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  1. A few thoughts from the commie!

    I agree that there are millions of people in this country who are terrible parents and who, not surprisingly, have children who do terrible in school. Especially if both the children and school are in crime ridden areas. I agree that there are many people out there who are, for lack of a nicer word, very ignorant about the things that could make their life better. But I just don’t see how a 16 year old girl in the projects is supposed to arrive at this revelation if she is given no guidance or parenting? Do people have that expectation? We can all complain about how much of a drain poor people are with their lousy parenting and awful choices, but unless we figure out some way to intervene in the absence of parenting to set some of their children on a better path, nothing will change. It just seems like wishful thinking to expect enlightenment from people who have no foundation whatsoever to build on. It would be great! But it seems not like reality to me.

    Also, regarding the tax code… our country is built around the tax code being a function of policy. I ask humbly, do we want to live in a country where the government does not pick winners and losers? Where I am taxed the same as a minimum wage worker and the same as Bill Gates? Where the government never uses tax policy to promote things that are beneficial to society? I don’t think that the corruption we are all forced to live with in the form of campaign contributions should be chalked up to this fundamental aspect of government, or that it is “our fault.” I would place more blame with a Supreme Court that has enshrined dark money into our political system. But that’s just me! : )

    • Ron Cameron

      “I ask humbly, do we want to live in a country where the government does not pick winners and losers? ”

      Yes. Yes I do.

      • Mr. Groovy

        I’m with you, Ron. The more the government can pick winners and losers, the more corruption will grow, and the more the rich will win.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it. You’re a commie, but you’re also a caring person. So I want to give you a proper reply. Unfortunately, I can’t do it in a comment. I’m working on post about the issues you brought up. And I hope to get it out this week. I do have to agree with Ron, however. When the government picks winners and losers, the rich have the advantage. They can organize and raise money much more effectively than the middle-class and the poor, and that’s why so many “winners” picked by the government happen to be rich. We’d all be better off if the government picked as few winners and losers as possible. Take, for instance, free speech. Because of the First Amendment, the government can’t pick winners and losers when it comes to disseminating news. And it’s the wild west out there. Deplorables like me have to endure the New York Times, and commies like you have to endure Fox News. And as trying as that is, imagine how much worse news would be if giants like the Times and Fox were lobbying congress to grant journalism licenses to “respectable” news outlets? No thank you. I much prefer the disease to the cure. Thanks for stopping by, Linda. I always feel a little self-doubt after reading your comments. And that’s a good thing.

  2. Very Thought Provoking post. I firmly believe that there is a fair amount of responsibility to go around for us all.

    The general public needs to take some amount of responsibility for their own actions. We can’t all just sit around and expect everything to be provided for us. At the same time, the government needs to be there as a safety net and provide for the greater good of society. Where to draw that line is anyone’s guess.

    I do think there are some mis-alignement of priorities and objectives as well. But it’s tough, and in the WOW house we discuss this a lot.

    A lot of people want the help, and it makes them better off. And that’s great, but, what about the folks that just don’t want the help and won’t take on the responsibility? At what point to you cut them loose? and Beyond that, what exactly do you do with them afterwards? Do you keep providing for them, even if they won’t provide for themselves? I don’t know what to do about that, but an interesting discussion point.

    You bring up a lot of good points, that don’t really have a right or wrong answer, but the discussion is the important part. Together we can find something that will work for the most good.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “I firmly believe that there is a fair amount of responsibility to go around for us all.”

      Nailed it, Mr. WoW. There are a lot sucky Americans and a lot of sucky government. Very sobering. And very scary. As you so eloquently asked, when should the misfits in and out of government be “cut loose”? I think I may have a solution, but that will have to wait for the second Wednesday in December. The plot thickens, my friend.

  3. The way you think is pretty interesting, Mr. G! I read this more than a few times and I’ll throw my two cents in a few places.
    In my opinion, there are definitely issues with government, and with some employees (not most) and inefficiency. I saw it everyday in our schools. But some of those things were often out of our control too. Things like unfunded state mandates trickle down into local districts and make the local district seem like the inefficient one.
    As far as students who need remediation in college being lousy students? Some of that is true – but keep in mind that many of these students would never have gone to college back when we did. Many students in remedial classes probably had extra support in high school too (reading services, special education). I guess there are a lot worse places they could be than taking up seats in a remedial reading class.
    And are there sucky parents? Yep – plenty of them. But most of those parents still love their kids. They might suck at what we think good “parenting” is but many of them had lousy role models too. (The brick example is certainly an outlier – although I was threatened last year by two different parents… which is one of the reasons I quit that job!)
    Thanks for making us think – and for looking at the issues in a different way. I may not always agree with you – but I certainly don’t want to live in a bubble that doesn’t look harder at issues too.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Vicki. I really appreciate your thoughtful reply. In fact, I can’t argue with any of it. Perhaps are biggest problem is that we’re sending to many kids to four-year colleges. For most jobs, that amount of schooling is overkill. I, for example, found my niche as a data analyst. I did a lot of programming and database work. Did I need a master’s degree to do this? No. I didn’t need any degree at all to tell you the truth. My bachelor’s was in journalism and my master’s was in public administration. All my programming and database skills were self-taught. It would have been nice, however, if a rigorous associate’s degree program at the local community college existed in database administration. That would have come in real handy. Well, that’s my pathetic two cents. Thanks for stopping by, Vicki. You know you’re one of my moral beacons. If I don’t get a verbal beat-down from you, I know I haven’t strayed too far from decency.

  4. GG

    A very good post Mr. Groovy!

    The Government (local, state and federal) does things that just are not logical to most people. Yet, the people in the Government are our neighbors in the communities we live in and have many of the same opinions. So why can’t it be fixed? That is the trillion(s) dollar question. Too big to fail, maybe too big to be fixed.

    I do think in many situations there is a disconnect with the parents and the teachers. The teacher/parent relationship really should be a partnership. If they are both working toward a common goal, the student will benefit. If the student gets one message at home and another at school, it will be a struggle. Not that this will guarantee success but it will certainly increase the odds.

    I don’t know that there is one answer to all the challenges you mentioned in your post.

    Respect….yourself, your family, your neighbors, your job, your boss, your employees, your teacher, your constituents, your government, your community, the environment ……might be a good start.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “Respect….yourself, your family, your neighbors, your job, your boss, your employees, your teacher, your constituents, your government, your community, the environment ……might be a good start.”

      Agreed, GG. This would solve so many problems. And you are so right about the parent/teacher relationship. I have a lot of gripes about our K-12 education system. But I don’t think our public school teachers are incompetent. And they certainly aren’t the enemy. As long as parents and students take ultimate responsibility for learning, and look at teachers as trusted guides, learning will take place.

  5. There’s a lot for food for thought in this post, well done! As far as lousy students and lousy parents, it is very dependent on the child themselves as you pointed out and isn’t necessarily on the parent. Our oldest for instance is really smart, can grasp all kinds of complicated science concepts, and devours information like it’s oxygen and he’s drowning in water. But Lord, trying to get that kid to learn how to read has been and still is a Herculean feat.

    I even got a 100 lessons in 100 days phonics sort of reader over the summer so we could work on it and he got a lot better, but he’s nowhere near the level of his peers. I suspect dyslexia (he’s getting tested in a week or so) is causing some roadblocks, but man, we work with that little guy evrey night and he just ends up frustrated when he reads. So much time trying to get over this hurdle.

    Even dangling the carrot in front of him that “Hey, if you learn to read, you can read all of your encyclopedia and science books on your own, anytime you want, for as long as you want.” It’s so frustrating at times.

    This comment went on a random tangent, but back to your point, I agree that the education and governmental system could use some refresh and overhaul, but it goes back to “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” If the will isn’t there, it doesn’t matter how much time, we as parents, or teachers, or other people spend towards helping someone learn.

    It ultimately ends up on the onus of the individual and their level of “give a f***” about the topic. For instance 5 years ago, I didn’t deal with personal finance, read blogs, blog myself or even have a great grasp of “good” personal finance.

    My interests change and now I talk about it more than my wife and help out people at work and write about it in a blog. Until my interest in it changed, it didn’t matter what you sent me related to PF, I wouldn’t read it.

    I think you’re onto something…

    Sorry for the epically long comment, lol.

    • Mr. Groovy

      No worries, my friend. Long comments are welcome here, especially from you. You make a very profound point. Sometimes the capabilities aren’t there, and never will be. Sometimes the capabilities aren’t here now, but eventually will be. I, like a lot of boys, was a late talker. I was also late to understanding the usefulness of reading. I learned the mechanics of reading at the typical age, but never thought it was a skill I should use on my own. I always thought reading was something you did because a teacher made you. I didn’t realize you could read a book on your own volition until I was in college. I suspect that your son will one day be a reading machine and you’ll all look back at his current struggles and shake your heads in disbelief. Still, our main dilemma remains. What gets someone to finally take advantage of his or her innate abilities? Is it wholly dependent on the individual finally “giving a f&%k”? Can any external force will it to happen? I tend to think it’s the former, but pray it’s the latter. It’s such a confounding problem. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. SSC. And thanks for sharing your perspective. It was one of the most moving comments I’ve ever read.

  6. Ron Cameron

    “Finish high school, don’t have kids before you’re married, and work full-time—do these three things and it’s extremely unlikely you’ll know poverty. Never buy a new car, always buy or rent less house than you can “afford,” and make dining out a rarity—do these three additional things and it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be living paycheck to paycheck.”

    I wish every person living in poverty and/or living paycheck to paycheck read this.

    This is a fantastic post all-around. So, so much good stuff. Thank you so much!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly! We put warning labels on cigarettes. Why don’t they put my warning label against economic self-sabotage in every school in the land? Thanks for stopping by, Ron. And thank you for your very kind words. It really means a lot.

  7. I swear Mr. G we must scan the same YouTube corner, so far I’ve seen many of those videos you’ve posted.

    And yes I feel the same way too over Germania. Her mom/older woman seems bitter about everything. I think the American Dream is alive.

    This country’s awesome and the government isn’t…horrendous. We had the same corruption rating as China a few years ago. My mom always said Chinese government is sh*tty but the people are good. At least it’s better than Sudan or N. Korea

    The American Dream’s just broadcasted wrong (its not about a big house with two cars; its about entrepreneurship and freedom).

    Its a littleeeee more difficult because of the increasing divide between the upper middle and the lower middle class. But it doesn’t mean spitting off about a single woman with 3 kids can’t get ahead because the “system is screwed up” should justify as a documentary.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it, Lily. We’re definitely kindred spirits–especially when it comes to YouTube. I think the biggest problem is that our key thought leaders in education, journalism, media, and politics focus way too much on grievances and way too little on opportunities. And that lopsidedness is crippling too many Americans psychologically. These poor souls come to believe that if someone has more, they don’t have enough. They’re defeated because they don’t even try. Meh. Thanks for stopping by, Lily. And thanks for proving that the American dream is still alive and well.

  8. Like any relationship, blame for failure likely falls on both sides. However, I do think our government could be more efficient and effective with the use of our tax dollars. Translate FIRE concepts into the execution of government processes and I think we would all be better off. Tom

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. Here’s one for you, Tom. When I worked in government, my co-workers and I typically worked only 3-4 hours out of our 8-hour workday. Why? Because we could get away with that amount of effort. If management, however, wanted us to work 8 hours out of our 8-hour workday, we would have. Just why management tolerated a culture of sloth is fodder for another post. Let me just say a snake rots from the head down. So, yeah, government can do a much better job. Likewise, the governed can do a much better job too. There’s no real reason for our out-sized neediness. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. I really appreciated your contribution.

      • Thanks for your insights Mr. Groovy. I forgot to mention in my first comment that I am a big fan of all the planet of the apes movies dating back to when it was Charlton Heston starring; to the new movies of recent years. Pretty funny to me that you bring it up in this post. Tom

        • Mr. Groovy

          Awesome, Tom. I saw that movie when it came out at a drive-in. I think I was the second grade. My favorite line in the movie is when Taylor asks Dr. Zira for a kiss goodbye and she replies, “All right, but you’re so damned ugly.” Classic.

  9. I’m not going to tread in the political muck as I have no business there. What has always baffled me is the education here in the US: High school for all.

    Whether you have an inclination for numbers, literature, or science, whether you are intelligent or not (Yes, when it comes to brains, or the ability to study, we’re not all created equal); everyone goes to the same high school and everyone takes the same subjects and everyone takes the same tests.

    In Europe (I speak specifically for the Netherlands) at the age of 12 you are tested and sent to a school that matches your interest and capacity.

    Some go to higher education which splits in higher economic and higher science. Some go to middle education which splits in lower economic and vocational (mostly technical).

    Those that follow the higher track get to apply to college/University; those on the middle track flow in the workforce or continue on vocational track.

    Those in the middle/lower tracks can also complete those and subsequently flow into the higher tracks.

    All get education geared toward their capabilities. Not one track fits all.

    I cling on to my original citizenship and stress my kids they should go to college in Europe. For one, I think it’s good to spread one’s wings. It certainly doesn’t hurt that college/university still costs “only” about $2,000 a year over there (free in Germany for any american).

    What I haven’t told them yet is that should they choose to study there, they’ll have to take several entry exams. The American High school diploma is not considered sufficient to enter higher education in the Netherlands.

    I’ll break that news to them when they’re all excited and ready to go

    • Ron Cameron

      That education track system is awesome! But here in America we all have to be treated equally, fairness and common sense be damned.

      • Mr. Groovy

        So true, my friend. And a big reason for our rejection of common sense is elitism. I don’t know when it happened, probably during the 80s, but somewhere along the line we got the notion that those who didn’t get a college degree and worked in the trades were losers. How do we reverse that? How do we restore the dignity of all work–even dirty work?

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point, Maarten. Imagine if our schools operated under the assumption that every student could be an elite athlete and then devised curricula that only prepared students for D1 athletic programs? Not everyone is college material. The world needs plumbers, dance instructors, and webpage designers. I understand the sentiment behind our current education philosophy. But it isn’t working for a lot of students and parents. And it isn’t working for a lot of taxpayers. We definitely need a stronger focus on vocational and technical training. But are we prepared for a less rigid educational system? The plot thickens, my friend.

  10. I suspect that individual selfishness often undermines better results.

    I’d agree that people need to take more responsibility and less umbrage. I suspect that we’ve somehow forgotten that the other side of the coin from rights is responsibility, and as a culture we’re way too concerned about the first as opposed to the second. The right of a good public education should come with the responsibility to support our teachers. (your $10K average is on a bell curve, buddy. Plenty of poor school systems (and whole communities) lack broadband access, half-decent technology, and even basic building maintenance.)

    I think we all have to give up some things to put money where it needs to go. But from those who have been given much, much should be expected.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Fair point, Emily. But I must remind you that my generation lacked access to broadband in high school and many of my peers (including myself) still learned math.

  11. Cheers Mr. Goovy, this is an excellent post! I started our reading thinking that this would be my favorite line “Because a lot of our students have lousy parents.” but then I found another one, and another one, and yet another one. I think most people are very tired of all these problems but somehow the complainers keep dragging on. This is also why I enjoyed your post about Asian Americans – a group of people who only seems to grind while getting ahead!

    The problem with all of these points you make is that they come down to a re-framing of how an overwhelming majority of people think. Are we too far down this road?

    • Mr. Groovy

      “Are we too far down this road?”

      Very profound question, my friend. I don’t think we are, but we’re very close. Our biggest problem is that our schools, news outlets, and entertainment industries focus almost exclusively on grievances and hardly ever on opportunities. Case in point: Every college in the land has grievance studies masquerading as African-American Studies, Chicano Studies, Women Studies, etc. Does any college in the land have Freedom Studies or Opportunity Studies?

  12. This is a very interesting read. I ever had this controversial feeling about the US, but you gave me some clarity now. We were taught that America is the land of the opportunities. Damn, we had Nicholas Cage on our elementary biology books (without anyone’s permission, of course, # f*ckcopyrightlaw). The ones I know, who left this country and moved to America are satisfied and never looked back. So I thought it should be an awesome place. On the other hand, there are the stories about the typical American idiots (insert Green Day’s soundtrack here). I don’t want to hurt anyone but many of yours are pretty much first world problems. You have one of the most stable economies on earth. Bragging about it and complaining about it at the same time is ridiculous. And thousand and thousand success stories (just look around in the FIRE community) show that “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. Let make America great again (no puns intended).

    • Mr. Groovy

      “I don’t want to hurt anyone but many of yours are pretty much first world problems. You have one of the most stable economies on earth. Bragging about it and complaining about it at the same time is ridiculous.”

      Thank you, HCF. In three straight-forward sentences you put everything into perspective. Nothing is more unbecoming than a bunch of whiners in a society of plenty.

  13. “Here are five ways that our suckiness is making it damn near impossible for the government to do its job well.” Wow, another shining example of why Freedom Is Groovy is so unique. Who WRITES like this? Who THINKS like this? No one, and that’s why it’s so intriguing. I’ve been an “anti-govt” guy for years, but gotta admit your words got my brain a-spinning’. Fresh thought, not something we witness too often. Thanks for making me think this morning….

    • Mr. Groovy

      Mission accomplished! If I got your great mind churning, then this post is a smashing success. Thanks, Fritz. You made my day.

  14. You probably already knew I’d give a hearty “AMEN” to this post. We live in a “My fork is making me fat” culture where we’ve groomed ourselves to absolve ourselves of all responsibility for our personal situations.

    I’m not sure how or why or when we started coddling ourselves and our children to such an immense level, but I believe it’s what is largely responsible for the state of our country today.

    Those who seem happiest and most successful seem to be those who have taken personal responsibility for their attitudes and actions and have chosen to stop waiting for the government or anyone else to save them. I know that’s the case with us.

    For too long we blamed circumstances for our crummy situation. Once we started fully owning responsibility for it and doing something about it, that’s when things started to change for the better.

    And the more responsibility we take, and the more actions we take to get where we want to go, the better things get.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “My fork is making me fat.”

      “Those who seem happiest and most successful seem to be those who have taken personal responsibility for their attitudes and actions and have chosen to stop waiting for the government or anyone else to save them.”

      Damn, Laurie. There’s a lot of wisdom is this comment. Extreme ownership/responsibility is the answer. First, for one’s personal life, and, second, for the country. The problem with our country and government is that far too few of us are taking extreme ownership/responsibility for our lives. Meh. Thanks for stopping by, Laurie. I always feel better after reading one of your comments.