Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a Walt Disney classic from 1966 starring Dick Van Dyke as a quirky inventor who turns a broken-down Grand Prix car into a magical flying machine. Along with his two young children, they soar off to a fantasy land with the mission of rescuing the beloved grandfather being held in a strange make-believe city.
There’s a particularly creepy scene in the movie where the diabolical villain lures the two kids from their hiding place. He walks down the street yelling out, “Ice cream. Get some ice cream! Today, it’s all free!” The children can’t resist and they emerge from a building to get into a carriage where they are promised the sweets. Once inside, the curtains fall from the side of the carriage to reveal they have walked into a metal cage.
I was reminded of this scene when Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 19, which mandates freshmen at California’s community colleges be given free tuition. The legislation, authored by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, would expand the current fee waiver for low-income students. The new grant would waive the first year of fees for all first-time, full-time students attending a California community college, regardless of need.
The notion that citizens are entitled to “free stuff” from government is an unhealthy trend in America. While there is certainly a public benefit to education — which is why kindergarten through high school is free in the United States — students who move on to college should be expected to have some “skin in the game.”
At the national level, the push for tuition-free college is a potent movement. Groups such as College Promise Campaign celebrated the passage of AB19 as step toward the goal of free college education nationwide. Not surprisingly, openly socialist candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders are big proponents.
Nobel economist Milton Friedman was fond of saying that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Indeed, he published a series of his essays in a book of the same title. His point was simple: Nothing is free; someone — either voluntarily or under compulsion — has to pay. And it’s not just limited government advocates who recognize this brutal truth. As it relates to AB19, officials in the Los Rios Community College District in the greater Sacramento area are trying to figure out how they are going to pay for the tuition break. Perhaps this question should have been asked when the legislation was being…