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      There’s some important events happening today: another Brexit vote, and the Canadian federal election (whose results are not obvious), but we won’t know how either of those end till later, so let’s discuss some popular protests of massive size. In France the protests were sparked by an increase in diesel taxes. The demands included an […]
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So, how did we get here??

Sam trembled at Susan’s actions.  The body laid on the floor twitching.

Sam muttered to himself, “Not in my house, not in my house…”

It was too late.  Susan had tasted blood.  She knew how to kill now.

Beginning lines of one of Brook’s uncompleted stories (circa unknown.  It was years ago.)

How did we get here and where does this story go?

 

 

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Saturday: Bureau of Labor Statistics Completely Misses Meltdown in R&D

Last week, my lab partner and I sat in on a webinar from the American Chemical Society (ACS) discussing employment and employment trends of its members.  Now, the fact that the ACS is even having a webinar like this is significant.  It’s because so many chemists are out of work.  In previous recessions, this bloc of well educated, technically savvy workers was able to weather the economic downturn relatively well.  Not this recession.  Now, our trend lines follow the rest of the country’s workers.  We’re not as badly off as workers without college degrees but there is no doubt that the ACS sees ominous signs that there is a decline in our ability to put our degrees to work for us.

There were two dudes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on hand to give the government’s outlook on employment for our sector.  And by and large, they were useless.  Problem?  What problem?  According to the BLS, our sector is experiencing a minor blip of something like 3.8%.  The ACS only shows a 5+% unemployment rate.  Why are you chemists belly aching?  And look!  If you switch to biochemistry and biophysics, your sector is going to be booming right up into 2018.  Oh, sure, if you’re a chemical engineer, life sucks for you -because we’ve moved production facilities out of the US.  Ever wanted to get your drugs from Canada?  Well, now you can.

The questions that came from the audience demonstrated confusion.  Those numbers are not what *we’re* experiencing.  Just about every R&D chemist I know is unemployed right now.  The pharma sector, despite what might be your personal distaste for the sector, has laid off more than 100,000 people since 2008.  Pfizer alone laid off 19,000 people last year including nearly all of the chemists at Wyeth with whom they merged in 2009.  Pfizer is preparing to lay off more this year and ship some of the rest to Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Presumably, those are the chemists that can switch to biochemistry and biophysics.  Really, guys, it’s not that hard.  OK, it was grueling but very rewarding.  I did it last year.  Then *I* got laid off.  D’OH!  But the carnage is not limited to Pfizer.  They’re all doing it.

The general impression I got from the BLS guys is that they really don’t know anything about this sector.  They admit that they haven’t updated their subcategories for the sector since 2007 and aren’t scheduled to reclassify them until 2012.  The predictions they are making about the sector for 2008-2018 are based on statistics gathered prior to the financial collapse of 2008.  By the time the BLS catches up, it will have missed the hollowing out of the R&D due to the financial guys eating what they kill.  The BLS also doesn’t seem to have a category for R&D chemists.  We’re considered “manufacturing”.  Because we’re not in academia?  I don’t know.  It seems very vague and indistinct but apparently, some miracle is already in progress and we are all shortly to be gainfully employed making antibodies.

The ACS is not a whole lot better off.  Many of the people in their target audience who participate in their annual survey of employment no longer get email from them.  It’s hard to reach people who are no longer employed.   It’s also hard to justify paying your ACS dues if you need to pay your car insurance and you aren’t getting an income.  Better to borrow a copy of C&E News from a friend who still gets it, provided you can still find someone who isn’t in the same boat you’re in.

Here’s what the people on the inside of the industry are seeing: small molecule chemistry in this country is dead or dying.  The money guys have decided that making new small molecule drugs is too risky.  Or expensive.  They are shipping the small molecule synthesis overseas to Chindia or to countries where the labor laws protect workers better.  The industry is pulling out of traditional medicines and investing in biologicals.  That’s because biologicals have better patent protection (well, at the *present* time.  Politics being what they are and pharma being indiscreetly reviled amongst Democrats could change all of that.) But biologicals are going to be expensive too and there’s no guarantee that the end result is going to provide better therapies.  The risk is still high but not as high as it is for traditional medicines when it comes to money.  So, the money is going to biotechs and R&D is bugging out of some geographical locations to be crammed into Cambridge, MA.  You want to know where our best employment prospects are?  China.  Yep, there’s an inexplicable shortage of R&D chemists in a country with 2 billion people.  Even China can’t keep up with China.

Also, the finance guys continue to blame the researchers for the lack of new drugs in the pipeline.  What the finance guys either forget to mention or don’t know is that researchers work their asses off for new drug entities but the bar for approval by the FDA keeps getting raised.  It’s getting harder and harder to make a drug that has zero risks for patient, lawyers and shareholders.  It doesn’t help that the industry has been careening from mergers and acquisitions, new technologies, management theories (that are really not helpful, guys), outsourcing and the thirst for “get rich quick” schemes that would put Ralph Cramden to shame.  Everything that has been going on for the past 15 years that has sucked the life out of research has been on warp hyperdrive since 2008.   What would make the industry more profitable is for research companies to take the long view, buck the pressure of the finance guys and have patience so that research productivity can actually happen.  Merck is one such company.  But Merck is an exception under pressure.  Long term thinking can’t happen when we have financialized our own retirements with a 401K system and a roulette wheel of high stakes brokerages and quants.  We expect our investment portfolios to keep increasing indefinitely and some of those profits come at the expense of our own jobs.  In effect, we are our own worst enemies.

Meanwhile, R&D infrastructure is going to continue to melt away.  The chemists thrown out of work today won’t find a job for a mean of 11 months.  They may not be able to find a job in biotech.  With so many of them out of work, employers can be very persnickety and choosy.  And with the fast pace of scientific discovery these days, it’s hard to keep skills and knowledge fresh and current without practice and access to scientific journals.  In short, we’re doooomed, both on a personal professional level and as a country that used to take pride in its R&D leadership.

But the country and it’s lawmakers won’t know that for several more years if the BLS has been feeding them stale statistics.  They’ll keep partying like it’s 2007.

In other news:

The Irish have had it with their incompetent and bank loving sycophantic government. Fianna Fail, the party that has been in charge for the last 60 of 80 years, has been crushed in the latest election:

“I think Brian Cowen was probably the worst taoiseach we’ve ever had,” said David Ryan, 76, a retired businessman, using the Irish word for prime minister and speaking of Fianna Fail’s former leader. “I am totally angry,” Mr. Ryan went on — not just at Mr. Cowen, who resigned last month, but at the Irish banks whose spectacular debts his government promised to guarantee on a fateful day in 2008. “They were totally corrupt.”

Yes, if you screw your citizens to prop up corrupt and criminally negligent banks, you will be politically annihilated.  Hmmm, this next bit is interesting.  You could substitute “American” for “Irish” and either one of our parties for “Fianna Fail” and it would read just as well:

Unemployment is up to 13.8 percent (it was as low as 4.2 percent as recently as 2005); public spending has been savagely and repeatedly cut since 2008; the deficit has risen to 14.3 percent; and current predictions suggest that 100,000 people will emigrate in the next several years, from a population of 4.3 million. The bill from the struggling banks may, in the end, total upward of $135 billion 100 billion euros,Ö in an economy with a G.D.P. of $220 billion 160 billion euros.Ö

The housing bubble that fueled the boom has collapsed, along with the banks that made the loans that led to it in the first place. In November, the country was forced to accept a humiliating and onerous $92.8 billion 67.5 billion euro international loan package that tied it to a brutal four-year austerity program. The package came with such unfavorable interest rates that some economists feel the country might be unable to afford even to service the debt.

Many of these problems can be directly attributed to poor decisions made by the government, said Diarmaid Ferriter, a professor of modern history at University College Dublin. “There has been a complete and utter lack of leadership in Ireland,” Professor Ferriter said. As for Fianna Fail, he said, “They’ve actually managed to alienate all sections of our society.”

The question is, do the Irish have someplace else to go?  Do Americans?  Because I see Obama going the way of Brian Cowan.  The jig is up.  And the Republicans better not get too comfy either.  2012 could be a major game changer.

Tuesday: Wisconsin has more cows than people

Or so the NYTimes would have us believe. This comment is from clueless Wisconsinite in the NYTimes:

But others suggested that unions had perhaps had outlived their usefulness. Carrie Fox, who works at a billboard advertising company, said she hoped that the battle would encourage other governors to rein in public- and private-sector unions.

“I know there was a point for unions back in the day because people were being abused,” she said. “But now there’s workers’ rights; there’s laws that protect us.”

Riiiigghht.  Protect us from WHAT, exactly?  If you can casually sweep away the promises you made to your workers who negotiated in good faith, what real rights does a worker have anymore?

I get pissed off by stupid comments like this.  What’s worse?  That Wisconsinites don’t seem to realize that what unions do has a trickle down effect on nonunion workers or that media sources like the NYTimes provide so many quotes from these dunderheads?  I mean, do we really need more ignorance cluttering up our media?

Where is the labor leadership in Wisconsin making the point that it’s not that public service unions have it so great with salaries and benefits.  It’s that we ALL should be getting the same benefits they do.  Where’s the argument that during this Greaf Recession, you really don’t want to diminish the buying power or increase the financial insecurity of one of largest employment blocs.  Because when teachers and prothonotaries and DMV clerks have less money to spend, that means small businesses get fewer customers.  It affects everyone, from the day care center workers to the waitress, to the piano teacher.  Everything but necessities becomes a luxury.

Yep, there definitely are things the unions should negotiate on.  As a board of ed member in NJ, I got the feeling that teachers got tenure way too early, recieved incrementals and promotional raises without a lot of proof that they had earned them and in some cases, could retire with a stash of unused vacation and sick days that needed to be paid by the district a very high cost.  It was also nearly impossible to fire a teacher who may have engaged in illegal sexual activity with his students.  Union grievance rules required a lengthy process, ususally resulting in a large financial payoff to make the teacher go away.  So, there is definitely room for improvement and teachers and other private section unions should be willing to examine whether some of their rules gives their public relations image a black eye.

But renegotiation is not the same as breaking the ability of the unions to negotiate at all.  Do we really want to go back to the days when teachers worked for subsistence wages, had no benefits and could be fired at will for lifestyles choices that are none of the public’s business?  Will premarital sex be used a reason in some rural Wisconsin district as the means to get rid of a female teacher?  How does Wisconsin plan to prevent that?

And what happens to the students of those teachers?  What happens to the quality of the instruction when the worker feels unappreciated?  I mean, have been on a United Airlines flight in the past ten years?  The flight attendants that are left the most senior ones and they look like they’ve lost their mojo.  If you like your job, you should have mojo in ample supply.  But when your airlines slashes your pay, pares down the staff to skeleton crews and starts tinkering with the pensions, you get a lot of very beaten down flight attendants whose tight little smiles can’t disguise the sadness in their eyes.  They’re going to have to make transcontinental flights until they die.  My guess is that you get what you pay for.  Happy flight attendants of any age make a flight more enjoyable and make that obstacle course in security worth the effort.

But the cows, er, clueless Wisconsinites think the workers are protected.  And the media have workers focussed on each other instead of the people up the food chain who are sitting back in their limos, chuckling at the carnage they are observing but do not feel compelled to join.  If you make a lot of money in Wisconsin, or NJ or Ohio or any number of states that are hurting financially, it’s perfectly ok to stay above the fray.  No one is asking you to make a sacrifice.

Yet.

If they cows ever got a clue, they’d realize they don’t have to sacrifice their neighbor’s financial  well being or their children’s education.  All they have to do is start looking up the food chain instead of down.  Zero in on those wealthy with the tax cuts who are stashing money in the bank.  Money they might have used to give you a raise and better bennies.  And as Paul Krugman said last week, get all Willie Sutton on them.  Why should states tax the rich?  Because that’s where the money is.

If children end up going to bed hungry, it’s because the rich are holding out on them.  Don’t blame the unions, cows.

You’ve been eating grass.

The Elephant’s Child

we will now seriously devote ourselves to a little high tension

The day after the SOTU address, after the President of the United States pretty much told American scientists that we were not up to Chinese standards, it snowed in New Jersey.  I looked out the window at the snow falling thick and fast and gauged my chances of getting to work with my malfunctioning power steering.  Nah gah happen.  Sigh.  I hooked up my work computer, logged in with my SecureID, and checked my email…

And there, under five or six other messages, was an invitation from the local head honcho to meet him in the cafeteria at 10am.  Uh-oh.  That’s not good.  I stared at it.  WTF?  I clicked it again.  Reread the message.  It was unmistakeable but I didn’t want to believe it.  My supervisor was on vacation.  My director was unreachable.  Nobody in my department available.  In desperation, I called my previous supervisor.

“What?? You got the message to meet in the cafeteria?  It’s not good.  I’m sorry, it’s not a good sign.”

My blood froze.  I am the only employed person in my family with health insurance and steady income for Brooke.  I couldn’t think. So, I did the next logical thing.

I called Katiebird.  I asked her to stay with me until I knew what was going on. I  tried desperately to find someone in my department who was asked to the same meeting.  Unfortunately, I found someone.  It was my lab partner.  She couldn’t disguise the panic in her voice.  I called Katiebird again.  We waited.  Katiebird stayed with me.  My lab partner called back.  It was confirmed.  Our jobs were eliminated.

???

?

My department head finally called me at home.  The HR rep was with him.  They broke the news to me officially.  I was stunned.  My lab partner and I are beyond busy.  Dumping our workload onto the rest of our department seems incomprehensible.   I think there was an, “Oh, shit, what did we do?!” moment from some of the decision makers on our behalf.  But the problem with lay offs is that once the decision has been made to “separate” you, it’s hard to walk it back.  There have been some not insignificant efforts to figure out a way to keep us but they have all met a brick wall.  The bottom line was met, we were part of meeting the reduction goal, we are scheduled to go.  We have about a month and a half left.  It feels like a death sentence.

It’s times like these that tell you who your friends are.  I can tell you that Katiebird and DandyTiger immediately came to my emotional rescue.  I am eternally grateful to both of them.  They have checked in since that day and haven’t let me down.  They both came up with great ideas to see me through.  Right now, I am so busy at work, irony of ironies, I don’t have time to pursue them but I know that I will.  I’d recommend Katiebird to anyone who is getting laid off but in these times, her line would be constantly busy.

I know that the loss of our jobs was not performance related.  Both my lab partner and I had very good performance appraisals.  We busted our butts in the lab last year and it showed.  We solved a previously unknown structure and pushed ourselves to learn new things.  It was not unusual to find us in the lab at 9pm, waiting for a gel to finish so we could plan our work for the next day.  The weird thing is that in spite of all that has transpired since that day in January, I still love my job.  The loss of income is painful but the loss of doing the thing that has become like an addiction to me in the last year is even more painful.  It’s so frustrating to lose something just when it’s starting to get really interesting.  I will never ever have a job as good or as satisfying as this one.  I will never have a lab partner as amiable and hardworking and intelligent and generous as the one I have.  We both feel it deeply.  Separation means more than losing the tether to your income, it means losing a productive and valuable working relationship.

When I think back to that SOTU address, I’m beyond angry.  This president and this Congress have no idea what this country is losing.  I am one of thousands of American R&D professionals who have lost their jobs since the era of mergers and acquisitions went into overdrive in the 1990’s.  The reason you don’t find young Americans going into science, engineering and math is not because the Chinese are so much better than we are.  It’s because there is no future in it.  There’s no career path.  No steady income.  No security.  Just a pile of underwater stock options and a pink slip after years of study and extremely challenging work.  The suits will tell you we aren’t productive but those of us who have been there know the truth.  This generation of American scientists has been blighted by the endless pursuit of meeting the bottom line.  It’s no way to do research.  In fact, it is almost impossible to do research under these circumstances and it has been like this since I started working in the business two decades ago.   Free lancing or starting our own businesses in this area of research is not really an option.  We need the overhead of a corporation.  Yes, believe it or not, sometimes you just can’t get around the corporate model.  So, I join my colleagues, “experienced research professionals” all, in the oblivion of separation from what we love best- the wonder and delight of studying nature and the dedication to cure disease.

I would like to say that I am grateful to my company for all of the years that I was able to learn and work for them.  The great majority of the people I have worked with are wonderful and talented professionals.  I wouldn’t call myself a “disgruntled employee”.  If anything, I am very gruntled and will milk my last days at work for all they are worth.  They are worth it.  Every last one of them.  I count the hours with anticipation and dread but mostly ” ‘satiable curtiosity”.

May you all be so lucky.

Announcement coming soon

If you’re wondering where I am, RL has intervened in a major way.  I’ve had to put this blog on the back burner.  But I’ll let you know what’s going on in a couple of days.  With President’s Day coming up, there may be a good opportunity to evaluate how THIS president is affecting the lives of many Americans and ask ourselves whether he deserves a second term.

In the meantime, keep your eyes on Madison, Wisconsin, where we are beginning to see the birth of GlennBeckistan.  This is what voters keep telling their politicians they want.  Then when they actually get it, they’re not so sure anymore.

There’s a reason why the national economy boomed during the middle of the twentieth century.  And there is a reason why it will take a heartbreakingly long time to recover from this Great Recession.  The grasshoppers who are consuming everything in sight are going to find out sooner or later that resources are finite.

Paul Krugman reports on the fraudulence of the budget negotiations in today’s column:

But that’s what everyone does. House Republicans talk big about spending cuts — but focus solely on that same small budget sliver.

And by proposing sharp spending cuts right away, Republicans aren’t just going where the money isn’t, they’re also going when the money isn’t. Slashing spending while the economy is still deeply depressed is a recipe for slower economic growth, which means lower tax receipts — so any deficit reduction from G.O.P. cuts would be at least partly offset by lower revenue.

The whole budget debate, then, is a sham. House Republicans, in particular, are literally stealing food from the mouths of babes — nutritional aid to pregnant women and very young children is one of the items on their cutting block — so they can pose, falsely, as deficit hawks.

What would a serious approach to our fiscal problems involve? I can summarize it in seven words: health care, health care, health care, revenue.

Paul’s preaching to the converted.  Even at the NYTimes, the front page news is concentrating on the turmoil in the middle east while putting our own battles in Wisconsin on simmer.  But I believe this pain and ugliness is all unavoidable.  The people who consistently vote for conservatives because they are moved by pictures of fetuses are going to have to see their political heroes unmasked as heartless minions of some extremely greedy and conscienceless power brokers.  What happens when those full term and delivered fetuses of mothers who were once gainfully employed are suddenly denied basics like milk and cereal when the WIC benefits are suspended?  I say suspended because I can’t believe the American people would be so cruel to deny sustenance to children who had the misfortune to be conceived when their parents still had a steady paycheck and health insurance and now don’t.  And yes, I know perfectly clean, well educated, American mothers who fall into this category through absolutely no fault of their own.  It was just business.  Nothing personal.  Except now the baby who was seven months in utero when the pink slip came still has to eat.  Or is infanticide acceptable, just not abortion?  Oh, we wouldn’t go that far.  It’s just a little malnutrition.  It won’t even show up until the kid goes to school.  Provided there’s a school available that doesn’t charge fees like some typical 3rd world country.

Americans have to experience the consequences of the rhetoric of the right.  It was all fine and dandy when it was some immigrant but now it’s everyone you know.  And they can’t all be slackers and parasites, can they?  The pain is just now coming to fruition in a hard way.  This is not by accident.  It’s by design.  The more you hurt, the more their plan is proceeding excellently.

Turn off your TV and radios and you take away most of their power.  They can’t talk you into doing something against your own interests if you can’t hear them.  Tell your doctor’s offices and garage waiting rooms that you’ll go somewhere else if they don’t shut off Fox News.  And mean it.  And tell 21st Century Democrats, the DCCC and any other Democratic fundraising organization that you’ll start contributing when Obama and the Democrats actually start acting like the Democratic party again.  Being out of power sucks.  You can get a lot of money from the big guys but as far as I know, votes still mean something and you get those from ordinary people.  And right now, ordinary people are pissed off.

There is one thing I think we can say with confidence: a third party candidate could clean up in this environment.  Real socialists start sounding reasonable.  And there’s a reason for that, for which I will give an example that is much closer to my current situation than I ever thought it would be.  Sound complicated and mysterious?  Stay tuned and all will be revealed…

This song is for the BFF.  I like this version a bit better.

Injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.

Back to the Pipe and the Pole

Here is a letter I received a few days ago from the President of my University.

Last summer, I formed an advisory task force to assist the University in developing a plan to prepare for probable reductions in state funding for higher education and to assist the University in developing a new instructional resource model. The task force consists of faculty, academic deans, administrators, and staff.

On December 18, 2010, the task force held an open forum. At that forum, Provost Mearns, who is co-chair of the task force, discussed the status of the task force’s efforts to assist in developing a contingency plan for next year’s budget. I attended the forum.

Since then, the task force has continued to provide me with additional recommendations. Those recommendations are detailed in a written report that is now available on the task force’s webpage.

This report recommends overall budget target ranges for each of the University’s major sectors: academic colleges, academic support units, and university administrative units. I have accepted these sector recommendations. In December, I provided differentiated budget targets to each of the vice presidents who manage university administrative units, and I directed them to prepare a contingency plan to meet their unit’s respective target. They have submitted their plans to me, which I am currently reviewing.

The task force’s report also provided specific recommendations about differentiated targets for each of the academic colleges. After developing a list of strategic factors and applying those factors to readily available data, the task force assigned each academic college to one of three groups, or bands. As discussed in the report, a college or an administrative unit can meet its proposed budget target through both permanent expense reductions and reliable revenue enhancements.

After reviewing an initial draft of the report, I met at length with Provost Mearns, Vice President George Walker and Tim Long, the University’s Budget Director, to review the strategic factors and the data relied upon by the task force to develop its differentiated recommendations for each of the academic colleges. In making my decisions, I relied upon the same strategic factors developed by the task force, including: how a college’s programs aligned with the University’s primary strategic goals; a college’s financial performance relative to the other colleges at the University; the extent to which a college has programs, including doctoral programs, with relatively few students; an assessment of the productivity and impact of the college’s research faculty; the success of a college’s students as measured by undergraduate retention and graduation rates and post-graduate licensing exams; and the ability of a college to develop differential tuition plans or increase enrollment above existing limits.

After this review, I accepted all of the task force’s recommendations with respect to the colleges’ budget targets, with one exception. I have delegated to Provost Mearns the responsibility of establishing differentiated targets for the various academic support units that report to him.

Provost Mearns has communicated the college targets to the deans, and he has asked them to provide him with their college’s plan by February 22, 2011. He has also directed the deans to consult with their respective faculties and staff in developing their college’s plan.

By early March, I anticipate that our collective strategy for meeting this financial challenge will begin to become more clear. Governor Kasich will present his proposed budget to the legislature on or before March 15. I anticipate that, when his budget is released, we will know much more about two of the most important factors that are driving this process: the approximate amount of any reduction in the state subsidy for higher education, and the limit on any possible increase in undergraduate tuition. By that time, we will also have had an opportunity to evaluate the various college and administrative plans that have been submitted.

When we have more information from the Governor, I will hold an open forum in March to discuss our University plan.

I know that this process is difficult and that it is causing some anxiety and uncertainty. I believe, however, that we have established a collaborative and transparent process that will enable the University to overcome this challenge. Indeed, I am encouraged by the constructive contributions that so many of you have already made to our contingency planning process. Therefore, I am confident that we will emerge from this process as a stronger institution — which is our goal.

Thank you for your service to our students, our University, and our community.

Indeed. To those of you who still believe in the American Dream, let me explain how it really works for you. Say Jane wants to grow up and become a Doctor. But Jane and her family live piss poor, so she works hard in High School, gets good grades in accelerated courses and takes part in track and cheerleading or some such other extracurricular nonsense that will look good on college applications. She gets accepted into a good school and manages to keep from getting pregnant. What a stand up gal Jane is, don’t you think? She gets some scholarships. Good for her! She gets Pell Grants and subsidized and unsubsidized loans through FAFSA. That’s our girl.

Before you know it she is accepted into Harvard Medical School and graduates with honors. Bravo! The problem is, now Jane has upwards of $200,000 worth of student loans to pay back. She gets married and begins practice as a pediatrician, her lifelong dream. But it will be a while before she begins to really rake in the dough and there are medical malpractice lawsuits on the horizon. Nonetheless, she and her husband, a college professor, are living well, having babies and attending church on Sundays. Everything seems fine until disaster strikes. Her mother is still piss poor and has just suffered from a stroke. A neighbor finds her laying face down in her apartment surrounded by urine and her own feces. Jane’s mother is admitted to the hospital and is soon discharged. Incontinent, paralyzed from the waist down and unable to take care of herself, Jane’s mother is just above the income threshold for medicaid and there are limited funds. She has no Health Insurance and therefore cannot afford to live in a Nursing Home or Assisted Living Facility, so Jane has to quit her job to take care of her mother, as her husband is unwilling to quit his. The financial problems caused by the fact that Jane can no longer supplement the family income as well as the demands of taking care of a sick elderly woman takes a toll on their marriage, and Jane’s husband starts banging his secretary. They get a divorce and the children are heartbroken. Jane is now a single mother with no job. She still has student loans and legal fees to pay back, no home because she can’t afford a mortgage, and three kids to put through college. Her oldest daughter Sarah is devastated by the break up of her family and commits suicide. Three months later, Jane’s mother dies due to inadequate medical care. Jane’s American Dream has turned into an American Nightmare.

Sounds extreme, right? Wrong. Things like this are happening everywhere. I can tell you that it is extremely difficult to pay for college, and I will explain why. Most people have an idea of the average college student’s financial situation. A freshman will have mom and dad foot most of the bill and private loans will take care of the rest, right?

Wrong.

Take me for example. I graduated from that Shithole High School a semester early with decent grades and community service. Go me, right? I figured I might as well try to go to college, so I briefly (and by briefly, I mean for about two seconds) thought about going into the military and even told the Hell Hole High School that those were my plans so they would let me graduate early. I took the ASVAB tests and got excellent scores, fielding calls from every military branch recruiter known to man telling me to join so I could become an officer. Of course, I am not going to go into the Military. I am a pacifist. So I changed my phone number to get rid of the recruiters and enrolled at the local junior college, with plans to save money on Gen Eds in mind. Problem was, my Dad makes too much money for me to get FAFSA and we are somewhat estranged. I had to work my tail off and go to School part time so I could get taken off of his tax returns, as a student has to be enrolled in school full time to be on their parents tax returns after they’re eighteen and to still be on their parents health insurance plan.

In any case, I no longer have Health Insurance but now that I’m off his taxes I go to School overtime, supplemented by a hefty financial aid award. But get this!

President Obama and his aides have spent a good bit of time over the last several weeks talking about the importance of education. Now they announce that they plan to cut spending on Pell grants, the big student-aid program that helps students in (roughly) the bottom half of the income distribution. As Jackie Calmes explains:

Pell grants for needy college students would be eliminated for summer classes, and graduate students would start accruing interest immediately on federal loans, though they would not have to pay until after they graduate; both changes are intended to help save $100 billion over 10 years to offset the costs of maintaining Pell grants for nine million students, according to administration officials.

Oh, fantastic! Keep in mind that my situation is not unique. Many students are like me, with families either too poor or too unwilling to help pay for school. I have a friend, for example, who had to run away from home when she was in Hell High School because her Step Father was beating her mother. She supported herself with two jobs and help from family and friends until she graduated, and now she has classes with me. I don’t know how she does it, because she is forced by FAFSA to file as a dependent even though she receives no help from her family and supports herself completely. She is awarded funds based on the assumption that her parents help her when in reality she has to pay for full time school as well as everything else.

And why is it that school is so expensive? Gods only know. The cost of living has increased exponentially since my parents were in college. It is easy for some stuck-in-the past 1950’s holdover to lecture one of us stupid delinquent teenagers about how THEY did it when they were our age so why can’t we? Well, I feel like saying to these idiots, you’re the ignorant fools who elected conservative Presidents and congresses for the past several decades and caused the inflation and budget cuts that led to all of these problems. Get over yourself.

Not only that, but tuition is obscenely expensive since now colleges are run more like businesses instead of academic institutions that shape young minds and prepare the leaders of tomorrow. I have to pay thousands of dollars for Professors to teach me the same bull shit I’ve been learning since the sixth grade (which is not to say I don’t learn a lot in College these days from certain professors, but I digress) and then once I and many students have paid several more thousands to complete an undergraduate degree two thirds of us STILL won’t be able to get a job. And people wonder why our education system is so behind.

Well, one might say, you may not be achieving all of your fancy starry eyed dreams but at least you are bettering yourself for the real world. Maybe you’ll be a hospital administrator instead of a chemical engineer but at least you have the right to a comfortable lifestyle and a reasonable retirement, right? Wrong.

So far, Obama has had the following “bright ideas” and has proposed them to Congress:

(1) Obama proposed (and Congress passed) a $112 Billion REDUCTION in revenues coming into the Social Security trust fund for this year; that is a cut of 30% in workers’ contributions to the Fund. I think we can be pretty sure this $112 Billion annual cut in Social Security taxes will be made permanent with the full agreement of Obama. It won’t take long, at that rate, for Social Security to drain its fund (and current surplus) and go out of business.

(2) Obama has proposed a 50% REDUCTION in federal aid to the program that helps poor people pay heating bills for their homes

(3) Obama is proposing that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac go out of business, which will make it harder — if not impossible — for lower-income and middle-income people to buy their homes instead of paying endless rents

(4) Obama is proposing that the interest homeowners pay for their mortgages NO longer be fully deductible on their income taxes. In the early years of any mortgage, the bulk of the monthly mortgage payment goes to pay the interest on the mortgage; having that great sum be deductible has made it possible for people to buy homes and not default on their mortgages when finances are tight (as they often are when new homeowners are just starting out).

The result of Obama’s “bright” ideas, numbers (3) and (4), will be to make it harder for current homeowners to SELL their homes, will DEFLATE the value of their homes, will cause more people to default on their mortgages, and will create a situation where communities will take in LESS in the way of property taxes because of the number of vacant, abandoned homes that will become liabilities.

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And Obama is doing all of this cutting less than two months after signing into law tax CUTS for the wealthiest Americans.

The Republicans have the EXACT right Democrat in the White House for their evil purposes. Obama is: (1) helping the Republicans realize their decades-long goal of destroying the Social Security program, (2) proposing policies that will create an even wider division between the “haves” and “have-nots” in America, and (3)proposing policies that will create a sub-class of Americans that the top one percent of Americans will be able to reduce to economic slavery.

That’s right. So long house in the ‘burbs. Bye bye white picket fence, 2.4 children and Labrador Retriever. S’later retirement fund, pensions, IRA. Hi poverty, what it do destitution? We’re the leaders of tomorrow. Nice to meetcha!

It just won’t do. Obama is a Republican Dream, not an American Dream. Why, just look at the cover of one of his famous “books.”

The Audacity of Nope

To Obama, this is the American Dream. Jane’s life would be everyone’s life with the policies he is currently championing. Can you believe this is happening? Well, I can. I’ve been saying who Obama is from the get-go. All it took was reading his idea of the American Dream in the pages of this book, where he talked about cutting Social Security and used Reagan as an example of a President to emulate. He’s stuck to his word, too. And has managed to unite this divided nation of ours- against him. On the 100the anniversary of Reagan’s whatever it was I was subjected to fawning book covers and pages about Obama’s hero for days. And now he is cutting Social Security with his bipartisan Republican pals, just like he promised.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t jive with the Obama the fauxgressives were selling us. This whole thing just isn’t going to work for me. I’m sure it won’t work for a lot of you, either, so run for office instead of electing more morons who will continue to pull this crap on us and expect to get reelected. My plan is to go to Law School and try to change these problems from within instead of sitting here and bitching about it.

But Isis, I can hear some people saying. Law School is expensive. You depend on those Pell Grants Obama and the Tea Party losers are cutting left and right and spending on unnecessary wars, a shitty Health Care Law and Michelle’s vacations in Spain to pay for your tuition, books and other fees. Won’t you be just like Jane, busting your hump for a dismal future? What are you going to do?

Well, shit. Whatever FAFSA doesn’t cover anymore I’ll supplement with scholarships. I just got a job that will pay for my Master’s Degree in Social Work so long as I get a good GPA. And certain agencies and non profits in my field of study will pay back all of my tuition if I end up working for them. As for the rest, it’s back to the pole and the pipe. And don’t think I’ll be the only one.

Obama is the worst president of my lifetime

Obama makes home ownership a thing of the past

Hyperbolic?  You be the judge.  Administration calls for cutting aid to homebuyers:

The Obama administration’s much-anticipated report on redesigning the government’s role in housing finance, published Friday, is not solely a proposal to dissolve the unpopular finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said closing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac might take five to seven years.

It is also a more audacious call for the federal government to cut back its broadly popular, long-running campaign to help Americans own homes. The three ideas that the report outlines for replacing Fannie and Freddie all would raise the cost of mortgage loans and push homeownership beyond the reach of some families.

That fact is already generating opposition in Congress and among groups like community banks and consumer advocates.

But administration officials said they had concluded the country could no longer afford to sustain its commitment to minting homeowners. Better to help some people rent

What is more sickening?  That this president who had everything going for him when he came into office would betray the American people like he has or that the gullible left put him in charge because they got all snooty over Bill Clinton’s comparatively reasonable welfare reform?

Read the whole thing.  It will make your blood boil.  What would make anyone want to buy a house after this?  How will current homeowners sell in the future?  What will developers buildinstead?  Highrises?  Will you only be able to rent your three bedroom house with all the restrictions on making structural changes and painting the walls?  Will a greater number of Americans be subject to landlords and evictions, fees and arbitrary rent increases?  Will their rental rights and property rights be protected and respected?  Who will enforce that?    What nutcase thought this was a good idea??

And what does it say for Obama’s attitude towards the middle class that he expects that we won’t be able to afford houses in the future?  What does he know and when did he know it?  Who are his friends?  What are they talking about behind our backs?  We better find out.