Students whine for more handouts

Once again, protesting students in Minnesota made CNN. And once again, I found it embarrassing. Last time, it was because students wouldn’t reason with United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson. This time, their chants seemed unabashedly self-piteous. Despite the fact that Gov. Jesse Ventura’s administration has included a 3 percent hike for the state grant program — which includes tuition assistance — the demonstrators protested with a fervor which would make one wonder if the ruthless Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet were in town. “Lower tuition is our mission,” they screamed. Or even better: “Walk in our shoes!”
In reality, “Walk in our loafers,” would have been more fitting. Statistically, we college kids probably don’t have much to worry about. In 1997, the mean salary among people with bachelor’s degrees surpassed $40,000, while high school graduates, on the other hand, earned just over $20,000, according to the Census Bureau. Those with advanced degrees were really lounging, averaging $60,000. Though the average salaries among the college-educated are far from rich, they are certainly undeserving of pity.
One woman in particular seemed to reap the most coverage. A single mother and student, the protester literally sparred with Ventura on the steps. “What about single mothers?” she screamed over the protesters’ chants, adding that she works 18 hours a day and falls asleep in class due to being a parent. “I don’t want to sound hard-core, but why did you become a single mother?” Ventura shot back.
To be sure, that particular single mother’s life might be hard. But Jesse’s statements have resonance, untactful as they may have been. The government isn’t a money factory; it’s a money distributor. To give a nickel to one hard-luck person is to take a nickel from another. Whatever hardships students face while in school must be pitted against the hardships of others in society, because there is only so much to go around.
According to a recent Star Tribune/KMSP-TV Minnesota poll, Jesse’s approval ratings are higher than that of any other Minnesota governor in history. Ventura’s ability to maintain high ratings while committing politically suicidal sins on the Capitol steps and rubbing both congressional parties the wrong way is testimony to the appeal of at least two basic traits: unwavering moderation and brutal honesty. While Ventura is a moderate, he doesn’t seem to be a typical one. Most moderates seem to be better described as waverers — people who say one thing and do another on the basis of what will grant them maximum popularity, such as Bill Clinton’s weak-willed “gays in the military” stance a few years back.
His unwavering position on matters such as personal responsibility and self-sufficiency earn him some passionate enemies because he doesn’t speak politically to them. Instead, Ventura’s speech reeks of humanness, endearingly flawed and peppered with emotion and conviction.
At the same time, some students are boiling mad, and Republicans and Democrats are critical. This is probably due to the fact that you can’t please everybody. Ironically, the way to please most everybody is to piss off both the Democrats and the Republicans. And, sad but true, the way to piss students off is to withhold the handouts they don’t deserve anyway. Jesse Ventura did both, and I join the majority in commending him for it.

Rob Kuznia’s column appears every Tuesday.