“Dave? Dave’s not here, man.”

There’s an ad running on local media in opposition to proposed legislation before the Rhode Island General Assembly. (https://youtu.be/26E8TuLOPxM.) The legislation covers several areas, among them a higher minimum wage, legalizing the personal use of marijuana, and providing two years of tuition-free education at state colleges.

My favorite part of the add, invoking the ghosts of Cheech and Chong, follows.

“Hey Dude ... I’m not feeling like working tonight at my part-time gig after smoking all that weed now that it’s legal. I’ll just take one of them new paid sick days, and get this: Those suckers still have to pay me that new higher minimum wage. Even my college is free.

“Man what a great state.”

The voice of Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, follows asking,

“...if you think this liberal fantasy world will improve the quality of your family’s life ... [If not] tell your lawmaker to oppose this progressive anti-family, anti-jobs agenda.”

I can certainly appreciate the opposition to paying a fair wage, making allowances for the human nature of workers, and allowing the great unwashed access to education. I mean, what’s next, equal pay for women? And the very idea of reefer madness is, well, madness.

I wonder if the General Assembly postponed Happy Hour to discuss this? It would seem a bit contradictory not to, but the hypocrisy is the point of this piece.

One would have to be a complete fool to think this is “giving” away free education without conditions. Taxes would fund the program. Taxes paid by people with jobs. Jobs that come with higher salaries linked to higher educational levels.

Every politician in the country touts job creation. The job market is changing. Whether you perform heart surgery or repair car engines, you need a solid foundation in computers, math, science, reading.

Teaching people to think critically adds to the quality of their lives. Critical thinking would help them see through the idiocy of this insulting ad.

As to the legalization of marijuana, this is not a slippery slope to legalizing all drugs. The so-called war on drugs was lost years ago. Not through defeat in battle, but through imprisoning generations of the very people we were trying to protect.

Some interesting facts about marijuana. Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the US with 18.0 million Americans 12 or older (more than 7% of the total US population) reported using marijuana in the prior month.  Nearly 49% of Americans have tried marijuana (just one claimed to not inhale.)  (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/6-facts-about-marijuana/)

Hospital visits related to the use of illegal vs. legal substances are overwhelmingly related to alcohol.  (https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/drug-related-hospital-emergency-room-visits)

Once again, my point is the duplicitous nature of this opposition. The opponents are trying to link a medical issue (substance abuse) to an issue of fairness and equitability in the workplace and undermine society's vested interest in education.

Until we recognize substance abuse as a medical issue, not a criminal one, and put adequate effort into treating it, nothing will change.

And until we acknowledge that many of our fellow Americans occasionally “walk the dog” or some other such euphemism for smoking a joint or consuming a cannabis-laced brownie (which solves two problems at once I would think,) we are fooling ourselves at the pervasiveness of use.

The use of any substance; alcohol, marijuana, tobacco, caffeine, has risks. With maturity comes the tools to do so. To criminalize the actions of millions of Americans out of a misguided attempt to control the abuse by a small percentage is ludicrous.

And then there’s the higher minimum wage issue. I travel quite a bit. One of the first things one notices about the services industry in other countries is the limited amount of tipping. In some countries, tipping is considered an insult. The servers are paid a fair wage, they have a vested interest in the success of the restaurant because their salary depends on it not the vagaries of individual tipping practices.

As to the concept of free education, much of the same argument in opposition was made about the idea of requiring a high school diploma. The opposition is trying to mix the poor state of much of our public education system with the idea of paying for more of the same. Instead of working to find effective solutions to the problem, they choose to blame teacher unions and regulations.

When you go to a doctor, you follow the advice, you don’t criticize the AMA for the cost of health care. Why don’t we listen to teachers about what’s best for education? Instead, we claim, “back in the day” we learned this way and it was good enough for me.

It would take pages and pages to document all the “crap I learned in high school” (apologies to Paul Simon.) And I had great teachers, I was taught well but there were things taught then we knew were not true. Somehow, we chose to ignore the best resource we have, teachers, in finding ways to fix education.

If you don't value what you don't pay for, what does that say about how we value education?

It is all smoke and mirrors to the real issue they oppose, a more equitable division of income. Not socialism, fairness. Not everyone is the same, but everyone has the same opportunity.

I am not a big fan of Michael Moore, but one must give the devil his due. I would encourage you to watch his film, “Where to Invade Next?’ You might be surprised at how the rest of the world enjoys better minimum wages, health care, and free college education and manages to do very well in the process.

Here’s something to consider. According to Forbes magazine, workers at Walmart cost American taxpayers $6.2 BILLION dollars in public assistance. You’re supplementing Walmart profits with the current minimum wage. We have a company profiting on public assistance. How's that for family values? Think about that next time you buy a 1000 pack of paper towels.  (https://www.forbes.com/sites/clareoconnor/2014/04/15/report-walmart-workers-cost-taxpayers-6-2-billion-in-public-assistance)

The ad uses the word "progressive" as if it is some form of vulgarity. The base of the word “progressive” is “progress.” Progressivism arose from the Enlightenment. Something one would learn about in an effective educational system.

Immanuel Kant identified progress as being a movement away from barbarism towards civilization. Eighteenth-century philosopher and political scientist Marquis de Condorcet predicted that political progress would involve the disappearance of slavery, the rise of literacy, the lessening of inequalities between the sexes, reforms of harsh prisons and the decline of poverty.

I would argue these were worthy goals. I would also venture to say similar opposition was voiced then by conservatives and merchantmen (and they were exclusively men and white), and the wealthy; adverse to give up their debtors’ prisons, child labor, and workhouses or the socialist burden of a “minimum wage.”

The value of an education is not reflected in what it costs, but in what it can do for those who take advantage of it and to society at large. Education is not free. We need to do a cost/benefit analysis to craft the right system. Failing to offer an effective and efficient education including college has a higher long-term cost to society.

If sophomoric ads such as this sway people to oppose discussing such issues, it underscores my point. Anyone who takes this ad seriously should demand their money back from wherever they went to school.