Category Archives: Income inequality

Lean In? Maybe it should be Lean On…

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

According to an editorial in the New York Times this week, Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, has a new book coming out this year entitled “Lean In.”

Her main hypothesis is that women internalize the messages surrounding them that they should not be aggressive or assertive and that they frequently make career decisions based on concerns that are not yet real, such as kids or a spouse that have yet to come. She places much of the blame for the lack of women in leadership positions on these issues.

I have written about Sandberg’s theories on this blog in the past. I shared that I have fallen prey to some of these tendencies myself over the course of my career. I certainly know that I am an abysmal negotiator when it comes to my salary; sometimes it seems I am more likely to negotiate down than up.

But I wonder about younger women and if this paradigm is shifting. While the statistics on women in leadership positions remain fairly bleak, young women now have competent role models like Hillary Clinton and Sheryl Sandberg and Sonia Sotomayor, whose work encourages them to shoot for the stars.

As I have written before, what has not shifted as much are the workplace policies that allow women and men to find a way to balance a family and a career. There is no question that workplace policies need to shift to enable men, as well as women, to contribute fully in both the workplace and at home if that is what that family chooses.

It seems that young women and men are making more demands of their employers for things like telecommuting and flexible schedules to enable them to better achieve balance. And a number of extremely talented people are making these demands, so companies are forced to choose between accepting these requests and losing talented staff.

The choice for me would be simple. I would choose a balanced, talented staff person any day over someone who is going to work themselves to the bone until they are burned out and unable to contribute. And if all it takes is a flexible work schedule to make that person content over the long-term, who wouldn’t fulfill that request?

What do you think? When do you think we will reach a tipping point and when companies will change their policies to make them more family-friendly? Do you think family friendly policies impact a company’s bottom line? If so, how? Do you think our corporate culture is ready for this shift, or will these change come about as the next generation reaches leadership positions and can force change?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

16 Comments

Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, equality, Fitness, Home, Income inequality, Parenting, Politcs, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Women

Tunes Tuesday: Les Miserables

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I had MLK day off yesterday and I finally went to see Les Mis. I will never forget the first time I saw the play years ago in DC. I had no expectations, but was absolutely blown away. It was love at first listen. So, of course I also enjoyed the movie.

There are so many important themes in this musical – the most powerful of all for me has to be Javert’s struggle to see shades of grey between good and evil.

But the theme of grinding poverty is pervasive in the story. While I was tempted to have Master of the House be this week’s Tunes Tuesday song because it always makes me giggle, I thought instead I would highlight one of the more meaningful and thoughtful songs, At the End of the Day.

At the End of the Day

Workers: At the end of the day you’re another day older
And that’s all you can say for the life of the poor
It’s a struggle, it’s a war
And there’s nothing that anyone’s giving
One more day, standing about, what is it for?
One day less to be living.
At the end of the day you’re another day colder
And the shirt on your back doesn’t keep out the chill
And the righteous hurry past
They don’t hear the little ones crying
And the winter is coming on fast, ready to kill
One day nearer to dying!
At the end of the day there’s another day dawning
And the sun in the morning is waiting to rise
Like the waves crash on the sand
Like a storm that’ll break any second
There’s a hunger in the land
There’s a reckoning still to be reckoned
And there’s gonna be hell to pay
At the end of the day!

[The foreman and workers, including Fantine, emerge.]
Foreman:At the end of the day you get nothing for nothing
Sitting flat on your bum doesn’t buy any bread
Workers:There are children back at home
And the children have got to be fed
And you’re lucky to be in a job
And in a bed!
And we’re counting our blessings!

What do you think? Have you seen Les Mis? What did you think? What themes resonate most for you? What is your favorite musical?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

16 Comments

Filed under Art, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, International, Love, Music, Poetry, Poverty, Relationships

I Choose Hope – Reflections on the Election

 

Boulder Obama RallyCopyright JC Politi Photography

Boulder Obama Rally
Copyright JC Politi Photography

It has been a busy few weeks here at newsofthetimes, between Thanksgiving visitors and a conference I planned for work. We also had to respond to a media blitz in my day job that took up quite a bit of time and energy. This is why I haven’t really had the opportunity to do much more here than Tunes Tuesday posts and photo challenge posts over the past several weeks.

I haven’t had a moment to think much about, much less write about, the election results. But an article in the New York Times caught my eye today and gave me a moment to think about the meaning of the November 6th election results.

I made it clear that I supported Obama in the election, which I am sure, came as no surprise to people who have followed this blog. So, I was obviously pleased with the outcome of the Presidential race.

But I feel even more optimistic about the future of the country because of the results of the statewide initiatives.

While I recognize that the election was close and that there is no grand majority on either side of the political divide right now in terms of political candidates, I feel hopeful that voters chose to stand up for equality and fairness on November 6th.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I am hopeful that voters in more than one state voted to support GLBT communities in their quest for marriage equality.I am hopeful that President Obama won the presidential race despite the fact that he was clear about his intentions to ask the wealthy to pay more in taxes. Some may not call this an issue of equality, but I think that the obscene increase in CEO pay compared to workers’ pay makes this unquestionably an issue of basic fairness.

I am hopeful that the country appears to be headed toward a more equal and just society. The American people seem to hold a fundamental belief in the basic principle of equality and fairness.

Regardless of political party, I believe the American people will always choose to stand for the principles of fairness and equal opportunity when given the choice. And that makes me hopeful.

Am I wearing rose colored glasses? Perhaps. Have I been burned in the past for feeling so hopeful? Absolutely.  But today, I am choosing to feel hopeful.

Let me be clear – I have no illusions that getting through the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling debates will not be as difficult as ever. I know Congress will not magically become a high functioning body as a result of these elections.

But I believe that that people resoundingly chose equality and fairness on November 6th, and for that I am hopeful.

What do you think? Should I take off my rose-colored glasses? Do you see any reasons for hope from the November election or do you feel like the gridlock will continue in Washington? What did you take away from the election as lessons or important trends?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Love, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Stereotypes, Women

Election Day Tunes Tuesday: James McMurtry

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s finally Election Day!! I know that many of us are ready for the political ads and phone calls to stop – I am too. But today is election day and every vote matters.

It looks like it might be difficult to vote this year in some areas, which I think is outrageous. But I hope people do what they need to do to vote and that we have a clean and clear outcome at the end of the day.

Elections matter. And there is a lot at stake.

We Can’t Make it Here
James McMurtry

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free

No one’s paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget’s stretched so thin
And there’s more comin’ home from the Mideast war
We can’t make it here anymore

That big ol’ building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can’t make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They’re just gonna set there till they rot
‘Cause there’s nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There’s a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don’t come down here ‘less you’re looking to score
We can’t make it here anymore

The bar’s still open but man it’s slow
The tip jar’s light and the register’s low
The bartender don’t have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won’t pay for a roof, won’t pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can’t make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what’ll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it’s way too late to just say no
You can’t make it here anymore

Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
‘Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can’t make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ’em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They’ve never known want, they’ll never know need
Their sh@# don’t stink and their kids won’t bleed
Their kids won’t bleed in the da$% little war
And we can’t make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let ’em eat jellybeans let ’em eat cake
Let ’em eat sh$%, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can’t make it here anymore

And that’s how it is
That’s what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you’re listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That’s done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There’s rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can’t make it here anymore

What do you think? Have you voted? Did you have any problems voting? What do you think about the early voting challenges this year?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

23 Comments

Filed under Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Music, Peace, Poetry, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Privatization, Role of Government, War

Tunes Tuesday: 9 to 5

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Frequent readers of this blog know that I have dedicated Tunes Tuesdays posts between now and the election to songs about politics and social issues. The past month’s Tunes Tuesday’s have been dedicated to this, with songs including, That’s Just the Way It Is, What It’s Like, and Christmastime in Washington.This week, I am reviving a golden oldy that feels as relevant today as when it first came out.

There is no question that the Presidential election is going to hinge on people’s perception of which candidate will be able to improve the economy.

With that in mind, I bring you this week’s Tunes Tuesday pick, 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton. While this may not seem like a political song, it explores the most fundamental issue in the current political discourse.

9 to 5
Dolly Parton

Tumble outta bed
And stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
Yawnin’, stretchin’, try to come to life
Jump in the shower
And the blood starts pumpin’
Out on the streets
The traffic starts jumpin’
And folks like me on the job from 9 to 5

Chorus:
Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely getting’ by
Its all takin’
And no givin’
They just use your mind
And they never give you credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5, for service and devotion
You would think that I
Would deserve a fair promotion
Want to move ahead
But the boss won’t seem to let me in
I swear sometimes that man is out to get me
Mmmmm…

They let your dream
Just a watch ‘em shatter
You’re just a step
On the boss mans a ladder
But you got dream he’ll never take away

On the same boat
With a lot of your friends
Waitin’ for the day
Your ship’ll come in
And the tides gonna turn
An it’s all gonna roll you away

Workin’ 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin’
Barely getting’ by
Its all takin’
And no givin’
They just use your mind
And you never get the credit
It’s enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5, yeah, they got you where they want you
There’s a better life
And you think that I would daunt you
Its a rich mans game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Puttin’ money in his wallet

Workin 9 to 5
What a way to make a livin
Barely gettin by
Its all takin
And no givin
They just use you mind
And they never give you credit
Its enough to drive you
Crazy if you let it

9 to 5, yeah, they got you where they want you
There’s a better life
And you dream that I would daunt you
It’s a rich man’s game
No matter what they call it
And you spend your life
Puttin’ money in his wallet

What do you think? Do you think the economy is the primary issue in this election? What steps would you take to improve the economy? How do we avoid an economic crisis like we have just gone through in the future?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

And for a giggle:

18 Comments

Filed under Career Planning, comedy, Culture, Economy, equality, Income inequality, Music, Politcs, Poverty, Stereotypes, Women

Greenest Companies in United States: Does Anyone Care?

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Perito Moreno Glacier, Calafate, Argentina

With the silence coming out of both political parties about the state of our natural environment and its future, I thought it would be helpful to share Newsweek’s rating of the greenest publicly traded companies in the United States.

This election has been all about the economy. And the environment has been only tangentially mentioned as a way to boost the economy by investing in clean jobs and clean energy. The campaign talking points have all related to building the US economy.

I know that people are struggling to find work that pays a living wage. And bankers should be brought to justice for the fiscal recklessness that caused the recession.

I understand why candidates are focusing on the economy and I truly believe that both parties are doing their best to come up with strategies to rebuild the US economy.

But I continue to be baffled about the fact that more than a few politicians put their heads in the sand when it comes to the environment. I am no scientist, but I can’t even imagine the frustration scientists must feel when, in the face of overwhelming evidence that climate change exists and that humans have accelerated its progress, the environment is not a key point of discussion on both sides of the political divide.

This is an issue that crosses party lines and transcends global borders. I had a friend I worked with in a women’s rights organization who used to say, “it won’t matter if women have rights if the planet is destroyed.” That really stuck with me.

The current economic struggles are in our face every day and people are feeling the immediate impact of this crisis. The devastation of the environment is a slower burning problem, but no less consequential.

This is why I am sharing the list of the greenest US companies here. We can vote with our pocketbooks.

I hope you will take a moment to look over this list and see if you might be able to swing your support to some of the greener companies and away from the worst polluters.

That is change I can believe in.

What do you think? Have you been struck by the lack of dialogue around the environment in this election cycle? Why do you think that is? Are you more likely to support a company if you learn that they take the environment into account? Why or why not? And what do you think about the future of green jobs in the United States? Do you think we should make investments in this economy? And do you feel that we are ahead of or behind other countries in making these investments?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

26 Comments

Filed under Culture, Economy, Environment, Health, Income inequality, International, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Tunes Tuesday: But don’t you believe them!

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

For today’s Tunes Tuesday, I am highlighting the words of a poignant Bruce Hornsby song.

I promised to focus my Tunes Tuesday posts on political lyrics from now until the election, so this song continues in that vein. This song has always touched me. The most important line in this song is “But don’t you believe them!”

The election is two weeks away. Have you voted?

That’s Just the Way It Is
Bruce Hornsby

Standing in line marking time, waiting for the welfare dime
‘Cause they can’t buy a job
The man in the silk suit hurries by
As he catches the poor old ladies’ eyes just for fun he says, “Get a job”

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
But don’t you believe them

They say hey little boy you can’t go where the others go
‘Cause you don’t look like they do
Said hey old man how can you stand to think that way
Did you really think about it before you made the rules, he said, son

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
But don’t you believe them

Well they passed a law in ’64
To give those who ain’t got a little more
But it only goes so far because the law don’t change another’s mind
When all it sees at the hiring time is the line on the color bar

That’s just the way it is
Some things will never change
That’s just the way it is
Thats just the way it is, it is, it is, it is

What do you think? What is your favorite political song? (Note: I may feature it for next week’s Tunes Tuesday post!) What is your favorite line from a song which represents your feelings on politics or social issues?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

20 Comments

Filed under Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Music, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Stereotypes

Is income inequality the tide that will sink all boats?

Copyright JC Politi Photography
A woman begging outside a church in Barcelona, Spain

There is an article in the New York Times about whether increased income inequality in the United States will lead to slower economic growth. The article quotes prominent economists and includes some shocking statistics.

According to the article:

Income inequality has soared to the highest levels since the Great Depression, and the recession has done little to reverse the trend, with the top 1 percent of earners taking 93 percent of the income gains in the first full year of the recovery.

The 1 percent earns about one-sixth of all income and the top 10 percent about half.

The I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund) has cautioned the United States, too. “Some dismiss inequality and focus instead on overall growth — arguing, in effect, that a rising tide lifts all boats,” a commentary by fund economists said. “When a handful of yachts become ocean liners while the rest remain lowly canoes, something is seriously amiss.”

I am struck by these statistics, despite the fact that I have heard them before. It makes me wonder what impact these levels of income inequality have on people on both sides of the economic divide.

Our country is sharply divided on many levels and on many issues. An earlier post on this blog discussed the lack of opportunities for interaction between people of different classes, due to what Michael Sandel has labeled the “Skyboxification of America.”

Copyright JC Politi Photography
A porche taxi-cab in Frankfurt, Germany

It is much easier for people to act in their own self-interest if they can insulate themselves from people with different backgrounds and experiences. The Skyboxification of America enables people to insulate themselves from people who cannot afford their lifestyle.

But how much money is enough? Some  corporate salaries are far beyond what people need to live a comfortable existence. And yet, people continue to strive to make more money and to acquire more things – while people they work with struggle to make ends meet.

Maybe we should all focus more on acquiring more understanding for other people and their needs and struggles instead of on acquiring more wealth.

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Occupy Frankfurt Demonstration, Frankfurt, Germany

What do you think? Do you think income inequality in the United States has reached a point where people in leadership positions will have to start taking it seriously? What would that look like? Do you know of any examples of CEOs who have worked on leveling incomes in their companies? What will it take for policymakers and corporations to stand together to make some changes to the policies that lead to income inequality? What opportunities do you see for bringing people together to promote better understanding and cooperation? What role do you think the need to save for retirement plays in this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Tuesday Tunes: Everlast

Copyright JC Politi Photography
Sign and blanket found under a bridge in Boulder, Colorado, one of the wealthiest cities in the United States

Tuesday Tunes between now and election day will be focused on political and social issues that are relevant in the Presidential Campaign. This week, I bring you Everlast’s What It’s Like.

What It’s Like
Everlast

We’ve all seen a man at the liquor store beggin’ for your change
The hair on his face is dirty, dread-locked, and full of mange
He asks the man for what he could spare, with shame in his eyes
“Get a job you f****** slob,” is all he replied
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues

Then you really might know what it’s like (what it’s like) 3x
Then you really might know what it’s like

Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom who said he was in love
He said, “Don’t worry about a thing, baby doll
I’m the man you’ve been dreaming of.”
But 3 months later he say he won’t date her or return her calls
And she swears, “God ****, If find that man I’m cuttin’ off his balls.”
then she heads for the clinic and
she gets some static walking through the door
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner
and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
’cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose

Then you REALLY might know what its like (what it’s like) 3x
then you really might know what its like

I’ve seen a rich man beg
I’ve seen a good man sin
I’ve seen a tough man cry
I’ve seen a loser win
And a sad man grin
I’ve heard an honest man lie
I’ve seen the good side of bad
And the downside of up
And everything between
I’ve licked the silver spoon
Drank from the golden cup
And smoked the finest green
I’ve stroked the daddies dimes at least a couple of times
before I broke they heart
You know where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start

this kid named Max
He used to get fat stacks out on the corner with drugs
He liked to hang out late
get s***-faced and keep the pace with thugs
Until late one night there was a big gun fight and Max lost his head
He pulled out his chrome.45, talked some s***, and wound up dead
Now his wife and his kids are caught in the midst of all of this pain
You know it crumbles that way
at least that’s what they say when you play the game
God forbid you ever had to wake up to hear the news
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to lose

Then you really might know what it’s like…
Then you really might know what it’s like…
Then you really might know what it’s like…to have to lose.

What do you think? Why do we find it so easy to judge other people and their personal choices? Do you prefer your elected officials to be people who can relate to you or does that not matter to you? Why do we see so many things in black and white instead of recognizing shades of grey?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, equality, Ethics, Income inequality, Love, Music, Photography, Photos, Poetry, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Stereotypes

Tunes Tuesday: Steve Earle

Copyright JC Politi Photography

The presidential election is just around the corner. For this reason, I am dedicating the next few Tunes Tuesdays to songs about politics and political issues.

This week, my Tunes Tuesday pick is Steve Earle’s, “Christmastime in Washington.” I could have chosen a number of Earle’s songs – “Ellis Unit One” certainly comes to mind, but this one has always stuck with me for its combination of cynicism and hope about our political environment.

Christmas In Washington
Steve Earle

It’s Christmastime in Washington
The Democrats rehearsed
Gettin’ into gear for four more years
Things not gettin’ worse
The Republicans drink whiskey neat
And thanked their lucky stars
They said, ‘He cannot seek another term
They’ll be no more FDRs’

I sat home in Tennessee
Staring at the screen
With an uneasy feeling in my chest
And I’m wonderin’ what it means

Chorus:
So come back Woody Guthrie
Come back to us now
Tear your eyes from paradise
And rise again somehow
If you run into Jesus
Maybe he can help you out
Come back Woody Guthrie to us now

I followed in your footsteps once
Back in my travelin’ days
Somewhere I failed to find your trail
Now I’m stumblin’ through the haze
But there’s killers on the highway now
And a man can’t get around
So I sold my soul for wheels that roll
Now I’m stuck here in this town

Chorus

There’s foxes in the hen house
Cows out in the corn
The unions have been busted
Their proud red banners torn
To listen to the radio
You’d think that all was well
But you and me and Cisco know
It’s going straight to hell

So come back, Emma Goldman
Rise up, old Joe Hill
The barracades are goin’ up
They cannot break our will
Come back to us, Malcolm X
And Martin Luther King
We’re marching into Selma
As the bells of freedom ring

Chorus

What do you think? Do you think that there are inspirational leaders like Woody Guthrie and Martin Luther King,Jr. in this day and age? Why or why not? Who is your favorite inspirational political figure or head of a political movement, either current or historic? Do you think the world needs a visionary leader right now?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Income inequality, Music, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government

Hunger Knows No Borders: Poverty at Home and Abroad

Copyright JC Politi Photography

There is an article in the New York Times this week about the increasing number of people living in poverty in Spain.

The article references the fact that the unemployment rate in Spain is over 50% for young people and that over 20% of families in Spain live in poverty. It tells the stories of people who find themselves forced to search for food in trash bins in order to feed themselves and their families.

It is striking to read about how dire the situation is in Spain right now, especially after having just visited the country. We were blown away by the food and the beauty, but this article makes it clear that there is another, much more tragic, story to be told.

As I read this article, I felt like I was reading about the United States. The article spoke of people who had never been on government assistance who are now accessing food pantries or searching through dumpsters for food.

So frequently, we read an article like this and look at it as an interesting, but sad anecdote from a foreign land. But the truth is, we can see the same thing here in our own back yards every day.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

The recession has had far-reaching implications across the globe. The number of people in the United States who are accessing public benefits has sky-rocketed.

Some people complain about the number of people who are accessing government assistance, including food assistance. I don’t understand this.

If jobs are not available and people are hungry, why would we not be grateful to live in a society where people who have hit rock bottom have a place to go to feed themselves and their children? How can we be so sure that we will not be the next family to come upon hard times, through a loss of a job or through a medical emergency that leaves us financially devastated?

I am honestly baffled and saddened by the lack of compassion in much of the United States during these difficult economic times.

What do you think? Why do you think people are so critical of government efforts to support low-income families? Why do you think people are so quick to judge families who have come upon hard times? How can people be so sure that they will not be the next person to need a little help? And how can we reduce the stigma associated with accepting government assistance so that more people can have a bridge to survive their current hardship in the hopes of eventually getting a job and escaping poverty?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, Stereotypes, travel

Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

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Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

Let Them Eat Sat: Who Funds These Studies?

What Foods Are Good For Me This Week?

Who Needs Government Anyway? Except… 

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

Broccoli Battles: What are the Long-Term Consequences of the Supreme Court Decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia

What a week for the United States. I generally shy away from writing about politically divisive issues on this blog, but there is no question that the news of the times this week in the United States was the Supreme Court decision on health reform.

I will not take a position on the merits of the bill here. As I have written previously, I firmly believe the health care system in the United States is badly broken and in desperate need of repair. But I will leave it to the experts to figure out how to do that.

This Supreme Court decision was about much more than just health care. This decision may have placed significant limitations on the future of the federal government to legislate.

While progressives collectively cheered the decision on Thursday and conservatives collectively gnashed their teeth, upon further analysis, I am not sure that these reactions are warranted.

Several recent articles have begun to explore the long-term ramifications of the decision. There will be more to come.

Many of my friends are health care policy experts and I would welcome their thoughts and clarifications here. In my reading of the Supreme Court decision, the Court rejected the use of the commerce clause as a basis for constitutionality and, in effect, punted the Medicaid decision to the states.

Looking through this lens, the decision was not a significant loss for conservatives, especially over the long term. In fact, it may go down in history as a turning point for limiting the powers of the federal government, which is a fundamental conservative principle.

An article in the New York Times goes into some detail about past use of the commerce clause, which has been used to pass legislation ranging from labor protections, to civil rights laws, to the Violence Against Women Act.

If the ruling this week limits the federal government’s ability to use the commerce clause to pass social legislation, this could be a significant gain for conservatives.

The other part of the decision, which has gotten little attention in the media, is the decision regarding the Medicaid expansion. Medicaid is the health insurance program that serves low income families in this country.

My understanding of the Supreme Court decision is that the court decided that the federal government can not take away all of a state’s Medicaid funding if a state chooses not to implement the expansions included in the Affordable Care Act.

The court limited this provision to say that the federal government can take only the portion of a state’s Medicaid funding that would have paid for the expansion, but not all of the state’s Medicaid funding, if the state chooses not to implement the expansion.

In effect, the Supreme Court made this provision, which for many, is viewed as one of the most crucial provisions of the law, a state option.

This pushes the question of whether to expand Medicaid onto state governments, where the issue will likely have to be relitigated in political halls on the state level. This will likely be highly politicized and there is absolutely no guarantee that all states will expand this program.

This could mean that, in some states, people with higher incomes, from 133% of the federal poverty level to 400% of the federal poverty level could be given tax subsidies to enable them to purchase health insurance, but families on the razor’s edge of poverty could go without insurance.

Again, I am not advocating any particular position; I am just trying to lay a foundation for robust discussion. But it seems to me that the Roberts decision may, in the long run, have done more to forward conservative ideals than progressive ones.

What do you think? What was your reaction to the Supreme Court decision? Why do you think Roberts made such a bold move? Do you believe that there will be long term legal consequences to this decision? How do you think this will affect the November election? Will you or your family personally benefit from the Affordable Care Act? Have you already?

I know this is a complex topic, but I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Affordable Care Act, Culture, Economy, End of Life, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, Obamacare, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Role of Government, Women

Four Strategies to Achieve Higher Employee Engagement

 

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As readers of this blog know, I do not usually stay on any specific topic for more than one post, but we seem to have hit a nerve on the last few posts, so I am going to keep with this theme for one more day.

There was in interesting post over on CNN’s Management and Career Blog entitled “Exposing Management’s Dirty Little Secret.”

The tagline of the article reads: If employees aren’t as enthusiastic as they could be, it’s not because the work sucks; it’s because management blows. While obviously, this is a broad statement, there is certainly some truth.

The article talks about three factors that contribute to employee satisfaction and engagement:

The scope that employees have to learn and advance (are there opportunities to grow?);

The company’s reputation and its commitment to making a difference in the world (is there a mission that warrants extraordinary effort?); and

The behaviors and values of the organization’s leaders (are they trusted, do people want to follow them?).

My husband works in Human Resources and much of his work focuses on efforts to track and improve employee engagement in corporations. We discuss these issues frequently and agree that opportunities for growth and adequate compensation are critical components to keep employees engaged. And they are certainly the basic ingredients for success.

But the discussions on this blog over the past few days have made me think about a fourth, equally important but more elusive factor. What kind of work-life balance does a particular job offer its employees?

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We have discussed some of the reasons many women leave high level positions in earlier discussions. But this issue is certainly not confined to its impact on women. And change will only come if we expand the discussion to include the impact on men.

A few thoughtful readers commented on the benefit to a company’s bottom line of having healthy, balanced employees. I do not have data to support this claim at my fingertips, but I would imagine that companies that provide these types of intangible benefits have more loyal employees and less turnover.

This must impact the bottom line.

What do you think? What makes you want to stay in a job or look elsewhere for work? Do you know of any companies whose employees are exceptionally engaged? To what do you contribute this success? How much of a role do you think a manger plays in this and how much is determined by the overall corporate culture? What energizes you at work?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading!

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Filed under Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Income inequality, Parenting, Peace, Policy, Poverty, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

Sheryl Sandberg’s Top 3 Tips to Keep Women in High Level Jobs

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Yesterday’s post about an article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” written by a women in a high-level position with the State Department, who chose to leave her job in order to spend more time with her family generated quite a discussion yesterday. I would like to continue the discussion today.

Many thanks to Diana from TalktoDiana for her passion and engagement. In the comments section, she shared this TED Talk, by Sheryl Sandberg, who is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, which I would like to share with all of you today:

This video confirms many of the statistics included in the Atlantic article. Ms. Sandberg also posits some theories about the root causes behind the statistics. She discusses three important reasons why she believes that there are not more women in leadership positions, and offers advice for women who would like to change these realities. Her advice includes:

Women need to sit at the table

Make your partner a real partner

Don’t leave before you leave

I will not go into detail on these three reasons, as I could certainly do no better job than Ms. Sandberg in explaining this complex issue. But I encourage you to watch the talk if you are interested in helping think through this more.

The first reason will resonate with most women. Women simply have less faith in their abilities to succeed than men. It is a fascinating reality that I do not fully understand, but we have all seen and felt it in action. As an example, Sandberg highlights data showing that most women do not negotiate salaries and most men do.

The second reason will also resonate: women need to stop doing all the work at home. The statistics – and people’s personal realities – show that this is an expectation which makes it hard for women to reach professional heights they might otherwise like to reach. Perhaps women need to stop enabling this reality. (I should mention that I do not suffer from this particular problem. My husband is much tidier and a much better cook than me – good man.)

The third reason really intrigues me. Don’t leave before you leave. Sandberg points out that many women make professional choices and changes before life circumstances require them to do so. I know this to be true, as I believe will other women.

I remember applying for a job several years ago. We had just moved to a new city and I had been volunteering and looking for work for several months. While my husband and I have been fortunate professionally, our lifestyle requires two incomes.

My husband and I had been trying to conceive a baby and I was absolutely convinced that I was pregnant, which is probably a subject to which many couples can also relate. I was called in for a promising job interview.

I distinctly recall talking with my best friend about whether or not I should disclose the fact that I was pregnant to the potential employer. My best friend, who is one of the superwomen described in the Atlantic article who is currently doing it all with a high level job and two small children, said “Don’t say a word.”

I turned out not to be pregnant. Wise advice from a wise woman. I believe that this type of thinking is what Sandberg refers to in the TED Talk. I am not sure why women do this, but we frequently adjust our plans based on what might be, rather than what is. I appreciate Sandberg’s advice and plan to put her suggestions into action. Thank you again to Diana for sharing this TEDtalk with us.

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Yesterday, I also came across an article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Being Murphy Brown in a June Cleaver World.” Apparently, there is an entire column in the Wall Street Journal called The Juggle dedicated to just these issues. This article just confirms my suspicion that regardless of the choices a woman makes she will feel inadequate in one portion of her life or another.

There is so much to discuss here. But I believe the key is to start having an honest dialogue about how society can enable women and men to contribute to professional society, and also allow them to have fulfilling and contented lives at home – without guilt.

I am thinking about gathering personal stories about people’s experiences with these dilemmas to turn into a book. Women and men both have a lot of stories to tell. I would love to speak with high-level professional women to learn about how they have handled this and lessons they have learned along the way.

What do you think? Does the TED Talk resonate with you? Do you have feelings of guilt regarding your adequacy as a parent or a professional, or both? Or have you been forced to make these difficult choices? How did you decide which road to take? How do you think we start to shift the paradigm, as Hugh suggested yesterday? What else does this bring up for you? Do you think there is a book idea here or are there too many books on this topic already? Any thoughts on how I should get started?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thanks so much for reading.   

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