Ask Walt …

Dear Friends,

Today is the day I talk about church. Isn’t it funny that by saying this I’ve probably already lost half of my readers? For those of you still with me, thanks.

It’s curious that, even on a Christian campus, church seems to be a taboo topic for many. It’s as if some great chasm has formed – not between believers and non-believers, but between goers and non-goers.

So why don’t some of us go? Why do we attend Bedside Assembly of God with Pastor Pillow or the First Church of Denny’s week after week? There are a lot of excuses really.

  • I don’t have time.
  • I don’t have a car.
  • I’m tired.
  • I don’t have anyone to go with.

And my personal favorite:

  • If I’m only here for four years, what’s the point?

I confess, this has been the easiest excuse to use and I’ve used it. Often. But that’s all that these are. Excuses. Because, honestly, there is no legitimate reason not to spend 90 minutes once a week sitting in a pew listening to someone preach a sermon.

Last Sunday, I went to a service in which the minister invited his wife to the podium so that she might relate some wisdom on evangelism to the congregation. She spent 10 minutes talking about how much she loves sports equipment.

I sat there listening to this woman wondering why she was even given the honor of speaking to the assembly, thinking that this was such a waste of my time. I mean, why was I even here except for some hope of being seen as a good person?

But then I got to thinking. The church, like humanity, isn’t perfect. It’s got quirks and issues and things to work through, just like the rest of us. And it is ignorant to think that the church somehow transcends the faults of its parishioners.

But we wouldn’t ignore and avoid a person just because they were less than perfect, would we? Nor should we avoid the church. The church is, after all, called the body of Christ.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You despise even the idea of the organized church. You think it’s full of phonies or you think “religion” has no place in your life.

But it isn’t just about religion. There’s something vital about being a part of a congregation. Even if you don’t like the worship, even if you don’t like the liturgy, even if you don’t like the old guy who sits in front of you and cracks his knuckles, you should still go. Because it isn’t about any of that.

It’s about being a part, a real  part, of something bigger than yourself.  A part of a communal body worshiping the same God. There’s something powerful in that. And it would be stupid not to take advantage of it.

So maybe next week you give your Bible a workout. Take it with you. Go to church. What do you have to lose?

        – Walt

Good questions make the best medicine

Some questions, because they are flawed questions, can only yield flawed answers. Why did the better side lose the Civil War? Why haven’t people recognized the artistic incompetence of The Beatles? Isn’t it about time the president outlawed all unethical behavior? Because these questions are all predicated on significant misunderstandings (ethical, aesthetic, and procedural) they yield invalid answers.

Today’s health care debate has been, and, I suspect, will continue to be, unproductive because it continues to be driven by a flawed but politically expeditious question: Don’t all Americans have the civil right to comprehensive health insurance?

I count four flaws in this question.

The Pretext

The evocative language of civil rights is driving much of the health care debate.
In the context of American civic discourse there is no more powerful way of driving forward an agenda item. In describing it as a civil rights issue, health insurance is quietly woven into a marvelous American story of liberty: the struggle for independence, abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and desegregation.

Placing health insurance into this story quickly generates a mandate for the government, as a matter of ethical principle, to take up the task of securing the right. By placing the federal government at the center of necessary action, swift federal legislation becomes a virtual necessity to redress discrimination. All this, of course, depends on the conviction that health insurance is a civil right like the right to life; but how can that be when rights are the a priori natural realities of human persons and not contextual, prudential judgments?

If health care is not a right then much political talk today is parasitic on genuine past and present civil rights concerns. (see Bernie Sanders, “Health Care is a Right,” The Huffington Post, June 8, 2009). So, is it a right?

What’s Missing

The central role of consumer-based competitive markets in creating quality, affordable health care is absent from the question above.

It is absent, I suspect, because its presence would nudge the federal government out of the center of a proposed system. Meanwhile, the potent vocabulary of civil rights makes economic prudence a secondary concern, and keeps the government as Rights-Protector at the center of the discussion. Civil rights language then becomes a way of sidestepping central economic questions.

Economics should be at the center of the health care debate. Competition really does lead to affordability and demand does produce supply. When many people want and will pay for a good or service, businesses will seek to provide it at an affordable price. When several businesses enter a sector of the market they create competition, and in an effort to make their business profitable by attracting more customers, goods and services become ever more affordable. Right?

Unstated Implication

The question above puts the federal government at the center of the debate.
Someone might say, the market has already failed to produce quality, affordable health care, and so the government must step into the void. But that is a highly debatable point. The history of American health care has created an injudicious, wasteful consumer of goods and services called Medicare. In the world of consumer-based markets, Medicare acts as a gigantic customer, which skews our market. When a senior takes an eye exam and Medicare pays for it, it is Medicare and not the patient who is the customer of the service. Here is a crucial reason why health care is unaffordable.

When one outsized customer as a matter of policy out-buys the good or service in question, it weakens the downward pull on prices that competitive markets produce. Why does the eye exam cost so much? One reason (and there are others) is because the eye exam doesn’t exist in the real world of competitive markets. Think of it this way: if the six coffee shops in Wayne had all of us for customers, but also in addition one undiscriminating, multi-trillionaire tycoon who bought more coffee than all of us combined at whatever price the six shops claimed coffee costs these days, we wouldn’t see any downward pull on prices. As consumers, we’d have virtually no influence on the swelling cost of coffee. But if that trillionaire went away, it would be supply and demand that would drive down prices creating both profit for the shops and affordability for us.
Wouldn’t it?

The Framework

 Comprehensive health insurance is the irrational framework for our entire health care debate.

With the ballooning cost of health care, who can afford to pay for an eye exam or a basic check-up or, for that matter, a trip to the ER to have a cut stitched up without health insurance? What many have concluded from the high cost of basic procedures is that what is needed is more help in paying for them: government-provided, single payer, comprehensive health insurance. But there is a gap in this logic.

In the September issue of the Atlantic Monthly, David Goodhill (a Democrat) compared auto-insurance with health insurance, provoking the telling observation that auto-insurance covers only catastrophes like car wrecks, but not gas, car washes, and routine service. If the latter were covered by insurance, their costs would surely rise because the insurer would add new and unnecessary paperwork, labor, and process to these routine goods and services. Rather, subject to the forces of the market, these goods and services live in a dynamic space between profitability and affordability, while protection against catastrophic events is provided by auto-insurance.

The medical insurance industry (with the federal government playing the role of enabler) has turned most health care goods and services into prohibitively expensive luxuries, the prices being absurdly high because of lack of competition (think Medicare). Why not subject routine medical goods and services to the forces of the market to make them more affordable, while leaving catastrophic events and the safety net for the poor to some revised version of a health insurance system—even one that’s government run? In other words, delete “comprehensive” and we might get somewhere. No?

I’m just asking because I think better questions might yield better answers, and that might make for an all-together healthier system.

Allow us to serve you

Over the last couple of years, the dining experience here at Eastern has evolved quite a bit. In an effort to create a more effective atmosphere, the men and women who decide such things have broken the cardinal rule against the mundane: They’ve changed too much, too fast. For those of us who remember the good old days of the trays, the make-your-own-sandwich line and napkins on the table, this newest edition to the dining commons is sure to add insult to injury.

 Now, I’m not exactly the poster-girl for change, so I have a hard time looking at certain things with an objective eye. That said, when I first arrived in Eastern’s dining commons this semester I was miffed to discover that instead of taking my fair share of eggs for breakfast I was going to have to wait. Wait for what? Wait for a Sodexo employee to make me a plate. She gave me half a scoop. When I asked for more? A quarter of a scoop. It took me half a minute to get a decent portion of eggs on my plate.

Frustrated with the new system, I set in to make my disapproval known. I griped to anyone who would listen about how the old system was perfectly fine, about how the new system is time ineffective, and about how it will fail miserably when 2,000 students arrive on campus in the next week. All of which is true.

When I spoke to a Sodexo employee he informed me that this new system is doing one thing. It is minimizing the amount of bacterial contamination on the serving spoons. To that, I wish to say this: If germs are such a big concern, will Sodexo soon have its employees serving us our cereal and ice cream too? I certainly hope not.

I’ve also heard it said, by supporters of the new system, that it is creating some, if very few, new jobs for students on campus. Since the Federal Work Study program has taken a hit across the nation, this isn’t such a bad thing. But now, consider this: Last year, anywhere between three and five students could serve themselves simultaneously while one employee stood aimlessly behind the counter. This year, our hungry undergraduates will have to wait on an even longer line while two inexperienced Sodexo employees dish out food. But hey, if it’s creating new jobs …
 

We’re BACK – and we’re online

With a new year ahead of us, the Waltonian staff has spent the past week and a half brainstorming, planning and dreaming of how to make this paper the best resource possible for you, the students.

If you remember – but I doubt you do – we actually won a few awards last year, but missed out on some first-place titles. This time, we’re going all out.

For those of you returning, hopefully you’ve already seen a few new things that we are trying out this year.

For you first-years, get ready, the best is yet to come – when we unveil our new and improved Web site.

We had a site in the past (waltonian.com), but practically no one knew it existed and it was extremely difficult to maneuver through.

This year, everything will change. Well, except the URL – waltonian.com. Not only will the home page look completely different, but there will be numerous features and shortcuts so that you will know exactly what is going on.

Unfortunately, our new site may not be completely ready when you read this, but don’t worry, it’ll be here soon. I promise.

When it’s ready, if you don’t feel like actually picking up the paper from one of our wooden stands, you can access a digital version. The pages even flip on the computer screen.

We are also hoping to start some blogs within the next month, along with the option to post your comments about any article or feature in our paper.

If you are not really into expressing yourself online, even though you probably update your facebook status every hour, there will be other ways to get your opinion out there.
Every issue will have at least one online poll asking for your thoughts on either a story or something occurring on campus.

Since we can only put so much in each physical paper, we often have a slew of great photos from events and games, many of which you have never see – until now. All the photos we have will now be posted online and linked to a story.

I think one of the things our staff is probably the most excited about this year is the addition of a Flip video camera.

We hope to bring you videos from all of the big campus events and games, as well as special interviews, video player profiles and, well, other entertainment.

Finally, waltonian.com will have an ongoing event calendar, updated instantly when things change, so you’ll always know what’s happening at Eastern.

Oh, and there may be a few breaking news stories on there as well, since we are a newspaper.

As the editor this year, my main goal is to serve you guys and bring you the best, biggest and most useful news possible. And have a little fun with it as well. (Have you seen our photo cutline contest? Need I say more?)

If you’ve made it this far and have any ideas for stories or online features, Bettie Ann is working on expanding my inbox space, so shoot me an e-mail. If it still bounces, send one to thewaltonian@gmail.com. I will answer.
 

Ask Walt…

Dear First-years,

I know that coming to a new place for the first time is a scary thing. You’re in college with hundreds of people you’ve never met before, and you’re just praying that no one will notice when you walk into a glass wall thinking it’s the door. In honor of this occasion, I thought I’d take the opportunity to impart a bit of wisdom to you all.

Just a few things I thought you should know as you embark on what everyone will tell you is the best time of  your life. Throughout your college experience, these will be the essential things to know:

 

  • Be nice to your roommate(s). Or at least civil. You have to live with them, and they know where you sleep.
  • Wear your shower shoes or you will get MRSA.
  • As long as we’re talking showers, guys, spraying yourselves head to toe with AXE is not the same as showering. Take a shower!
  • Girls, don’t hide boys in your room. If you get caught,  you will get fined.
  • Guys, definitely hide girls in your room. Even if you get fined, it’ll be worth it. They smell nice.
  • Guys, girls play games. Get used to it. They don’t know any better.
  • Girls, try not to play games. According to someone who knows, boys can only think with one part of their brain at a time.
  • Everyone, your advisor is there to advise you, not to hold your hand. If you want to meet with him, you have to make it happen.
  • Go to class. You’re paying for it.                             
  • Dress weather appropriately. When it rains, it pours.
  • If you live less than an hour away, don’t do your laundry here. Save your money. Besides, Mom wants to do it.
  • Take out your trash. Especially if you have fruit in it. You will get fruit flies.
  • Girls, if a guy says, “I’m busy right now,” what he really means is, “I don’t want to talk to you.”
  • Guys, if you ask a girl what’s wrong and she says, “Nothing,” it’s always something.
  • If you drink the cappuccino from the dining commons, you will have to go to the bathroom soon after. Prepare yourself.
  • Shop around for your textbooks.
  • Study abroad. You will never get another chance to travel without having to pay directly out of pocket.
  • Finally, girls, if a guy approaches you and says, “God told me  you were going to be my wife,” turn and run away. Fast. God will not tell a guy something that big without letting you in on it too.

This has been some friendly advice from someone who knows. Trust me. Take my word for it. You won’t regret it. Have an awesome first year. Talk soon.

        -Walt