Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Something Old Abe Lincoln said that still holds true today

One of the things that Good Old Abe Lincoln said is that it is not the job of government to do for people that which they can and should do for themselves.

I believe that there is a lot of truth to that, but I sort of figure that maybe some small part of the governments job is to give the people the tools to work with.

Historically, the government used to do just that. Just look at the Homestead Act of 1862.

If you were of age, you could file for a claim of up to 160 acres. You had to show that you had improved the land, had lived there for 5 years and meet a few requirements. When you had 'proved up' the government would give you the deed to the land and it was yours.

It was a pretty good deal if you had the moxie to prove yourself up and claim the land. About 40% of the people that applied managed to prove up and got the land. If I am not mistaken, some of Mrs Pic's Scandanavian ancestors did just that and the farms stayed in the families for several generations.

I like things like this because it tends to seperate the men from the boys. I remember the day I heard that the Act officially closed back in 1976. It was a sad day for me. I believe I was living in the tipi at the time. While I had no plans on homesteading 160 acres, the very idea that one of the nation's first self-help programs had closed made me sad.

Anyway, I am looking at a few government programs that have seemed to work pretty well over the years.

Most of them require some kind of hard work on the hands of the recipients. (I won't get into Social Secirity that WAS working until Congress dipped their greedy little stupid paws into it and gave it away to a lot of people that haven't put a cent into it.)

Still, there are government programs out there that have actually worked.

Astonishing, isn't it?

Take the GI Bill. That one has done a lot more for this nation than you will ever know. It changed the nation for generations by making a college education attainable to the average guy.

I was talking to an old WW2 vet the other day that was a retired engineer of some sort. I asked him about his education and he told me he had gone to college on his GI bill. I asked him what his background was and he told me he grew up in a family that was supported by a father that was a laborer, a pick and shovel man.

When I asked him about his dreams before the war, he told me that as soon as he had finished high school he was planning on working in some sort of factory or another. I then asked him his views on college at the time and he told me that for him and his family that college wasn't even a dream. They simply knew they couldn't afford it and that was that.

Along came the war and the GI bill and now he had an opportunity that never existed and he simply went for it. Then again, he earned it. He spent a couple of years in the Pacific sailing on a supply ship and delivering supplies to the guys fighting in the Pacific. (His story made me think of 'Mister Roberts')

Still, he earned his education. It was a treat seeing a man that had become more successful than he had imagined in his wildest dreams as a kid.

For those that don't either can't or don't want to serve a hitch in the service there are also a number of low interest college loans which people used to abuse by skipping out on, but these days I hear the government is making the borrower pay back like they are supposed to.

Not a bad deal. It's there, and if you use it wisely to get a marketable degree you can do all right. It's probably not a good deal if you get a degree in theological basket weaving because you can wind up like a Starbucks employee I met that was paying back a pretty hefty loan on a degree that had no marketability, but that is her problem.

She didn't like it very much when I suggested that she commission in the Navy and get the loan forgiven. I didn't come back with the suggestion that the Marines could use her.(You're welcome, Marines. You don't want her.) Again, not my problem. She chose poorly. As she found out, thinking is not an option in life.

I still want my money back, though. Sucks to be her. She's got a awful lot of coffee to sell.

There are other programs out there that seem to have worked pretty well over the years. I met a guy that had gone through a Navy machinist apprenticeship program and paid it back by working in a Navy shipyard for a while. This seemed like a pretty good win/win deal to me. He got a pretty good trade out of the deal and a pretty good job for a while afterwards. The Navy got a pretty good machinist for a while.

One of the things I see that the successful government programs seem to have in common is that they require the recipient to get off of their dead ass and onto their dying feet and do something for themselves and someone else.

Just giving someone doesn't seem to work very well. People that are given something for free have nothing invested in it and as a result, they don't respect it.

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