Month: December 2012

WHY DO CHILDREN LIVE IN POVERTY?

Children sit around their beat-up trailer in Louisiana. (2008)

Children sit around their beat-up trailer in Louisiana. (2008)

Children live a life of poverty because their parents do not work sufficiently; their fathers are absent from the home, and the lack of education in the family. It is crucial to the U.S. to understand why children live in poverty, and if poverty is easier to define, it will make it easier for people and the government to understand the necessary precautions to minimize poverty.

Parents are not working sufficiently because they do not work full time jobs. This is because now most poverty-affected parents do not work full time/year, and they earn close to minimum wage. (Eggebeen 632)“Nearly 1 in 3 poor family heads today are in the paid labor force.” (Eggebeen 634). That means that employment is not enough to get a family out of poverty. It is the quality of employment that matters.

An average minimum wage job in Wyoming. (2012)

An average minimum wage job in Wyoming. (2012)

When a husband leaves his wife and family, the mother has to support her family all on her own. With a single mother having children, she is not likely to have a full time job. A single mother cannot even count on her child support because “62 % of fathers do not provide child support.”(Danziger 3). According to Eggebeen, “The poverty rate is 27.1 % for single mothers who are employed, which is substantially lower than the rate of 70.9 % among non-working single mothers. (Eggebeen 634).  This proves that a child is more likely to grow up in poverty if their single mother is not working. Women have made staying home a customary unacceptable route of single mothers. Thus, leaving their family to depend on welfare.  With a single mother not working, her child does not see a strong work ethic in the household. Thus, the child will grow up thinking that they do not need to work either.

Above, a single mother explains why she cannot work and why she needs welfare to support her.

Yet most single mothers do work, but most work part time. With children to raise, part time is a compromise in the working field, but it does not cover all the family’s expenses. Working part time has no job benefits. (Cooper 1). The only benefits come from the government, which are limited and based on your income. For example, a mother can receive food stamps, but if she makes $350 a week or over the government’s eligibility limit, the government does not provide healthcare. Then a mother must resort to a free clinic for her family’s primary healthcare, and that does put the family’s health in danger. (Cooper 1). Even with the greatest intention, to provide, some mothers just cant work full time because of their children.

A graph that shows the difference between single mothers and married mothers

A graph that shows the difference between single mothers and married mothers

Not only are part-time jobs a struggle for single mothers, but also the low wage and inflexibility of jobs because they affect a child’s upbringing. It is proven that Single mothers are more likely to work in low-wage jobs. (Eggebeen 630). Their job quality is not high. More than 80 percent of low-wage workers do not have access to a single paid sick day. (Wright 1). Without paid sick days, a mother must choose between tending to her sick child or loosing her job. According to Wright, “A single mother with two children, working full time at $10 per hour, would slip below the poverty line if one of her children got sick, and she had to miss three days of work without pay.” (Wright 1). Unstable childcare arrangements and strict work schedules are substantial impediments to single mothers in the work force. Single mothers in poverty create a premeditated life for their children to be in poverty as well, by having little or no money towards their education.

A graph showing mothers feelings towards longer/shorter hours

A graph showing mothers feelings towards longer/shorter hours

Minimal schooling in families sets limits on their children’s future education. Since impoverished families have little to no excess income, there is not enough money put aside for the children to go onto education beyond high school. The government does not pay for college for people who cannot afford them. Children continue to live a life of poverty as an adult because they follow their parents’ route of little education, which establishes a low wage job. The average yearly salary for a bachelor’s degree is 45,000, and with a high school diploma it is 23,000. (Cooper 2). One earns nearly half of what they would earn if they went to college. When parents have little education they have low paying jobs, which do not support the necessary funds for their children’s education. All in all if children are educated their quality of life will be improved because they will have the option of a career path instead of a job.

Children grow up in poverty because of their parents’ economical situation of; their parents not working sufficiently, the fathers being absent from the home and the lack of education in the family. Children can escape their impoverished life by reacting smart to economical decisions when they are adults. Poverty is highly prevalent in the U.S. and “more than 29 percent of the county’s children now live in poverty”.(Robertson 1). This issue can be minimized if the government and citizens act correctly. The government should have an incentive to keep fathers from leaving the home of their families or a punishment that follows through with the payment of child support. Also, education should be emphasized as the most salient entity in any economic standing household. Impoverished families need to know how education gives their children a better life. All in all children are pre-born into poverty but their parents, the government, and society can work together to not allow the children stay in poverty.

Oprah was born into poverty of a single teenage mother, but she managed to work her way out of poverty

Oprah was born into poverty of a single teenage mother, but she managed to work her way out and show that it is possible.

Works Cited (Bibliography)

Cooper, Mary H. “The Working Poor.” CQ Researcher 3 Nov. 1995: 969-92. Web. 30 Oct. 2012.

Danziger, Sheldon. Understanding Poverty, Russell Sage Foundation and Harvard University Press, 2001.

Eggebeen, David.”The Effect of Parental Employment on Child Poverty.” Journal of Marriage and Family. 56.3 (1994): 633-645. Print.
http://www.jstor.org/stable/352874>.

Robertson, Todd. “Dallas morning news.” Dallas morning news. (2011): n. page. 20 Oct. 2012.
http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/20111118-editorial-study-finds-growing-child-poverty-among-dallas-prosperity.ece>.

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A False Sense of American Superiority – Is America As Great As We Think?

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The United States has been one of the most influential countries in history. While we significantly contribute to society and have substantial power, some people ignorantly believe that America is undoubtedly the best country in the world. Believing in “American Exceptionalism has resulted in a false concept of American Superiority.

Over time, the definition of American Exceptionalism has changed. One of the key differences is the time period we live in today. For most of the 20th century, America was undisputedly one of the greatest countries in the world. Americans had liberty; free-market capitalism reigned supreme with a behemoth of an economy standing behind it, and the strongest military in the world stood behind us. It was okay to think America was great, because most other countries weren’t anywhere close. However, other countries have closed the gap within the last 15-20 years, and Americans haven’t yet fully noticed.

Now, Americans sentiments of Exceptionalism have become quasi-supremacist. What makes American Exceptionalism a dangerous ideology to hold now is that we are no longer in a league of our own. As other countries catch up, holding onto ideas that America trumps all encourages complacency. If Americans continue to believe that other countries simply don’t stack up, innovation will suffer, and America’s reputation will falter worldwide.

America has fallen behind in certain areas as other countries have improved and even surpassed us. In terms of foreign policy, America deals a heavy hand in world politics. The United States is often the tip of the spear in diplomatic engagements around the world. America also has the most capable and powerful military force the world has ever seen. Author Godfrey Hodgson noted that it “is perfectly true that the military power of the United States is unchallengeable” (113). But, what price does that power come?

As the most diplomatically capable country in the world, there is often a responsibility to help other countries solve disputes. If America steps in too much, people believe we are trying to exert our own will across the globe. If we do nothing, we are branded as irresponsible for letting something bad happen when we had the power to stop it. People often argue that America’s style of diplomacy is synonymous with being a sort of world police. In fact, a famous movie called Team America: World Police pokes fun at the idea that America plays too much a hand in international diplomacy (Parker).

Americans also spend an exorbitant amount of money to fund our military. In the opening scene of the TV show The Newsroom, the main character Will McAvoy declares that one of the only things America is number one in is defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of which are allies (Sorkin). Having such a large military puts an expectation on the United States Government to wield that power in a way that creates many “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t” scenarios. There is nothing exceptional about the place our diplomatic power has put us in.

Maybe because America has strived to keep ahead of other countries in military and diplomatic power, quality of life in America has stooped to sub-par conditions for “the best nation in the world”. For example, the United States is the 51st best in life expectancy and we have the 6th highest obesity rate (CIA). Looking at the other data measures on the CIA Factbook yields similarly concerning results. The quality of life that Americans actually have suggests a country far from number one. American Exceptionalism has led us to believe that our quality of life is so much better than other places around the world. But can that really be true when we have high infant mortality rates, high obesity rates, low literacy standards, etc? Americans aren’t better off than people in other countries. In fact, in many cases, they are worse.

The last major aspect to look at is the state of American economics. According to the CIA Factbook, “the US has the largest and technologically most powerful economy in the world” (CIA). There is no question that the United States has a massive economic network that employs millions of workers each year.

However, there are some darker statistics hidden behind our economy. America has the 4th largest labor force (and steadily decreasing as manufacturing jobs are sent overseas). The US also is now the 4th largest exporter in material and intellectual goods (CIA). The implications are significant. As jobs move overseas, more innovation is happening elsewhere. This has slowed our economies growth. As we import more and export less goods, as well as ship jobs overseas, the combination is dangerous for the underpinnings of the economy.

The United States is also currently working to recover from one of the worst economic downturns in its history. Many firms were forced out of business, and many more were shipped away. The recession also showed another scary factor in the economy: questionable oversight and management by the government in recent history. The lack of involvement by the federal government to make rules that keep safety checks in place almost derailed our economy.

Our economy is huge and extremely powerful. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy and headed in the right direction. To reflect one of the greatest nations in the world, it needs to be steered back on course.

What must change are the irrational expectations of Americans. Make no mistake; the United States is not on a crash course for failure, just a course that doesn’t accurately represent the sentiments of its people. But, we cannot continue to expect to be unquestionably the best country around. The idea that America is both the best country in the world, as well as the only country worth a grain of salt is an idea more fit for times of imperialism. Once the United States recognizes the problem, we can be great once again.

Works Cited

De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy In America. Vol. 2. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Project Gutenberg. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/816/816-h/816-h.htm>.

Hodgson, Godfrey. The Myth of American Exceptionalism. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009. Print.

Sells, Heather. “‘American Exceptionalism’ Next Political Hot Button?” Christian Broadcasting Network. Christian Broadcasting Network, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/politics/2011/march/is-american-exceptionalism-becoming-passe/>. 

Team America: World Police. Dir. Trey Parker. 2004. Film.

“We Just Decided To.” Dir. Aaron Sorkin. Episode #1. The Newsroom. HBO. 24 June

2012. Television.

“United States.” CIA World Factbook. CIA, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
<https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ 
     us.html>.

Featured Image. The American. American Enterprise Institute, n.d. Web. 31 Oct.
2012. <http://www.american.com/archive/2008/april-04-08/
understanding-american-exceptionalism/FeaturedImage>.

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For the Preservation of Music

Pirating has obtained a whole new meaning in the 21st century.

Pirating has obtained a whole new meaning in the 21st century.

The depth of information and creative work available on the Internet has marred the 21st century. The availability of this creative work allows music to be downloaded more easily over the Internet. Piracy of MP3’s requires government intervention, because the music industry is failing as a result of this illegal activity.

According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), around 30 billion songs were illegally downloaded via peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing from 2004 to 2009. As a result, the music industry has incurred 12.5 billion dollars in losses (Adkins). For the music industry to compensate, some individuals that have participated in p2p file sharing have been sued for massive sums of money.

Joel Tenebaum, a resident of Boston Massachusetts has recently been charged with 700,000 dollars worth of fines after being caught downloading 30 songs. The 30 songs do not warrant a massive fine, but the courts want to use Tenebaum as an example of the consiquences of online piracy,  “They are trying to create an urban legend out of me,” Tenebaum asserts, “that it’s not about extracting any kind of money from me. … It’s about the rhetorical power of that example” (Brown)

Illegal downloading is a polarizing subject for small artists. Shack, a small time British rapper believes that piracy is useful for up-and-coming artists, allowing more individuals to be exposed to their music, “I just want people to know my name, talk about me on the street, download my mixtape for free” (Illegal Downloading, What’s the Problem?). Making his music free is a valid marketing ploy, however in the long run; Shack has no guarantee that people will purchase his music once he becomes better known within the music industry.

Musicians who have given up on the industry because they cannot make money are on the other side of the small artist spectrum. An example of this struggle is Ramon Mendoza, the now former guitarist of the hard rock band, The Color Morale. In a statement posted via the bands Facebook page, Mendoza cites his reasoning behind leaving the band:

“I have decided to step down from touring with The Color Morale from this point on to focus on providing for my family. As a lot of you may not know, playing music in this day and age doesn’t make a living. This is why I strongly urge everyone to please support the artist’s you enjoy in any way shape or form you can so they can continue to do what they love for as long as they possibly can.”

The Color Morale is not a completely unknown band, touting over 81,000 “likes” on Facebook, yet members of the band are not earning enough money to sustain a living for their family. Small bands similar to The Color Morale are suffering to survive in the cold and unforgiving world of the music industry. There is no doubt that these bands would be financially better off if governments would work towards preventing illegal downloading.

The internet houses countless numbers of P2P file sharing sites, many of which are known by government officials.  If there are websites that are known to be providing users with illegal copies of mp3’s, why has there been little done in the way of government action against the people in charge of these sites?

Some action has been taken against the proprietors of these sites, however not enough. For example, in 2009, the primary founder of perhaps the most famous torrenting website, The Pirate Bay, Gottfried Svartholm was arrested and tried, along with his close associates, for his role in the websites actions. These actions taken by the Swedish government should be just the start. Governments worldwide need to crack down on the people that promote online piracy. In addition to stopping the people who promote piracy, governments must use legislative action to halt this problem.

The United States Congress sought to fight Internet piracy in early 2012 by voting upon the SOPA legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act. Introduced in conjunction with the Protect IP Act (PIPA), the bills received endorsement from the RIAA and other companies such as CBS, who supported the legislation because it would protect their copyrighted material.

Conversely, the bills were highly scrutinized by the American public as well as popular websites such as Wikipedia and Google. The bills sought to infringe upon the actions of search engines and to allow internet service providers to block p2p and other sites. The strong public opinion that opposed the bills forced congress to vote against the legislature. Had the bills focused more on preventing piracy, and less on censoring the internet, both bills could have passed; Congress had good intentions in proposing the bills. Congress wanted to prevent piracy by limiting and censoring what web sites can show and do, but some of the legislation was too extreme to be supported by the American people. To save the music industry, The United States and other governments must find the right balance that can stop consumers from stealing music from artists and record companies.

Legislative action on piracy is crucial to ensuring the music industry can once again thrive and flourish.

Image: Techzim

Sources:

Adkins, Amy. “How Does Illegally Downloading Music Impact the Music Industry?” Small         Business. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2012.

Brown, Terrell. “Supreme Court Silent on Illegal Music Downloads.” CBSNews. CBS       Interactive, 22 May 2012. Web. 29 Oct. 2012.

Hookway, James. “Pirate Bay Co-Founder Arrested.” Online Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones        and Company, 2 Sept. 2012. Web. 5 Nov. 2012.

Illegal Downloading, What’s the Problem? Dir. Sam Brennan. Perf. Marc Bakos. Youtube. N.p.,    27 June 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2012.

Magid, Larry. “What Are SOPA and PIPA And Why All The Fuss?” Forbes. Forbes Magazine,   18 Jan. 2012. Web. 05 Nov. 2012.

Mendoza, Ramon. Web log post. Facebook. The Color Morale, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 Oct.          2012. <https://www.facebook.com/thecolormorale?fref=ts&gt;.

Video:

Illegal Downloading, What’s the Problem? Dir. Sam Brennan. Perf. Marc Bakos. Youtube. N.p.,    27 June 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2012.

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Are Gangs Problems or Solutions to Problems?

Are Gangs Problems or Solutions to Problems?

crips and bloods

The gang problem in Los Angeles is a result of a number of factors, insufficient economic opportunities, the lack of extra curricular activities, an oppressive local government, and the lack of African American role models. The response to this oppressive environment was the formation street gangs in Los Angeles.

The original gangs of Los Angeles were formed in the 1950s in response to violent white gangs such as the “Spook Hunters” (Bastards of The Party). There were originally four different street organizations, the Slausens, the Farmers, the Businessmen, and the Gladiators (Bastards of The Party). The fact that there were no organizations to join in the African American community at that time encouraged the banding together of these neighborhood kids not only for protection, but for a sense of brotherhood as well. The conflict between the white and black gangs of Los Angeles continued until the white flight movement of the 1960’s, when the majority of the white residents of Los Angeles decided to move outside of the inner city to surrounding suburbs (Bastards of The Party).

williamparker

During the 1950s and 1960s the African American community not only had to protect themselves from radical white groups, but they also had to contend with one of the most oppressive modern local governments the United States has ever seen. Chief William Parker of The Los Angeles Police Department, from 1950-1966, encouraged the oppression and brutalization of the African American community on a regular basis (Crips and Bloods: Made in America). One of the duties given by Chief Parker was to keep African Americans out of white areas. The African American community was confined to their own neighborhoods (Bastards of The Party).

The African American community had many opportunities to work in factories located in Los Angeles that were producing supplies for World War II (Crips and Bloods, Made in America). This opportunity allowed many members of the African American community in Los Angeles to live a lower-middle class life during the 1950’s and early 1960’s (Crips and Bloods: Made in America). In the mid to late 1960’s there was a shift in the economy from an industrial economy to an economy that was based on service and information that African American traditionally did not have the training for, due to prejudice (Crips and Bloods: Made in America). With the large African American population in Los Angeles and the lack of industrial jobs caused unemployment to skyrocket. This void gave the opportunity for the Slausens, the Farmers, the Businessmen, and the Gladiators.

crack_cocaine6

The social impacts of the poverty caused by the lack of economic opportunity have caused many broken homes to form in Los Angeles. Seventy percent of gang members in Los Angeles are born into broken homes with no father figure to guide them (Bastards of The Party). The youth of Los Angeles lacked role models; therefore, out of desperation, these young people turned to older gang members for guidance (Bastards of The Party). When a young person does not have a father figure they often turn to a gang as a means of protection for themselves and their families. These young people oftentimes are victimized and make the decision to join an organization that will protect them as well as give them employment, often involving the crack cocaine trade. This is how gangs obtain and sustain their following within the community.

Although society views gangs as a substantial problem within the community, gangs provide the resources and stability for its members. Gangs offer protection, employment, security and stability. Thus, joining a gang solves the problem of protection, which to a young black man in Los Angles is a necessity. Gangs also offer employment to its members through drug trade or extortion. Before one is to pass judgment on what membership to a gang means it is imperative that one examines the circumstances in which a person becomes a member as well as the opportunities that gang membership will offer the individual. In conclusion, a gang is an escape route for most individuals surrounded by poverty.

Sources

Bastards of The Party (2005)

Crips and Bloods: Made in America (2008)

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