Thursday, February 25, 2016

Conservatives keep whining about free education—“free stuff”

By SJ Otto
Conservatives like to say that leftists whine a lot. To hear them talk (or write) we are a bunch of whiny crybabies.  But they do just as much whining as we do. A typical example is the complaint, by many conservatives, that they had to work hard for everything they have and no one gave them anything. Then they whine that no one else should get anything for free. One such a crybaby is Rob May, writing for Fortune/ reposted in Yahoo News. According to him, he had to work hard and make many sacrifices for his successful career and he will feel cheated if future students get free college tuition from the government. We hear such augments all the time. They say we should all pull ourselves up by the boot strap. If we work hard enough we will get all the things we want or need. He made these remarks as he explained why he opposes Candidate Bernie Sanders proposal for free tuition for college students in the US.
May wrote of the many sacrifices he made for himself while people around him spent all their time wining, dining and traveling:

“She asked if I thought the government should pay off student's debts. I don't think the government should, but, then again I never had student loans. No, it wasn't because I was from a wealthy family. I never had student loans because I worked every semester I was in college, and during some summers, I worked two jobs. I did this because I thought the world was rigged against me.
I missed out on a lot, because I worked so much. I didn't have the life like many of the college students I've hired in the last few years. They study what they love -- philosophy, political science, art, regardless of whether or not they have good job prospects. They travel. Mostly they seem to go to Vietnam and Cambodia. They eat out a lot more than I did at their age. They know all the trendy restaurants and hot bars.”

So everyone else goes to all the best bars and restaurants get to travel to fun countries and study philosophy. I guess he didn’t know anyone who was struggling on a minimum wage job, who couldn’t afford to eat out all the time—people who can’t afford to travel at all. And he didn’t know anyone whose family was on government assistance, just scraping by, and had no way to assist with his/her college funding. In the world view of conservatives no one struggles with problems of poverty. To them other people are just lazy. The poor, they say, are lazy and that is why they are poor.
Actually there are plenty of people who end up working at a minimum wage job. I have had plenty of those in the past. I can attest that the work is not easy just because the pay is low. Some of the hardest jobs I have ever had paid minimum wage or very close to it. There are a lot of people living from one paycheck to the next. They have no backup plan if an emergency strikes. If their car breaks down, they may end up missing work and they may have to spend every dime they have to fix their car. These people are called the working poor. They are not lazy, I can attest to that. They do not travel to exotic places or eat out at trendy restaurants every day. There are a lot of reasons that a person may end up poor. They are not always because the person is lazy or spends all of his or her money on frivolous luxuries.
Then there is that “anyone can make it here in America” cliché. From May we get:

“Yes, the economy is rigged. Any economic structure will favor some at the expense of others. But the wonderful thing about America is that if you are willing to make the right sacrifices, you can achieve whatever you want. Unfortunately, we've come to believe that achievement should be easy. Changing that attitude is the first step towards making yourself more successful.”

But the reality is that not everyone who works hard gets ahead. Some people chose careers that don’t pan out. I spent 10 years working and going to school part-time for a journalism degree. I finally earned my degree in 1984. Journalism jobs are becoming obsolete since the founding of the internet. How was I supposed to know that would happen when I started taking classes in the 1970s? I did nothing wrong. I just made a decision that left me with a useless degree. Surely I’m not the only one that this has happened to.
Some people are not physically fit enough to work the hard jobs needed to succeed. Some people are not smart enough to find the various tricks most people need to get ahead. Some people have bad luck.
So the idea that anyone can make it in America if they just work hard is a myth. It simply is not true of everyone. Conservatives such as May love to spout that myth over and over again.   
And as to the issue of philosophy—most conservatives have don’t valued that. May is a businessman and if he is like most conservative businessmen, he probably won’t hire anyone who spent time trying to understand the society around them, by going to school and studying philosophy. Conservatives like technical skills and they don’t like unproductive thinking people. They think only in terms of the profit motive. Philosophy to them is simply a waste of time. I have learned here in Wichita not to tell a prospective employer that I studied philosophy for much of my college years because that is a sure way not to get hired. A healthy society needs people who think outside the need for profit margins. Not all things valuable can be measured through dollars and cents. But conservatives just don’t believe that. To them everything must make a profit or it has no value.   
We can say the same about art and other professions that conservatives often feel are for unproductive lazy people, such as artists. If the world had only conservative people, we would be a society without the arts.
One thing May does not have a problem with is being modest—he isn’t. He loves to give us the details of all the hard work he did and he argues that he deserves to have so much more than the rest of us:

“Despite the strain that entrepreneurship put on my finances, my health, and my personal relationships, I kept at it because I wanted to be successful. And eventually, yes, I became a millionaire. It only took 15 years.
Along the way, I learned a lot. I created over 100 jobs. And in the end I helped build something useful for thousands of companies around the world. But when I hear Bernie speak, I feel like I'm the problem with America. I'm one of those millionaires he mentions who should pay more taxes. I'm the bad guy. I'm the white male who is only successful because everything was handed to me. I don't deserve the money I made. All the things I sacrificed don't matter. The additional stress I was under doesn't matter. The risks I took don't matter. According to Bernie, the world needs fewer people like me, and more people like the smart Yale student who majors in something useless, travels the world, and then graduates with $100,000 in debt that people like me should pay off via higher taxes.”

No one will really take away May’s money. Even if taxes are raised on the wealthy he will still be living well beyond the means of all the chumps who are stuck working at the minimum wage. After all May is a millionaire. Me makes more money that the overwhelming majority of Americans in this country.
Like most conservatives May has what he needs and wants and he is not interested in helping anyone else make it to the top—or even the middle. Conservatives like a society where they have figured out how to make it work for them, while the rest of their countrymen loose out.
It comes down to this attitude;
“I got what I want, so screw you!”

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