Have you ever heard of sofa men? In the oil-rich countries of the Persian Gulf most men work for the government. They sit around dozing and watching TV, sometimes carrying papers to and from one office to another. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait (where 84% of the workforce works for the government). These are the people who remained on their sofas and in their Rolls Royces while our servicemen and hardware freed them from an Iraqi invasion in 1990.
Nearly all manual labor is performed by foreigners in the Gulf States because the pool of oil below has made work unnecessary for natives. But now low oil prices are starting to impact the financial landscape. Governments are offering incentives to the sofa men to start businesses and get jobs in the private sector.
This really hit home when I read about the Million Student March. A Washington Post article, dated November 12 stated, “Students at 110 college campuses across the country planned to walk out of class Thursday to march for an affordable education.”
My first reaction was, “ keep walking.” But being kind and compassionate, and always trying to see the other side of issues, I forced myself.
As a farmer, I take my crop insurance, which is really a welfare check. I have a sales tax exemption for farm supplies. And we sent our kids to public school (admittedly with a promise to be enthusiastically involved regarding the opinions of the university trained teachers).
I’m on the dole just like everyone else. When the dole is part of the balance sheet for everyone, we take it to remain at work; even though in the big scheme of things it distorts the market, creating untold waste.
When we read newspaper stories online, oftentimes a comments section follows. Comments on students complaining about debt they agreed to take on, low wages in jobs they applied for, or even any cost at all for an expensive service they agreed to buy, inspired some pretty belligerent comments.
I’m sure the students work hard at their studies, but only precedent justifies that anyone but themselves or willing parents pay for their education. That precedent starts with kindergarten (or now preschool and even WIC). The fact that one penny was taken for someone else’s benefit without the donor’s explicit consent became reason to take another. Now the whole cost of college is to be borne by someone with no skin in the game?
Educators believe in their mission so they hold up education as the ultimate path to prosperity. Does this mean that free college for everyone will eliminate poverty? Who is going to fix your car, mow your lawn or serve you a taco? The $15 minimum wage they also advocate will make the taco unaffordable to them unless there is also a taco subsidy.
The wealth in the Persian Gulf and the wealth financing free college were both discovered in the early 20th century. The Federal Reserve and income tax do the same thing as oil except our pool of wealth drains our own citizenry instead of an ancient puddle of goo. The pool of oil these students wish to tap is the remnants of an economy where things were made to satisfy demand and sold only to those who could afford them. Wasted resources were mistakes, not policy.
I pity those students in the Million Student March who march for a free education and sofa men who lack the satisfaction of earning a return for a service that is anxiously sought after by a willing buyer. Students who earn their way to their own education will be rewarded with a learning experience more valuable than the sum of its parts.
Grovelling for a living will not promote self esteem. It is not their fault. The incremental nature of the source of their complaint makes it impossible to remedy.