Michigan Legislator & President Obama: Kindred Spirits in Community "Service"

Posted: Sep 01, 2009 8:03 PM
As Michigan's unemployment rate tops 15% --the highest in the nation--one state lawmaker and candidate for the state's 2010 gubernatorial race, Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D), is pushing for legislation that would make college FREE for all (public high school) students in Michigan.  Smith proposes to pay for the free higher ed entitlement by raising the state's income taxes--high enough to cover tuition for all public college students AND free preschool for all the state's 4-year-olds. 

"This is a great opportunity for Michigan to regain our position as leaders among the nation's fifty states," Smith said.  Smith's proposal states that students could only qualify for the free education after spending some time "volunteering" in the community.

First of all, I would just like to point out that Ms. Wheeler must ride on the back of a unicorn to work every morning and prance around with leprechauns at night.  She admits that her legislation will be a "tough sell" given the state's economy.  A tough sell?  I cannot imagine anyone in their right mind who would propose to raise taxes in an economy suffering as badly as Michigan's!  I don't even think President Obama would be that inept.

Secondly, I just have to ask the obvious question here--and this applies to both Smith's proposal for Michigan and Obama's call to service for students across the country: When did we have to start promising young people cash and prizes for "volunteer" service?  And doesn't this line of thinking undermine the idea of "volunteer work" and "serving one's community" in the first place? 

I worked for years in unpaid internships and simultaneously worked part-time while going to college just so I could get a job after college.  Now we want to offer people free college for community "service"?  First our schools are getting rid of grading systems and titles like "valedictorian" because they foster "competition" that puts "undue stress" on students, and now we're paying kids to serve their own communities? 

Things sure have changed since I was a kid.

Does anyone--including Smith and Obama--really think the way to instill community pride in people is to either pay them or punish them?   And if you do pay them, how do you expect them to keep working and taking pride in their communities once they're off the payroll?  Why don't we all do community service and then all of us can have things for free?  Oh, wait... that's communism.  So where do you want to draw the line?