Friday, March 12, 2010

Die, Pharma! (and friends)

I just saw on the news an investigative report that revealed some hospitals were billing overnight patients $1000.00 for a toothbrush!  Yeah, you read that right- a cheap plastic $1 toothbrush for a grand!  It's absolutely unconscionable (one of my favorite new legal words)!  I can totally relate, after being harassed by my local hospital to pay some $500 for a strep test- unbelievable.  If I'd have walked in there with no identification and sobbed about a sad story it would have been totally free.  Well I DO have a sad story.  It's called I'm a law student who hasn't had a paying job for years and I won't for years more, and yet I'm not allowed to be on my parent's insurance anymore (since I should be able to pay for my own insurance, right?  I mean I already have had to pay for undergrad and now grad and rent and outrageous electricity bills and gas and, oh heck, I seem like a great candidate to offset the free care given to people in the community who actually do have jobs, but work illegally or make minimum wage.).

Don't get me wrong- health care is a human right and everyone should be treated regardless of their ability to pay, but I think that there are a lot of people on the verge of poverty who are paying way more than their fair share to help counterbalance the completely free care given to their neighbors who happen to make $0.25 less an hour than them.  These billing schemes have gotten completely out of hand.

This broke student situation is being played out in a major way in California where the state has decided that a good place to look for eliminating their debt is the empty pockets of its own college students.  Obviously, this has resulted is a huge backlash- student riots and demonstrations are happening all over the state and I completely support the students. (yay for the first amendment!) It is not their fault that banks were making risky moves, homeowners were being greedy, politicians were authorizing more programs than they could pay for- not their fault AT ALL!  Students are the one group of people in society that we can have hope in to change the poor policies and implement innovation as they begin to fill into the gaps in the retiring workforce.  Our college students are working to improve themselves and they want to make a difference.  Most of them are going into debt in their own names to pay for their schooling, most of them went to state schools just because they are cheaper than private schools.  And they get totally jabbed in return.  Outrageous.

In fact, I see it as a vicious circle.  Greedy deans and university presidents and professors demand outrageous paychecks (even the no-name College in my PA town here pays part-time faculty 6 figures, it's completely ridiculous) and then the state demands a cut and we get from that insane prices for higher education (the same no-name college is about $30K a year for students, worse than most good law schools).  Therefore, the students going into professions that require more schooling will incur more debt and demand outrageous prices for their services (doctors) and thus we see baffling medical billing.  And don't even get me started on the corruption of pharmaceutical companies...

Some Realistic Advice:
-be real, $1mill is not a normal salary, be reasonable and lower superfluous wages.  Yeah, that includes pensions.  People should not get paid the same amount for not working as they did for working.  It's called saving up and using your resources wisely.  Irresponsibility killed the economy, please learn from this error.
-with lower paychecks for university staff, lower tuition and make education more accessible
-cut students some slack, in my opinion, they all should be considered indigent


Rachel J said...

Dude the riots here are getting so out of hand--the other day Berkely students got arrested for a riot with Torches: Yes, good old fashioned Torches!

This is pretty much why I decided not to get a masters right now.

Michael said...

The problem with professor salaries is that it is extremely difficult to get an "expert" in a given field to spend their time teaching students and doing research instead of in the actual profession they intended to pursue. Therefore, recruiting colleges have to offer salaries comparable to the 'real world' in order to haul in good people.

If you want to be an accountant, why go teach at a college for $60,000 a year when you can go work at a firm for over $100,000? This is exactly the reason behind all the high-figured W-2s - gotta pay them what they make out there to come in here.

You'll see that this is primarily the case within so-called Professional fields, particularly business, technology, and advanced science. If you take a look at the average public university salary records (which you can, its usually in a binder in the library or in the main admin officer somewhere), you will find that this isn't the case with the humanities, arts, and "blue collar professions" like teaching, where the salaries are LOW (my philosophy teachers in undergrad made 35-40K starting, while the business profs all made at least 80K starting).

Of course, this leads to HUGE conflicts within professor unions, since they are all bunched together in one unit (at least the full-time tenure track ones). The public sees the high-salaried business profs when they see the professors picketing for more money, when in actuality the core of the union is the "lowly" liberal arts and humanities faculty.

Having been very active back home with higher ed policy issues, I have seen that the biggest budget fat tends to be on the extras spent on administration, not on faculty and students: President/Chancellor housing, extravagant upgrades and renovations to attract commercial business instead of student business, and ATHLETICS, ATHLETICS, ATHLETICS.

As Cuba Gooding Jr. told us, Show me the money!