Brian Gongol Show on WHO Radio - June 15, 2014

Brian Gongol

Podcast: Updated weekly in the wee hours of Sunday night/Monday morning. Subscribe on Stitcher, Spreaker, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or iHeartRadio

Please note: These show notes may be in various stages of completion -- ranging from brainstormed notes through to well-polished monologues. Please excuse anything that may seem rough around the edges, as it may only be a first draft of a thought and not be fully representative of what was said on the air.

This week:

Threats and Hazards Russian bombers skirt America's coasts off Alaska and California
It's time to re-inject a little of the old Reagan-style twitchy eye into our foreign policy stance. An America that telegraphs all of its plans well ahead of time, boxes itself into a corner at every diplomatic turn, and never threatens to reach for its (metaphorical) six-shooter once in a while is no use on the global stage. From a diplomatic standpoint, the worst thing a country can become is too predictable. For the good of the good nations of the world, we have to look just a little trigger-happy once in a while so that the world's bad guys think twice about getting too bold. The world is not completely full of rational actors, and some of the most irrational occasionally become heads of state. These are not people who respond to long lectures about "red lines", and in implicitly giving them latitude to do whatever they want by standing by wagging fingers and backtracking on threats, we harm the rest of the world that (reluctantly or not) acknowledges our unique role as a benevolent superpower.

News Trump plasters name in giant letters across Chicago tower
Two things: First, nobody should take Donald Trump seriously -- he's an exceptional self-promoter, and that's all he ever has been. He doesn't own as much real estate as the public perceives; he puts his name on things and gets other people to front the money, so of course he's going to go to extremes with self-promotion. Second, where are the adults in Chicago's administration? When Mayor Rahm Emanuel waits until long after the sign was approved by his own people to put up a stink about it, one has to wonder whether there's any credibility left in the local municipal management. He's running for re-election, even though the city is riddled with shootings and hundreds of millions of dollars in the hole.

Business and Finance Manufacturing jobs aren't for dummies anymore
There's a popular romantic notion that people should be able to earn incomes in the $80,000 or $90,000 a year range for mindlessly turning a wrench in a factory every day. The reality is that high-income jobs are absolutely available in manufacturing, but they require technical skills and knowledge. The manufacturing industry is growing frustrated by the gap between the skills they need and the ones many workers have, so now there's a $500,000 campaign underway to promote those skills (and their required training programs) in Iowa. Labor demand is strong, but we're probably creating all kinds of counter-incentives at the national level by doing even more to subsidize the cost of college for people who don't earn anything extra for their degrees. If your college degree (undergraduate or graduate) doesn't leave you with enough added income to pay back your student loans, that's not a burden for everyone else to bear. Nothing should stop anyone from studying the things they love, but it's a perverse incentive to make some people pay more in taxes because other people want to pursue uneconomical coursework. Go to the library. Take courses on a pay-as-you-go basis. Be an autodidact. But the Obama administration's latest effort to defer and reduce loan repayments for high-cost graduate school programs rewards going to school for the sake of going to school -- which is emphatically not necessarily the same thing as learning, particularly not learning anything productive for the rest of society. And the scorecard on whether it's useful for the rest of society is a pretty easy one -- if the market doesn't reward the extra education enough for the student to pay for the education, then it was (speaking strictly economically) waste. The problem comes when it's waste that someone else (who didn't get to enjoy the time on campus, or the other psychic benefits of the degree) is being forced to pay for. Not every bit of education has to be strictly practical, but there's also no shame in telling people they should learn something practical alongside what things they enjoy learning. We'd be a much better society if we equally welcomed plumbers who know about classical literature and accountants who know how a combustion engine works. The practical, the technical, the professional, and the liberal arts ought to live in some harmony.