In a career marked by stupidity, thoughtless remarks and total insensitivity to the needs of his constituents, Representative Dennis Rehberg may never have said anything quite as obtuse as the comments he made Friday about the Pell Grant program:
In a radio interview on Friday, he compared Pell Grants to “welfare” and decried the fact that students who receive them don’t have any sort of graduation requirement and could go straight from the education grant to “food stamps.”
“So you can go to college on Pell Grants — maybe I should not be telling anybody this because it’s turning out to be the welfare of the 21st century,” said Rehberg in an interview with Blog Talk Radio. “You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college. And there ought to be some kind of commitment and endgame.”
This was no off the cuff gaffe, but the undistilled version of Rehberg’s philosophy. In his vision of the world, he’s some sort of self-made man because his father and grandfather built a ranch for him to subdivide and everyone else who needs a little assistance from government is some kind of parasite.
Pell grants are a critical tool for low and middle class students to attend college, improve their lives, and enrich their communities. American competitiveness depends on ensuring that our best and brightest, not just our wealthiest, have the opportunity to attend college and develop skills for themselves and the country as a whole.
Without Pell Grants, I could not have afforded the education I received nor become the first person in my family to receive a college degree. That small investment in my potential gave me the tools to become a teacher who works with students who also aspire to a better life than their parents, and who often need the assistance that Pell Grants provide.
That Representative Rehberg would demonize a program that has helped thousands of Montanans realize their dreams of college education demonstrates precisely why he doesn’t share the values of most Montanans.
Shame on you, Representative Rehberg.