Opinion | Morgan Liddick: The president promises, we pay up
At least he telegraphed the punch. President Obama has tipped his hand about one of the major budget themes he’ll visit in his State of the Union message: more free stuff for his favorites, paid for by the rest of us poor insignificant, invisible drudges.
At issue is the president’s proposal that “community college ought to be free.” Which everyone reading this column should recognize as false advertising at the very least. What he really means is “community college for everyone ought to be financed by the half of Americans paying income taxes,” yet another transfer of wealth from the despised productive classes to the legions of wide-eyed, credulous Obamaniacs in the Academy. It won’t work as the Spendthrift-in-Chief suggests and well may do harm, for a number of reasons.
First, like the pig in the joke about a bacon-and-egg breakfast, the student who pays his or her own way is committed. Spending one’s own money for higher education encourages careful consideration of many variables and discourages dilettantism. It also underlines the need for focus and hard work: If each semester-hour comes from one’s own purse, there’s a tendency to wring every last benefit from one’s money.
On the other hand, if the education is “free” — meaning someone else is footing the bill — there’s no need to be speedy or efficient. One may dawdle. Provisions in the president’s proposal allowing funding for half-time students encourage this tendency, the vague verbiage about “hard work” notwithstanding. And what about those who have already paid in full, for whom the president’s proposal is a slap in the face? How long will it be until he bows to the inevitable pressure of the question, “Why should I have to pay my bills?” The $247 billion the federal government spends annually on education will certainly skyrocket. Taxpayers will be stuck with the tab.
There will also be federal intervention in what were formerly questions reserved for the states and private institutions: When the flow of federal money starts, do not doubt that federal supervision, regulation and control are close behind. Quotas will be established, rules for “fairness” in educational programs will be enforced by local Star Chambers and finally, control will be exercised indirectly over what is taught, and more importantly, how. Another step forward in the federalization and centralization of the nation’s educational system — which functioned very well for the better part of a century as a decentralized, locally-focused and controlled network of teacher-and-student centered institutions — will be complete.
Those who think this is far-fetched haven’t been paying attention to other federal efforts to seize control of education. Title IX, for example: Originally intended to provide “fairness” for women’s university athletic programs, it has been stretched out of all recognition to provide punishment for those accused of sexual assault and making transsexual students feel uncomfortable. Or “No Child Left Behind,” that poisonous legacy of the second president Bush — and its crazy aunt, “Common Core,” which mandates teaching American guilt, not exceptionalism; introducing us to Benjamin Banneker, not Franklin, and making certain we know George Washington Carver, but not the president for whom he was named.
All this is part of the continuing pressure to convert citizens into petitioners, a practice which will eventually end the Republic. When this country was created, it reflected the Founders’ vision of a republic of largely self-sufficient, independent citizens who relied on their own resources to accomplish great things. So it remained, growing and prospering for more than half its existence. Then the idea arose that individuals were incompetent to solve their own problems, even with the help of family or friends. Only the government was wise enough, or powerful enough, to address the complicated woes of the modern world; individuals had to kowtow to the power of the state to survive.
From this thought flowed all measure of actions, the sum of which bring us to where we are today — with a president promising boons and a citizenry forgetful of the fact that, if others are forced to pay for benefits given to you, those benefits are not in any sense “free,” despite what the White House says. The promise of new programs that may, perhaps, improve productivity is seductive, but the question, “Who pays, and why?” is always a vital one.
So let us not be distracted, nor confused. With this proposal, as with many others, the important question is, “who benefits, and how?” The president has essentially proposed using taxpayer money to pay for students in the first two years of higher education — benefitting several of his most important constituencies at the expense of those successful enough to pay income taxes.
We should be deeply suspicious.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.
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