James Shott / January 20, 2015

More Free Stuff! Free Community College Tuition for Everyone!

Earlier this month President Barack Obama issued the latest in his series of bad ideas: free community college for all. “No one with drive and discipline should be denied a college education simply because they can’t pay for it,” Mr. Obama said. “A college degree is the surest ticket to the middle class.” While that assertion may or may not be true anymore, many people may be wondering what’s wrong with the free tuition idea.

First, we have to ask if he is really serious? Or, knowing that this idea has little chance of being approved, is he setting the stage for an issue in the 2016 campaign? But, assuming he is serious, here’s some of what is wrong with this idea.

If every state participated, the White House suggests that Mr. Obama’s proposal could help 9 million students and would save full-time enrollees an average of $3,800 a year. However, using the average cost, state and federal governments would have to pick up the tab of $34.2 billion each year. And, of course, these governments will get this money from … guess who: We, the taxpayers. Nothing is free.

Never having had to pay his own way, perhaps Mr. Obama is unaware that students with “drive and discipline” have in the past managed to pay their own way to a community college, a trade school, or to a four-year institution, through part-time or full-time jobs and/or work-study programs. That is a good process that over time has gotten millions of people through school and given them valuable work experience at the same time.

Giving things away is a slippery slope. An article in the Los Angeles Times has already suggested going farther. Michael Hiltzik writes, “But the proposal fails to address one glaring flaw in the nation’s overall system of public higher education: It should all be free.” Really? Why? Will this give-away mentality never end? And, furthermore, what exactly gives the president the authority to take care of kids’ college costs?

And, making significant things too easy deprives people of the ability to control their own lives. How will they ever be able to actually think about their life, develop goals, and work to achieve them? How will they become self-sufficient, and make their way in the world? The ease with which one obtains desired things is directly and inversely correlated with the appreciation one has for that which is obtained.

We can see this concept in action in federal support programs for children and unemployed adults, how dependency becomes a way of life.

Paying unwed mothers generous levels of support for themselves and their children has produced single-parent families where the mother is incentivized to have more children, not because she really wants more children, but because having more kids means getting a bigger support check.

People who have lost their job in the ultra-weak Obama recovery not infrequently turn down a new job because they can collect more in extended unemployment support than they can make at the new job. This is a significant influence in pushing the workforce participation rate to its lowest point in decades. “I can make more on unemployment than I can working one of the jobs that are available, so I’ll just drop out, and stop looking for work,” is how tens of thousands look at the situation.

This is not some unsupported theory. In March of 2013 The Huffington Post reported that the “number of days a job vacancy sits unfulfilled has gone up since the depths of the Great Recession in 2009. It currently takes an average of 23 business days for an employer to fill a job opening, compared to 15 days in 2009, according to an analysis of Labor Department data from economists at the University of Chicago and University of Maryland that was cited by The New York Times.”

In November of 2014, a study conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) reported that in the U.S. “33% of job vacancies remain open for three months or more. The cost of these unfilled jobs reaches $160 billion each year, a significant cost to the nation as a whole, businesses and individuals.”

Just as providing too much comfort through support for families and the unemployed has produced negative economic and social outcomes, so will giving away tuition to community colleges.

The truth is that Barack Obama and the others who share his poisonous ideals don’t want people to think for themselves or to be self-sufficient. Big government liberals want widespread dependency. They decry and oppose free market features and self-sufficiency at every turn, not because it is better for Americans or for the country at large, but because it suits their narrow, selfish ambitions.

Remember, back in late October of 2008, candidate Barack Obama told us he wanted to fundamentally transform the United States of America.

When those who think government is the answer to all problems, great and small, significantly outnumber those who prefer individual liberty and self-reliance, the country will have taken a step from which it will not be able to retreat. We are very near to that point.

James Shott is a columnist for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, and publishes his columns on several Websites, including his own, Observations.

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