For as important a moment as it may prove to be in his presidency, I hope my peers took the opportunity to watch President Obama’s speech last Thursday as he unveiled the American Jobs Act.
Despite the continuing debate about the feasibility of the president’s plan, he made a statement worth contemplating that strikes at the heart of the Tea Party platform.
“Where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, not to build our bridges, our dams, our airports,” the president asked the members of Congress. “What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges?”
To rephrase the president’s question, I think it would be fair to ask, “what would the country be like if the Tea Party’s small-government, anti-tax rhetoric became standard American policy?”
Attending the Tea Party of America’s Restoring America rally in Indianola on Sept. 3, I received a heavy dose of that rhetoric. Perhaps the most concerning speech I heard throughout the day came not from the event’s national heavyweights, but from Samuel Clovis, professor and chair of the department of business and economics at Morningside College.
In his speech Clovis railed against federal grants and entitlement programs. It’s unfortunate to hear the anti-government message coming from a professor, considering the many benefits government offers college students.
So exactly where would students be if the small-government platform ruled the day? For many of our friends and classmates, a college degree may not have been an option. According to a March 20 article from the Chronicle of Higher Education, 9 million students receive Pell Grants, the government’s grant program for low-income undergraduates.
Take a look around campus. The people benefiting from the Pell Grant program are your roommates, classmates, teammates, brothers, sisters and best friends. Factor in all those who take advantage of the Federal Work Study program and government loans and the far-reaching benefits of federal student aid become even more apparent.
The government’s impact on your college experience goes further than student aid. While the Kent family’s $4 million dollar donation towards a new campus center has been well publicized by the college, many may not know that the project also received funding from government entities.
It’s easy to get swept up in the Tea Party’s brand of patriotic fervor.
However, students need to look past the fiery rhetoric and realize that limited government and no taxes are not conducive to a strong and robust system of higher education. As some of the youngest voters in the country, it’s time students rise above the portrayal of the federal government as a looming, evil and corrupt institution. It’s time we stand up and believe in the benefits and protections the government offers this country from those who wish to see it dismantled.