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Empathy For The Economically Challenged


Scotland has enacted a law requiring that people who use menstrual products, formerly known as women, be given them free of cost.

Period products, including tampons and sanitary pads, are now free of cost in Scotland to anyone who needs them.

“Providing access to free period products is fundamental to equality and dignity, and removes the financial barriers to accessing them,” said Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison in a statement, calling the move “more important than ever” in an era of rising costs of living.

Did you know Scotland had a social justice secretary? But I digress.*

Of course, these products are neither free of cost nor free in any other sense of the word. They are paid for in advance and by taxpayers at large. Some may be the people who take them for their intended use and others may be the people who find more imaginative uses for them, but most will be people who have subsumed their cost in their taxes because the companies that manufacture these products are not giving them to schools and governments in Scotland out of kindness or concern for the well-being of Scotch eggs.

Whether or not the people whom a government serves choose to fund the provision of such items is up to them. If this is something the Scottish people favor, assuming there are not more pressing issues to motivate their voting choices, then it’s perfectly fine for them to publicly fund menstrual problems so that persons of the uterii persuasion who can’t afford a maxi has access whenever needed. We choose public education, roads, transport and police, so why not period products? Sure, the ovarian-challenged, formerly known as men, won’t be able to avail themselves of this publicly-funded benefit, but those who can didn’t ask for the added expense and shouldn’t be penalized for it either.

It’s a perfectly fair choice of how to expend public funds. What it is not is “free.”

One distinguishing factor which seems to prevent young people from grasping the concept of free from unfree is whether they have to dig into their own pocket to pay for something. If so, they feel it and appreciate that there is a cost associated with a thing which makes them somewhat more aware of the cost. This is one of the things that befuddles olds when it comes to the call to eliminate student loan debt, When the issue arises, it quickly becomes clear that we’re not talking about the same thing.

To olds, student loan debt is something a person intentionally chose to assume. You knew what the cost of college was. You made an active decision to take it on even though you could not afford it and your parent(s) either couldn’t, didn’t or wouldn’t cover the cost , and so you got a loan. You did it. You asked for it. You were told the terms. You had the chance to give it a thought, and even though you didn’t because thinking can give you a headache. And then you signed on the dotted line, pledging in exchange for the money now to pay a massive amount back for the rest of your natural lives.

Nobody put a gun to your head and said, “take a loan or else.”

Yet, the realization after the fact that walking out of college, grad school, law school, with a few hundred thousand in interest-bearing loan payments ahead of you would be…costly? Did you consider the matter of repaying loans when you chose your major? Did you just assume you would get a high paying job at Grievances-Я-Us? Did you look at the stats? Did you consider the math? Did you brush off all the red flags as to why you would be an economic disaster because you were special and would be the one to succeed where every other special person failed?

Lately, there have been a slew of commercials on the tube about colleges and universities that cater to the needs of what they euphemistically call “non-traditional students.” They speak of letting students take tests whenever they want, because somehow their incoming undergrads are already nurses in hospitals, or their graduates receive a diploma in the mail  making their families swarm around them filled with love and pride. What are these degrees worth? That’s a question unanswered by these television pitches.

One thing to do is for applicants and their families to shop differently. A good place to start is studying available government data for any school you’re considering to see whether people who attended earn more than they would have if they had gone straight into the work force after high school.

At many schools, the answer is no. Three years ago, in an examination that should have received a lot more attention, the center-left think tank Third Way put all available data for all higher education institutions together. It found that at 52 percent of the schools, more than half of the enrollees were not earning more than the typical high school graduate six years after they began their studies. After 10 years, the figure was still 29 percent.

The numbers are fairly staggering, demonstrating yet again that the promise made in 1952 that a college degree would assure a student a better life is now broken, both because scammers saw the opportunity to take advantage of the clueless and because the promise failed to mention that it only worked up to a point where there were not enough college grads to wear white collars. When more diplomas were handed out than jobs available (who doesn’t need thousands of newly minted math Ph.D.s annually, right?), the promise collapsed. It wasn’t that anyone didn’t like you or was being mean to you. It was just that the numbers didn’t work, which would have been obvious if you were a math Ph.D.

If student loans are forgiven, they don’t disappear. They money has already been spent, sent to campus after campus to fund those 1,184 new Title IX administrators and the raises for  Anti-Racism Sociology Department. The profs aren’t giving the money back. The provost is keeping his new buildings. And admissions is pitching thousands of new diverse and equitable youngsters to matriculate, the cost to be absorbed by student loans.

Should old students loans become a charge on the taxpayer? Should future student loans? In Scotland, they were at least honest enough to identify that tax monies collected from all who pay taxes will be used to benefit those who can’t afford menstrual products (as well as those who can and those who come up with imaginative uses for them). Should every student who wants a college education be entitled to get on on the public dole, even if that means the education may be fifth rate and won’t necessarily enhance their generational wealth?

But what if they’re very passionate and really want to? After all, you don’t mind paying taxes for the public good.

*Celia Hodson, founder of Hey Girls, explains it this way:

The Period Product Act shows Scotland is leading the way in recognising that period products are not a luxury and should be freely available to all.

Food, apparently, is a luxury. But I digest.


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