Bragging set aside, the fact was that I graduated in the top 5 of my class.
Not top 5 percent.
Top 5 people. I was number 5.
And the reason I knew I was #5 was because it was the Carlson School and it was reasonably competitive. You could ID the people who kept posting good grades, knew their stuff in class and ergo were your "competition." Not that you didn't like them, you just knew who they were.
But there was one thing that I would like to (once again, setting bragging aside and merely pointing out the facts) point out that separated me from the rest and that was out of the 5 I was the only one to;
1. Pay for all of my college AND living expenses in its entirety with no debt
2. Work full time while going to school full time
3. Graduate 6 months early
The rest of them either had college at minimum heavily subsidized and not a one of the remaining 4 finished in anything less than 5 years and I doubt any of them worked beyond a token 15 hours a week.
Regardless, in my young 21 years of youth I thought, foolishly, that with this background I would be reasonably attractive to potential employers. That upon graduation, the least of my worries would be finding a job.
Ah, but there was one minor little factor I forgot to consider;
Nepotism and cronyism.
For up until that point I thought the Ambercrombie and Fitch wearing students who would say,
"It's not what you know, it's who you know"
were merely jocks who couldn't go pro and now were relegated to majoring in marketing or sales. Guys (and gals) who didn't have the ability to do calculus or math and therefore thought they'd get by in corporate America by kissing ass and brown-nosing. Foolish peers who were guaranteed to be in for a rude awakening when they got to the "real world" where obviously corporations would be able to weed them out, because SURELY corporate America appreciates production and efficiency and smarts over brown-nosing.
Sadly, they knew more than I ever did about business, no matter what my rank. For they were right, it's not what you know. It is who you know. All I knew was how to predict stock market bubbles and housing bubbles and Asian currency crises. All nothing compared to a good gopher and ass-kisser whose dad golfs with the VP of finance.
And so for the next year I watched my career go down in utter flames as I saw people with C averages landing $50,000 a year jobs at their "dad's firm" or suburban Sue getting a coveted analyst position at her "grandpa's firm." Even to this day when I teach class, I see college students all of 19 years old, pull up in a brand new Honda and have absolutely no worries about finding a job later in life because one is lined up for them. And if not, no worries, you can always go back and live with mommy and daddy back in the burbs.
The reason this is so angering is not that I personally didn't get the coveted analyst position at the local investment bank when I was 23, but that it is not a meritocracy. That the best people do not get the job. That the highest qualified do not get the promotion. It is the connected or the charlatans that do. And you can study your ass off and pioneer new lines of thought or come up with radical and crazy ways of doing things that could make a company millions, but if you're not somebody's nephew or somebody's niece, well, "Thank you for your interest in XYZ Corporation. Though you background is impressive we have decided to go with another candidate who's willing to suck our...ahem."
My whole point, is that while I am the most ardent capitalist and for everybody making billions in dough, the opportunity cost we suffer by letting the less-qualified candidates get positions of power or productivity costs us all. Imagine, for once, if all senators and congressmen who had college paid for, sudden disappeared and were replaced with people who did. Imagine if the ass-kissing CEO's of all the financial firms who more or less wiped out 25% of the equity in your homes were replaced instead with farmer Joe. The amount of pain we could have avoided (not to mention the sheer level of production we would have enjoyed) is unfathomable.
That being, though I am for lower taxes, when I see charts like this;
I start to wonder how much of that was truly earned by people who busted their asses off and created something new and something of worth, or were merely the Bush, Heinz-Kerry's, Pelosi's, Obama's, and Gore's of the world who never worked a day in their lives, never got their fingernails dirty and never shoveled sh!t for a living (which coincidentally was my first job - poo-shoveler). And then I start to opine about a "nepotism" tax where we tax people who get jobs over more-qualified people because of who their mommy is or something.