I’m all for the American ideals of self-determination and hard work, but I also believe in that seemingly-forgotten principle that every American deserves a fair shot at the so-called American Dream. But becoming successful in this country is—and has always been—as much about having resources as being resourceful.

I just can’t help wondering: What if we had the ability to guaranty every child in the U.S. would, upon successfully graduating from high school, receive up to $250,000 to attend the finest college they could get into? If every kid knew he or she could go to Cornell or Columbia without competing for scarce scholarship money (or taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt that will, in the best case, take twenty years to repay), what ramifications and unintended consequences would ripple throughout our economy and society?

Sure, the super-rich would still have a leg-up; they always will. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; we all need something fantastical to aspire to. And—make no mistake about it—there will always be those who scam the system, take public money, and give back nothing of value in return. But what if every intelligent person with a practical ability, whether it be for repairing cars or contriving useful new product concepts, knew they could continue their education without worrying about money? Might your average inner-city kid (or at least some portion of them) grow up with enough hope to stay in school and work hard at developing unique skills and talents, rather than squandering their futures on a sure-fire ticket to jail or the grave by signing on with the friendly corner drug dealer?

I simply don’t know. Perhaps those raised in poverty would persist in succumbing to a mentality of hopelessness and failure, while those in the upper strata would continue to effortlessly claim their “due” at the country’s top schools and firms. But what about all those people in the middle? And what about those currently invisible individuals at the bottom who may have been born with exceptional talent and intelligence, but have no (lawful) means or opportunities to develop or apply them?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not suggesting a complete redistribution of wealth or anything so radical as that. I know my $250K-per-person proposal is silly and totally unrealistic (even though that's what it realistically takes to get a top-notch, private undergraduate degree these days, and that type of education is often a crucial key to lifelong financial success). But the notion that everyone should emerge from the dugout of youth to an even adult playing field is neither ridiculous nor unattainablenor is the goal of somehow smoothing and fertilizing our increasingly craggy economic landscape.

In The Floater, after learning that she was passed over for an associate position in part because she went to the "wrong" law school and was "of a lower socioeconomic class than is characteristic of . . . new hires,” Norma Reyes aptly points out that she did not get to choose how wealthy or poor her parents were. This is true of all of us. (I might add we don’t get to select our race or country of origin, either.) I know some will find my ramblings offensive (or—heaven forbid!—socialistic), but seriously, why should any 17-or 18-year-old be tasked with overcoming the economic ills (as opposed to enjoying the fortuitous fortunes) of his or her forbears before they can have a fair shot at creating a secure and successful life? Doesn’t each and every one of them deserve an even chance based on their abilities and accomplishments, irrespective of wealth?

If America truly wants to be the land of [equal] opportunity, we should start by figuring out ways to ensure that every kid who has the ability and desire can attend the best college and post-graduate university he or she can get into (just as the rich do). At the end of the day, those with true smarts and ambition would have a meaningful chance of rising to the top. As things now stand, I’m not sure what that layer we call the “cream of the crop” is made of; I only know it continues to grow thinner and more impenetrable since I endorsed my own first student loan check nearly 35 years ago.