Dear Mr. Berko: I pay over $33,000 a year for health insurance for me, my wife and my four children. That's more than we've spent on doctor bills and medicine in the past 10 years for our whole family, including our 9-year-old black Lab. My insurance agent and I are good friends, so I'm reluctant to question his recommendations. So I was hoping that with your contacts, you'd be able to advise me on a lower-cost policy. Our son will be attending college next September, and I need to reduce our expenditures. His four-year college costs will be unbelievable. I can understand why medical insurance costs have risen so much, but why have college costs risen as much as medical insurance costs? — GK, Joliet, Ill.
Dear GK: There's only one reason your health insurance costs are so high. It's an eight-letter word, and that word is Congress. But I place all the blame on you and millions of other voters who are too lazy to take the time to understand how our crooked Congress snubs citizens. Most Americans don't realize the visceral contempt that members of Congress have for voters. Several congressmen I've known for years privately look down on common folks like us, calling us the "great unwashed." And unfortunately, their Washington staffers often share that view.
I don't know enough about health insurance to offer knowledgeable advice; however, I do think that $33,000 is a lot of premium to part with each year. My suggestion is to find another insurance agent, and be mindful that financial dealings with friends usually have bad outcomes. You and your family are victims of an ugly political game masterfully played by your representative and senators and their 532 comrades. These members of Congress have government-paid health plans so posh and cushy that Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and even the Rockefeller family are green with envy. With Congress, health care is a game of money that converts to power — who pays, how much is paid and who receives it. Get used to those huge costs; unless you are willing to significantly lower your benefits, I doubt your rates will ever decline. So suck it up!
The most egregious reason for high college costs is probably the fact that there are unlimited student loans for an unlimited number of students. Today a non-English-speaking 87-year-old great-grandmother who harbors Islamic terrorists would qualify. Government attempts to make college degrees more accessible have also made them more expensive. As more money chases the same object, the cost of the object rises to meet the money available. It's simple economics. Students owe $1.4 trillion, and I suspect that most of those loans will be forgiven by Congress. So those greedy colleges took all that dough to become bigger, not better. Note that since 1986, college costs have increased nearly sevenfold.
Another reason that college costs are a tragedy is that there are swarms of poorly educated teens with no work skills. They've nothing to do but matriculate. Enrolling students who are not up to par forces colleges to spend more time educating them — an average of nearly three semesters per student — because the kids need remedial courses in math, English and basic sciences. Those semesters cost approximately $36,000 in extra student loans. Then those students are given pity diplomas.
Another reason college costs are a tragedy is administration bloat. In the past 15 years, total university costs have risen by 37 percent, with enrollment up by 15 percent and spending on administration up by 66 percent. The nature of all bureaucracies is to expand. And most college administrators know bupkis about business and budgets. The University of Florida has 58,000 students and 31,000 employees. That translates to nearly two students per employee. What an impressive ratio. Remember the old axiom that work increases to match the number of people available — and the opposite is also valid.
Will the day ever come when along with glorifying our college sports standouts, we equally glorify our colleges' educational standouts? Sadly, the public doesn't care enough. Just look at what we elect to Congress.
Please address your financial questions to Malcolm Berko, P.O. Box 8303, Largo, FL 33775, or email him at [email protected] To find out more about Malcolm Berko and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.