Money and the generational divide (5×8 – 3/15/13)

How will the young ever retire, a visit to Tim’s Place, stray voltage reconsidered, the unfair world of the bald eagle, and the camera generation.

This will be the last 5×8 for a week — or so.


The average wealth of Americans has doubled over the last 25 years, the New York Times notes today, but the younger generations are being left out when it comes to wealth building.

The significance? For generations, the country’s unofficial mission statement is each generation does better than the one before. That era may be over.

“In this country, the expectation is that every generation does better than the previous generation,” said Signe-Mary McKernan, who is behind a study finding that Americans under 40 are behind — far behind in some cases — their parents at the same age. “This is no longer the case. This generation might have less.”

The article says people who held onto their jobs during the recession are often worse off now.

Related (or not): The children of No Child Left Behind are in college now, and University of Minnesota professor Michele Goodwin, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, suggests they’re damaged goods:

One professor at a top-20 law school recently confided that he has to teach his students how to write business letters. A professor at another elite school complained that grading exams is far more difficult now because the writing skills of students are so deficient that each exam requires several reads. Bernstein’s article suggests that he knows what accounts for this–federal education policy. He may be right.

Teaching to the test is increasingly the dominant approach even in Advanced Placement courses taken for college credit. As teachers and their schools are evaluated and even ranked in magazines on how well students perform on tests, the emphasis at the ground level has shifted from teaching higher-level thinking to preparing students for standardized tests of all sorts. And the stakes are high; schools have suffered losses in funds, teachers, and enrollment because of students’ underperformance on tests. Indeed, in extreme cases, schools have been shut down because of poor test results.


Friday is StoryCorps day and NPR delivered today with the story of Tim Harris, a young man with Down syndrome, and his dad, Keith.

Tim wanted to own a business so his parents sent him to a school in New Mexico.

“I still remember what it felt like to get in that car and drive away,” his dad told StoryCorps.” It was one of the most scary and sad moments of my life.”

“You guys are my superheroes. And having you in my life, that makes me special,” Tim said.

Which made me look for a little more information about the business Tim went on to start, with his dad’s help. I was not disappointed.


Midwest Energy News’ Dan Haugen picks up and expands on a subject broached last week by Tom Weber on MPR’s Daily Circuit — the effect of the CapX2020 transmission project. You’ve probably seen those huge towers that have been sprouting for the last few years along I-94. They’ll rise all over the state under the project.

Mr. Weber talked with Dave Minar last week. He owns Cedar Summit Farm in New Prague and under current state law, he’d have to sell the entire farm to make way for the line. Where does a farmer go when he sells the entire farm?

But Haugen explores the underlying complaint, which has raged in Minnesota for decades in varying intensity: The suspicion that high power lines through farms affects milk production, and the health of people who live nearby.


If you’ve got any heart at all, you’re feeling bad for this lovely eagle.


She’s been sitting on her eggs since January, and video recorded constantly by the Minnesota DNR eagle camera in Saint Paul.

She doesn’t know it yet, but they’re not going to hatch. The DNR says two eggs have already broken and the remaining one soon will. She laid them too early, and they froze in the cold weather of January, the DNR says.

“This pair of eagles might try again to lay eggs this year or another pair might come along and use the nest,” the DNR says on its website. “We just don’t know for sure. Based on the previous 3 year history of this nest, these and/or other birds will hang around all year and will continue to allow us a view into their majestic, mysterious and fascinating world.”


Of the thousands of pictures that came out of the naming of a new pope this week, this one struck me the most. (Photo: Associated Press/Michael Sohn)


True, it was a notable event, but one question: How many pictures will you take this week and how many will you ever look at again? Ever?

This new vid, originally intended to focus — get it? — on the fashion industry, reveals the extent to which we are constantly on display for whomever wants us on display.

TAKE MY PICTURE from GARAGE Magazine on Vimeo.

Bonus: A senator opposed to same-sex marriage has changed his mind. It might have something to do with the fact he found out his son is gay. (Columbus Dispatch)


Gov. Mark Dayton released a revised budget that includes higher income taxes for the state’s top earners, an increased cigarette tax and establishes a “snowbird” tax for people who live in Minnesota part of the year. The budget erases a projected deficit while increasing spending for education and makes room for building projects. Republicans criticize the tax increases and are calling for unspecified cuts. Today’s Question: Do you support Gov. Dayton’s approach of higher taxes and increased spending on education?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday Roundtable: Has the push for women’s equality really stalled? And should women stop trying to have it all?

Second hour: Health care premium increases under the Affordable Care Act.

Third hour: How the sequester will affect veterans.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live National Press Club broadcast featuring National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake, who was charged with espionage.

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – A look at health information online.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – – Twin Cities-based dulcimer artist Karen Mueller is a nationally renowned performer, studio musician and instructor and was inducted into the autoharp hall of fame in 2006. This weekend Mueller will perform a free concert of the Appalachian influenced “Blackberry Winter concerto” by Conni Ellisor. MPR’s Dan Olson talks with her.

For female reporters on Capitol Hill, it can be a challenge to maintain clear professional boundaries. Journalistic ambition can collide with unwelcome advances by some in the Washington power elite. NPR will report on cultivating sources and keeping them at arm’s length.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Clear skies and happy landings to you and your boy, Bob.

    1) Interestingly, my wife and I attended a retirement planning class last night. If there where any rich Boomers in the room, I didn’t notice them.

    2) I’ve heard about Tim before. Heartwarming.

    3) I’ve never bought into the irrational fear of power lines.

    Bonus: Good for him.

    TQ: Historically, the Governor gets most of what he proposes in his budget. This year will be no different.

    Daily Circuit 1st hour: Yes, no

    Daily Circuit 2nd hour: How ironic

    Daily Circuit 3rd hour: I’d better listen to this

  • Pat

    A week without 5X8? How will I survive?

  • David

    #1) “Indeed, in extreme cases, schools have been shut down because of poor test results”

    Poor test results are an interesting thing. My wife teaches in a school that is often teetering on being closed. She teaches 6th grades that speak and read at a first grade level. The kids are immigrants and children of immigrants. She does a terrific job of teaching these kids to speak and read, but….

    There are many weeks where the kids have 1-3 tests and each of these tests can take a day, sometimes they take longer. Also, don’t forget all of the other subjects that they are supposed to learn.

    Top it off with an administration that changes focus, often two times — sometimes three times during the school year. We’re IB now. Now we’re co-Teaching. Now we’re something else. Of course, nothing is prepared for the changes and often it’s a new style of learning for students. I see it every day: something is broken with education and it is not the teachers.

    #4) I was bummed when I read that yesterday. I am 95% sure I know the location of the nest and the family of eagles has been going there for years. From what I can tell, overall, they have been a very successful family. Often there are multiple generations hanging out in the same tree cluster. I’ve noticed bald eagles hunting in my nearby neighborhood a lot more lately and I suspect that another young couple from the family has returned and is scouting for a nest. It’s speculation, but there are some good spots. City bald eagles, if you would have told me they’d exist when I was a kid I would have laughed.

  • Sarah Marie

    1) I agree with David, there are so many other subjects – and ways to learn them – that are neglected because of the emphasis on standardized testing, and this really has resulted in important schools facing their end as educational institutions. It’s an absolute crime that schools that need funding to teach students effectively are denied funds because of poor test scores.

    I’m am older millennial, I’ve been out of college for a few years and have been working hard to make ends meet. I wasn’t part of No Child Left Behind but while I was in grade and secondary school, there was still an emphasis on standardized testing. I never did well with those tests and they did take half a day or more. Many students are like me, just not great test-takers; the “banking” method of teaching isn’t always effective, there are plenty of smart kids that need a variety of different learning methods available to succeed – emphasis on one method is clearly not working out; it’s creating a huge disadvantage that is effrecting some of the most vulnerable communities in America.

  • jon


    Young people are expected to go to college… so long as that is the case they will be in trouble.

    The cost of college is roughly the same as the cost of a house, now imagine if our parents bought a house when they were 18.

    Of course to make the analogy work they can’t build equity in that house, and they can’t live in it… they might be able to rent it out, but it will probably be for less then what the mortgage payment would be… and definitely wouldn’t be turning a profit for a very long time (20-30 years).

    Of course, a college degree is costing more and more and meaning less and less, that doesn’t help.

  • Philip Benson

    I spent my life thinking I cared about others’ offspring more than the breeders thru not seeking wealth, environmental depletion and over population. Now the offspring wish to take away my retirement and turn me into a whiner.

  • Jim G

    #1 //The average wealth of Americans has doubled over the last 25 years, the New York Times notes today, but the younger generations are being left out when it comes to wealth building.//

    This statement is misleading. At least that’s what I’m thinking. How can this be correct when middle class wages have been stagnant for the past 30 years?

    There are many ways to measure the average of something. Mean, Median, and Mode are the most commonly used but they can cause confusion if the terms aren’t defined clearly.

    Mean average wealth would be the entire wealth of the country divided by the number of individuals holding the wealth.

    Median average wealth: Imagine a line, along this line we have all individuals’ wealth in the country lined up from least to greatest. Fold the line exactly in half. The exact center of the line is the Median average wealth.

    Mode: The wealth that occurs most frequently in the country.

    I suspect the study used the “Mean” average although we don’t know because the reference doesn’t include this vital information. The “Mean” average wealth number would greatly exaggerate huge wealth gains made over the last 25 years by the topmost elite wealthy.

    The rest of the population has stayed stagnant. Almost all of us have seen no growth in wealth, nothing… but stagnation. Put that into the average wealth equation and you have a totally different tilt to the report.