serious issues. Their issues are emotional/behavioral. They are doomed not because they didn’t go to college. They are doomed because they can’t be employed due to long standing mental health issues. ”

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It started when I was thinking about why my kid would never be a school shooter even though he has all the “mental health” characteristics/behaviors that are being blamed for school shootings (he’s on Ritalin, he plays video games addictively, I don’t monitor what he’s watching/reading online, he’s socially awkward). (Spoiler alert: the main reason why he won’t ever be a school shooter is because he has no access to guns and wouldn’t know what to do with one if he had one.) (And before you tell me that he can find out on the Internet or from friends, I guess the other thing is that we have never taught him or acted like guns were ever a solution to anything in the same way that gun owners often believe that having guns will somehow protect them from harm or will allow them to defend themselves against any kind of aggression–that’s an attitude that I think kids of gun owners absorb and then apply to their teenage drama.)

        But the other reason does have to do with parenting. I think I raise kids in a fairly normal, decent way. I was talking about this on Facebook, and one of my FB friends told a story about what she did when she found her teenaged autistic son sleeping with a small plastic toy gun. While he was in school, she took it and threw it away and told the kid that the police had come to take it away. And then she told him about Tamir Rice, who was killed by police in Cleveland for playing with a toy gun.

        And I didn’t say this, but my reaction was WTF????

        I have a rant about authoritarian parenting being the cause of all the ills of the world, but I will refrain for now.


      3. I feel like I’ve seen enough “good” children (or at least children whose parents think they are good) engage in bad behaviors that I no longer believe anyone when they say that their kid wouldn’t do something (from cheating to racist language to rape to shooting classmates in school).

        Parenting involves some form of authoritarianism — liberal parents might decide to be authoritative about guns, but not video games or drugs or sex (and, we might argue with good reason, but I’d want a discussion of the good reasons). I myself am also fairly authoritarian on video games (and drugs) which I believe, for a variety of reasons, some of which are less well justified than others, are a cognitive threat, potentially molding brains to engage in less prosocial behavior. The justifiable ones for video games were reviewed a few years ago in an APA policy statement: (the policy paper & citations of the studies are also available:

        What would we liberal parents do if the evidence on the video game/aggression link became stronger? And if there were links to criminal behavior?

        My own reading of the evidence has had me limiting my own children’s access to video games for years, and, in the process have children who don’t really play video games and can, on the whole, take them or leave them. My younger is now reaching high school, where I recognize that video game playing is a big part of the social life of boys, so I am thinking through this issue, in the same way that an authoritarian parent, who, say, thinks drugs or premarital sex damages their children’s lives might have to.


    2. “I feel like I’ve seen enough “good” children (or at least children whose parents think they are good) engage in bad behaviors that I no longer believe anyone when they say that their kid wouldn’t do something (from cheating to racist language to rape to shooting classmates in school).”

      Oh, I could believe all the first 3 things. I don’t believe he would shoot classmates in school because I think access to guns is the major factor. He has 24-7 access to his hands (to type or write something that is cheating), his mouth (to say racist things), and his p*nis (to put it somewhere it’s not wanted). But he doesn’t have access to a gun.


  15. Um, I just realized that Jonah went to play Fortnite at Jimmy’s house and Jimmy was your mechanic. Jonah plays Fortnite with your mechanic?


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