FT91: We vilify doctors, hospitals, pharmaceuticals and insurance companies for rising health care costs but we don’t vilify professors or universities responsible for rising tuition costs.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 11th, 2011

Fundamental Truth

Greedy Taxpayers are Blamed for the High Cost of Higher Education

Both health care and tuition costs are rising.  They’re out of control.  Both are crises.  We hear about it all the time.  And we’re doing something about it.  Interestingly, though, we’re trying to solve these crises differently.

We’ve identified villains in the health care industry.  Doctors who order unnecessary procedures.  Hospitals that carry out unnecessary procedures.  Greedy pharmaceutical companies that make seniors choose between food and medicine.  And greedy insurance companies who keep raising their premiums while aggressively denying claims.  All who contribute to the rising cost of health care.

So we know who wears the black hats in the health care crisis.  It’s a little different in the tuition crisis.  Do you know who the villains are there?  We are.  The greedy taxpayers.  Who have nothing to do with the rising cost of tuition.  No.  Our crime is our opposition to ever higher taxes.  So we can subsidize ever more of the high cost of higher education.

The Rich Fat Cats above the Professors live like Wall Street Fat Cats

So why are costs so high?  And why aren’t we blaming those who make these costs so high?  Like we blame doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies?

Universities are awash in cash.  From tuition.  From the state.  From corporations.  From benefactors.  From alumni.  And, of course, from college sports.  A multibillion dollar industry.  That doesn’t pay a dime to the athletes that generate all that cash.  So universities have a lot of cash.  Yet tuition costs keep going up.  Why?

What are the costs of a higher education?  There are classrooms.  But these are long-term fixed assets.  That last decades without any improvements.  There are textbooks.  They’re very expensive.  Rarely less than $100.  Which is odd.  Because it’s rare to find a book at Barnes and Nobel for more than $100.  So that’s a profitable enterprise.  Textbook publishing.  While all other publishing is bleeding red and going out of business.  And there are, of course, faculty.

The life of a university professor is pretty sweet.  You get to hide from the real world on campus.  You have great working hours.  You get a lot of time off.  Sometimes all summer.  And have graduate students do all of your busy work.  It’s a charmed life.  And students pay them well for it.  And once they get tenure they can pretty much do whatever they want.  And no one will ever fire them.  No matter how many of their graduates can’t find a job.

And then you have all the rich fat cats above the professors who do even less.  Who drive the same kind of cars the Wall Street fat cats do.  And live in the same kind of houses the Wall Street fat cats live in.  But no one protests these rich fat cats.  Who got rich by ripping off students.  Via the ever rising costs of higher education.

Getting into the University System is like being Knighted in the Old World

The university system is a microcosm of Old World aristocracy.  Getting into the system is like being knighted in the Old World.  And university life is like the Old World.  Where no one challenges your privilege.  Because that wouldn’t be proper behavior.  And lacking the respect due to the privileged class.

Of course this isn’t a problem when you produce great doctors, scientists and engineers who make the world a better place.  We thank those professors who work tirelessly for the betterment of society.  But to those who sucker kids into worthless degree programs?  Where there’s no math?  Only ‘no right or wrong’ essay questions?  And no jobs waiting for them in the private sector?  Well, we’re not quite as enamored with these professors.

Because we’re left to clean up their mess.  From students defaulting on their student loan debt.  Because they can’t get a job.  To the mess they make while protesting Wall Street greed.  Because they can’t get a job.  All the while those responsible for their plights are preparing to raise tuition costs yet again.  As they always have.  And always will do.  Free from blame.  Even though they are more blameworthy than those on Wall Street.

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Veterans Day

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 11th, 2011

So few serve in the military.  And yet they do so much.  More than we can ever imagine.  These few share the worst of combat.  Fear.  Sorrow.  And death.  Many don’t come home.  Those who do carry these memories with them the rest of their lives.  Their worst memories.  And their best memories.  For the bonds they form with their brothers in arms during dire moments are bonds like no others.  It’s these bonds that get them through combat.  And the memories that follow.

It’s this brotherhood under dire moments that make these ordinary people do extraordinary things.  It’s what makes one expose oneself to enemy fire to pull a fallen comrade to safety.  Or not retreat when under fire by a superior force.  Or charge into a superior force.  They do these extraordinary things not for God or country.  They do it for each other.  For each other is all they have.  And they will sacrifice everything for their comrade.  Who will sacrifice everything for them.

William Shakespeare captured this well in Henry V, a fictional play based on historical events.  King Henry and his band were on the wrong side of the English Channel.  Trying to get home to England.  And outnumbered.  On the eve of battle King Henry gives the famous St. Crispin’s Day Speech to rally his men.  Here is an excerpt:

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

King Henry and his band of brothers were victorious in battle.

Never forget what our veterans do.  Honor them today.  And every day.  Until the ending of the world.

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