2015-06-11

Faith - A Beautiful Thing

Faith is an amazing and pervasive thing.  There are so many stories of people doing good things based on faith.  From those that rescue an abandoned animal, having faith that someone will claim it to investing time in a business venture that they believe will be of value to others and provide a living wage for their families.

As I think about my fathers fast fading days, I am reminded of the faith that he has and that he shares with others so enthusiasticaly.  His faith is that of the Christain, no denomination or brand attached.  Just a faith in a single God.  But the amazing thing is the way that the basis of that faith branches out, geometrically expanding into all aspects of his life.  His faith in his wife.  His faith in his sons.   His faith in his community.  And most importantly, his faith in himself.  He and Mom had the temerity to grow two businesses, to hire people who needed work, to invest in things that they thought were valueable to themselves, to thier family, to their community, to their country.

This is only a single example of many kinds of faith though.  I am reminded of the faith of our servicemen who willingly face some of the most inhumane circumstances based on the belief that those who sent them, those who asked them to go, are part and parcel of a people and a nation that respects that faith they adhere to.  They take an oath, and from that point on, they operate on faith in a system of government, a society, a culture.  They hinge their lives on a faith that the oath they swore to is worth fighting, living and dying for.

There is the faith of the secular humanist who believe that humans, and humanity in general, are rational beings that can work together, reason through problems and comprimise to reach solutions.  Perhaps thiers is the greatest faith of all, because they don't look to the mystical outside influence for help or guidance.  They simply rely on themselves.  I don't share that view, but I do admire it.  It is an incredible undertaking to endeavor to be so self-reliant, so incredibly confident in the capacity of the human being, both individually, and collectively.

There are the simple faiths we indulge in every day, from the old adage of the sun rising tomorrow morning to the belief that our day, and each of us in that day have a purpose, whatever that purpose might be.

We exist on faith...

A paraphrase from Dune by Frank Herbert which I am partial to:
"By my will, and by will alone, I set my mind in motion."

...and yet I must have faith that doing so will contribute in some way....
Faith:  A beutiful and mysterious thing.

Banks Lose Their Lunch?

....but similar to lunch, this lending us unlikely to last long or be the staple of the day like breakfast or the celebration of making it to the end of the day like supper.
There is a disturbing trend here; behavioral economics is a relatively new field, and this technology based approach to the arena makes heavy use of it in formulas that are unproven, using data points as key variables that may or may not have anything to do with success or failure.

"Automated lenders threaten to eat banks' lunch" - http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSKBN0OR0BC20150611


Once again, we see a trend away from people doing business with people, and towards those in the middle and lower classes being commoditized in algorithms.  Lending institutions that demand access to very personal and questionably relevant data offer up money at an exorbitant rate (30% APR in the example case) are going to be how willing to work with the borrower other than through some automated phone system?  This is not business:  This sounds a lot like the automated version of the same bait and switch game that led to 2008.  The lending institutions are already securitizing these loans....and the same old bunch is still rating the securitization.  Hmmmm....

What do you want to bet that, should the shit hit the fan in the face of this 'new' lending trend, that the tax payer will yet again be the one to have to bail out the institutions that treat them like nothing but a number in an equation? 

2015-06-10

And You Have a Bachelors in....?

In a recent article by Thomas Friedman (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/10/opinion/thomas-friedman-how-to-beat-the-bots.html), he argues that we need a better way of connecting those of "middle skills" with positions in companies that have work to do.

Those with "middle skills" are those defined as having spent a good part of their career doing jobs for which bachelors degress (B.S., B.A.,B.etc...) are required to even be interviewed.  So if these 'uneducated' folk for some reason find themselves out of a job due to a 'bubble' in the economy, they are going to have a damn hard time finding their way back into the same work at the same pay rate.

This is a cute little 'side effect' of these economic downturns we experience.  Busisness can say; "Oh my God! We have to cut costs! We have to reduce the work force.  Sorry, thanks for the service and all, but we can't afford you now".

Subsequently, they re-define the 'job description' and add the requirement that a Bachelors Degree be in the pocket of those who might apply, disqualifying those who had been doing the job previously.  So they get some bright educated individual who carries a boat load of debt to do the same job the uneducated shmuck did previously at the same price, except now they have someone who is afraid to make a move because getting a job with benefits is what you hang on to; and can you risk not being able to pay that loan off?

Looking at jobs(which I do often), I am finding that those requiring a B.A. or B.S. are a joke.  If it takes a B.S. to proofread high school text books, then our education system is truly failing.

The complaint that the middle class is shrinking is very valid.  The numbers show it.  But think of the expectations laid on the middle class, that group is expected to:
  • Pay their student loans (two if married) 
  •   Save for retirement 
  •  Save for the kids college tuition
  •  Own a home(just ask Bush or Reagan...67% should anyway) 
  •  Buy vehicles that get them to work and back and the kids to whatever. 
  •  Maintain insurance on all of the above
Yeah, right!  All while starting out with $40k to over $100k worth of student loans?

 The problem is not robots taking our jobs; The problem is that we are expected to buy our way into a job.  And the cute little setup between the government, the universities/colleges and business is that even if you pay all the prices, you are still nothing but a commodity.

I think it is time the middle class took a break for a week or two:  You know, just call in and say; "I need to think about what I am really worth.  It is going to take a couple of weeks.  Will give you a call when I figure out why the CEO and the CFO and the CTO make several hundred times more than I do, when they have the same B.S./Masters that I do".

I wonder what industry would do?  Hire illegal immigrants?  How much do you want to bet immigration policy would be turned on its head overnght?