Re: School Debt

1

Not much sympathy for the guy from commenters, who don't seem to recognize that every objection they are making to his conduct applies to anyone in bankruptcy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:43 AM
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1: The lives of local newspaper commenters revolve around the principle that people they don't know should be maximally punished for any and all mistakes.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:54 AM
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Or as they generally express it, "IF HE AINT WANT X TO HAPPEN TO HIM HE SHOULDNT HAVE BEEN DOING Y IN THE FIRST PLACE WHATEVER HAPPENED TO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY I HOPE HE DIES"


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:56 AM
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2. They do make an exception for lenders who make mistakes. Those guys don't deserve to lose money.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:04 AM
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1: Or that bankruptcy serves the interests of the lenders as often as not. At least they get something from back as opposed to nothing, or more likely a small amount of money squeezed out of the guy at considerable expense.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:20 AM
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I was amused by the commenter who feels that no one in debt should have kids.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:41 AM
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Newspaper comment sections are the heart of darkness. Avoiding them was one of the first things I learned to do after embarking on my long career of wasting time on the internet.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:47 AM
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Last semester I had a student who would fill the time before class announcing his opinions on all and sundry. Once he declared with complete earnestness and certainty that "The trouble with the death penalty is that we are executing all the wrong people."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:51 AM
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"Instead, we should be focusing on people who participate in newspaper comment sections."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:52 AM
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You could actually make a pretty good case for that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:52 AM
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10 to 8, not 9. Probably.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:53 AM
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If he had just said "The problem with the death penalty is that it is unfairly administered" it would have been a perfectly ordinary and largely true thing to say. But they way he put it, I had the distinct impression that he knew exactly who should live and who should die, and if we just left all these decisions about who to kill to him, everything would be just fine.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:10 AM
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Like this guy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:13 AM
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12: I'd be willing to hear him out on this.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:16 AM
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I did not know this (from the youtube comments):

Hi! Yes it is standard practice to update lyrics for many G&S patter songs, particularly ones like this which rely on current´╗┐ affairs and current political figures. I'm sure if you look around YouTube you'll find many, many different versions :-) -Anna

Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:17 AM
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Paging Mr. Blandings...

On the topic, Mr. Blandings kindly offered to help me figure out my loan repayment during the finance workshop/drunken kitchen section of the 'con. (Non-attendees missed hearing my salary and my SAT score!) that said, I need his e-mail address.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:18 AM
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Paging Mr. Blandings...

On the topic, Mr. Blandings kindly offered to help me figure out my loan repayment during the finance workshop/drunken kitchen section of the 'con. (Non-attendees missed hearing my salary and my SAT score!) that said, I need his e-mail address.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:18 AM
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I will stop double-posting one of these days, presumably.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:18 AM
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18: But then how will we know it's really you?


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:19 AM
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We shall know her by the Ace up her sleeve.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:22 AM
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Email address forwarded to you.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:24 AM
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I miss that baby. You reprobates, too, who I suppose were just as likely to barf on me.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:25 AM
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Ace is an excellent party-baby. More parties should have an infant to hand around.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:27 AM
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It was the easiest weekend of parenting I can ever remember. Even easier than visiting my heavenly in-laws.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:38 AM
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Mediating the knife-fights over who got to hold the baby next didn't get old?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:42 AM
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It was the easiest weekend of parenting I can ever remember.

I'll bet Jammies has a different take on the weekend.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:56 AM
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Stop it stop it stop it! You all are casting our decision not to go because Teapot would be too little into an entirely unacceptable amount of doubt.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:59 AM
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But that meant that Blume and I got the best uninterrupted view of Teapot of anybody (well, anybody besides GB). Hah hah!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 9:03 AM
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(Oh, also the other people on the hangout at the time. Nathan and SP maybe? clew?)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 9:03 AM
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13: There's an all- (or at least mostly-) Asian-American production of The Mikado coming up here soon. I think I might go see it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 9:13 AM
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Did I mention that I GOT TO HOLD THE BABY? Ace is pretty awesome. Noser and The Illyrian or whatever her pseud is seemed very perspicacious, and fast, so I didn't really get to see them for very long at any one time.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 9:15 AM
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J. Robot must be double-posting for some sinister reason, but what? What could she possibly gain? Power, glory, the enslavement of the entire human race, sure. But how?


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 9:32 AM
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31: I just uploaded a pic of you and Ace to the Flickr pool.

32: it has nothing to do with Halfordismo.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 10:22 AM
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On the OP, I confess I feel strangely conflicted about the law student's outcome. Am I understanding correctly that the ruling basically means the guy's student loan debt was considered as it would be in a bankruptcy proceeding?

I confess my ambivalence stems from having had well over $50k in student loans myself, just recently paid off, thank god, but the paying off meant that I gave up a great deal. It would have been terrific to have it discharged, and it sounds a bit as though, had I accumulated more expenses -- a spouse and kids, say -- I'd have had a case. This would be important information for future students taking loans.

Huh. I don't know: I really do not know enough about how bankruptcy proceeds. I gather from the linked article that the guy's case is viewed as a one-off, not likely to usher in a rash of similar pleas to discharge debt. If only because there may not be parents in the picture who can foot the legal bill!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 10:27 AM
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35

I have 31 on video, actually.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 10:32 AM
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I also held the baby! Super cute baby, though that experience might have indirectly led to the nightmare I had the next night about losing my soon-to-be-nephew and not being able to figure out where I'd put him. He's not in any of my pockets! Or under this pile of clothes!


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 10:34 AM
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That's not really particular to student-loan debt, though -- the discharge of any debt in bankruptcy means that the debtor incurred debts disproportionate to their ability to pay them off, often because of unwise spending decisions. Someone who frugally restricted their consumption in order to successfully pay off their own debts without bankruptcy is always going to be in the position of looking askance at a bankrupt with the same debt but higher additional consumption. That's in the nature of bankruptcy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 10:35 AM
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33, 35: Yay! Such a cute little baby. Happy to be back home with the cat though.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 10:40 AM
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39

Nobody should be allowed to suffer less than parsimon.


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 10:55 AM
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40

Yeah, one would want to know a great deal about the declining value of law degrees, the increasing difficulty of finding decent middle-class jobs, and the rise of truly predatory student loan policies before coming to a final judgment about this.


Posted by: Mme. Merle | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:00 AM
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41

Halfordismo.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:02 AM
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39: Excuse me, Benquo. That was not my meaning at all. I meant, if you read 34 more carefully, that people would and will make different life choices if the possibility of discharging student loan debt is opened to them.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:05 AM
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I have 31 on video, actually.
Speaking of which--Sifu, you deleted any public video record of Saturday's Hangout, right? Please?


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:08 AM
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I wish dean's would spend less time worrying about online education and strategic vision, and more time worrying about what's going to happen when the student loan bubble collapses.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:08 AM
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33: Oh wow. This prompted me to finally get over to the Flickr pool. That's an attractive group of people at that party. Geez, now I'm really bummed I missed it.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:09 AM
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43: I never turned capture on. I think other people might have.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:10 AM
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34: I have a similar sort of ambivalence towards bankruptcy in general (as per LB's 37), but the point of the thing is really to serve the interests of everyone by tying off what would otherwise be a long, slow, expensive, messy process of gradually driving someone onto the streets. It serves the interests of the lender as well as the borrower.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:11 AM
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How do I find & get access to the flickr pool?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:11 AM
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48: Email heebie for access. I think you need a flickr account beforehand, though.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:13 AM
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I got the feeling that the court cared that it was Virtuous and not Sinful debt. Having a family seems like a good thing for society to count as Virtue to me, but I'm kind of antsy about courts getting to decide. Although, now that I say it, that's pretty much the job of the court, isn't it? Based on.... judgement? Okay, that was dumb.

A related puzzle: public subsidies for artists; not paying for art, but directly subsidizing some artists. Seems to me like this will get immediately captured by well-connected and not-actually-challenging people. (I'd rather a 30-hour-a-week job supported a safe frugal life, which would support rather a lot of beginning artists and also a lot of other good things.)


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:14 AM
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37: Thanks, that makes sense; I just don't know much about how reasonable and unreasonable expenses are judged in bankruptcy proceedings. Sounds like it's more of a haplessness thing. One would prefer not to adjudicate such things at all -- people do live their lives, after all -- and I do not envy bankruptcy judges.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:16 AM
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I just don't know much about how reasonable and unreasonable expenses are judged in bankruptcy proceedings.

They're not, really, in those terms. You can go bankrupt just as well because you lost everything playing poker and tipping strippers as you could after donating all your money to an animal shelter, or supporting your medically disabled but morally upright and sympathetic parents.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:21 AM
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51: No, I don't think that's right. The lawyers will have to correct me on the details, but my understanding is that the whole point of bankruptcy is to replace judgments about morality (or reasonableness) with, as togolosh points out, something more economically efficient. It's more *economically efficient* to allow people to discharge their unpayable debts and start over.


Posted by: Mme. Merle | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:21 AM
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Lawyer-pawned.


Posted by: Mme. Merle | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:22 AM
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I couldn't tell from the article what specific kind of debt this was. I thought some types of loans you can use for school are dischargeable in bankruptcy. Sort of a distinction between official categories of student loans and other loans one might use to pay for school.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:24 AM
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A related puzzle: public subsidies for artists; not paying for art, but directly subsidizing some artists.

One virtue of Universal Basic Income policies is that it's effectively a public subsidy for artists that avoids problematic selection effects. I mean, you'll end up with a lot of really shitty art, but you're not biasing it in an establishment/well-connected direction in the way that grant-applications kinda do. (And it also incentivizes living in cheap places, rather than in megacities where the social/cultural networks are centered.)

I saw this documentary about Pulp & the Sheffield music scene awhile back, and one interesting point that was made was how back in the 80s, Britain's welfare system was effectively acting this way, at least for a certain class of person who didn't care about saying (as I recall the example was) "I need X pounds to buy a bed" to the welfare-person and then spending it on whatever you happened to want to spend it on. And the point that was made in the documentary was that this (along with very cheap public transit, housing, etc.) really made the music scene possible.

And now that I think about it, Lessing's "The Good Terrorist" had some of this, too; a bunch of the squatters were on Public Benefit or whatever it was then called, with no intention of working, and seemed able to do this indefinitely. But of course that reveals the political downside--in the book, the Public Benefit is subsidizing political radicalism that shades into (pathetic) terrorism, and boy howdy is that not an easy thing to sell to an upstanding electorate of taxpayers and law-abiders.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:25 AM
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There was a 7th Circuit decision fairly recently approving a discharge of student loan debt in bankruptcy. My takeaway was that discharging student loan debt is a lot harder, but not impossible. I will try to find a link, because I sort of remember it (a) being a pretty easy read and (b) being Posner, so presumably all your questions about economic efficiency are answered...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:27 AM
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I'm guessing -- just from the existence of the lawsuit -- that the loans he had weren't dischargeable, and it seems like the result of the settlement made them like debt that could be dealt with via bankruptcy.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:28 AM
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58: Without looking at the link, this has to be right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:30 AM
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Parsimon and LB (34 and 37) basically got to the heart of what I thought was interesting: on one hand all bankruptcy debt is dealt with on a case by case basis, on the other hand, his is the *only* student debt currently being discharged via bankruptcy, which makes its idiosyncracies much more glaringly jarring.

Basically it seems to me that if *all* student debt was treated the same, or similarly, as other debts during bankruptcy then the banks would have to actually put some effort into judging the riskiness of making the loan---by, say, examining the school's graduation rates, bar passage rates, previous default rates, etc. This in turn would put pressure on the schools to do better and also keep tuition down such that the banks would actually make the loans.

Instead it seems to me that instead of banks and admissions committees acting as a brake on students' unrealistic ambitions and dreams we incentivize them to fan them and encourage them.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:31 AM
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Easterbrook, not Posner. Basically, it all boils down to a "certainty of hopelessness."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:32 AM
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There are some moral judgments in Balkruptcy Court. the Bankruptcy Court makes a moral judgment about how much you need to live on, and orders that the rest of our income in the next few years goes to pay off your debts. If you have assets, it can decide how much of your assets you have to sell off to pay your creditors. E.g. the Court has discretion to order or not order sales of jewellry and cars not needed to get to work. If you miss payments, the Bankruptcy Court decides whether or not your missed payments were a result of bad faith, and if so, whether that means your debts won't be forgiven. Aside from student loans, some other categories of debt are non-dischargeable if the Court concludes that the debt was the result of bad conduct, e.g. if you committed fraud and a court ordered you to pay restitution to your victim, you won't be discharged. In marginal cases the Court decides.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:34 AM
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The standard is apparently "undue hardship". I thought for a long time there was no dischargeability, and there seems to be some evidence that so many people think of it this way that there are very few attempts.

Perhaps we're seeing a rising awareness of the unique burden of student loan debt filtering through to the courts' interpretation of "undue."


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:34 AM
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This in turn would put pressure on the schools

That pressure on the schools is pretty attenuated, isn't it? They got their money upfront, when the feds lent it to the kids. If the kids discharge ten years later, how would it damage the schools?

I guess eventually the feds (private loans faster) would stop wanting to make loans to notoriously bad schools. But still, that strikes me as a long delay for that feedback to occur.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:36 AM
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Loss of accreditation would do it I think, and that could be much more flexible and punitive for diploma mills.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:38 AM
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There are so many things in play here. First, that student loans have increasingly been privatized, so that banks now issue them at high interest rates and almost no risk. Second, that the college degrees people are borrowing money to get no longer guarantee decent middle-class lives. Third, that many students, the Chronicle of Higher Ed recently revealed, are actually using their student loans to subsidize their lives--are, indeed, going back to school precisely in order to get the loans that keep the money coming in after the unemployment ends. And fourth, as unfoggedetarian points out, that all of this is creating a bubble every bit as pernicious as the real estate bubble.

With all this in mind, it's hard for me to get too worked up judging some poor guy who's having trouble paying back his loans.


Posted by: Mme. Merle | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:45 AM
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Basically, it all boils down to a "certainty of hopelessness."

What a great phrase. I'm sure I can work this in to my daily life on a regular basis.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:52 AM
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First, that student loans have increasingly been privatized, so that banks now issue them at high interest rates and almost no risk.

Sweet deal. They need to synthesize that shit and wrap it up in Collateralized Debt Obligations!


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 12:01 PM
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66: Third, that many students, the Chronicle of Higher Ed recently revealed, are actually using their student loans to subsidize their lives--are, indeed, going back to school precisely in order to get the loans that keep the money coming in

I don't think this is new thing.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 12:08 PM
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I guess eventually the feds (private loans faster) would stop wanting to make loans to notoriously bad schools. But still, that strikes me as a long delay for that feedback to occur.

Assuming a sensibly functioning market (which, yes, is like assuming a can opener), the market feedback happens much sooner.

The future non-repayment of a bad mortgage loan should have a market effect today. In the past, when that didn't happen, it was the result of a poorly functioning market. I'm not aware of anything similar going on today with student loans.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 12:19 PM
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58, 59: That sounds right. I probably should have thought things through before posting.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 1:25 PM
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"If the kids discharge ten years later, how would it damage the schools?"

Right. . .but eventually banks would wise up to the fact that, say, a professional degree in basketweaving from University of FancyPants does not actually raise people's incomes enough to pay off the loans, and they would stop offering loans for such large amounts of FancyPants students, and University of FancyPants would have to either make their degree better and more valuable or lower their tuition.

It's not a perfect negative feedback loop, but at least it IS a negative feedback loop--one which, a far as I can tell, is mostly missing these days.


Posted by: Ile | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 1:30 PM
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71: And where would the blog be if people did that?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 1:33 PM
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16, 17: I emailed you.


Posted by: Mr. Blandings | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 1:43 PM
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56: you'll end up with a lot of really shitty art

We've already got that.

I'm almost done with my student loans, but getting a BA was an incredibly stupid decision on my part, just from a financial perspective. The direct opportunity cost was in the neighborhood of $130,000 (minus taxes, plus benefits), plus the $22,000 or so I actually spent on tuition, fees and books, plus the interest on the $18,000 in debt I graduated with. After I graduated, I essentially went right back to my old job, but with less seniority and more bitterness. All the indirect opportunity costs have to be factored in too, although obviously they're somewhat harder to enumerate. Assuming that everything had gone just about average for me, if I hadn't gone back to school, I'd probably be at least $100,000 richer right now. Maybe two or three times that. My degree has only hindered me, in terms of maximizing my earning potential. I suppose the smart thing to have done would have been to get an MBA or a JD or something, although I likely would have gotten a JD at exactly the wrong time to ever hope to find actual lawyering work.

Frankly, I just don't think it would be that much of a tragedy to cut out a lot of the dead wood in higher education. A trimmed down, efficient system of fully-funded public post-secondary institutions that focused on real scholarship, paired with a similarly open and accessible system of vocational education would comprise a much better method of preparing people for working life.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 1:54 PM
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After I graduated, I essentially went right back to my old job, but with less seniority and more bitterness.

I've got to imagine you would have embittered over those four years, either way.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 1:56 PM
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76: Not if I had gotten into one of the much cushier jobs a notch or two up from where I had been pre-college. I knew a number of people without a degree who had jobs like that, and their jobs were a lot more chill than mine for the 3.5 years I spent there after finishing school.

Obviously, doing both probably would have been smartest. If I had gone to night school starting in 2000, I'd have gotten through it before my actual graduation. And without all of the opportunity costs incurred. Oh well.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 1:59 PM
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There are some moral judgments in Balkruptcy Court.

Jack Balkin's new blog?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 2:11 PM
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Haven't student loans been unprivatized? I thought that was one of the provisions passed in the lame duck session in 2010.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 2:21 PM
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Stafford loans and I think some other government-involved loans are now direct loans from the government. But you can still get loans from private lenders to pay for school, I think. It seems like people do it when they max out their federal funds.

(This is actually the distinction I was wondering about with respect to dischargeability. I only have government or government-involved loans and I know those can't be discharged (theoretically). But there seem to be other types of loans out there that get called student loans they might have different terms.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 2:28 PM
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41 is great, but it says that "Buddhism" and "Taoism" are in the same category. Wrong! Halfordismo is no religion of peace and enlightenment. It's a totalizing political platform that recognizes that democracy has failed and that there's only one solution. Now back to whatever you were talking about.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 2:35 PM
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The current student loan system is basically a way to long-term screw over middle class students to the benefit of financiers, university administrators and the operators of for-profit colleges, and it's an an absolute outrage that almost defies belief that such debts are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy.

That college faculty (except law school faculty) have continued to be screwed over even with such a system in place really says something.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 2:41 PM
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Or, I should say, very close to nondischargeable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 2:42 PM
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Medical school faculty also do ok.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 2:56 PM
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I think all of the folks on this map are associated with universities...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 3:28 PM
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According to the CFPB, private student loan volume rose sharply from 2005 to 2008, then fell back down to the 2005 level (as of 2011). I don't see creeping privatization here, just big problems with the continuing private business.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 3:43 PM
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Time seems ripe to start pushing for bankruptcy reforms that make student loan debt (more easily) dischargeable. Surely we are near a critical mass of people (and people who know people) who are severely burdened by student loan debt without employment opportunities likely to lead to easing of the burden. Presumably most of them are eligible voters...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 4:26 PM
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Another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. It comes from looking at outcomes rather than inputs. The Wise Masters determined that successful citizens owned houses and had college degree and therefore if everyone had a house and a college degree all would be peachy. Smithers, make it so! Pass the law now and read the details later.


Posted by: Tasseled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 4:29 PM
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50 A related puzzle: public subsidies for artists; not paying for art, but directly subsidizing some artists. Seems to me like this will get immediately captured by well-connected and not-actually-challenging people.

And how do you feel about public subsidies for science?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 4:49 PM
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Well connected and not too challenging. Also, I have been building my instruments on TA pay; 30h living wage might have been more profitable. You?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:07 PM
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91

You know, I have no idea whatsoever why this is a "related puzzle." The equivalent for the funding of the arts would be if the federal government offered subsidized loans, that you couldn't get out of through bankruptcy, to artists, but only if they paid the money they got to the loans to certain designated galleries and . . . I just can't make the thing work anymore.

The whole problem with the federal student loan program is that it's not a direct subsidy for education. If we want students to go to college, and for the government to pay for it, we should just do so directly through direct state subsidy, not through a bizarre and convoluted loan scheme that basically impoverishes middle class students while encouraging horrible practices amongst grifters, including financiers, university administrators and scuzzbags who run private for-profit colleges.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:17 PM
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90: It definitely goes to the well-connected, but I'm not convinced that's so decoupled from "challenging". Or maybe I should say that I'm not so convinced that the things the community consensus thinks are good are in that much need of being challenged. Not sure how that carries over to the art world.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:20 PM
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If we want students to go to college, and for the government to pay for it, we should just do so directly through direct state subsidy

Like they do in enlightened topless Europe! Or, rather, like they did in enlightened topless Europe and are now doing less and less.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:21 PM
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87 gets it right. Actually, why is student loan debt not (normally) dischargeable? The answer may get into the weeds, I know.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:28 PM
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The answer may get into the weeds

I thought that was the other thread.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:29 PM
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Student loan debts, it's like, each one's a color, you know? Or maybe like a sound? I... whoah.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:31 PM
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Are there any other kinds of debt that are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy?

Note that I'm not sure this isn't just picking around the edges of a broader problem in higher education.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:33 PM
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Well, it's gotten worse over time. Originally, the idea was sort of that the loans were being sponsored by the federal government, so it would be unfair to let students take the loan and then (while they still had little by way of assets) declare bankruptcy to get out of the loan, and then reap the benefit of the education down the road. That doesn't really make sense if you think about it -- any perceived abuse could easily be handled by the bankruptcy courts, the whole point of the taxpayer subsidy to the loan is to subsidize education, and young consumers weren't wildly likely to ruin their credit forever by declaring bankruptcy on loans that they had a reasonable chance of repaying -- but at least you can kind of sort of see a protect-the-public-purse rationale.

Then Congress in a super awesome move in 2005 made private student loans also (almost) nondischargeable, which was just like showering lenders and the for profit college industry with free money at the expense of fucked over young people. It's all an outrage!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:41 PM
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97.1 -- Yes.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:51 PM
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I'm not seeing how the relatively recent rise in private student loans factors into it: it's made things worse, sure, and for-profit colleges are an outrage, but those students with federally subsidized loans have been in a non-dischargeable situation regardless.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:54 PM
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99 - Yeah, but it's basically things that we consider you a very bad person for not paying -- primarily back taxes you never paid, child support payments, debts that you incurred based on your fraudulent conduct and . . . student loans. One of these things is not like the others.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:55 PM
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Well, until relatively recently (I think maybe 1998?) there was some sort of 5 year period after which you could discharge the federally-backed loan, and the federally-sponsored loans also have mandated deferment programs and other things that make them marginally better for borrowers. So the private loans are particularly awful and inexcusable, but the whole system is basically awful and pointless and inexcusable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:58 PM
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Are there any other kinds of debt that are non-dischargeable in bankruptcy?

I am not a bankruptcy lawyer, and I am definitely not *your* bankruptcy lawyer, etc. and so on... My understanding via friends with experience is that child support debts and any monetary judgment contained in your divorce decree are non-dischargeable. Not entirely sure of the specifics, but that at least sort of generally answers your question that, yes, there are other kinds of non-dischargeable debt.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 5:58 PM
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I don't disagree with 101 generally, but am not that impressed with (a)(16).

Sausage is paleo, right?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:13 PM
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I am definitely not *your* bankruptcy lawyer

We get it. You don't have to hurt us.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:13 PM
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102: Well, until relatively recently (I think maybe 1998?) there was some sort of 5 year period after which you could discharge the federally-backed loan, and the federally-sponsored loans also have mandated deferment programs and other things that make them marginally better for borrowers

I don't think you could discharge them, nuh-uh. But yes, you could claim hardship and get deferment. I don't know whether the deferment could go on for the rest of your life. Doubtful?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:18 PM
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"Nuh uh," you idiot, as you'd see if you ever operated Google, you could discharge loans after 7 years of repayment (not including periods in which you were in a deferment plan) until 1998. After 1998, From 1976-1998 it had been 5 years, with a series of increased restrictions on repayment. After 1998, federal loans were nondischargeable, and after 2005, private loans were as well. Depressing timeline here.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:26 PM
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I vaguely remember reading when I signed for my recent loans that you can have your loan forgiven after 20 or 25 years, if you've kept up with it. I didn't read too closely because I'm hoping to keep to the standard repayment plan.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:30 PM
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Did somebody steal your bacon?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:32 PM
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Also, now that I've looked at the link again, the guy in the article under discussion had federal loans and got his degree in 1997.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:32 PM
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107 was probably uncalled for and I guess I retract the meanness, but Jesus Christ sometimes Parsimon is just so goddamn annoying!


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:33 PM
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109: dude don't even.... is that a joke? That is fucked up, man. Don't even say shit like that.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:33 PM
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If we want students to go to college, and for the government to pay for it, we should just do so directly through direct state subsidy

Like they do in enlightened topless Europe! Or, rather, like they did in enlightened topless Europe and are now doing less and less.

But according to some guy at New America: "The United States now has the most generous student loan repayment program in the world." USA! USA!


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:39 PM
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Everybody's all grumpy. Try this quiz.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:42 PM
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Also, I hate to get involved in this sort of thing, but years of commenting here suggests that as a general principle, trolling people who you find annoying rarely improves things. The same goes for trolling people who have expressed the sentiment that they find you annoying.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:43 PM
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Except apparently it never ends. I got bored after going 11/20.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:44 PM
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114: tricky!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:45 PM
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I got 11/20 by repeatedly clicking on Steak House.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:46 PM
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There may only be 40-50 names. It seems to be choosing at random but not excluding repeats.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:48 PM
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you could discharge loans after 7 years of repayment (not including periods in which you were in a deferment plan) until 1998

Apologies for ignorance. The fine print in the paperwork on reasons for deferment, and options in case of hardship, didn't make that clear. Certainly no one I know knew that.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:49 PM
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There is a finite number of gay bars and steak houses, I assume.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:49 PM
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I'm doing a terrible job at reducing my commenting. This is what happens when I set "goals" for doing stuff while not working.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:49 PM
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I went through 25 and only got to 54%, but I'd been to six of the steakhouses and two of the gay bars.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:52 PM
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Also 115 is of course totally right.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 6:52 PM
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Infinite gay steak houses!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:13 PM
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115 Also, I hate to get involved in this sort of thing, but years of commenting here suggests that as a general principle, trolling people who you find annoying rarely improves things

If by "trolling people who you find annoying" you just mean telling them that they're annoying, it rarely improves things, but sometimes it's just so damn satisfying.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:18 PM
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That's not really something the average person can google, Halford.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:22 PM
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Certainly no one I know knew that.

"Knowing exactly what all of your acquaintances know about the intricacies of student loan repayment" is one of those superpowers that's incredibly rare but not, in the end, very useful.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:23 PM
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That's not really something the average person can google

Yes, I do have superpowers.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:30 PM
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This probably goes in the sex thread, but google was no help to me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:34 PM
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I think I have been led by a reporter into saying something stupid and quotable.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:40 PM
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131: dinosaurs?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:41 PM
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I think I have been led by a reporter into saying something stupid and quotable.

Oh boy! I am totally afraid to talk to reporters. Luckily none ever want to talk to me.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:44 PM
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Not dinosaurs. Reporter asks me if there can be people made of dark matter. I say something like "it's not inconceivable that there is life made of dark matter, but unlike the structures we're discussing, I can't imagine a way it could be detected, so at the moment it's not a very scientific speculation". I'm afraid it will just be truncated into something about life made of dark matter.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:46 PM
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A couple more iterations of this and we'll have "Scientists Warn of Impending Dark Matter Alien Attack!"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:47 PM
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127, 129 - I thought he was referring to the Halfordismo-approved steak houses and gay bars.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:49 PM
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Was somebody asking for ... dark matter?

[Extremely funky theme music plays.]


Posted by: OPINIONATED PROTAGONIST OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE IN '70s BLAXPLOITATION MOVIE | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:49 PM
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Whoah. Will the dark matter aliens be friendly, essear? Why don't you know?!?!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:49 PM
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Someone should do a "never talk to reporters" video like the great one about why you should never talk to the cops.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:52 PM
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Or at least some obvious guidelines that are hard to remember in practice: formulate a set of talking points, stay on message, do not answer leading questions.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:57 PM
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At least there was no negative fallout from the NYTimes' shocking revelation a few years back that the Large Hadron Collider could produce dragons.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 7:59 PM
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One thing I have always (unsuccessfully) tried to remember is that with any interview that's not live it really doesn't matter if you sit and think about your answer for an incredibly awkwardly long time. If you're not saying anything, they can't use it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:06 PM
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I used to interview people, but I was a shitty reported.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:08 PM
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141: Are you saying it can't? Why are you guys getting so much money, then?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:09 PM
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I used to interview people, but I was a shitty reported.

Heh.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:11 PM
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D'oh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:13 PM
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134: "Yes, and their version of Leonard Nimoy will have a goatee."


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:13 PM
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I used to love In Search Of.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:15 PM
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I considered it a documentary, just like Nova without being so boring.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:28 PM
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Speaking of the LHC...


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:47 PM
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I'm not sure if that really counts as journalism, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 8:47 PM
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131: And the odds that I'll respond to this request for an interview in my inbox contiue to fall...


Posted by: antipodestrian | Link to this comment | 05-29-13 11:46 PM
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131/152 I expect you've already read this (including comments) and this riposte. But if you haven't you might be entertained by them.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 4:32 AM
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The links in 153 are pretty astonishing. In 20+ years of talking to the press, I've talked to maybe ten reporters who had the time, luxury, and competence assumed by Ed Yong's article.

Either science journalism is a lot better-resourced than my world, or Yong is living in Competent Person's Fantasyland, in which he assumes that the average reporter is as competent as he is.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 5:33 AM
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Witt, you read that post in a way very different from the way I read it. Honestly, I thought the subtext (which Orzel basically identifies) is Yong asks the scientist to write the article for him, which he will then kindly edit for publication.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 6:11 AM
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155: How does the "don't summarize the paper for me" part fit with your reading?


Posted by: Benquo | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 6:20 AM
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155: the whole "just assume that I've read and understand the paper" thing seems like it could go awry pretty rapidly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 6:22 AM
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I assume he means something close to "Don't repeat the abstract."


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 6:30 AM
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Sweet deal. They need to synthesize that shit and wrap it up in Collateralized Debt Obligations!

Haha, you're so naive. Student loans have been one of the biggest asset classes in securitisation for well over a decade.

Or at least some obvious guidelines that are hard to remember in practice: formulate a set of talking points, stay on message, do not answer leading questions.

One of the bigger science-bloggers, I'm pretty sure it was either Phil Plait or Sean Carroll, wrote a "how to talk to journalists" guide for scientists a few years back. And Ben Goldacre has done several blog posts on the topic.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 7:12 AM
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Yeah, assuming reporters understand papers seems like a terrible idea. Bad enough to make me ignore everything else he says.

There's a huge debate among science reporters about running quotes by scientists for accuracy. It's a spot where reporter's ethical system and scientists ethical system are pretty incompatible. There's a great thread on this: http://blogs.plos.org/takeasdirected/2011/09/19/trine-tsouderos-on-this-week-in-virology-when-do-you-fact-check-article-content-with-sources/


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 7:19 AM
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128: Let me rephrase: I'm quite surprised by this news, because it was universally taken as given, including by the financial aid office in which I worked for a time back in the '90s, that student loans were not dischargeable -- to the extent that it didn't even occur to me to google to see if it was true.

Eventually I'll have something to say about this 'you're annoying, you never google anything' rubbish.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 9:40 AM
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155: Ha, now that you say it of course I can see that interpretation. But I think seeing "Assume I've read the full paper" as item #1 framed how I read the rest of Yong's original article. If I'm safe in making that assumption, then everything else falls under the umbrella of "I am a smart, hardworking, capable person and you and I are on the same side of trying to make sure that the reader gets the most accurate possible end product" -- instead of "Won't you please do all the hard work of my article for me?"

The discussion in 155 is also interesting. IME, reporters are almost never willing to run their drafts by you, but it's so so so great when they do.

I have fixed some errors that were just egregiously awful, and others that weren't that huge, but would have unnecessarily caused major hurt (eg an article that referred to Puerto Ricans as immigrants).

For me the fail-safe measure is: Would I be proud to have our entire paper trail published for the world to see? So far the answer is always yes. It probably helps that I don't make edits about questions of opinion -- just clarifying stuff that the reporter has either gotten empirically wrong or has drastically misinterpreted.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 9:42 AM
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Yong is writing about journalists with periodicals which, while popular, still believe they have some kind of reputation to defend, such as Nature, Scientific American, New Scientist (in descending order) or the major quality prints. He's not addressing the intern assigned to the "Science" beat on the Bloom Beacon. If he says he's read and understood a paper, he has: he too has a reputation to defend, he regularly wins awards and I would guess he'd like to keep doing that.

So, 162.1 gets it right. However, Yong doesn't do physics, so Orzel's points are a necessary corrective in that respect.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 10:00 AM
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I think a lot of journalism is built around the "All the president's men" fantasy. Yes some things are controversial, and yes you can sometimes get people to tell you the real truth on accident after you liquor them up, but in a lot of situations there's just not much controversy and you don't need to treat your sources like they're you're enemies.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 10:11 AM
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I've never done any real interview with a reporter other than to say "no I can't comment on that," but I have written press talking point type things for people who do, all of whom say that the key is to have a written list of the points you want to make, stick to those points, and go no further, ever. Also to try and get a sense of what they'll be asking about before they do the interview.

I am constantly stunned at how bad journalism is when it touches on something that I know about. Most remarkable to me is when there's coverage of something entirely public, like a trial or an important appellate argument, and still very basic points are gotten completely wrong. Not often pure and obvious errors of fact (though there are those) but severe errors in framing or analysis sufficient to make the story as a whole largely misleading. It's made me very skeptical of journalism in general, although of course its also indispensable.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 10:20 AM
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Somewhere on the internet, a Large Hadron Collider dragon is having sex with a dark matter pickup truck.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 10:22 AM
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166.--and I would like to see that.


Posted by: jackmormon | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 10:29 AM
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I am constantly stunned at how bad journalism is when it touches on something that I know about.

This. It might be funnier if it wasn't so depressing.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 11:05 AM
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A problem with journalism (or rather, with discussions of journalistic skill or ethics) is that there's domestic political journalism, and then there's everything else. Similar people are writing about both, sometimes the same people, sometimes even for the same publications, but there are two very different kinds of things going on.

About politics, reporters have opinions, because they're human. Reporters are almost the only people in Western democracies who aren't expected to be open about their opinions. Also, there's a feedback loop of politics to journalism and back, because news stories influence approval ratings, which influence who gets elected, which influences who's newsworthy. Neither of those are true of science journalism - most reporters don't actually have strong personal opinions about whether birds should be considered a subtype of dinosaurs or not, and what reporters write about dinosaurs doesn't influence how biologists classify them. The relation between journalism and the field it covers varies depending on the field, but I'd guess that most are fields - business reporting or local news, say - are more like science journalism than political journalism.

I'm pretty sure the rule against asking sources to review quotes comes from politics. It could be as simple as preventing arguments with a PR flack over every line in which the slant isn't quite as glowing as they want. There are times it makes sense in other fields as well, but probably isn't as important overall. But having a simple rule with no exceptions is easier to enforce, so...

I'm also inclined to blame the editorial process for most mistakes, or the profit motive of most journalism more generally, rather than stupidity or dishonesty by individual journalists. Most mistakes could be caught by more review, but who has the time for that? Verbatim transcripts of off-the-cuff interviews are the most reliable type of story there is, but few people would agree to give them and no one would ever read them. Also, different people have different ideas about where the line is between making a story punchy and just making shit up. A freelancer friend of mine had to talk to a lawyer a few months ago because an editor she had done a story for had given it a slant that seemed really, really racist.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 11:29 AM
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Apparently long, meandering, whiny comments kill threads.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 11:44 AM
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The relation between journalism and the field it covers varies depending on the field, but I'd guess that most are fields - business reporting or local news, say - are more like science journalism than political journalism.

Buck's a variety of business reporter, and I'd put it way over on the political journalism side. The feedback loop stuff definitely happens.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 11:49 AM
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Except it's feeding back into stock prices instead of votes.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 1:20 PM
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171: Right, a lot of that is basically do you like to take your FUD straight from the source? Or diluted with the illusion of objectivity?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 1:24 PM
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173: I mean, *not* Buck of course ...


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 1:33 PM
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It is funny listening to him talk about the companies he writes about in light of political complaining about the media: sort of like having breakfast every morning with a scaled-down model of the Village. All the same enmeshment issues.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 1:48 PM
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171: Yeah, on thinking about it a bit more, maybe political journalism is normal in this way and science is the odd field out. I'd lump local news in with science, but local news isn't exactly a field like the others, so much as a level. You can have local politics, local business, etc. And even in local news, a policy against sharing the article with the subject is sometimes a good idea.

Basically, there's journalism where you can expect to talk to politicians, leaders of large organizations, and their FR flacks, and then there's all the rest. For the first kind, a policy against giving the subject too much control is essential, even if it sucks for the occasional layman caught up in it. For the rest, eh, maybe the writer should have a little more discretion. (In the case of the story I linked, the subject was a businessman, but I should have been as vigilant about letting him see the article as if he were a Congressman, but there are unique reasons for that.)


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 05-30-13 1:54 PM
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