Addressing the ever rising costs in college education: what can be done?

 

College
Photo Credit: Link

There are two resounding questions when it comes to college education costs in the United States.

The first question, with the cost of college tuition ballooning over the last 30 years, is going to college still worth it? The resounding and oversimplified answer is yes. If an individual goes to a public university close to home, they can graduate while spending 40 thousand dollars. That’s without any sort of financial aid, and not accounting for any room and board.

The average difference in salary for a four-year graduate compared to an individual that only has a high school diploma? On average 30 thousand a year.

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Yes, this is over simplified, it doesn’t consider what kind of degree you get, or if you don’t have the option of going to school close to home. But it proves a point, if you go to school for the right degree it’s worth it even if you end up over 100 thousand dollars in debt.  

The second question is more divisive, what, if anything, should the federal government do to address the ever-rising cost of college tuition? This is where I propose a more radical solution. College costs have tripled in the last 30 years, even when accounting for inflation. This is absurd.

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It is also absurd to expect the federal government to foot the bill for a public institution and expect that colleges won’t take advantage of this by raising their rates further. There is a far simpler solution to keep college tuition under control.

Set federally mandated tuition caps for public universities. Set limits on the amount of fees that they can charge their students. Set limits on how much public universities can charge for textbooks in a year. Colleges can do this and still stay in business.

As an example, military students using tuition assistance have their cost per credit hour capped at 250 dollars. Schools know this and want the students to attend their universities anyways, so many of them lower their tuition rates to these students. Why aren’t school willing to do this for all their students? Because they don’t have to, and they want to make as much money off each student as possible.

Schools now have the same mindset as every corporation in the United States, how can we make the most money. When it comes to higher education that shouldn’t be the case. And it doesn’t have to be. It is time for the federal government to step in and regulate these schools, so everyone has the chance to further their education after high school.

Politics and Religion: A quick take

Supreme Court
Photo Credit: Mark Fischer

Politics and government. The two are inexplicably and forever intertwined despite the perceived “separation” of church and state, a phrase that occurs nowhere in the Constitution. For clarification lets quote what the First Amendment does state regarding religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

It’s been that sentence that has been used to take religious monuments out of parks, God out of school, and just about every other rule exorcising religion from every aspect of government life. Yet look at Congress. Religious symbolism is abound. They pray before every session. You see freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

It just means that the government won’t officially endorse any religion, and that you are free to practice whatever religion that you choose. That’s why the phrase “under God” remains in our Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” remains on our currency, and Moses and the Ten Commandments will remain in the Supreme Court.

The military prays at just about every military function. There is a book of faith at the POW table. The phrase “so help me God” is in the oath of enlistment.

Just because someone doesn’t like it doesn’t mean that the entire country bends to accommodate them. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it. Pray where you want. Be who you are. Believe what you want to believe. This is America that’s your right. Just don’t try to infringe on anyone else’s right. And don’t freak out anytime you see religion or God at a government building or event, freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from it.

Gun Control: Long Overdue

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A few weeks ago, I provided a rational look at what will probably happen regarding gun control legislation in the United States. Now I’m going to provide a more in-depth look to what should happen, even if it won’t.

 
Full background checks should be federally mandated without exception. This means no exceptions for private sellers. Every firearm should be registered. Assault style weapons should be banned. Magazine capacities should be limited. Bump stocks should be banned. A strict limit of one gun per individual should be enforced. Ammunition sales should be regulated. Ammunition limits should be enacted. A violation of any of these should result in a felony conviction with a lengthy prison sentence.

Why should all this happen? Because gun control legislation works. Don’t believe me? The United States ranks 83rd in it’s per capita homicide rate, coming in at 4.9 homicides per 100,000 people. Just about every developed country has fewer homicides. And 69 percent of homicides in the United States were caused by a gun.

Four countries with some of the strictest gun control legislation it the world are, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan. They rank 138th, 163rd, 157th, and 188th respectively in their per capita homicide rate. Japan’s homicides per 100,000 people sits at 0.3. That’s in a country where almost no one has a gun.

Putting that into perspective, if the United States had the homicide rate of Japan there would be 14,982 less homicides per year. That means over in just under 67 years, 1 million more people would be alive.

The argument that humans will just find another way to kill each other is nonsense. It’s been statistically proven false time and time again. Try and prove me wrong. Find me one developed country that passed significant gun control legislation and the murder rate didn’t drop.

The argument that the Second Amendment was created to ensure that every man could carry a gun is oversimplified. The Second Amendment was created so state militias wouldn’t be replaced by a Federal army. It seems to have worked well.

With the overwhelming statistical evidence to support the fact that the United States would be much safer with much stricter gun control laws you would think that passing significant legislation on gun control would be a no brainer. But it’s not.

In my previous article I mentioned the NRA having a significant influence on this. While that’s true there is something else even more significant at play here. The fact that 42 percent of American households have a gun in it.

People don’t want the government coming in and taking away something that they feel entitled to. It doesn’t matter if it will save a million lives. It doesn’t matter if it means kids can go to school without getting shot. America is addicted to its guns just as much as it is to its opioids, and withdrawal can be a bitch.

Trump’s Transgender Policy: The Rational Solution

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The White House has passed a new policy “banning” transgenders from serving in the United States military, “except under a few limited circumstances”. Without getting into the controversial and often bigoted debate about whether transgenderism is a “disease” or “mental condition” let’s break down the new policy.

If you take an objective look at it, what it does is prevent individuals from transitioning genders while they are in the military. Which falls under policies currently in place for military members already.

Don’t believe me? Military members are kicked out if they are not deployable for 12 consecutive months. How long does it take to transition? Best case scenario is two years. For those two years they are nondeployable. So, under current policies they should be kicked out.

As far as it being a full “ban” on transgendered individuals, it’s not. When you look at the exceptions made all they do is ensure that individuals can’t transition after they join. Let’s break down the “limited circumstances” that the White House has outlined.

The first exception laid out by the White House policy is that individuals who have been “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession” may join. In layman’s terms, if an individual fully transitioned 3 years ago they can join the military.

While an argument can be made on whether this is necessary, it is hardly the only thing that can require a mandatory waiting time. For instance, anyone who has gotten LASIK or PRK must wait 12 months before they are eligible to join.

Now 36 months is overkill to ensure that no unexpected health issues arise from the transition process, but so is 12 months for eye surgery. That’s just how the military does things. Should the mandatory waiting time probably be less? Yes, and it might change after the courts get a hold of it.

The second exception is for those individuals that “do not require a change of gender”. Now this reeks of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but once you get over the guttural response to the wording, you can understand why this is a necessary provision. If an individual wants to join the military and is willing to forego the medical process of transitioning they should be able to do so. In an idealistic world this wouldn’t be necessary, but in an idealistic world we wouldn’t need a military.

The final exception is for those transgender individuals that are already in the military. They can stay in. This is the right thing to do. You don’t tell people they can do something, then kick them out for doing it.

So, while media sources go nuts on this new policy, President Trump is right when he says it’s what senior military leaders want. They are tired of having a force that isn’t fully deployable. And transitioning members only add to that number.

Omnibus 2018: An example of Republican Hypocrisy

 

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Photo Credit

 

2,232 pages. The largest funding increase in United States history. Less then 24 hours for Congress to read it before voting. Everything the Republican party has stood against for the last 10 years. It’s hard to imagine voters in 2016 imagined this when they gave the GOP control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House. It’s also hard to imagine that this November voters are going to be forgiving.

I am a fiscal conservative. But it seems to me that the Republican party is no longer the fiscally conservative party. After years of President Obama and the Democratic party lowering the national deficit, I had high hopes that the Republican party would come in and finish what Obama started. I was dead wrong.

The deficit is back over a trillion dollars, and the debt is over 21 trillion. President Trump has stated that this will be the last time he signs a bill like this.  I believe him. Why? Because the Republican party is going to lose control of the House, and likely the Senate in November, and Democrats aren’t going to make the same mistakes the GOP just made.

You see if Trump was presented with another massive spending bill he would sign it. But he won’t be presented with one. Democrats won’t give him that chance and come 2020 Trump won’t be sitting in the White House. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not saying a Republican won’t, but I don’t see any path for another 4 years of Trump.

The number one priority for our country right now isn’t to build up our military, our even to create a path to citizenship for DREAMers, although both are noble goals. The number one priority should be getting our massive debt under control. If not, it will cripple our military, our economy, and our country. Why can’t the Republican party see this?

Is it as simple as Democrats state, and Republicans will say anything to get elected? Or is there something else that I’m missing?

Common Sense Gun Laws: Where are they?

guns-36922_960_720Gun control is by the far most divisive issue in politics right now. After Parkland and more recently the shooter in Great Mills, the question remains are tighter gun control laws needed to help reduce the chance of these tragedies from happening in the future? And without a doubt the answer is a resounding yes.

Do we need a ban on all assault rifles? Maybe, but realistically that’s not going to happen in the United States without a repeal of the Second Amendment which isn’t going to happen. But what can happen and should happen is far simpler and should be a lot less partisan.

All firearms should be registered. We register our car without even thinking about it but when it comes to registering a device that’s sole purpose for being created was to kill things people freak out. I’m not saying that we take those guns away, or even limit how many you can own. But they need to be registered to an individual.

When the gun gets registered to an individual it makes it far easier to hold individuals responsible for shootings that occur by somebody that shouldn’t have had a gun. If an individual doesn’t do the right thing when they sell a firearm and that firearm is used in an illegal act, both individuals get held responsible.

Furthermore, if an individual gets charged with a crime, like domestic abuse, that would have precluded them from buying a gun in the first place, it can be taken away before anyone gets hurt.

Which leads straight to my second point, a background check should be conducted every time a gun is sold. No exemptions for gun shows. No exemptions for military. No exemptions for private sellers. No exemptions. If a gun gets sold a background check gets done. Every time a firearm is sold. And after that background check gets conducted the firearm can get registered to the new owner.  

It’s just common sense. You can make the background checks as tough as you want, but if you have loopholes as blatantly obvious as “if you buy a gun from a private seller or a gun show you don’t need a background check”, then you aren’t doing anything to prevent individuals who shouldn’t have a gun from getting a gun.

Universal background checks and registering firearms, these two things shouldn’t be partisan, they’re just common sense. Does the NRA hold that much power over politicians that common sense gun laws can’t get passed, or is there something else that I am missing?  

What do you think? 

Can Trump just fire DeVos already?

 

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Photo by: Gage Skidmore

It’s beyond time to fire Betsy DeVos. Her latest comments on 60 minutes just highlight what most in tuned individuals have been saying about her since the start, she doesn’t know what the hell she is doing. But don’t take my word for it, lets look at some shining examples of her ineptitude since being nominated.

Shining example number one, she made it harder to prosecute sexual assault on school campuses. In a country where only 31 percent of rapes are reported, and only 0.7 percent result in felony convictions, is it really the time to bring about additional protection for rapists? The guise of protecting those falsely accused falls flat when you consider that of all rape accusations, just under six percent are false.

This just doesn’t make any sense. And what does DeVos have to say when asked if the number of people raped and the number of people falsely accused are the same? “I don’t know”. Well DeVos, all of the United States, myself included does, why don’t you?

Example number two, she thinks grizzly bears are attacking students in Wyoming schools. Well not attacked, but that’s only because all the teachers have guns in Wyoming right? If not, those bears would be chomping at the bit.

Moving on to example number three, she didn’t know that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was a federal law. You know the act that requires public schools in all 50 states to provide education to students with disabilities? Not that it’s important for the Secretary of Education to know these things…

One last example of her incompetence, she has never “intentionally” visited an underperforming school… yet she wants to slash their funding. Yes, it’s important to know what the best schools are doing, but unless you know what underperforming schools are doing you have nothing to compare it to. You have no idea what makes the best school the best. So how can you propose legislation and work on changes without knowing what makes the best schools the best?

The good news for the United States, even Donald Trump seems to be distancing himself from DeVos, hopefully a sign that he’s about to tell his Secretary of Education his two most iconic words “you’re fired”.

 

Secure the Border – Without a Wall

WallPresident Donald Trump’s proposed border wall could end up costing taxpayers 70 billion dollars to build and an additional 150 million dollars a year to maintain. While securing the border is a common sense goal, building a wall is an archaic an ineffective way to do it.

The President should be seeking 21st century solutions to 21st century problems. Instead of investing 70 billion dollars on a wall it could be invested in personnel, sensors, drones, and other technological equipment to more effectively secure the border.  

Start by simply spreading the initial funds out over 50 years. That’s 1.4 billion dollars a year. Then you can add in the 150 million dollars that it would cost to maintain the wall. That gives you a little over 1.5 billion dollars a year to devote to border security for the next 50 years.

When you look at the fact that border patrol agents make, on average, 77,000 dollars a year, that means with just the funds for the wall you could hire 20,130 more border patrol agents for the next 50 years. Or you could hire 10,000 more border patrol agents and use the rest of the money to invest in technological solutions to securing the border.

Pair this legislation with a bill for DREAMERS so both sides get a political win while solving two issues that this nation is currently facing. This is a plan where both sides win while giving something up.

So, while the GOP feels like they are losing by giving up on the wall, they get much needed funding to secure the border that they wouldn’t be getting otherwise. And in exchange for this border funding Democrats get to present a permanent fix for DREAMERS allowing them to become full fledged citizens.

Trump gets to secure the border and Democrats’ get to help out DREAMERS, what’s not to like?

Arming Teachers–Have we already forgotten Salcido?

Just a few weeks ago conservatives and liberals alike were infuriated by the comments of Gregory Salcido. His derogatory and appalling comments towards the military community rightfully drew the ire of millions.

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That wasn’t even his first infraction. He had threated to kill a student. He had physically assaulted a student. And now under the proposal of the Trump administration, most Republicans, and the NRA he would be allowed to carry a gun into the classroom.

The Trump administration is trying to sell this proposal as a way for teachers to keep their students safe. But what happens if the teacher is the person that the student needs to be kept safe from? We no longer live in a society where teachers are always the good guys.

One only needs to look at the viral video of cops doing the wrong thing to see what can happen when you give weapons to the “good guys”.

Teachers should be individuals that society can count on to do the right thing. So should cops. But the sad truth is that’s not the world we live in. And this doesn’t even begin to address the fact that arming teachers will do almost nothing to prevent the bad guys with guns from coming into the school.

We don’t need to take guns from legal gun owners. So, while the NRA is trying to scare gun owners into feeling that Democrats are after their guns, for the most part that just isn’t the case.

What we need is common sense gun laws. Universal background checks that close the loopholes gun shows and private sellers use to circumvent the current system is desperately overdue. This means registering guns so we can make sure they don’t end up in the wrong hands.

Why is that so hard to understand?

Trump’s Saccone Comments–Just more Hypocrisy

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If you haven’t heard there is a special election happening in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, and while it’s no surprise that President Donald Trump is supporting Republican candidate Rick Saccone over Democratic candidate Conor Lamb, what is surprising is the rhetoric that he is using to do so.

While he lauds Saccone for “loving vets” he simultaneously blasts Lamb as “Lamb the sham”. The irony? Lamb is one of those vets Trump supposedly “loves”. More ironic? The fact that Trump is trying to champion gun rights after proposing the unconstitutional action of raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21. Something his own party and the NRA vehemently disagree with.

Having the president support you should be a boon for your chances win the election. But with how hypocritical and unliked Trump is, it currently does the opposite. Trump is for Republicans what Nancy Pelosi is to Democrats. But Lamb had the common sense to distance himself from Pelosi, while Saccone was foolish enough to cozy up to Trump.

While Trump argues that Lamb will just follow the Democratic party line (although he’s publicly bucked the party line on multiple issues), paradoxically what he wants out of Saccone is for him to follow the Republican party line on every issue. And elected officials that don’t think for themselves and simply follow party lines is exactly what is wrong with Washington.

Now does that mean Lamb beats Saccone? Unlikely considering how conservative the district is. But even having to have the conversation doesn’t bode well for Republicans.