Baseball’s best night (5×8 – 9/29/11)

First some housekeeping: Over the years, NewsCut has earned a well-deserved reputation for intelligent and valuable insight provided by those who offer their comments. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say this is unlike a large number of online sites that are polluted by trolls and people who have little to offer.

Of late, many comments have very little to do with the subject matter of the post. While I seldom delete comments (I have a great blog management system that filters out the cheap handbag knockoff spam), I’m being more aggressive eliminating comments that don’t provide value to other readers. These include comments from people using phony email addresses, or single-line comments that only lightly reference the post. As always, comments that belittle other commenters are immediately deleted.

Most of the time, I send an e-mail to those people to explain why their comments were deleted. Most of the time, the messages bounce back from phony e-mail addresses.

At the same time, there are thousands of NewsCut readers each week who are reluctant to comment. Trust me: Your perspective is valuable and will be protected here. The wide diversity of talent and experiences gives us an opportunity to consider viewpoints we might not previously have considered (a comment in the previous post is a perfect example). On those occasions, we are all well served by your participation.

We will not be discussing this in the comments section today. But there are plenty of other things to note.

1) TEAR PARTY

If you went to bed early last night you missed a 278-million-to-one occasion (according to Nate Silver): The Red Sox did not make the playoffs when they blew a sure win, seconds before the Devil Rays turned around what had appeared to be a sure loss (Thanks primarily to Coon Rapids’ Dan Johnson).

“The most magical night in baseball history,” MLB Network declared. Wait! More magical than a 10-inning shutout that won a World Series? Keep in mind this was for the right to be the worst team in the playoffs, not win a World Series. It’s a bad idea to write history seconds after it occurs.

Still, it was way more fun than the second half of a Vikings game:

Peter Sagal’s “Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” might not be that funny this week:

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The best front page in America today belongs to the Boston Herald, which pulled out its own front page from earlier in the season…

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NPR says baseball fans were left hyperventilating…

A tale of two cities: The Twins, meanwhile, won an exciting contest that had the players rolling on the field congratulating each other because it meant they didn’t lose 100 games. Exciting stuff, indeed.

One last takeaway from the “magical night”: There’s no moment sweeter than a little kid singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”

2) SHOULD STUDENT DEBT BE FORGIVEN?

Students are coming out of college with a stunning debt load. How’s this for an idea: Forgive it. Some students at the University of Minnesota are signing a national petition asking the federal government to wipe out the debt, figuring students could stimulate the economy by spending money they otherwise would be spending on paying their loads, the Minnesota Daily reports.

“That’d be a lot of money that our economy could use,” says Alexis Reineke, who graduated from the University of Minnesota in December 2008 with a communications degree and

$35,000 in debt. She makes enough now to pay about $260 month on her loans.

The idea comes from Robert Applebaum, who started the petition, and has posted it on the We The People site at the White House:


Forgiving student loan debt would provide an immediate jolt to the economy by putting hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of extra dollars into the hands of people who WILL spend it – not just once, but each and every month thereafter – freeing them up to invest, buy homes, start businesses and families. This past year, total student loan debt finally surpassed total credit card debt in America, and is on track to exceed $1 TRILLION within the next year. Student loans themselves are responsible for tuition rates that have soared by 439% since 1982 and for saddling entire generations of educated Americans with intractable levels of student loan debt from which there is, seemingly, no escape. Relieve them of this burden and the middle class WILL rebuild this economy from the bottom-up!

Caution: Old person story ahead. When I graduated from college in 1976 with my $4,000 in debt (that’s about $16,000 in today’s dollars), the last thing the financial aid boss said was, “make sure you pay this money back, because it’ll be used to lend to other students later.”

3) GOVERNMENT AND THE BOOZE BUSINESS

State governments need you to drink more, the New York Times says today. It needs the cash alcohol generates. Dozens of states have changed alcohol laws to try to gin up more revenue — from raising alcohol taxes to allowing drinking on Sundays.

“These are kind of antitax times, so it’s tough to raise any kind of tax, but this is one they might have more success with,” said Mark Stehr, an associate professor of economics at Drexel University in Philadelphia who has studied the effects of taxes and other regulations on cigarettes and alcohol.

Lakeville officials have received a study to help them determine whether the municipal liquor stores make money and whether the city should get out of the booze-selling business. They do and it won’t.

4) DO YOU KNOW THE PUMPKIN MAN?

You can always spot the kid who’s going to grow up to be successful. In Fargo, Kain Carlson has figured out an unfilled niche. There weren’t enough door-to-door pumpkin salesmen in town. There weren’t any. Now there’s Kain Carlson, pumpkin man.

He’s pocketed about $1,000 so far, WDAY reports, and given a chunk of it to a Moorhead homeless shelter.

5) RACE-E-BOY

We have a new record for world’s fastest couch. The record was set on Monday in Sydney.

Bonus: A bridge to the arts…

(h/t: Bryan Reynolds)

TODAY’S QUESTION

Australia has announced that women will soon be able to serve in combat with the infantry, in the special forces and in other front-line positions. Today’s Question: Should the United States start allowing women to serve in all combat roles?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind describes rivalries and dysfunction within President Obama’s first economic team.

Second hour: In her new book, physicist Lisa Randall examines the role of risk, creativity, and uncertainty in scientific thinking, and why answering the biggest scientific questions we face could tell us who we are and where we come from.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Rep. John Kline.

Second hour: Live broadcast from the National Press Club featuring entrepreneur Elon Musk, speaking about private sector space travel, electric cars, and the digital future

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: a preview of the upcoming Supreme Court term.

Second hour: Stories from a Chicago cabbie.

  • Bob Moffitt

    The Twins somehow avoid a triple-digit loss season and John Gordon calls his last game, and you want to talk about the Dead Sox?

    Check your GPS, Collins. You’re in Minnesota now. (g)

  • Bob Collins

    “Land of 10,000 Losses”

  • bench

    RE: Student Debt

    First I might point out that someone in New York was just busted for taking the SATs for High School kids at the tune of $1500 to $2500 a person. If there are HS students who can afford that they probably aren’t worried about debt.

    What about us recent college grads who don’t have debt? I myself was lucky and had parents who saved up and paid for half my tuition and fees. The other half came from scholarships. In my opinion, the erasing of student debt will just tell incoming students that it isn’t important to be financially thoughtful. If the government really cared about student debt they would look into how the colleges charge their students.

    I myself am now a graduate student and per my agreement with the university, they pay my tuition. However, I still have to pay student fees which for some grad students in the UofM system run over $600 per semester (over half a month’s pay- not easy to find).

    If they want lower student debt, then lower tuition and student fee prices.

  • http://www.twitter.com/#!/mblackmn Matt B

    re first poll: Having suffered through the Tigers 119 loss 2003 season and game 163 in 2009, I would much rather lose the one game playoff.

    re #2: Both my wife and I were able to graduate from Michigan Tech without student loans but we know a lot of our friends that weren’t able to for a variety of reasons.

    I would love to see a program put in place similar to the armed forces but for the Peace Corps or Americorps where you put in 4-5 years of service in exchange for loan forgiveness. It would provide great on-the-job training, help keep loan costs down at a time when tuition keeps going up, and build improvements for both the US and abroad.

  • Chris

    Here’s the thing about student loan debt burdens: besides being a massive drag on the economy, their unchecked growth does not appear to have been part of any sort of coherent fiscal plan, they take advantage of the naivete of actors just barely old enough to sign contracts.

    Schools have priced in the availability of cheap, federally guaranteed into their tuition. Students generally have lacked the information (let alone maturity) needed to make a rational decision about whether to incur the debts. With the economy in ruins, the fact that these loans are nondischargeable in bankruptcy means that every student is placing a life-long wager on the value of their education. The schools, however, bear no risk whatsoever that any given student’s wager goes sour (except, I suppose in their alumni giving numbers).

    We need to seriously re-evaluate the purposes of subsidized loans, and in the process I am sure we’ll find out that recently they have become unmoored from the principles that justify them, and as part of realigning the program to the purposes, it seems like a natural remedial step to (at least partially) ease already-incurred burdens in order to correct course.

    Besides easing some student’s debt load, I think we should think about compelling schools to take on a share of the risk, such as by making them responsible for repayment of some percentage of every loan issued to one of their students (5%? 20%). Any amount would immediately force schools to reconsider (1) their pricing strategy and (2) how helpful they are to students after graduation.

    And we need to revisit whether these loans should be unique among consumer debt and virtually impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. It makes sense to have some restrictions so people don’t borrow the money and immediately after graduation declare insolvency. But people need to be able to start over after it is clear they tried to make a go of it, and simply made a bad bet. That is the purpose of the bankruptcy code, and we allow it for virtually all other forms of debt. Locking people into unfortunate economic choices made in their late teens and early twenties is bad economic and social policy.

  • Peter Frost

    You should have heard the Orioles telecast. Gary Thorne (he who also calls hockey games), was going nuts. In fact, he let out a sound I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. Something like “ffffaaaa.”

    What a night for baseball.

  • Chris

    To clarify, my suggestion that schools be responsible for a portion of loans issued to their students, I meant: in the event that the student defaults.

  • Tom

    Re: Student Debt.

    I think part of the problem is students are loading up with $40K+ debt to get degrees in fields that are likely unable to earn enough to reasonably pay back that debt (Communications, English, Literature, Political Science).

    Certainly those fields have academic value but are typically less rigorous as some of the higher-paid degrees (Engineering, Business, Biology, Computer Science). Students need to assess their willingness to put in the effort in hard fields if they want to take out such large loans.

    Finally, while tuition and fees are very expensive, the loan program typically provides dollars well above reasonable room and board. Look at the lavish spring break vacations taken by many students or the well-appointed housing chosen. Students could potentially get by with thousands less in loans with different choices throughout their college career.

  • Jim!!!

    [X] I have no interest in baseball.

    What you’re doing: At 3PM hour brewer of “Surly Wet” will talk about making this beer with fresh hops.

  • CHS

    Regarding America’s Passtime:

    I really wished I would have watched last night, I didn’t even realize how high the stakes were for some of the other teams. One thing I love about baseball is that whether the home team wins or loses overall through the season, there is always something to capture interest and to care about. For me this season it was the up and coming Rene Tosoni, a walk-in tryout from my understanding. I’ll be keeping an eye on him for sure.

    Regarding Student Loan forgiveness:

    Would student loan forgiveness have the economic impact that is being touted here? I don’t doubt it for one minute, that money would flow immediately into the economy through some form of consumer spending. Would the unintended long term consequences be worth it? That’s a tough one. I agree with many comments about students making bad choices and having loans forgiven reinforcing that behavior, but I think there are ways it could be done. As already stated tuition rates and the entire loan program need to be redone to balance this back out, the cost of education should never exceed the potential earning potential. As it stands about the only thing a Liberal Arts degree in Global Studies is going to get you is the ability to ask “would you like fries with that?” in another language. Unless you’re extremely connected, or extremely lucky, in which case your degree type doesn’t matter much. I’m all for some type of peace corps or civic duty forgiveness program, but it would need to be accessible. These programs have historically only allowed fresh graduates with degrees in certain areas, and have been very competitive. Overall a balanced approach involving reform of the loan program, institutional reform, and some type of loan forgiveness, would be the only thing that would provide an overall benefit in the short and long term, and I don’t see that type of program being tackled even in an Obama 2nd term should it happen.

  • Julia

    Re: 1

    I voted in the poll for the 99-loss season. It was great being there at the game last night–perfect weather and a great game, even if it was more or less meaningless. And my dad and I went to his house afterwards and flipped back and forth between the Boston-Baltimore and Yankees-Tampa Bay games. How amazing!

    Also, I attended the Gophers-Michigan game a few years ago (on my birthday) when the Gophers blew their huge lead and ended up losing. Not only did it ruin my birthday, but it made me stop caring about Gopher football in any way.

    Plus, I’m not sure I can stomach any more of those awful losses to the Yankees.

    Re: 2

    I think Matt B’s idea of service in exchange for loan forgiveness is a great idea. Let’s have the government get something out of the deal, even if it’s not their money.

  • Heather

    Re: Tom’s comment on student debt

    The thing is, not everyone is talented in higher-paid areas like the ones you list. I struggle with math — any math — because when I read or write numbers, I tend to transpose them. Would you want me designing a bridge or handling your accounting? Me neither!

    Still, I could not have gotten any of the good jobs (or some of the bad ones) I’ve had without my degree. Did I pay less for my college education because I don’t have an aptitude for a “high-value” field? No. Have I ever made as much as my engineer sister? No. Were my student loans a burden to me? Yes. Maybe there should be a humanities discount. ;)

  • Joseph

    Re: Student loans

    It should be noted that there is a federal student loan forgiveness program in place today for government and nonprofit workers. A public service employee pays monthly student loan payments that are roughly 10% of his or her gross income (the formula is perhaps a bit too much for here) for 10 years while working in public service. If a balance remains after 10 years, it is forgiven.

    This is limited to people working in pretty specific career paths, but it certainly seems to be a good option for those who have to take out sizable loan amounts in order to get a degree in areas like the humanities and want to work in government or nonprofit.

    The major downside to this forgiveness program, however, is that it does not include private student loans. And unfortunately these loans are increasingly becoming a staple of the loans students need to borrow to cover the increasing tuition costs.

  • kennedy

    Re: Student loans – Student loans are, in some ways, small business loans. Ideally, individuals want to pursue a vocation and borrow money to pay for training. Some students will be more successful than others. (Success in this case being the ability to use the learned skills to earn enough money to pay back the loan.) Many things will dictate this level of “success”, most of them are in the student’s control.

    If student loans are forgiven, it will primarily benefit students who spent their resources on things of less value to society (degrees with minimal job/earning opportunity, bad grades, dropping out).

    The risk of failure encourages students (and graduates) to make better choices. Student loan debt should not be forgiven.

  • John P II

    I would rather see a student loan “bail out” fund created by a settlement with the many for-profit colleges currently being sued by multiple state attorneys general, including MN.

    A recent undercover investigation by the feds at 15 for-profit colleges found “extreme and deceptive tactics were widespread, and acts of outright fraud were not unusual.” source This is AFTER previous settlements with corporations like the Apollo Group (who joined forces with the Carlyle Group a few years back to take their business model international.)

    Ironically Apollo also owns the College of Financial Planning …clearly they’re good at it.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re Baseball. Great stuff! As an underdog lover and Yankee hater, I hit the trifecta.

    But the Would You Rather? survey is rather sadistic, isn’t it? Kind of a Sophie’s Choice for the baseball fan.

    Re Student Loans: “Forgiveness” implies that a bad decision was made, but people burdened with crushing debt due to exorbitant college costs did all of the right things, only to be spit out into an infernal economic situation that is largely the fault of the banks in the first place.

    How ’bout a quid pro quo of work for a service agency for x amount of time in exchange for x amount deducted, as others have already suggested here. There are currently government programs of this type established for MDs to work on reservations and in other underserved areas.

    This would instill a sense of social responsibility and awareness while improving the economic situation of debt- burdened individuals, whereas a blanket “forgiveness” would run the risk of instilling yet another generation with a sense of entitlement.

  • Kyle

    Re: Student Loans

    Regardless of whether or not the loan forgiveness is a good idea, without a serious change in the way loans are structured or an increase in the earning power of a degree a one-off fix like forgiving the debt won’t change things much.

    It would be nice (full disclosure: I graduated from college in 2009) if my loans were forgiven, especially given the bleak economic prospects my generation faces and the fact that poor economic decisions by the generations that preceded mine are going to be a permanent drag on our careers and finances. However, the government can’t just wave those debts away, and they’re not exactly flush with cash to use for the purpose.

    The debt forgiven would just have to be paid a different way, ultimately through higher taxes or severe spending cuts in some form or another. We’re (my generation specifically, though others as well) already going to have to deal with that, and I don’t see that spreading our student loan costs out among even those who didn’t use any necessarily makes the current economic situation much better, largely for the following reason.

    While debt relief is good for spending, that’s only the case if the debtor has income that would otherwise be spent on something else. The emplyoment rate for recent college grads is terrible. If they don’t have income, then forgiving their debt isn’t going to free up additional spending money. A government injection of money into the economy (which I favor) could very likely be done in a more effective way than student loan forgiveness, however convenient it would be for those of us with outstanding loans in the immediate term.

  • Lindsey

    Holding a school accountable for the failure of one of their graduates to repay a loan will only make college less accessible. Federal student loans are easy to obtain so that EVERYONE can get an education and better their lives. I agree that MANY people don’t know what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for those loans, but a college degree- and even just having SOME college- has economic and social benefits. I’d encourage everyone to listen to American Public Media’s American RadioWorks documentaries and podcasts on the subjects of college, college cost, and the value of college- even liberal arts degrees! (feed://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/podcast.xml)

    I will graduate with a ridiculous amount of student loan debt, considering my desire to teach middle school science. Public education is a low-paying job, but the light at the end of the tunnel for me is that there ARE student loan forgiveness programs out there! In education, there are loan cancellation programs targeting teachers who work in schools serving low income students (many Mpls/St. Paul schools qualify as “low income” http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/teachercancel.jsp?tab=funding), and there are loan forgiveness programs for many people in public service (http://www.finaid.org/loans/publicservice.phtml). Because I want to teach science in a public school setting, I decided to take advantage of TEACH grants- up to $16k in grants, forgiven if I teach 4 out of the 8 years after I graduate in a low-income school in a high-needs field (http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/TEACH.jsp). I’ll be highly motivated to fulfill that agreement to avoid those grants turning into 6.8% loans with capitalized interest. We also have income-based repayment plans- as long as we’re talking government loans, not private loans. I agree with one of the previous commenters that student loans generally already cover the cost of much more than just books and tuition, and I think that taking private loans is a mistake and unnecessary. I personally think that private student loans should fall under “consumer debt,” and be dischargeable under a bankruptcy situation.

  • boB from WA

    Re: editing comments. Thanks you for this service. After reading the back and forth comments from yesterdays “question”, I was disgusted. Quite the contrast to today’s discussion on baseball and student loans.

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t have anything to do with Today’s Question or the comments thereon.

  • kennedy

    Are you sure it’s a good idea for “EVERYONE” to get a college education? We also need plumbers, carpenters, auto mechanics, chefs, retail sales staff, janitors, construction workers…

    Part of the reason college is so expensive is because people are convinced that everyone needs one.

    P.S. I’ll beat Bob to the punch and suggest that you format links rather than pasting in the web address.

  • Cara

    re: Student Loans. I worked my way through college lo those many years ago. Took me twice as long, but I did it. My recently graduated daughter has about $30,000 in loans, a chemistry degree and a part time job at a video store. Hope she figures out what to do with the degree; but this is a horrible time for new grads.

    re: baseball. Didn’t watch, but I was keeping up on my Twitter feed. I’m glad you clarified Peter Sagals tweets; it was perplexing to read last night but now I understand.