Saturday, June 19, 2010

Financial Aid, and Aid, and Aid......

My sister and I are only one year a part.  I won't bore you with the usual sibling arguing and what-not, but the upshot is, my mom and dad had 2 kids in college at the same time.  (Okay, at the time I didn't think I was a kid, but add a few decades and the perspective changes.)  We both attended the local, and good, community college, and then with the help of financial aid we both transfered to bigger schools and got degrees.  We both had a small savings but it was meager-I think I could have purchased two books with it.  The reality is, we were in no way prepared for the expense of college.  Thank goodness for financial aid-the job I have today was dependent upon my degree.  And I LOVE my job.
Now that I work at a college, I am more prepared for what college can cost-and I assume the price will continue to rise.  So for my sons I have a savings account.  Right now, they cannot afford college.  However, right now it is not an issue.  We have a few years to save.
Apparently this is the wrong thing to do.  Every article I have read on saving for education says DON'T.  Why you ask? Because if my kids have a savings account, they may not get financial aid. 
When did financial aid go from "helping those who need it", to "a way to avoid paying for college if you don't have too?"  Obviously I believe in financial aid.  I also believe that as college costs continue to rise at astronomical rates, more and more people will need it.  But whatever happened to "paying for college yourself"?  And what happens when A) you don't get that sports star scholarship?  B) your great grades are nothing special?  C) they simply run out of money and no matter how much you need it, it won't get it?  Not everyone who applies, gets financial help and if you have spent the last 18 years avoiding a savings account because of the assumption you will get some kind of financial aid, it's going to be rough.
Maybe I am leaping here, but it seems a repeat of the message "don't do for yourself what you think the government can do for you."  No fears-I am not turning into a conservative.  But I see a lot of good ideas morphed into something the were never intended to be because suddenly everyone wanted a piece, not just those the help was intended for. 

*The wealthy collecting Social Security because they think they are owed it. 
*The person Nick knew who got financial aid, then worked under the table for his dad and used the money for a new car instead of his education (why would he-financial aid paid for schooling.)
*A single parent receiving gov't aid even though child support is current and sufficient (dead-beat parents are a different issue).
*Collecting death benefits, even if a life insurance policy ensured it's own set of benefits.

There are legitimate reasons for using social programs, and that is what they are there for:  to help people.  But I get frustrated that everyone seems to think they are owed this help, whether they need it or not.  Hopefully, we won't need financial aid.  But I have no idea what the future holds and if our position changes, and we face financial hardship, I will apply like all other parents.  Help is there because you NEED it, not because you WANT it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What Did You Do When You First Got Here?

It seems like I keep going back to History when I blog.  Not sure if that is because I like it, know about it, or a combo of all of thee above, but it seems natural to me to explore what we used to do, and compare it to what we do now.
I got an interesting e-mail stating that if the current immigrants would quit causing trouble, like being drug dealers and driving drunk, and be more like the immigrants of old who came as hard-working citizens and caused no trouble, then no one would have a problem with them.
Whoa boys-hold the can of whoop ass.
Maybe that is why I keep involving the badge of History-people throw it around like it is a shield of purity.
First off, immigrants have never been welcome in this country.  From the time the first white man set foot upon the shore and declared HIMSELF (yep, a man walked off the boat first) waayyyy better than the locals, there has been friction.  Can't say I blame the Native Americans.  You live here for thousands of years, a newcomer shows up, and you are the bad guy?  Boy does that sound like fun.
Once the Natives were tossed off the land, and the white guys proliferated like rabbits, future boat loads of people were greeted with suspicion at best, and derision and chains at it's worst.  The Irish came in the early part of the 1800's, only to be greeted with signs in the store windows denying Catholics entrance.  Eastern Europeans came in the late 1800's, only to be greeted with claims that they were dirty and basically shuttled to their own neighborhoods so the genteel public didn't really have to mix with them.  And I am just talking about Ellis Island here.  On the West Coast, despite a very low crime rate, any and all Asians were assumed opiate addicts and they never lost their "foreigner" status no matter how long they stayed in this country (internment camps during WWII prove this).  And the slaves stolen from Africa never stood a chance-they weren't even labeled human, but poor farmers in the South hated them just the same for being cheap labor.
Once here, immigrants faced the same challenges then, as they do today.   Lack of language kept them out of jobs, discrimination kept them from education.  The Irish took over local politics to get jobs for other Irish.  Good beginnings went wrong and we ended up with Tamany Hall and corruption in numerous states back east.  The Italians organized and established the Mafia in their new country-USA.  AL Capone is the most famous but there were others, either from Italy, or born to Italian immigrants, who created murder and chaos wherever they went.  The Jews basically started Hollywood, which depending on where you stand, can be the root of all evil, or a dream factory.  Okay, Hollywood and the Mafia aren't exactly the same on the Evil Scale, but back in the day, that kind of entertainment was considered more sinful then it is today.  Despite his star status, Clark Cable's dad never accepted his son's profession and it took Walt Disney years to convince his dad that Animation was a legitimate career choice.
So to ask a new immigrant to be like an old immigrant of yore, well that could be asking for trouble. 
So what should we ask the new immigrants?  How about coming here legally?  Thousands of Catholics, Jews, Asians-all groups traditionally discriminated against in this country-sold EVERYTHING they had to get passage to a country that they HOPED would be better.  Even as late as the 1950's, refuges out of Europe (my father-in-law's family) waited years in European refuge camps, and months on Ellis Island, before they were permitted to enter the USA.  Hell, depending on what decade you showed up, you couldn't stay if you couldn't prove you already had either A) proof of employment or B) a relative waiting to take care of you so you didn't need public assistance.  How are we racist today, to demand the same things?
The racist comments really bother me.  I don't think I am a racist for demanding immigrants be here legally.  I never even said what nationality I was talking about, since I mean all of them.  But it sure is a lot easier to cross an invisible line than it is to come thousands of miles by boat, or even airplane.  And I don't expect every single one of them to be paragons of virtue-the weren't in the past and they won't be in the future.  But if we are going to use History as our example, and everyone seems to be, how about demanding everyone be here legally?  Can I repeat that?  Everyone be here legally-that s it.  So simple.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

History, History, History

I seem to be in a pattern.  Don't blog for months at a time, and when I do, be sure to bring up History.  Why break the pattern now? 
The funny thing about History though, is that as much as everyone readily admits to not liking it, it gets used a lot.  Especially Politics/Current Events-people love to bring up The Good Old Days. 
In the Good Old Days, no bad happened.  It was a bucolic time with less violence, less selfishness, more time to stop and smell the flowers.  An era when people used their time wisely and really connected to nature and her environs.
Can we say bullshit?  Horse-puckey?  Rose-colored glasses?
Okay, some things were better.  People did connect to nature more.  When you are shoveling horse poop on your farm, or smelling it through your tenement apartment, you were forcefully reminded of nature.  People did connect with one another more, as the only "media" that existed was the newspaper (depending on how far back you go).  The whole community could usually tell you what your children were up to, and you usually knew the whole community so that was helpful.
But it was not all easy.  Statistically, most children died before their 5th birthday.  If you spoke a funny language, or even had a weird accent (think of all the regional areas of the United States) you could be denied service ANYWHERE.  Violence was rampant but not talked about in the form of spousal abuse and child abuse.  Was someone in your family handicapped/mentally challenged?  That person faced a life if derision and outcast.  And don't get me started on drugs-most order-by-mail drugs were rife with drugs that were legal, but knowingly harmful.
Life in the city sucked for a lot of years.  Horses, that look so quaint in pictures, pooped-everywhere.  The city smelled, and sanitation wasn't so hot, so people smelled too.  Disease was rampant, hence the reason so many young children died of diseases most of us can't pronounce anymore.  The work week was 6 days a week, if you were lucky, and an employer could let you go for any reason-from being to ugly to pissing off your boss.  Plus, there was discrimination, sexism, etc.  You know the drill.
The countryside had it's own perils.  Farm accidents claimed a lot of lives-children and adults a like.  Nutritional diseases were rampant-when there was no crops, there was no food.  If something went wrong, and it often did, your nearest neighbor was available by foot only after walking many miles. 
Also regardless of where you lived, life was a struggle.  Food preparation began with growing it, or getting it fresh somewhere.  Then you washed it, preserved it, and hoped to God it was there in the lean months.  Light in your house was candles that you made.  Clothes were ones that you made.  There was NO leisure time. 
There are things about The Good Old Days that sound nice.  I am still learning about growing food, and learning to do without so much materialism.  I also work to make sure my kids can actaully play a game that doesn't involve batteries and identify some of the animals in our area.  But I think most parents will agree that we don't want to lose our kids at age 5 and there is no way I want to go back to a time where all cooking involved a fire. 
Instead of hearing about The Good Old Days, let's hear a politician talk about how they can Make The Current Days Better.