Friday, August 13, 2010

Shrinkwrapped: "Those of us who play by the rules are increasingly made to feel like chumps. This is not a healthy development for our society's future.."

The new Fat Cats

ABC News: "Civil Servants Find Themselves Cast in Unlikely Role -- Fat Cats" (via Newsalert):

Move over Wall Street traders -- seems there's a new vampire squid in town. Civil servants?

Passage Tuesday of a controversial bill sending billions of dollars to states to shore up payrolls for public school teachers further stoked the debate over whether government employees, their unions and their benefits packages are bankrupting the country.

"[The bill] will make the teachers unions happy, but it won't make teaching in schools better," said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., at a press conference Tuesday during which he and other Republican leaders criticized legislation earmarking $26 billion in aid for school districts and other state agencies.

As the recession grinds on and states struggle to close budget gaps, a spotlight is shining on the salary and benefits collected by public sector professionals, including teachers, police officers and firefighters. They once commonly were viewed as the salt-of-the-earth backbone of America. But now, they are more often than not being portrayed as a boilerplate around taxpayers' necks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Home Ownership: American Dream or American Headache?

I read Megan McArdle's post about how much house one should buy and some commenters were congratulating her on buying "the American Dream." I guess I just don't see a house that way. After a while, it feels more like the American headache.

Don't get me wrong. I love having a house. I just don't like all the maintenance, bills, and the worry about how to sell it when the time comes. Realtors and others in the housing market will tell you what a great deal a house is and it has always left me shaking my head. Add in the down payment, monthly payment, Home owner's association fees, updates, taxes and insurance, and all the other expenses of the house and subtract it from what you get for it spread across the years lived there and sometimes it might be a better deal to rent. I suppose if you get a kick out of "owning" something, it might be worth it, but try not paying your taxes or HOA fees and see how long you "own" the house that you worked so hard to pay for.

I realize there have been many people (especially those who bought many years ago) that do very well with their houses, but like a stock, you must buy low and sell high and thus far, I have not had that luck.

What do you think? Is home ownership a dream, a headache, or maybe both?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"The whole experience of flying is now totally abusive, authoritarian and dysfunctional. It is guaranteed to bring out the worst in everyone ..."

This above quote is from a commenter at the New York Post in response to the JetBlue flight attendant who "snapped" on a flight:

But police sources said he also used the public-address system to lash out at the "the f - - king asshole that told me to f - - k off!"

Then Slater grabbed his own two bags, swiped some beer, activated the inflatable emergency chute, slid down, headed to the parking lot and drove home in his Jeep Wrangler. He was later arrested there as his boyfriend looked on.

I agree with the commenter at the Post who said that flying is a frustrating experience. You feel like you leave your autonomy and rights at the door and I suspect some passengers react with more frustration than usual when they are asked to give up their freedom to engage in normal acts such as getting their luggage and being herded like cattle onto a plane. However, abusing the flight attendant doesn't seem like a good way to vent that frustration. What is your take?