• Tag Archives Socialism
  • I Immigrated to the US to Pursue the American Dream, Not to Pay for Your College Degree

    Candidates were back at it last week, competing to see who could present the best student loan forgiveness plan. Sure, that might appeal to some of the party’s base and America’s cash-strapped millennials. But for roughly 46 million immigrants like me, the idea that the government should forgive student loans is totally unfair. After all, when we came here, our idea of the American Dream was to work hard for a brighter future—not for the government to pick our pockets.

    I understand the motivation behind these proposals; alleviating student debt sounds ideal. I came from Russia to attend grad school in the US, so I know just how expensive tuition can be. But when I got my degree from Stony Brook University in New York, I did so without taking out a single loan. And it wasn’t because I was Hawkings-brilliant or Gates-wealthy. I planned meticulously, made sacrifices, and worked hard. This, I believed, was the way Americans did things and got what they wanted.

    Affording US tuition wasn’t easy for my lower-middle-class family, even at America’s cheapest schools. So, to earn the scholarships I had to have, I went above and beyond. While others partied, I spent my weekends studying and engaging in extracurricular activities that would boost my resume. When I didn’t understand a subject, my parents hired tutors with the little savings they had. While most of my classmates enjoyed their summers off, I was working at a department store six days a week from seven in the morning to 11 at night, building up savings for graduate school.

    As a result, I was offered a tuition waiver and a graduate assistantship, which included a stipend and health care benefits. I had to work as a teaching assistant and later a research assistant for next to minimum wage. Even with this financial package, there were times when I couldn’t even afford so much as a cup of coffee with my classmates, which made it more difficult to socialize and fit in.

    I knew that immigration wouldn’t be easy, so like many of my fellow immigrants, I chose a major that maximized my chances for an employer-sponsored visa and a decent income. I struggled against the natural pull of humanities and performing arts—creative professions that would have been a great fit for my personality and interests. But I literally could not afford the risk of being unemployed. Instead, I pursued a path that would still be professionally satisfying for me while also paying the bills. After all my classes, internships, and networking, I graduated with an MA in economics and political science. And, as a result, I found a well-paying job with benefits.

    I’m not alone. There are millions of highly-educated, foreign-born individuals in the US workforce with stories like mine. We took an entrepreneurial approach to our lives, seeking to better ourselves and live the American dream. That’s why it’s disappointing to see some Democratic presidential candidates push programs that would heavily tax people who have worked and saved for their future.

    To give you a sense of the fiscal impact of some of the proposals, let’s take a look at their estimated cost. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan of canceling up to $50,000 in student debt would cost an estimated $640 billion. Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing wiping out all of the existing student debt—a sum of about $1.6 trillion. To be fair, not everyone jumped on the wagon. Some of the candidates proposed smaller-scale solutions to the issue. And yet, although the specifics of how all the presidential candidates would raise the funds to cover their proposals differ, rest assured, in one way or another it will come out of taxpayers’ pockets.

    To boot, college loan forgiveness proposals don’t even address the root issue of the problems they claim to fix.

    Without a basic understanding of debt and future earning potential, there will always be a risk of overspending while young and becoming indebted for life. And low levels of financial literacy are still one of the primary reasons that millions of Americans are taking out student loans they then struggle to pay back. But basic financial knowledge could teach people to plan for their educations, mortgages, and retirement savings and give them the personal finance management skills they need. Some independently operated schools are already teaching financial literacy in places where parents don’t even have bank accounts.

    But proposing student loan forgiveness programs is just misguided. After all, a free lunch still isn’t free, and all Americans, foreign-born and natives alike, will end up paying the bills for these costly proposals. And for immigrants like me, that doesn’t quite look like the American Dream we thought we’d signed up for.

    Jen Sidorova

    Jen Sidorova

    Jen Sidorova is a Young Voices contributor and a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation. You can find her on Twitter @Jen_Sidorova.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

  • Helping the Needy: What’s the Christian Thing to Do?

    Readers of these pages know of my keen interest—as an economist, as a historian, and as a Christian—in what Jesus and the New Testament have to say about things like helping the poor. My essay, “Was Jesus a Socialist?” partially dealt with this issue, as did my more recent Prager University video (see below) of the same title.

    Here I would like to explore the matter a little further and share with readers my favorite relevant New Testament passages. [Note to my non-Christian friends: No need to blow a gasket here. I’m not preaching, pontificating, or proselytizing— merely presenting facts as I see them.]

    Imagine a person who, acting entirely on his own initiative and exclusively from a desire to help the needy, decides to take from the rich and give every penny to the poor. Would that find approval from Jesus, his apostles, or anyone of authority in the early Church? If you’ve read the New Testament with even the least depth and discernment, you know the answer can’t possibly be yes.

    Well, may I ask, why not? Keep in mind that this imagined Robin Hood is redistributing without a middleman—no bureaucracy, no paperwork, no vote-buying, no deficits or debt, no cynical demagoguery.

    He is likely giving the money to the poor who are close at hand, so he probably has a better sense of their actual needs than do distant government agents. No funds are diverted for any other purpose but poverty relief. The poor get it all, which means they get more this way than if the original sum was filtered through the government.

    Of “progressives,” in particular, I ask: If the rich or their riches are inherently bad and the poor are naturally entitled to some portion of their wealth, wouldn’t deputizing do-gooders to get the job done directly be the most just and efficient method? Is there some virtue in laundering money first through the IRS and other agencies?

    So back to the main question. Would Jesus, his apostles, or anyone of authority in the early Church approve of our Robin Hood? I say an emphatic NO! Here’s why:

    • His actions spring from theft, which is not blessed by either his intentions or the purposes to which he puts the loot. Theft is categorically and unconditionally condemned by the Eighth Commandment and never once endorsed, condoned, or excused by Jesus on any grounds.
    • The poor are poor for many and varied reasons. Their destitution, whether short-term or long-lasting, may be due to accidental harm, natural calamity, personal handicap, bad life decisions, lousy character, or foolish policies of government. So giving money to the poor just because they’re poor, without regard to the source of their poverty, could in some cases be wasteful and counterproductive. It could even prolong the problem.
    • There are far better ways to reduce poverty than plunder, legal or illegal. Free markets, private property, rule of law, entrepreneurship, wealth creation, personal responsibility, and voluntary charity come to mind—all of which are undermined or even crowded out when force enters the picture.

    The New Testament includes dozens of references to helping the poor and those who suffer from misfortune, oppression, or sickness. Jesus himself more than recommends it; he declares that what one (especially a Christian) does to assist the deserving needy is an outward sign of the love for others that resides in one’s heart.

    The misguided may cry, “Jesus was an altruist, and altruism is evil because it requires that one sacrifice his own values!” I don’t see Jesus as an altruist at all, and I think Christians who argue that you should “give because it hurts” have naively misinterpreted Scripture.

    “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want,” says Jesus in Matthew 26:11 and Mark 14:7. The key words there are “you can help” and “want” to help. He didn’t say, “We’re going to make you help whether you like it or not.”

    Jesus clearly holds that compassion is a wholesome value to possess, but I know of no passage anywhere in the New Testament that suggests it’s a value he would impose at gunpoint. What the thief in our story does, or what a government may do to achieve the same end, are not remotely associated with the compassion Jesus sought to encourage. As I wrote in a 1997 essay:

    True compassion is a bulwark of strong families and communities, of liberty and self-reliance, while false compassion [that employs compulsion] is fraught with great danger and dubious results. True compassion is people helping people out of a genuine sense of caring and brotherhood. It is not asking your legislator or congressman to do it for you. True compassion comes from your heart, not from the state or federal treasury. True compassion is a deeply personal thing, not a check from a distant bureaucracy.

    Don’t take my word for it. Consider what the apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 9:7.

    Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

    Throughout his extensive journeys, Paul was more than a preacher. He was a doer. He was a fundraiser. He practiced what he preached, pitching in to assist the deserving needy. He never endorsed compulsory redistribution as a legitimate means to that end. He drew a contrast between those who personally help and those who give charity false lip service or try to impose it. His words in II Corinthians 8:8 are plain and simple.

    I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.

    Later, in II Corinthians 8:24, Paul implores his audience to give freely because that’s the way others will know that you really mean it—that it comes from the heart.

    Show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

    Cato Institute Senior Fellow Doug Bandow, author of the 1988 book Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics, commented on the significance of Paul’s words with this question:

    If Paul was not willing to command believers in a church that he had founded to help their less fortunate Christian brethren, would he have advocated that the civil authorities tax unbelievers for the same purpose?

    Of course, nothing anywhere in the New Testament suggests that Paul either called for or would support compulsory welfare state measures. This is the same Paul, by the way, who said the needy who are able-bodied owe something to their charitable brothers. In II Thessalonians 3, he writes:

    We were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you…We gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

    As I see it, what Jesus, Paul, and other early Christian leaders were calling for was an inner renaissance of character, one individual at a time, from the heart and not by force. Good character embodies many traits and virtues, one of them being empathy for the less fortunate, a desire to see them flourish.

    The great majority of people who favor the welfare state are, without a doubt, well-intentioned. They really do want to help the needy, and many of them mistakenly believe the welfare state comports with Christian principles. They likely would oppose the freelance poverty-fighter of my hypothetical story on the grounds that government doing the job makes it more “orderly” and “democratic.” It also seems “final” in that it offers assurance that the job will be done, whereas leaving the issue to “market forces” or “private charity” or “individual responsibility” seems so risky and uncertain.

    But if we’ve learned anything about the welfare state, it surely is that it doesn’t resolve the problem of poverty even as it creates new ones of its own. The poor are still with us. Meanwhile, the welfare state empowers greedy, myopic politicians. It breeds corruption. It fosters dependency. It breaks families apart. It undermines the work ethic. It crowds out more effective private initiatives. It mortgages the future, economically and spiritually.

    Historically, it would appear that few things are riskier than a welfare state. It’s put more than a few countries out of business or off the map. But no nation ever died because of an overabundance of character.

    Almost everybody wants to help those who truly and deservedly need help. How we do it is replete with massive implications. At the very least in this ongoing debate, let’s not make the mistake of arguing that to use force, plunder, and dependency is somehow “the Christian thing to do.”

    Lawrence W. Reed

    Lawrence W. Reed is President Emeritus, Humphreys Family Senior Fellow, and Ron Manners Ambassador for Global Liberty at the Foundation for Economic Education. He is also author of Real Heroes: Incredible True Stories of Courage, Character, and Conviction and Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of ProgressivismFollow on Twitter and Like on Facebook.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

  • The Linda Problem and Why Democratic Socialists Flunk Logic 101


    Consider the following facts:

    Venezuela is a country with vast natural resources. Once it was one of the wealthiest countries in South America. Venezuela nationalized many vital industries such as oil. Price controls were instituted, and hyperinflation destroyed savings. Supermarket shelves emptied, and some even killed zoo animals for food.

    Malnutrition, even starvation, is common. Essential medicines, such as antibiotics, are unavailable. The ruthless despot who runs the country has stolen bi