Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Heritage Blog Rejected Comment: The Truth About Higher Education Costs Hurts Too Much

UPDATE: After it became obvious that my initial comment to the Heritage blog had been rejected, I wrote what immediately follows below. I then linked it all — this web page — in a second comment submission to the same Heritage blog article. That second comment submission was accepted for posting and became the 53rd (and last) comment for the article. I have included the second comment below after the first comment.

Steven A. Sylwester

* * *

A Google search of my name — "Steven A. Sylwester" — will reveal that I regularly make comments at the Heritage Foundation website — usually very long comments. I have been commenting there for a long time, so it is rare now that a comment of mine is rejected. In the beginning, that was not the case. Back then, I was still too much of a Democrat to give due deference to the Republican sensibility, and so I overstepped without meaning to. My challenge to myself for several years now has been to find what I call The Middle Ground, and to then stake my claim there. I am not a liberal Democrat — not at all. In fact, I now self-identify as a liberal Republican, no longer as a conservative Democrat. Yet some of my truths are ultra-liberal by most common estimations, even though I believe those truths are so grounded in conservative thinking that they are ultra-conservative if anything. Because a conservative will usually reject a liberal thought as something silly, the challenge is to overcome that bias — that prejudice — with an argument that is more conservative in its assertions and judgments than what is usual in conservative thinking. That is not to create a ruse or a masquerade on my part, but is rather to give greater clarity to the world as it actually is, for one cannot truly conserve something without first seeing that "something" plainly. Webster's Dictionary states the oldest definition of "conserve" as: to keep in a safe or sound state: PRESERVE. In my opinion, a true conservative does just that with what he/she thinks are the essential aspects of America from its founding to the present. To preserve America is to keep it safe and sound — to see the treasure and dignify it, and to share in that mutual pledge of the signers of The Declaration of Independence: "to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

The following essay is too good and too revealing of an essential truth to be forever lost in a blog moderator's trash at the Heritage Foundation. Sadly, I know from my Google Analytics that the rejection was due to a pondered thought. Somewhere in the following, I overstepped; I attempted too much to kill a sacred cow. I am sure some at the Heritage Foundation would disagree with the moderator's choice in rejecting my essay. After all, the Heritage Foundation policy concerning blog comments is this:

"Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation."

I strongly encourage everyone to be a regular reader of the Heritage website, especially if you do not generally agree with the conservative opinion. The Middle Ground is big enough for a multitude, but it requires of everyone an open mind that does not limit its truth to the platform of any particular political party. Truth is truth is truth. Evidently, the following has a little too much of an inconvenient truth — a truth that can destroy a paradigm.

The bottom line is this: Everything is interconnected, and the two-headed dragon — the inseparable monster wreaking havoc on the American economy — is "Health Care Costs" and "Education Costs." I have found the sword that can slay the dragon, but many would prefer to keep the dragon alive, as if we are talking about "Puff, The Magic Dragon" of our long ago youth. Know this: the two-headed dragon will kill America if we do not kill it first. God help us.

Steven A. Sylwester

* * *

The article that inspired the following essay can be read at:

If you truly want a revolution in American higher education to make it affordable, you will have to go to places in your mind that you fear and, once there, you will have to brave new thinking — thinking that will have the power to transform you and your paradigm if you will let it. It is not necessary to give up conservatism, but it is necessary to kill a sacred cow or two so the true definition of what conservatism should be in America can finally be seen clearly and then embraced.

Understand this: higher education costs are soaring because health insurance costs are soaring because medical care costs are soaring BECAUSE medical care costs are NOT subject to free market corrections BECAUSE health insurance costs are NOT subject to free market corrections. Therefore, higher education costs are NOT subject to free market corrections. Consequently, conservatism that holds free markets to be sacrosanct MUST NOT fall prey to thinking that believes all things are kept in check and balance by free markets. Collusion exists wherever it can exist, and collusion kills the effectiveness of the self-correcting mechanism of free markets — kills it dead. In fact, so kills it that the dragon monster in the cave no longer has an enemy able to stand against it, and that monster in the American economy is the two-headed dragon "Medical Care Costs" and "Higher Education Costs."

President Obama went to the University of Michigan to give his speech, so I will use that university as my model.

I just telephoned University of Michigan Human Resources, and a helpful person there informed me that UMich has approximately 40,000 employees, including both faculty and staff, and that somewhere between 30,000 and 35, 000 of those employees receive benefits, including health insurance. Furthermore, I was told that all employees receiving health insurance receive the same health insurance at the same cost, both the lowly custodian and the top university executive administrator, and that the per employee per month cost of that health insurance is approximately $1,200.00. So, doing the math at the mid-range point of 32,500 employees with benefits, UMich spends approximately $39 million per month every month to provide its employees with health insurance. Repeat: Insurance premiums of $39 million per month!

According to Wikipedia, UMich has 41,674 students (26,208 undergraduates and 15,466 post graduates) and an academic staff of 6,238 (meaning: 5.4 staff positions for every one teaching position). Doing the math: $39 million divided by 41,674 students equals almost $936 per student per month in tuition costs to pay for health insurance for the UMich employees who have benefits. Because yearly tuition pays for nine months of instruction and health care premiums must be paid every month twelve months a year, the yearly tuition cost paid by each student to pay only for the health insurance benefit for UMich employees totals as much as $11,230.00, and that number will continue to go up at the same percentage rate that health insurance premiums go up as long as there is not a reduction in health plan coverages. Repeat: Tuition costs per student as much as $11,230.00 per year to pay for health insurance alone!

The two-headed dragon must be slain, and the free market is wholly incapable of doing that heroic deed. Conservatism MUST find its true definition and MUST do what needs to be done, which I have detailed at: here
and for which I have argued in defense of my own proposal at: here

But more still needs to be done than just solving the health care crisis. Conservatism MUST demand that America be restored by the nation receiving fair compensation for its goods and services, meaning: here
Read my COMMENTARY at that last link — force yourself by any means necessary!

Finally, read my "Proposal #6: Public Education" at: here

God help us.

Steven A. Sylwester

* * *


Mike Brownfield,

Just so you know: web page)

I do not know if you moderate the comments for your own articles, but you should if you do not.

I submitted my comment (now at the above link) when no comments were yet posted for this article. In fact, my very reasonable hope was that my comment might be posted as the first comment. But, alas, my comment was rejected by the blog moderator. At this point, you might safely post this comment as a last comment after all the readers have already left. Good enough. Just do it.

What my comment reveals is startling. It startled me, and I am already jaded to the point where all of my illusions are long-ago shattered. I am so jaded that I am now convinced that liberalism is a sinking ship and that conservatism is the last hope for America. However, conservatism akin to an ostrich with its head buried in the sand is as doomed as any pie-in-the-sky liberalism; lies, half-truths, wild imaginations, wishful thoughts — call them what you may — but know this: anyone who does not look at the stark bare-naked problem plainly and close-up is basing his/her thinking on guesses that have been formed by biases and prejudices.

Do Not Be Stupid. That is my First Rule for myself, and it should be your First Rule, too. Think about things as if your life depended on it — as if your children's lives depended on it — as if the life of your nation depended on it. Throw out "Stupid" — eliminate it! Confront the truth of the matter, whatever that truth might be.

The truth is this: at UMich (and at every other university in America with a similar student : teacher : staff ratio), the student must pay as much as $11,230.00 in tuition costs per year to pay for health insurance for someone else, even if the student has no health insurance at all for him/herself, and that — a translated $1,200/month/employee premium — pays for an excellent full-coverage policy on a group health insurance basis. That is an outrage, yet that is the buried truth fueling the rising costs of higher education.

Mr. Brownfield, have you ever participated at the table in a labor contract negotiation from the first meeting through the last meeting? I have — twice! It is an excruciating process, and the second time through shatters every illusion you ever had, and then crushes the shards of your illusions to sand and then to dust before your eyes. Finally, after all of that and the pondering of all of that for years thereafter, the sun comes out again and you can see things clearly like you have never seen them before. That is the vantage point from which I am sharing what I know.

What I know is this: The paradigm requiring employers to fund and process group health insurance policies that are contracted with profit-driven private health insurance companies is what is destroying America's economy by destroying America's businesses and America's educational institutions. The paradigm thrives on a self-perpetuating collusion that is plain-as-day to anyone with eyes to see it, and the collusion is unavoidable and inevitable because the Health Care Loop is a closed economic system that is not vulnerable to free market corrections except at the point of total economic collapse at the national level. I am not kidding — not at all. If pragmatic conservative capitalists cannot see what I see, America is doomed to a slow death that will be catastrophic in the end.

Get This Straight: A free market economy must have free markets that are absolutely and completely vulnerable to market corrections in every respect or there is no free market economy at all. Instead, there is only the illusion of a free market economy that is in truth hiding a fertile ground on which economic cancers will inevitably sprout and grow and thrive wherever market corrections are not allowed to happen until after the economic cancer has already metastasized and economic death is certain. That is dire — and that is where we are now.

Do not fiddle around with this. Do not create false hopes around illusions that hide the truth. The problem can be solved. The problem must be solved. And conservatives must lead the way.

Steven A. Sylwester