Student loans, Skittles and delayed gratification
The other night Charlene and I had the joy of going to dinner with our adult son, who was in town on business. It's such an amazing and truly wonderful thing to see your kids grown up and living good lives. I have many memories from his time growing up, but the events of the past week brought one particular story to the forefront.
When my son was about three years old, we were walking through a shopping mall. I had given him a pack of Skittles because those were his favorite. We were just walking through the mall, and my little guy was beside me holding my hand, and at one point, I looked down and realized he was holding that pack of Skittles in his other hand. I assumed he couldn't open it by himself so I recall asking, "Hey buddy, do you want me to open your Skittles for you?"
He didn't even look up, and he just replied, "No, sir, that's OK."
I was surprised and asked, "Why not, buddy?"
The response was not what I expected. He just said, as a matter of fact, as you please, "I might need them later."
Need them later?! Whose child was this? A three-year-old was giving me a lesson in delayed gratification with a pack of Skittles!
Delayed gratification is not the norm in small children, but unfortunately, it is also not the norm in our society. Too often, people act less like my little guy 30 years ago with his Skittles and more like Veruca Salt from the original Willy Wonka movie.
Do you remember Veruca? (First of all, who names their child Veruca?) She was the character who demanded anything she wanted. She literally demanded anything that remotely struck her fancy. It was demanded right then, with no delays, no deferment, no delayed gratification.
One minute Veruca wanted a golden ticket to the Wonka Factory and demanded her father pull all of his employees off their usual jobs until he found her one. In another scene, she wanted her own Oompa-Loompa. But then came the ultimate demand when she wanted a golden goose.
"I want it now, Daddy!”
“Right. Wonka!" said Mr. Salt. "How much for the Golden Goose?"
When Wonka told the ever-expectant Veruca that she couldn't have one of his golden geese, she had a complete come-apart. The song "I want it now" was basically her tantrum song. Among other lines in the song was this gem: "I want the world, I want the whole world, I want to lock it all up in my pocket, it's my bar of chocolate, give it to me now!"
You may recall that her character left the movie when she stepped on the meter that measured the golden eggs, and she was dropped down the garbage chute because, in Wonka's words, she was a "bad egg." Nicely played, Mr. Wonka.
Veruca's movie-character father did her no favors. Good ol' Mr. Salt was a sycophantic enabler of her inability to delay gratification. Basically, the Veruca character faced no consequences in her life and got whatever she wanted when she wanted it. Her hapless knucklehead of a father simply encouraged bad behavior by constantly feeding her addiction to immediate gratification.
What I just described is what we just saw last week with President Joe Biden forgiving hundreds of billions of dollars in student loans. Joe Biden is poor old sycophantic Daddy Salt, and the progressives who screamed on behalf of the millions of people who signed up for loans that just had them wiped out are like a pack of Verucas.
Now before my trolls are triggered and start sending out liberal rejections of my analogy, let me acknowledge that I know that not everyone who signed up for a student loan asked for it to be wiped out. I am also keenly aware that not everyone who is currently paying off their student loan debt is going to have heartburn when this ridiculously bad overreach of executive power is enjoined by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.
But a large number out there are clicking their heels in the air because Daddy Salt bought them a golden goose. No responsibility. No understanding of the fact that the contractual obligations which someone entered into freely are considered enforceable as a matter of law. No recognition that tens of millions of others who had no involvement with that contract are now on the hook to relieve them of their self-inflicted debt. They want it now.
Let's be clear — when Joe the Plumber took out a personal line of credit on his house to fund the new work truck and tools he needed to start his own business, he didn't come to Daddy Salt and ask that the loan go away.
When young men and women entered into the military service and served their country for a term of enlistment, many of them in a war zone, they earned a GI Bill to pay for their schooling.
When hard-working parents began saving and choosing to forego family vacations or not eating out at fancy restaurants so their child could go to college, they didn't get a payout for what they paid in.
When kids worked hard and sweated and toiled for years to earn (actually earn) a scholarship for academics or athletics or leadership or band or ROTC — they didn't ask for additional compensation for their years of effort to qualify for the scholarship.
Or how about the millions of folks who did, in fact, take out a student loan who then worked, and scrimped, and saved, and sacrificed, and just finished paying it all off with that sense of satisfaction that only a loan payoff can bring, only to watch in disbelief as a whole generation of Verucas had Daddy-Salt-Biden pay theirs off without blinking an eye.
Estimates are now that the plan as put forward by President Biden the sugar daddy will cost the taxpayers of America over $300 billion, with some estimates reaching as high as $1 Trillion over time with all tangential matters thrown in. One well-known pundit said recently that the Biden student loan bailout is the largest, most expensive executive action in the history of the United States. I believe that it also clearly indicates that Joe Biden has no regard for the separation of governmental powers. He has once again acted in complete contrast to his constitutional authorities.
But President Biden knows he is on thin ice here. This is his schtick. Daddy-Salt-Biden will pander to his Verucas on the progressive left, knowing full well that it can't be done.
My son understood delayed gratification when he was 3. He eventually ate that pack of Skittles, but he did so when he was good and ready and probably enjoyed it even more because he had delayed a bit. My hope is that sometime very soon, the Supreme Court of the United States steps in and fills the role of Willy Wonka by simply telling Daddy-Salt-Biden and all the loan-forgiveness Verucas "NO." Student loan Verucas are bad eggs, and we should not let them have the golden goose.
Phil Williams is a former State Senator, retired Army Colonel and combat veteran, and a practicing Attorney. He has served with the leadership of the Alabama Policy Institute and currently hosts the conservative news/talk show Rightside Radio M-F 2-5 pm on multiple channels throughout north Alabama. (WVNN 92.5FM/770AM-Huntsville/Athens; WXJC 101.FM and WYDE 850AM – Birmingham/Cullman) His column appears every Monday in 1819 News.
To contact Phil or request him for a speaking engagement, go to www.rightsideradio.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.