Smoking Something: Highways, Immigrants, and Students

Honest to goodness! There are times when I think our politicians are smoking something.

Two articles on the Opinion page of the July 17th issue of the Tribune caught my attention. The first was one in which Senator Toomey (R) from Pennsylvania and Senator Dan Coats (R) from Indiana proposed linking an encouragement of more immigration of “highly skilled” people to the United States with the need to find money to fund highway maintenance. What? They claim attracting foreign students and others “highly skilled” to remain in or come to the United States would produce more job creation and economic growth thereby providing more tax dollars for highway maintenance. They don’t, however, suggest a mechanism of how that would be tracked. Do they propose an eye in the sky to watch these immigrants or tag them somehow, maybe a tattoo or electronic chip, so that all the taxes they pay or taxes from jobs they create get directly into highway funds? So, no doubt, another government agency would be required to keep track of it all. Ridiculous! This proposal is a total flight of fantasy.

The cost of highway maintenance should be paid by the users of the highways. The current mechanism for funding is mostly gasoline and diesel tax on a per gallon basis. And, yes, users are choosing to purchase more fuel efficient vehicles and, thereby, use fewer gallons of fuel. This does not mean, however, they drive fewer miles on roads. The answer, simply, is to increase the tax per gallon up to the point needed to fund highway maintenance. Sure, there will be a lot of gnashing of teeth, but the problem needs to be addressed head on; not through some cockamamie scheme involving immigrants.

Now to the other article which, ironically, seems to tie right in. It was the editorial by the Tribune Board about education and graduation rates. The article pointed out the pathetic preparation of high school graduates for college level studies. The key sentence in the article said, “…. thousands of its (Indiana) high school students are graduating without the basic math, reading and writing skills needed to succeed in college”. This is no surprise and a problem existing for decades. The finger needs to be pointed at the high schools and nowhere else. Students wanting to prepare for college should not graduate from high school unless they demonstrate preparedness. The can should not be kicked down the road for universities to deal with as it now is. The current system is a recipe for the failure it is. And, guess what, if students were prepared, maybe graduation rates would go up and students would succeed in getting into the “highly skilled” category. No need for “highly skilled” immigrants. We would grow our own.

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About Kent Blacklidge Ph.D.

As part of a newspaper family who owned a 34,000 daily newspaper in the heart of the Midwest, I have a passion for a strong “Fourth Estate”, the press. Without a diligent and assertive free press, the power would be taken from the people. People have the absolute right to know. After earning a degree in Industrial Management from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue, I spent over 20 years in newspaper management with several as publisher. I am also holder of three graduate science degrees including a Ph.D.. I have a passionate interest in science and the environment. I have little tolerance for ignorance and stupidity.
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