Society? What Society?

I know he’s only a state representative from Oklahoma City, but what Mike Reynolds said is important.

What Reynolds said is important for a very simple reason. It neatly demonstrates just how ridiculously extreme some in the Republican Party have become, and while they’re not all as zealous as Mike Reynolds, some of them are and others are very, very close.

According to the Huffington Post, a particular student in Oklahoma, who earned a 4.39 GPA and a 32 on the ACT, didn’t qualify for a Pell grant and “only received a few scholarships, which won’t cover his tuition bill.” A Democratic lawmaker in Oklahoma, as Democratic lawmakers are wont to do, sought help from his colleagues, saying in an email exchange:

How do we guarantee that students like Austin, who is clearly very much a top student, get an education? These are the ones that will cure cancer, create the next big invention or possibly become a great leader. How do we help these students?

It’s OUR JOB to see this kid get an education. We want our best and brightest to receive an education that lets them reach their full potential. We are failing him.

To which Representative Reynolds responded:

It is not our job to see that anyone gets an education. It is not the responsibility of me, you, or any constituent in my district to pay for his or any other persons [sic] education. Their GPA, ACT, AS[V]AB, determination have nothing to do with who is responsible. Their potential to benefit society is irrelevant.

Now, before anyone is tempted to dismiss this Reynolds character (he is a character) and his outrageous philosophy as an outlier in the pattern of Republican ideological distribution, I urge you to look again at that last line:

Their potential to benefit society is irrelevant.

Benefiting society? Who cares? A smart kid from Oklahoma who can’t afford to go to college means nothing to this particular Republican. He admits that legislation that has the potential to benefit society is irrelevant to his job as a legislator.

But what makes any of us think that anyone’s or anything’s potential to benefit society is relevant to most Republicans in Washington, D.C. and around the country? Where is the evidence to support the claim that Republicans are interested in public policies that benefit society?

There isn’t much evidence, from the obstructionist legislative strategy to defeat President Obama—which included sabotaging the economic recovery—to the strategy of making it harder for people in this democracy to vote—many stood in line for hours, some giving up and going home—to attempting to thwart even the mildest of reforms of our gun laws—look at this:

gop senators and gun filibuster

Those mug shots above include some of the leading lights of the Republican Party, most notably the leader of Republicans in the United States Senate. These legislators not only oppose common-sense gun laws, they don’t even want the legislation to come to a vote. So don’t tell me that a ideologically nutty congressman from Oklahoma City is an outlier in the Republican Party.

And don’t tell me that a Republican legislator, who said that the “potential to benefit society is irrelevant” to him as a lawmaker, is an odd duck in the GOP.

No, no, no. Mike Reynolds from Oklahoma City is very much in the mainstream of the larger Republican Party, and nothing proves it more than the party’s aggressive opposition to gun law reforms, including the proposed ban on assault weapons and monstrous magazines, a federal gun trafficking law, and, the mildest reform of all, loophole-free criminal background checks on gun purchases. All of those proposals have the potential to benefit society.

But society be damned. The Republican Party, as demonstrated by its leadership, has a job to do for the NRA and its clients, the gun manufacturers.


[Photo: The Journal Record]


  1. N.Michael Barrows

     /  April 9, 2013

    i realize taht Rep Reynolds’ comment was the focus of the article and not the student’s test score/GPA, but a 32 ACT and 4.39 are excellent numbers and good enough to provide an education from numerous colleges around the country; even without assistance from a Pell Grant.


  2. “It’s OUR JOB to see this kid get an education.” No it’s not. It’s the kids job to find a way to finance his own education. I did. My tuition wasn’t fully covered by the old GI Bill, so I took out a Stafford loan that I still pay on. Lawmaker can help by finding ways to make college more affordable.


    • Jane Reaction

       /  April 10, 2013

      So you turned out to be what? A cop? Trucker? Bottom fisher?


  3. LisaF

     /  April 9, 2013

    Wall Street wants these kids to go into debt for tens of thousands of dollars. America’s unfettered capitalism does not care about educating our young or providing health care for our citizens. . It is all about making profit for our rulers.

    Funny, I remember O’Reilly ranting about why aren’t there European immigrants coming to America anymore? Attempting to imply our president only wants brown skinned “Democratic Party leaning” people entering. LOL, newsflash! Europeans do not want to come here. While on vacation, I talked to lots of young people from Italy, Germany and France, they were in shock at the cost of education in America. They are horrified that they have to pay approx $500.00 to go for their masters. This is the scenario our kids have to go up against on a global stage. Well educated, debt free young Europeans while ours carry a $60,000 + debt.

    And on the topic of health care, no one can believe we still have for profit system.

    Unfettered capitalism loves an uneducated population, easier to pit them against each other while robbing them and their children of a decent future.

    I do not understand how any working person can vote for a party that is against affordable higher education, Social Security, Medicare, clean air and water. It boggles the mind.


  4. I don’t think Republicans are against any of that Lisa. They are against giving away free stuff. We all want to help those in need get back on their feet. But I (and millions of moderates like me) will be damn if I’m going to carry somebody who doesn’t want to walk.


    • kabe

       /  April 9, 2013

      Steve, I also used the military as way to get my education paid for so please do no think I have any disrespect for your service. But are you telling us that if you were an extraordinary student in high school that you would have joined the military to pay for college? I cannot understand your logic in expecting the country to pay our GI Bill for our past commitment (I served from 85-89 and saw no combat) but would deny someone that has the potential to serve our country in the future with their knowledge. Under your logic we might just as well close all State schools, starting with Mo Southern.
      Are you from Joplin? If so, should we not have used Government funds to pay for our airport? After all, it is argued that paying for items like this have the potential to benefit Joplin in the future. How many Republicans said NO to this “free stuff?”



  5. I think both Steve and Lisa are right about this issue. A college education should not be so expensive and individual initiative should be expected from students in the education marketplace. The problem though is that the marketplace for college degrees isn’t working properly. There’s something terribly wrong when the payroll for administrators rivals that for the teachers.

    As for scholarships, I don’t see those in much danger of dying off, legislative support or not. In that regard, Barrows is right as well. The endowments of colleges and universities are fully aware that they gain immensely by skimming the cream of raw talent because that is a much more powerful source of success than quality of teaching.

    We need more public clarity on the issue and we need to change the meme that everyone needs to rack up massive college-loan debt to get a degree. In other words, shift the emphasis from “how to pay for it?” to “where’s the best value for the money I’ve got?”.


  6. Joining the military is one option yes. Another is getting a Stafford loan. Another is going part time and working full time like I did for three years after i got out of the USAF. Are you suggesting that all smart High School students with a GPA higher than 4.0 get free tuition? Why close State schools? Are they free? Do they not charge money for higher education? I’m not for denying anybody anything, but I don’t think we should serve it up on a silver platter cause they have potential. I’m not from Joplin, Just a fan of Duane’s writing.


    • Steven,

      I appreciate the compliment and I appreciate your perspective, although I don’t think I completely share it.

      I happen to think, and I’m sure you do too as a beneficiary of the GI Bill, that as a society, we all benefit from making sure that kids who qualify for college (the qualification process is another argument) get to go to college. And since we all stand to benefit from smart people realizing their potential, why shouldn’t we, as a society, see to it that it is not the “kids job to find a way to finance his own education” but our collective job to find a way? Surely we can do better than that and surely we have learned a thing or two about how to accomplish such a vital task.

      Now, you say the lawmaker’s job is to find “ways to make college more affordable.” I agree.  One of those ways of course would to means-test. If a kid’s parents aren’t able to afford college—and most can’t— then we the people subsidize some or all of the kid’s education, perhaps with some kind of public service requirement attached to it. Let’s say the kid wanted to become a doctor. Fine. We’ll foot the bill if you can’t afford it. But in exchange the kid would have to, say, practice for a period of time in rural or inner city areas where doctors are scarce. That kind of thing.

      Finally, I note that you are justly proud of your hard work to get your education, even though you also took advantage of a government program. And I note you say you don’t want to deny anybody “anything” but “don’t think we should serve it up on a silver platter cause they have potential.” I think the difference between us largely resides in the way we interpret “silver platter.” My dad, who was born in 1909, had an eighth-grade education, and my mom, I think, finished tenth grade. They lived in times when the silver platter might have been not having to quit school in order to go to work. Surely, we have made some progress since then and surely we can continue to make it easier, not harder, for future kids to get the education they need to make this a better place to live for all.



  7. ansonburlingame

     /  April 10, 2013

    Good exchange, particularly when other conservatives join in and make some valid points as well.

    I for one wonder why a kid with such academic credendtials did NOT get a Pell Grant. What else might have been in his resume that did not allow him to make the cut for such money? NONE of us know that information and probably neither do legislators in OK.

    Here is a GUESS, but not a wild one. I have seen the same circumstances for admission to my alumni, the Naval Academy, a “free” (and great) education. Some candidates are “off the charts”, academically but are rejected. In their place there are candidates with much “lesser than” academic quals that DO make the cut however. Happens frequently now at USNA.

    The answer, at USNA and I bet in this case is “DIVERSITY”. Usually they no longer call it Affirmative Action, at least at USNA. But the end result is the same.

    Like it or not, there is only so much money to go around, for education, HC, you name it. At USNA for example there are only about 1200 slots each year to be filled by over 17,000 applicants. So what criteria should be used to carefully use that money available? We argue over such all the time, liberals and conservatives.

    As well liberals ALWAYS call for MORE money for education without checking carefully how current funds are used. Sure wish that they would do that for HC as well.

    Or at least act like Margret Thatcher and force the taxes on all the people to pay for things demanded and not just go borrow more and more money until…….????

    Most liberals that I know consider education and HC a “right” for all Americans. But few liberals demand taxes high enough to actually pay for those rights. Nope they just want to further fleece the 1% which is a joke. Simply not enough money there to pay for all the “rights” demanded.

    Well maybe there is enough money. The Iron Lady sure found it. Now go try to raise taxes across the board in America akin to taxation in Britain, etc. I wonder how popular a VAT might be around here??? Recall most of the mansions in Newport, RI are already shuttered. So no more “Dowton Abbey’s” to fleece in America, today.



  8. “Good exchange, particularly when other conservatives join in…” *Wide eyed* Did you just call me a conservative? The GOP left me over a decade ago. I’m what you call a moderate, and my conservative friends call a raging leftwing Liberal out to destroy “Merica”.


    • kabe

       /  April 10, 2013

      Steve, I appreciate your response. I only asked about you being from Joplin because of my Airport comparison. It is a small regional airport that used millions in Federal money to build. I have never used it, but I do not have a problem with the idea that it could help the area grow. Now, I am not saying that all 4.0 kids get a free education as you have suggested. But I do think we need to set aside funds for those that are truly gifted. Your path to more education is almost identical to mine, as well as your political identity I would say. Even the AF. However, just because I used a sometimes difficult path to get an education I cannot sit here and demand that all others do the same. I recall some of my friends in high school that were given academic scholarships. They worked hard and earned them just as you and I earned our GI Bill. I never once questioned whether or not it was fair that they had a free ride to college and I was forced to go another path. They simply out worked the rest of us in the classroom and they deserved scholarships, in my opinion.



  9. ansonburlingame

     /  April 11, 2013


    No slurs intended but one obviously taken!! I don’t really care what label you put on your politics. But when you write something that reflects an opinon somewhat different, even a “yes, but….” on this blog, well………

    Now both Kabe and Steven,

    Again a good exchange, at least in my view. Both of you, and a lot of other Americans found ways to achieve your education goals through means other than expecting your parents or others to pay for them. In other words you both worked, hard, probably to meet your goals and found a way to do so.

    The cost of a college education today is HIGH, maybe too high. But so is the cost of HC and a lot of other things, Refering to such things as “rights” and therefore putting the oneous on government to either pay for them or change them (lower the cost) is oh so typical of liberal reactions to such matters.

    Well 50 plus years ago the cost of a college education was beyond the means of my parents as well. Neither of them went to college, as well. But from my birth until I was 18 years of age their goal was to ensure that I went to college and graduated, period. And with their non-financial help, I did just that. I don’t think we had anything like Pell grants etc. back then as well.

    So much like you did, by joining the military, well that is where I focused my own efforts to get a college education beginning in my sophomore year in HS. In fact I joined the Naval Reserves about a week before I graduated from HS. In doing so I encurred a six year obligation with at least 2 years of active duty in the fleet. Had I not received my appointment to the Naval Academy OR an NROTC scholarship, I would have been scrubbing decks at sea for 2 years INSTEAD of going to college.

    Now just how many college aspiratants today would take such risk, risk of doing something they did not want to do, scrub decks, if they failed to gain admission to college. I don’t see that happening very often today and as well I see the “drop out rate” from colleges going pretty high today as well, along with huge debt incurred that may well not be paid in full if receipients fail to graduate once they get the money, somehow, to attend college.

    Then we can also look at remedial courses that must be given, particularly by colleges like MSSU that have very low academic entry requirements to attend. I don’t think MSSU even requires SAT scores as part of the admission process. I also suspect, but don’t know for sure that a GCT is enough to “get in” rather than a HS diploma. Henry might clarify that point if he is “listening”.

    I am all for every otherwise qualified kid to attend and graduate from college. I support, politically, all sorts of scholarship efforts, public and private. But I also suggest that we all find a way to agree on the definition of “qualified”, exactly what kind of academic record and record of (here we go) “character” should be required before we start shelling out public money for college educations.

    Just “wanting to go to college” is not enough. Through previous efforts academically and as citizens, college attendees must show they have the “qualifications” to even set foot in the door of a college.

    I recently “sat through” (audited) a full semester class at MSSU. Part of that “education” was observing other students, and the professor, in that class. The Prof did fine, a great job in fact, in my view. But the other students, well leave it at the point that THEIR performance and efforts in that one class was “spotty” at best. Some never even attended the class and just showed up for tests. Hardly any of them read (much less actually STUDIED) homework assignments before the class and were dumbfounded with the “new ideas” presented in lectures and class exchanges.

    Finally, I wonder just how many kids attend MSSU that in fact were tested as less than proficient in HS? If someone cannot meet “minimum standards” in HS, and have not demonstrated the effort later on (through military service or other employment) to achieve such minimum standards before attending college, well why are they going into debt to attend college, I wonder?

    You two guys “did it”, many others have “done it” in the past. So why is everyone entering college not doing it today, I wonder??



%d bloggers like this: