Come on and take a free ride

If you are “poor” (making less than $40,000 a year) and smart, you can not only attend Harvard for free, but they will pay your room and board. This is true of most elite colleges. They are trying hard to recruit poor kids. Universities are also trying hard to recruit minorities. A smart and ambitious minority kid can write his/her own ticket. Careful where that ticket goes.

I am getting mighty sick of the characterization of the U.S. as an unjust society. Really nothing holds anybody back in the U.S. except limits in their own talent, ambition & willingness to work hard. Luck, good or bad, plays a role, but in the long run you really cannot keep a good person down in America and nobody wants to.

Getting a free ride at Harvard, including room and board, is enough of a helping hand for anybody. The only danger is that it might be too much too soon. Here I speak from experience. I was intelligent by nature but I was not by nurture, i.e. I did very well on standardized intelligence tests, but like many kids for poor backgrounds I lacked the habits of success. Had someone given me a free ride in Harvard, I think I would have failed. Instead, I went to a small state school that was more my speed. After a couple of years there, I was ready for graduate school and better things. I fear that elite schools try TOO hard to recruit and advance minority and poor kids. Their kindness may end up making them less successful. You need to internalize the values of success, not just have the natural intelligence.

If you are pushed too far too soon, you end up worse off than if you earned your way little by little. Things you get for free can be very expensive.

Posted by Christine & John at January 9, 2013 9:13 PM
Comment #360230

Democrats want to raise taxes. Fine. I’m ok with it. I’m at peace with raising taxes but what I don’t agree with is HOW and WHERE the money is being spent. The government lending support to those in need is a concept that is moral and right. That doesn’t mean however that they are morally obligated to give until it hurts…until it really really hurts. It’s not the governments job to make everyone’s socioeconomic status equal. (please re-read the previous sentence again) There are boundaries (or at least there should be) as to the size and scope of the government providing financial support to the “poor”…what our society defines as poor. It’s not the governments job to raise children and become the parent either. Some questions for everyone: what’s wrong with mandatory drug testing for those getting government assistance? Why should government assistance be free? Aren’t there social works programs and perhaps educational classes related to developing job skills that the unemployed must attend to get a government check? Wouldn’t these types of things create jobs because we would need people to help run these productive programs? These are ideas that never come to life. They aren’t quite democrat or republican. Just good ideas from a number of us that don’t have blind allegiance to a political party. Ideas that never see the light of day because they fall through the cracks. If government wants more money people need to have more say on HOW their money is spent and HOW MUCH gets spent on hand outs. That’s all I’m trying to drive home here.

Posted by: BZA at January 10, 2013 2:43 AM
Comment #360231


Those are all important questions. I think it is quite apparent that some individuals abuse governmental programs and we need to minimize that abuse. The quantity of such individuals isn’t well known, which I think is quite disturbing. Our welfare programs certainly need regular pruning from time to time to make sure they function optimally and now might be an appropriate time.

Some questions for everyone: what’s wrong with mandatory drug testing for those getting government assistance?
I believe certain states have tried this, but they have found the costs of administering such tests to exceed the costs of awarding welfare to individuals without regard to their drug use. Maybe we would be better off spending the extra money to ensure sobriety among recipients, but we must acknowledge that we are increasing the cost to the taxpayer.
Why should government assistance be free?
Many recipients are not able-bodied or they are not of working age.
Aren’t there social works programs and perhaps educational classes related to developing job skills that the unemployed must attend to get a government check?
This could be true. I think this deserves further study to determine what the costs would be to administer such programs. Posted by: Warren Porter at January 10, 2013 4:12 AM
Comment #360234

I don’t think you need to motivate people not to stay poor. If some person qualifies for Harvard, and Harvard wants them, I don’t think there is any point to complaining. The education will benefit the man or woman who is recruited, and that will be much better than leaving that particular set of dreams to rot on the vine.

If a person is not willing to take advantage of that kind of good fortune, then they only have themselves to blame, and it is their loss. We should not be pre-emptively withholding the gift as a way to prevent the mere potential they might not get it through their heads how luck they are are!

When we Democrats talk about opportunity, we’re not saying that the people giving them will always have the sense to take good advantage of the help. But we will reap the economic and social benefits of the children and communities that rise up with more hope and better prospects for the future.

I really don’t see the point in reinforcing the hopelessness of poverty. That’s an insidious poison that doesn’t need to be given in greater doses. That’s what leaves people sitting on their butts, simply taking the government money.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at January 10, 2013 7:33 AM
Comment #360240

I don’t know if I was even smart enough or driven enough in my college days to pass classes at Harvard had I been given a chance to go there, but I agree with Stephen in that giving the chance seems as important as the number of people who take the chance and succeed. I can’t imagine that washing out of Harvard is going to leave many people that much worse off than they were before they ever tried to go to Harvard. It’s not exactly going to keep them out of the promised land. I say keep giving people the shot.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 10, 2013 8:34 AM
Comment #360246

IMO and I agree with BZA, the hand outs we give need to have a catch to them such as work programs or school programs in order to recieve them. We have to many generational hand out recepients who do nothing to get their benefits. With adding provisions in order to recive those benefits may stop the generations of recipients. As far as Harvard goes IMO, a person may be scolasticly ready but not mentally ready for an Ivy League College, prep classes may be needed to prepare that individual for the task of an Ivy League College, in other words get the getto out of the person.

Posted by: KAP at January 10, 2013 10:38 AM
Comment #360247
Aren’t there social works programs and perhaps educational classes related to developing job skills that the unemployed must attend to get a government check?

As a requirement of the Federal unemployment extensions each unemployed person must attend a skills class that meets once a week for 3 hours or so. These classes help with job searches and resume preparation as well as interview skills.

In addition they must make at least 5 job contacts a week and document them to the Unemployment office, although some rural areas mandate 3 contacts a week. In addition if the person is laid off but subject to be called back to work (job attached) they must still look for jobs elsewhere.

… It’s not the governments job to make everyone’s socioeconomic status equal. (please re-read the previous sentence again) There are boundaries (or at least there should be) as to the size and scope of the government providing financial support to the “poor”…what our society defines as poor….

Welfare and unemployment doesn’t come close to making everyone’s status equal. It just keeps them from being homeless and desperate enough to break laws to feed the kids and such. There is no “should be” about it BZA the amount people receive doesn’t make them equal to all by any stretch.

But why are we blaming the unemployed for the lack of jobs? Why not blame the “job creators”, those that saved money under the pretense of creating jobs for others? We all agree it is the private sector who creates jobs yet it is the private sector that gets the free ride while we blame the unemployed, the disabled, the mentally slow, the disadvantaged, and the government. Hell we even pay them to ship job overseas, what kind of weirdness is that? The lack of logic here is appalling.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 10, 2013 12:14 PM
Comment #360248

C&J, first of all thanks for using a source like NPR , one that we all can trust to be unbiased.

Secondly if I understand your premise it seems to me you are saying “The US is not unjust because Harvard tries, but fails, to find enough academically talented low income kids”. But yet you fear for the safety of those kids and worry Harvard and others make be doing them a disservice by offering full ride scholarships. (With just 15 kids at Harvard perhaps it really isn’t a problem as a mentor at the school could help to smooth the transition you talk about) .

But as far as this making the US a “just”society, I am just not seeing it with this example. We as a society are fairly just as long as it is one of our own we are being just to IMHO. Our societal leaders on the other hand are not as just IMHO, unless you count throwing money at the problem as just.

The upper echelons of society have become much more greedy and cynical, while becoming less honest and trustworthy. We have become a spoiled, preoccupied with our own entitlements, and putting economic liberties ahead of all other liberties culture, a to hell with others attitude since the multicultural (instead of melting pot)era society began IMHO. We have remained tribal haven’t we?

Posted by: j2t2 at January 10, 2013 12:51 PM
Comment #360249

j2t2, thank you for the reply. I’m not saying that government programs accomplishes making everyone’s socioeconomic status equal. What I am getting at is A LOT of money is being given out to people nowadays and there are not enough checks and balances for the amount of money that’s being handed out. This isn’t a poor vs. rich discussion which is what your reply attempts to turn this into. This is a human condition discussion meaning WHERE THERE’S A WAY TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A PROGRAM THERE’S SOMEONE WITH THE WILL TO DO IT. Did you know there are couples that are married and if they just file for divorce and provide that divorce certificate they will suddenly get more government assistance? They remain in the same house but just by virtue of that divorce they get more money. You want to know how I know this? Someone in my extended family has done this exact thing. There are dozens of other examples of how to take advantage of government handouts and you better believe it’s being done all over the place. YOUR tax dollars are too valuable. You work. I work. There’s nothing wrong with you and I tapping the government on the shoulder and saying “hey, have you really looked at all of the ways to make these systems better? Making sure that the PROPER AMOUNTS of money are getting to those and only those that really need it?” There’s a lot of people in need but there’s a lot of money being handed out. The number is staggering. More can and should be done to limit people getting more than they really should.

Posted by: BZA at January 10, 2013 12:56 PM
Comment #360251

BZA I don’t disagree with your desire to but to try and stop every last attempt fraud at will be expensive. We have means and methods in place now that actually prevent fraud and many do get caught,lets not forget that. Specific means that improves the system is of course what we want. Drug testing has proven to be to costly to be effective. That doesn’t mean other ideas won’t work and should not be implemented however.

Lets also remember that when fraud is discovered it is dealt with by these agencies and certain programs such as educational programs will automatically disqualify those with drug charges.

Welfare programs distribute food stamps to people but cannot always ensure the food stamps are properly used that is more a fraud between retailers and customers who stand to gain from the misuse of these food stamps. The reason they get abused is in part due to what you cannot legally buy with food stamps. The point being that when we create laws to stop certain uses it creates a black market.

I guess my point is there exists many rules and regulations now. The issue may be do we want to spend the extra money for better enforcement of the existing laws.

Your point that by divorcing some can get more or better benefits seems to me to be a loophole that the devious can use to get more but the intentions of the rule may be good. Perhaps a review of the intent and better wording is needed to solve these types of issues.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 10, 2013 3:24 PM
Comment #360252
One in four children in America participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, in fiscal year 2011, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture and U.S. Census Bureau.

The USDA’s “Characteristics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2011” shows that in 2011, 19.9 million children, or people under 18, received food stamp benefits.

The Census estimates there were 73.9 million children living in the United States in 2011, meaning that 26.9 percent of children, or approximately one in four, were on food stamps in 2011.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 10, 2013 4:19 PM
Comment #360253

j2t2, good reply. I know that if these discussions continue there will be disagreements on some of the particulars however, this is the right discussion to be having. There has been so much talk about tax rates because of the recent election but first, and more importantly the focus needs to be on WHERE money is spent then we should talk about HOW MUCH is needed.

Automation…I have a good friend who makes his living off of connecting government contracts with private contractors. The vast majority of innovation comes from the private sector. We all know that and the government knows that which is why they lean so heavily on private firms for advancements. It’s a beautiful relationship. The private contractor builds a solution that the government is looking for and in return the contractor makes a lot of money. Who the government contracts for what is an entirely different topic that should be had but the private sector can certainly help us address this problem with government assistance programs. My tax person recently told me that because the IRS is burdened under the weight of their own tax code (this needs to simplified by the way) multiplied by the number of tax payers they were/are in desperate need of automation. So, they recently had a computer system put in place that does the work of tens of thousands of more workers that the government clearly can’t afford. He told me that he is already beginning to see a difference not only in response times but how thorough files are being looked at. They are still in the process of implementing this across the board but these are the types of things that make the impossible possible. The right solutions begin by asking the right questions. If private industry can help automate some of these things (which they can do), then money frivolously thrown away because of fraudsters can be diverted to things like education. Our education system as it stands today is perpetuating more poor people which means more mouths to feed because fewer will be creating opportunities of their own in the future. It’s a vicious cycle and until we have the right discussions these things will never be addressed and we will sink as a country regardless of the tax rate.

Posted by: BZA at January 10, 2013 4:27 PM
Comment #360258


I don’t think you understood the post. You seem to agree with what I said, but are trying to pick a fight. Indeed, we SHOULD offer help. My point is that we do and, as you say, if people won’t take advantage it is their fault, not ours.

But I add the caveat, from my own experience and observation, that we need to be careful. Some people are smart by nature, but they need the culture of success in order to succeed. We have to help the person build that culture, if he/she doesn’t have it already. Otherwise you end up with the tragedy of missed potential and/or lots of people majoring in gender and African American studies.


Please see above re the caveat. Some people are not ready to take their shot when they are 18. There is a cluster or behaviors associated with success and some with failure. Some really smart people can fail if they take the wrong path.


Please see above.

America is mostly a just society. No perfect society has ever existed or will ever exist on this earth. Attempts to create heavens on earth have resulted in creating hells on earth.

Re mentors - this is a great thing, but it doesn’t really help to decree it.

Again, speaking from experience, I was smart, i.e. had great test scores, but w/o the habits of success. I learned those things in the next couple years. I would have had real trouble at the Ivy League when I was 18. I just was not good enough at that time. But after learning how to be successful I have been able to speak at seminars at Harvard and others.

If you are a natural athlete but in poor condition, does it make sense to get out in the most competitive race right away, or are you better served working up to it?

Liberals have the mistaken idea that what holds people back in the U.S. is discrimination. More thoughtful people understand that behavior and attitudes are more likely the reason.

Posted by: C&J at January 10, 2013 6:47 PM
Comment #360261

“Liberals have the mistaken idea that what holds people back in the U.S. is discrimination. More thoughtful people understand that behavior and attitudes are more likely the reason.”


And, the most thoughtful people realize that both assertions are true and there is an interrelationship between the two.

Posted by: Rich at January 10, 2013 10:21 PM
Comment #360265
America is mostly a just society. No perfect society has ever existed or will ever exist on this earth. Attempts to create heavens on earth have resulted in creating hells on earth.

I would say America is more a just us society C&J. No one is really asking for perfect IMHO but when we strap a huge debt on the next generation just to get an education something is wrong. Especially when we spend more on our military than the next 14 or so countries combined and to top it off we spend more on prisons than we do higher education.

Russia and China both have less people in prison than we do C&J. Yep the evil one, the guy that won’t let us adopt his babies, has less people in prison than we do.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 11, 2013 12:47 AM
Comment #360267


Good point.

I think that racism is indeed a major reason why blacks perform more poorly than whites and Asians in academics. But I think it is the legacy of racism past that has become ingrained in habits, beliefs and behaviors.

I further think that many of our affirmative action programs have essentially enshrined this legacy.

If you acquire a bad habit through no fault of your own, maybe you parents taught you or it was response to an illness, it is still only you who can change. We need to recognize the need for the “victims” to change.

Re the greater society, we do indeed reinforce stereotypes because they are often true. But we cannot address them, in part, because it is too UN-PC to talk about them. If you choose 100 Asians and 100 blacks at random, there is virtually not chance that the black academic average will be higher or that the Asians will be able to field a better basketball team. If someone said this on TV, it would be career threatening.

But how can you address a problem if you refuse to define it properly?


The cost of college has risen much higher than the general inflation rate for a generation. Much of that is due to extras being padded on and colleges having the ability to raise prices. They can do this because of government subsidies and because they control credentialing.

But this monopoly is crumbing fast, as alternative means of education are becoming available. I have been studying MOOCs and distance education. I think this is both a threat and opportunity. The threat is to university education as it has been. I fear we could lose many of the great things about this. On the other hand, the opportunity is better education at much lower prices. These changes will also help break the liberal hold on higher education administration.

Another problem, however, is choice of majors and quality of students. Not everyone can really benefit from college. We have shortages in skilled trades. Maybe we need to make those avenues better. Majors are a problem. We have created lots of majors that are worse then useless. Think of those graduates in gender or African American studies. Unless they can get some sinecure in the grievance industry or in academia itself, they are prepared for nothing but complaining.

Re Russia and China - don’t make arguments with your rhetoric that you know are false. I have been to Russia and many people I know well have lived in China. If you want to live the life of an ordinary Russian or an ordinary Chinese, you could do so in America at poverty level wages. People tell the truth in what they do, not what they say. If you want to live at the Russian or the Chinese standard, do it.

Posted by: C&J at January 11, 2013 6:13 AM
Comment #360270

C&J you must be confused judging by this response. No one is saying anything about living in China or Russia. Yet you move the discussion in that direction. The real issue is are we a just society or not. What next a lack of patriotism reference for suggesting we could do better?

Posted by: j2t2 at January 11, 2013 9:03 AM
Comment #360272

C&J: “Some people are not ready to take their shot when they are 18. There is a cluster or behaviors associated with success and some with failure. Some really smart people can fail if they take the wrong path.”

I don’t understand the argument though because the same is true of those who can afford to go to Harvard. So why doesn’t it matter?

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 11, 2013 10:03 AM
Comment #360279


You mentioned Russia and China and implied a favorable comparison to the U.S. If I misunderstood you and your link about comment and link were merely random errors, I apologize. If you meant that as part of an argument, I merely point out that people say a lot of things but their actions are not always confirming their words.

If you don’t want to consider China or Russia and brought it up for reasons you cannot understand, I will be happy to drop it.

Re patriotism - anybody can do better. As I said, there is no perfection on this earth and we should not seek it. We improve by accurately recognizing situations and there is a danger of losing real benefits in search of an elusive perfection. Giving smart poor kids free education at the world’s best universities is a sign of justice, IMO. You may disagree that it is not enough.


I am cautioning against pushing people too fast. It is true that people who get into Harvard through the usual merit routes may also be unprepared. They may also fail. But there are two mitigating factors. First is that they will have other resources to fall back, in most cases. In addition in most cases they will already have more of the cluster of success behaviors that they learned in their families and neighborhoods.

Places like Harvard are trying hard to recruit more poor and minorities. The harder you push into a process, the more you have to take lower quality. It works in almost any process you can think of, natural or human. In this case, however, you are playing with human dreams and aspirations and the system is dynamic. A kids that might thrive at a good university and later be in a position to take an Ivy League PhD, might flounder if pushed into the deep water right away.

I worry that we are harming the people we are ostensibly trying to help.

Posted by: C&J at January 11, 2013 12:51 PM
Comment #360280


Let me add another un-PC truth. The sons and daughters of the middle and upper middle class are better prepared than the poor to succeed in almost all things in life but especially in universities. Their advantage diminishes over time as the poor kids learn better habits in school. But the difference is strongest among freshmen.

Again, we need to distinguish between natural intelligence and nurture intelligence We can argue about the percentages, but the most successful people have both.

I have seen this in myself and others. I mention above how I was smart by nature but needed to make up for my background, but let me give another example. Yesterday a met a group of young scholars from abysmally poor backgrounds. We had almost 17000 applicants for 37 spots, so it really is a great group. They have achieved well beyond the bounds of their immediate environment. But you can also feel the inexperience lurking along with the brilliance and enthusiasm. These kids will succeed because they are that smart and driven. I bet we could take the top 500 and expect success. But as we got farther down the distribution, it would be harder. And if we started digging deeper to subjects that were smart but not driven, success would be even more elusive. And if we had to go looking for them instead of them finding us, it would be more likely.

Posted by: C&J at January 11, 2013 1:06 PM
Comment #360287

The real issue is are we a just society or not.
Posted by: j2t2 at January 11, 2013 9:03 AM

Without writing a book, can you tell us what you believe constitutes a “just” society?

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 11, 2013 4:37 PM
Comment #360288


To liberals just=equal.

Posted by: C&J at January 11, 2013 5:02 PM
Comment #360292

Our founders established an “equal” society which they believe was also as “just” as they could manage at the time. The issue of slavery could not be solved by them and still establish a Democratic Republic all the colonies would agree to. We have added or amended their thinking very few times.

Now we have politicians tirelessly working to circumvent our founding documents. As a nation we are constructing chaos from order.

Posted by: Royal Flush at January 11, 2013 5:54 PM
Comment #360297


I was writing what I see liberals think.
I think equality under law is just but equality in most other aspects of life is unjust.

Posted by: C&J at January 11, 2013 6:17 PM
Comment #360299


What do you think of John Rawls’ ideas regarding equality & justice?

Posted by: Warren Porter at January 11, 2013 6:25 PM
Comment #360305


Not much. It is a fine idea, but it doesn’t take into account free choice.

On the one hand, I do employ something similar to his veil ignorance in that I think that fairness can be determined by turn around. That is what I frequently do to people like Stephen, when we quote his attacks but change the names. But I don’t see that parties should be equal or that equality should even be a goal.

Greatness stems from inequality. We also need to account for differences in preference and in morality. Some things are morally preferable to others.

We cannot even begin to figure out that. Consider simple motivation. Many of us engage in agonizing sports. We do it for fun. If somebody wanted us to suffer like this for pay, we would consider it inhumane working conditions and if someone did it to us w/o our consent, we would call it torture. What makes it different is how we view it.

I like to do things that many other people call work. My work consists of things like analyzing data, giving speeches, writing and attending parties. Of the four, attending parties is my least favorite. I would not do it if not compelled. Is it “just” to pay me the big bucks for doing things I like? But most people don’t like to do the things I do or have not developed the skill sets to do them well. Even party attending is a specialized skill if you do it for work.

I guess I dislike the whole idea of equality and Rawls, IMO, leads to a leveling and equalizing if you followed it. He stipulates essentially that talents and positions are random. Here he is wrong.

Posted by: C&J at January 11, 2013 7:20 PM
Comment #360306

C&J I did mention Russia and China in relation to the prison population of the two countries and the United States. It was a comparison of the prison population of the three countries. Extrapolating it into anything more is an illogical reach. Apology accepted.

Once again, C&J no one is talking perfection here, or at least I’m not. It does seems we can agree on the Harvard’s free ride scholarships being a sign of justice but that alone doesn’t make a just society. I pointed out how our prison population is higher than most other countries by far. I have also pointed out how we as a nation have left many of the next generation staggering under a debt just to get a college education. Other countries are able to help the young get started in life so I don’t think these examples are the “perfect” you say we can’t achieve.

Posted by: j2t2 at January 11, 2013 7:26 PM
Comment #360308


Were we talking about prison populations?

I was thinking of writing a post about the war on drugs. We lost the war on poverty and it ended up adding to our prison populations, but the war on drugs is even worse and I think we lost that one too.

Re debt - indeed we should cut the budget and get it under control. We should also means test SS and raise retirement ages so as not to saddle our future generations with that debt. But if you want comparisons, most of our developed country partners are in worse debt shape than we are and are spending more of their current income.

Posted by: C&J at January 11, 2013 7:35 PM
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