Revised again, Tuesday afternoon.
Revised Saturday morning on the advice of Ken Houghton.
Indiana Republican Congressman Luke Messer thinks “personal responsibility is pretty cool.”
He’s explaining why he’s going to vote to stick it to students and grads with heavy college loan burdens.
This is an expression of the “If you can’t pay for it out of pocket, you don’t get to have it” attitude that sounds like virtue, but it’s usually just a cover for “Don’t ask me to care about your problems” and “I got mine, you get yours.”
Basically it treats wanting good health care for your kids, a decent education, a secure retirement etc like expecting the government to buy you a sports car or send you on a trip to DisneyWorld.
The argument, as I understand it, is to graduates and current students facing decades of debt servitude, "You took out the loan, you need to be personally repsonsible for paying it off and not expect help the government to help you renege to even a small degree, and it doesn't matter if being personsally repsonsible means you don't get to buy a car, own a home, start a family, carry medical insurance, or, well, eat regularly. You should have thought of that when you decided to go to a college you really couldn't afford."
It's also saying to high school students looking ahead and wondering how they're going to pay for college and working parents wondering how they're going to earn enough to send their kids to school, "If you aren't prepared to accept the consequences, don't take out the loan. If you can't pay the tuition without the loan, find another school, go part time, or don't go at all! Give up any thought of improving your lot in life, accept you're one of life's losers, and get on with drudging your way to the grave or...do what I did! Work your way through."
And, again, this sounds like virtue talking, but it really boils down to, "Too bad for you. The country and the future belong to those who can pay the asking price whatever it is."
But at least Messer appears to have actually worked his way through college, unlike Paul Ryan who forgets his family is rich and thinks his little stint driving the Weinermobile makes him a working class hero.
Messer worked as a waiter and telemarketer to pay his way through school.
He has a claim on being a real self-made man, very much like the President. He just learned a different lesson from the experience.
The President learned he was lucky. Messer learned Luke Messer was a paragon of self-reliance.
The President learned people who work hard and do the right things can still need help.
Messer learned that if you need any help he didn’t need---or doesn’t remember having needed---it means you haven't worked as hard as he did, you didn't take personal responsibility, you're not pretty cool, so too bad for you.
By the way, it's one thing to be proud of what you accomplished. It's something else to know exactly what it was you did. Messer, who was born in 1969, graduated from Wabash College where the tuition is now about 34k a year. When he went there it was about 8k.
So tuition has quadrupled while the minimum wage has gone from $3.35 to $7.25.
Personal responsibility is cool if you can afford it.
I'm giving Messer the benefit of the doubt here. In his bio on Wikipedia and in a few of the few articles about him I can find online, the story is that Messer and his siblings were raised by their "single" mother who worked for forty years at Delta Faucet. None of the stories say what she did at Delta, though. She might have worked on the factory floor or she might have been in upper management.
And there's no mention of her having been widowed or deserted, which suggests that there's an ex-husband somewhere in the picture and none of the stories say what what he did for a living or how much he contributed to the family's finances. In short, it's possible that Messer is the child of two well-paid members of the middle class who were able to give their children a lot of help along the way.
There's a big difference between working your way through college and working while you're in college to help pay your way. A lot of "self-made" types tend to forget how much help they got as they made their way, and politicians of both parties, although it seems especially Republicans these days, like to exaggerate their humble beginnings. It's a wonder they're able to stop short of claiming to have been born in log cabins. Mitt Romney considers himself a self-made man and sometimes even sounds like he thinks he was a hardship case. Paul Ryan notoriously used the money he got from Social Security after his father died to help pay for his tuition, which makes his desire to cut the safety net to ribbons one of the more egregious cases of ladder kicking in recent memory. Lost in the shouting though is that the Ryan family was rich, thanks to generations of government contracts awarded to their construction business, and the family came to his mother's aid after her husband died and Ryan himself still gets money from the business.
Messer doesn't appear to be the same type of hypocrite. It's probable that he received some form of financial aid, some of it based on his mother's situation, which means a way Messer took personal responsibilty was by having a father who didn't---he was lucky in being unlucky---and he might even have taken out a low-interest loan or two. Still, I'm taking it at face value that for all intents and purposes he did work his way through college. (I consider eaning academic scholarships a way of working your way through school. Which is the only way I can how he might have gone on from Wasbash to work his way through law school.) To the point, though, he did it more than 20 years ago under very different circumstances than the son or daughter of a single mother trying to earn the 34 grand to go to Wabash by waiting tables and sitting through the night at a call center today. Another way Messer was so coolly personally responsible was by choosing to go to college in the late 1980s when tuition was a lot cheaper, states and schools were more generous with aid, and student loans had yet to become a tool by which banks could gouge huge sums of money out of young people taking the personal responsibility of trying to get a good education that would lead to good a job and a future of more responsibility as citizens, homeowners, and breadwinners for a family---responsibilities a lot of young people are unable to take on these days because of crushing debt.