(Regis Student) President Obama is right. When it comes to healthcare, the status quo is unacceptable. Too many people are without access to affordable health coverage, and millions of people are uninsured through no fault of their own. We need change. But President Obama’s government answer is not the way to go.
Capitalism has been the engine of prosperity for this country going back to its founding. As such, I am now proposing that Congress and the President consider the “Capitalist Manifesto for Healthcare Reform,” several specific, free-market fixes for the healthcare problem. The most critical aspect of reform, and the starting point, must be increased competition—something else President Obama claims to favor.
Putting You in Control: There’s a basic principle in economics that isn’t talked about all that much, but it stands true thanks to human nature: If someone else—a middleman—is putting up most of the cash for something people really want—or need—they’re going to get it more. You’re not worried about the cost—someone else is paying. This is exactly what happens with healthcare.
Government regulation and policies have essentially mandated a third party-based system that forces the consumer to work through health insurance companies, HMO's, employers and other middlemen that pay the supplier. 84% of all personal healthcare spending is made through private health insurance, the government or other private expenditures that are not directly from the patient.
Encouraging the third-party system are tax exemptions for employer-provided health insurance that the millions of self-employed and small business owners and workers who pay on their own do not receive. Own a big business? Congrats—you get a nice little tax exemption for healthcare! Run that mom-and-pop shop down the street, or your own home-based business? Tough. As Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi would put it, “No tax exclusion for you!”
These government incentives, policies and regulations put in place, in large part by the federal tax code, do nothing more than exacerbate the problem. Because of the third-party-payer system, health providers aren’t competing for individual consumers—they’re contending for large corporations like Target and Cisco. The problem here is that individuals are separated from the cost, driving up prices (premiums), and thus taking away decision-making authority of the patient.
Not a day goes by where we don't see commercials for Geico, AllState and other car insurance companies competing over who provides the best service at the lowest price—competition absent from healthcare because of the third-party system. To fix this, the government must equalize the healthcare tax exemption across the board so that everyone, not just middlemen and big business, will benefit from it. That means small businesses as well as individuals, all of whom will then be far more equipped to go out and find an affordable health insurance plan for themselves, their families, and their employees—plans that are right for them.
We should also examine the other policies and regulations that encourage the third-party system. As a result of both of these decisive actions, costs will go down. Making these adjustments to the current system would open up the market to increased competition by allowing consumers to shop around on their own, decreasing costs substantially while maintaining high quality.
Expand the Sphere of Competition: In his recent speech to Congress on healthcare, President Obama acknowledged the extensive concentration of business in the health insurance industry. As he pointed out, “75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90 percent is controlled by just one company.” While there are some issues with the calculation of these numbers, he is generally correct—the market is highly centralized and void of real competition. Another fundamental reason for this problem is again government-created: the inability to purchase health insurance plans across state lines.
Thanks to the 1945 McCarran-Ferguson Act, which granted states the ability to use licensing laws to prevent trade with insureres in other states, John in Colorado cannot purchase a plan from a company licensed in Arizona; instead, he must buy a plan from a firm in his state. Health insurance is largely regulated by the states, which require that any plan an individual insurance purchaser wishes to buy must comply with all of that state’s regulations. This advantages both insurers and regulators in maintaining psuedo-monolopolies in their respective states, in turn hurting consumers, who have few lower-cost options available to them.
Congress should do what it is granted by the Constitution and mandate that every state recognize insurance licenses of other states. According to the CATO Institute, “Letting individuals and employers purchase health insurance from out of state could reduce the number of uninsured Americans by as many as 17 million, or one-third of the most-cited estimate of the number of uninsured.” An individual state’s regulations, as CATO points out, need not be changed and can be enforced in the other states.
But what about states’ rights, you say? If ever there were an area where the feds can play a legitimate role, it’s this. The Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution explicitly grants Congress authority to regulate interstate commerce. What was one of the big reasons they did this? Because each state had its own tariffs between states under the Articles of Confederation—basically the same thing as these obstructionist regulations.
By asserting its rightful authority to break down barriers to insurance purchasing across state lines via repealing McCarran-Ferguson, Congress and the President will strike a considerable blow to insurance market concentration, truly boosting the “choice and competition” that Obama likes to talk up. If done alongside dismantling the third-party system, we will see costs begin to lower for everyone—all without a massive, trillion dollar government overhaul.
Jimmy Sengenberger is a sophomore at Regis University, where he hosts an Internet radio show and organizes for conservative causes. This is the first in a series of columns proposing specific, free-market alternatives for healthcare. The next will center on empowering the individual through Health Savings Accounts and prescription drug importation.
(CCU Student) The war in Afghanistan today has increasingly taken on more and more dimensions and complications. Our soldiers are fighting in a place that has for thousands of years been called the “graveyard of empires” and the media is now making it look like that will be our fate. Unfortunately, our military has been forced to fight in impossible terrain with little civilization or access to support. Now adding to the growing frustrations, the Obama administration has ordered a new set of rules of engagement that prevent our soldiers from doing their jobs.
Talk to anybody that has been in a firefight and they will tell you that it is one of the most frightening and stressful situation known to man. Thanks to excellent training, however, our soldiers act in a professional and disciplined manner under fore and they get the jobs done quickly and efficiently even when the odds are not in their favor. But now our troops are forbidden to do their jobs because of a new set of rules that come directly from the White House.
The new rules of engagement state that American forces are ordered to break contact when fired upon from an area that may contain civilians such as a compound, house, or village. When questioned about this, commander in Afghanistan GEN Stanley McChrystal stated that his measure of our forces’ effectiveness will be the “number of Afghans shielded from violence” — not the number of militants killed. Our men are now ordered to try and get away from the fight if at all possible without putting our men at “unnecessary risk.”
Now as good as this plan sounds, there are many areas where both the administration and the brass are sadly mistaken. The Taliban and Al Qaeda forces we are facing today are not stupid; they have demonstrated numerous times that they are able to quickly learn our tactics and base their attacks on how we react. It will not take long before these fighters simply occupy all areas where the civilians hang out and they will safer than if they were in a cave. From these populated areas they will be able to launch attacks at US and NATO forces without fear of major retaliation.
Because of this, our newly emboldened enemy will grow stronger as they retake Afghanistan and subjugate the population as they have already done in the border areas with Pakistan and in the province of Waziristan across the border. And while they do this, our men will have only the desert and the wilderness to defend. We will see increased US casualties in the near future if the Commander in Chief and the brass do not do away with these rules.
Our military has already invested greatly in preventing collateral damage and civilian deaths. We have invested billions precision munitions and non-lethal weapons so that the innocent do not have to die. Unfortunately, in war people die. We cannot expect to get through this war and emerge victoriously without inflicting some casualties on the population. Some civilians are going to die no matter what happens. The question is how many we will allow to die because of this war. If we allow the Taliban to retake control of the population, then the Afghanis will be faced with the oppression, and mass murder that comes with the Taliban.
I believe that General MacArthur had it right when he said, “In war there is no substitute for victory,” and also, “It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” We would be wise to learn from these wise words and act on them before it is too late for our country and for the people of Afghanistan that look to us for freedom.
Jacob DeLargy is a CCU freshman and Army ROTC cadet
(Washington & Lee Students) Today two important gubernatorial races are climaxing, New Jersey and Virginia. Since our small liberal arts college is in Virginia we have been very much in the heat before the election. Houses around our town have had signs up for different candidates for months but specifically in the past two weeks our town has caught “election fever.”
When looking at the specifics of the election, we can see the two candidates. The first, Creigh Deeds, state senator and Democratic candidate, and his opponent Bob McDonnel, former Virginia attorney general and Republican candidate. While the spot for the Democratic nominee was a tight race, Bob McDonnel was the only candidate to file with the election board for the Republican party. These two candidates have had history running against each other as well which makes it an even more contested race. They both ran for attorney general in 2005 with Bob McDonnel coming out on top.
More importantly, while this election is important for the state of Virginia, it seems that it is even more important for the political climate of our nation as a whole. The Republican party has smartly used both of these elections to push and question the steps that President Obama is taking on healthcare, the economy, jobs and politics. This race has been a tool used in order to test the waters for the Republicans ability to gain control in the future. As one of my professors said in class, this election is a “referendum” for people to express their disappointments with Obama’s ability to make at any of the improvements that he stated he would and it puts pressure on the Democrats to reevaluate who they should vote for.
When looking at this race even more broadly, this race can demonstrate exactly how popular or unpopular Obama has been with the people of Virginia. Bob McDonnel has the edge right now in the polls by at least 13 points. If Bob McDonnel wins, it allows the Republicans to get back into state government control, as well as illustrate the people’s dissatisfaction with Obama’s policy.
While McDonnel has been a strong candidate the entire race, the race in New Jersey has been heating up as well. While the incumbent Democratic governor was expected to win, recently the race has tightened demonstrating just how split the American people are after a few months with Obama in the presidency. I personally believe that many of the voters now feel a little bit disalusioned by Obama’s claims and goals and now realize that they might either need equal representation in government or even new leadership to make changes actually happen in government.
Our favorite time of year: the smell of fresh pencil shavings and shiny new plastic binders brings to mind the commencement of a new academic year. Usually religion is not included in the new and chaotic excitement that accompanies orientation week. However, while the classes and activities provide a hefty load for a student, religion can be an outlet for stress and anxiety. For a student who is already involved in a campus group or church program, it is easy to pick up and continue their religious tradition. For all of the new freshman and newcomers to Christ, however, it can prove a challenge.
RUF (Reformed University Fellowship) is a small fellowship group for all Washington & Lee students on campus. It meets twice a week, once in a large setting and once again in smaller groups. There is usually one message per night and students are encouraged to relate this message to their own lives and use it to improve their relationship with God. Recently, we had a cookie bake for all of the sophomore women to provide some fellowship and relaxation before the school year starts. When we asked a friend to come and join, she was reluctant. “I grew up Presbyterian, but I don’t really go to church anymore. I feel like my morals are strong and can uphold themselves without religion,” she said. While we wanted to stress to her that it would be a fun, welcoming and delicious activity, she was still wary. Where do we draw the line between pushing too hard and not pushing at all? Where is the happy medium of keeping the door open? There are an infinite number of reasons that people might hesitate to join a group such as ours. Some of the most common that we have witnessed at college have been the belief that the group is exclusive, their history with religion and the fear that their social life will be judged. We are here to debunk all of those myths.
Being a follower of Christ in college probably isn’t the most popular or trendy choice. But any group that makes an effort to follow the ways of Christ should be filled with some of the most accepting and hospitable people on campus. While there are always exceptions to the rule, we have found many people through these networks who fill the role of the unbiased believer. This group of genuine people can not only serve as an example on campus for new and younger students who are easily impressionable, but also as a possible pathway to Christ. Regardless of where a person is on their walk with God, these groups provide support and encouragement to take the next step. The social agenda that students make can play a large role in their selection of friends. When coming into a group like this, a student may be introduced to a new group of people who do not share in the same social tendencies. While concern and possible confrontation may erupt from these differences, it is only a product of the desire to help and shed light on the ways of Christ.
In groups like RUF, the door is always open. Students have the choice to attend meetings and smaller fellowship discussions, but should never be forced; if this happens, the point only becomes null.
Roommates Rally is the pen name of Kari Ann Pfannenstein and Corinne Smith, sophomores at Washington and Lee
Besides nannying, mowing the occasional lawn and the seemingly full-time job that basketball and soccer demand, neither of us had really<!--more--> had a “real” job until this summer when we worked for a prominent Denver businessman and private investor.
While the majority of college students were basking in the freedom that comes with summer vacations, we were inside an office doing research on the Denver Public School system. Although at first, the topic seemed dull and as arid as the Colorado weather, after digging in, we both started to become emotionally enticed by the subject. Did you know that almost half of DPS students do NOT graduate?
This figure came as shocking to us; we both attended private, religiously affiliated schools and graduating was the only viable option for us. While both of us had been exposed to the occasional troublemaker-type drop-out or the befuddled kid who didn’t take enough P.E. credits, neither of us had any idea that the chance of a kid graduating from is really a coin-toss. We were even more discouraged when we found that Denver has one of the best big-city public school systems in the United States. What has gone wrong in the public school system?
The passionately compassionate businessman we worked for believes that outdated and politically corrupt teachers unions are the culprits; they prevent individual schools from having effective control over their staff, abdicate the power of the principal to make informed decisions for their school, and protect the jobs of impassionate, ineffective, and just plain bad teachers. We both have been blessed to have many inspiring, zealous and talented teachers, who are probably one of the biggest contributors (next to our parents and the fear of being grounded) to our academic achievements. Teachers can motivate and encourage their students towards success- both in and out of the classroom.
So why the shortage in good teachers, we ask? The teachers’ unions are run by and for the benefit of the teachers that are late in their careers. Accordingly, they are motivated to pay the new teachers as little as possible, allowing the older teachers to get paid more and vest in larger retirement benefits at the end of their careers. It is also almost impossible to fire a teacher after they receive tenure, which happens after three years on the job. As a result, less than 1% of teachers in DPS receive unsatisfactory ratings each year, and only a handful of DPS teachers have been terminated over the last several years. See data here.
However, the blame cannot be thrown entirely in the teachers unions’ or even the bad teachers’ corner; parents and family life play a big role in a student’s success. John and Rama Pfannenstein never missed a single parent-teacher conference in either daughter’s entire academic career. When in high school, they recalled that one teacher even commented that they didn’t need to be there; “its usually the parents who should come that don’t show up.” Maybe they only liked to hear all the good things about their bright and charming daughter (says Kari Ann tongue in cheek), but we think the real reason they attended 14 years worth of conferences is because they genuinely care and take interest in their children’s academic pursuits.
Opening the car door or walking in the kitchen every day after school and being pummeled by questions like, “how was school today?” or, “did you learn anything interesting?” is really just an excited attention and the recognition of the importance of an education; even though they were usually answered with a curt, “fine” or, “no, not really.”
Roommates Rally is the byline of Kari Ann Pfannenstein of Denver and Corinne Smith of Virginia, sophomores at Washington & Lee.
Editor: Fire up a group blog and you never know who may want in. A Denver businessman asked me if his daughter and her college pal could try out as contributors for us. Three minutes into the first meeting, after getting past the unnerving impression they were twins, I knew the conversation here would improve with Kari Ann and Corinne taking part. But what was to be the byline for this sister act? They've dubbed themselves "Roommates Rally," and here is their debut contribution:
Everyone has heard...
...their fair share of college roommate horror stories. Thankfully, ours is not one of them. We are two conservative Christian college roommates that met at a small, private, liberal arts school in the small but quaint town of Lexington, Virginia. Our little slice of paradise is Washington and Lee University. During our first, very awkward, phone call, Kari Ann learned Corinne’s name isn’t pronounced “cream,” and Corinne began to stress about possibly having a Midwestern hippy for a roommate. However, now we both believe that it was God that brought us together. We feel so blessed not only to attend a great university, but also to have made such a strong, life-long friendship with each other. Since this will be our first blog entry here, we thought that we would introduce ourselves.
My name is Kari Ann Pfannenstein.
I am a Colorado native, and have lived in Littleton all my life. I am one of two daughters of John and Rama; my older sister is Amy. I am so grateful for my parents; they not only planted and nurtured my relationship with God, but also continue to provide me with the best advice and support. I attended Cherry Hills Christian School k-8 and transitioned to Heritage for my high school career. I was the drummer for an all-girls Christian rock band called “Forever’s Beginning,” but unfortunately my music career ended when all the older girls went off to college. I played four years of varsity basketball for Heritage, summers for the Colorado Hoopsters, and continue to play for W&L. Though I haven’t declared a major yet, I plan to be a Journalism and Mass Communications and English double major. Almost nightly dinner discussions and my daddy’s humorous, politically-charged e-mails first sparked my interest in politics. I am not a Midwestern hippy as my roommate once thought.
My name is Corinne Smith...
...and I am the Southern counterpart of the Roommates’ Rally. I was born and raised in Greensboro, NC and attended a catholic elementary and middle school. I then transitioned to a large, public high school where I played soccer throughout my four years there. Once I got to college, I continued to play soccer, but I also broadened my horizons and got involved with the Catholic Campus Ministry as their service chair. I also serve on the Executive Committee at W&L as the student representative to the faculty. Right now, I plan to be a Politics and Business Administration major. I first became interested in politics after taking an inspiring AP Government class taught by a teacher whom I would consider one of my most influential. I hope to some day work with a political interest group in Washington, D.C. that caters to my conservative Christian background and beliefs.
Now that you know...
...a little more about us, we hope that you will continue to read as we tackle some of the current, debate-inducing topics.