Success


When I Google, “definition of success”, the following came up on dictionary.com:

noun

1.the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
2.the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
I personally am not surprised that even an online dictionary defines success as “attainment of wealth, position,honor”. When we were asked in class what we thought would make us successful in life, there were a couple of different replies. Family, owning a house, happiness, education, career and of course money,  where just a glimpse of what people consider to be success. I happened not to answer that question at the time it was asked, but if I were to answer I believe there is no better way to define my idea of success than the definition provided to us by dictionary.com.
Though I believe that family and happiness is extremely important I am a strong believer that without money, dough, cash, bills whatever you want to call it, there is no success. These days we can not own our own home yet alone rent a closet without money. Nor can we achieve any form of education without paying for it first; and if we can not afford to pay for some level of education how can we establish a successful career?! I am not talking about being the best cashier or waitress, but a career that can actually provide for all our needs, food, clothes, rent/mortgage,vacations and even the family most of us want. Let’s be honest it is extremely hard having a family if you can barely afford to support them.
The world we live in today requires money to feel any form of success. Money does not only give you all of the things listed above, but with money comes a certain degree of status and honor, both of which are very important to me. As a child I remember always talking about how I want to be part of the medical field or a lawyer because with a career like that I knew I would have lots of money but most of all I would have a name. Liana Davydov, DDS or MD looks really nice to me; but just those symbols alone provide me with a certain feeling of accomplishment and happiness, because I can a heck of a lot  achieve with a career like that.
Being a home owner can not happen without having a successful career. A successful career can not be obtained without an  education. However,  education requires money; the way I am seeing things, we can not have one without having the other. Money makes the world go round!!
Take this poll might be fun to see what you all think:
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Argument for Universal Health Care in the United States


The health care system in the United States is a complex profit driven system. Proposed legislation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cover a higher percentage of the population and presumably improve the overall health status of the nation. The extraction of astronomical financial profit from the health sector is the largest hindrance to universal coverage in the nation. Private sector involvement drives up cost without improving the quality of medical care. I am of the belief that universal coverage would be the most efficient and least costly mechanism to improving the health of the nations citizens.

The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee citizens the right of basic health insurance. In fiscal year 2005 the nation spent 1.89 trillion dollars on health expenditures, this figure has grown by 13%, to 2.145 billion dollars for 2010. Health care coverage and delivery in the United States is a complex and costly system; as a nation we devote over 15% of our GDP to health care, and we do not cover the entire population. Nearly 50 million Americans are currently living without health insurance. The costly system of our nation levers profit margin against health.

The current system of health care delivery in the United States is paid for through the private sector, this opposes the system of public financing that is the norm in other OECD nations. Passing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will be a great asset to the health of the United States. From my point of view one of the largest benefits of this legislation is the extension of Medicaid. Providing coverage for citizens who are in the lower economic tiers will result in a long term cost savings. According to a report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation uncompensated cost of care provided to the uninsured was $57 billion in 2008, 75% of this burden was covered by federal, state, and local funds (KFF p14). The governmental expenditure of $42.9 billion dollars is a sum that could provide coverage for 8.58 million people.

The United States spend a sum of money on health care that far exceeding the reasonable cost of providing coverage. Universal coverage of all citizens of the United States would be less costly than the current third party system, largely due to a reduction in administrative costs. The administrative cost of the current system is reported to be 25% (RWJF), this burden of cost would be drastically reduced by universal coverage. If the administrative cost for health care could be lowered to the 2% level that is reported by Medicare (RWJF), the nation would save close to $1500 per covered individual. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation determines the “mean Medicare expenditure per capita in 1996 was $4,993 (RWJF p6). The current per capita expenditure for health care is $6401.

There is no reason that the circulating capital in the current health care budget is inadequate to provide universal coverage, while allowing existing companies to profit. Given the current budget of $2.145 trillion for 2011, reducing the per capita expenditure to $5000 would allow coverage of the entire population, and provide a profit of $610 billion.

A hindrance to efficiency of the current health care delivery system in the United States comes from a high administrative cost, high intensity of hospital services, and high cost of drugs. The third party system allows extraction of profit in a manner that is not proportionate to the growth rate of the population or the GDP. At the same time pharmaceutical companies register profits that approach 20% of revenues; the profit of all Fortune 500 companies is 5% of revenue (Bodenheimer p201). The excess profit that is donated to the pharmaceutical industry could be used to provide coverage for the uninsured. The Affordable Care Act will “Impose new annual fees on the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector, according to the following schedule: $2.8 billion in 2012-2013; $3.0 billion in 2014-2016; $4.0 billion in 2017; $4.1 billion in 2018; and $2.8 billion in 2019 and later (ACA Summary p4).” This re-distributive measure will reduce the exponential profit extracted from the health care economy by the pharmaceutical industry.

Compared to other developed nations, the United States pays a disproportionate amount of Gross Domestic Product to the health care sector. Nations with stronger economies typically spend a higher percentage of GDP on health care (Bodenheimer). The cost of health care in the United States is inflated by the third party system, the insurance industry. Ideology is likely the primary obstacle to providing universal health care coverage in the United States. Citizens of the nation are traditionally fearful of taxes, and any politician that promises to raise taxes, is likely committing political suicide. The taxes on the average worker in the United States are 30%, adding the per capita expenditure on health care would bring the tax rate up to roughly 44.87%. (OECD Statistics). Privatization of health care in the United States is a deceptive means of concealing the cost.

The Affordable Care Act will construct Exchanges, a type of free market system that will lower the burden of individuals who wish to purchase insurance. The Exchanges will provide the customer with the cost benefit of group insurance rates, without tying the insurance to specific employment. This will increase the long term stability and health for workers by severing the link between employment and insurance, enabling consistent coverage as workers change jobs.

Universal coverage would result in improved health status for citizens of the United States, at a cost equal to or below the current expenditure. Coverage would result in a lower per visit fees as reliance on emergency rooms is reduced. The front end expenditure for coverage is likely to result in a less costly overall system. The high cost of the contemporary health care system in the United States is resultant of high administrative costs, high intensity of hospitalization services, and high cost of drugs (Bodenheimer).

Providing universal coverage will lower the administrative burden through elimination of billing and unnecessary paper work. The intensity of hospital utilization will be reduced through increase exposure to primary care. The provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act move the nation closer to covering the segment of the population that is currently uninsured. I commend the efforts of legislators in drafting this bill, though I believe that a single payer system, providing universal coverage, would be less costly in the long run. In an ideal world ideology would be removed from politics and laws would be drafted to guarantee rights rather than profit.

Note: This blog post will be used as an outline for a longer paper.

Sources:

Bodenheimer, Thomas, and Kevin Grumbach. Understanding Health Policy: a Clinical Approach. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical, 2009. Print.

Healthy Food Accessibility Among Rich and Poor


A few years ago I remember going to a rich neighborhood in Long Island NY for a friend’s rich friend birthday party. Since we got there earlier than expected his friend asked us to come to the supermarket with him to buy some food and drinks for the party. I remembered being shocked about the variety of food and of its high quality products. Organic? I never thought about that when I went shopping with my mother at our local supermarket in Brooklyn. There was no organic food section to buy from. Moreover, I not only realize we don’t only not have the same quality of products available, but that poorer neighborhoods lack supermarkets to shop from. According to a study by Center for Food and Justices

Studies have documented the disparity in the number of supermarkets in poor communities of color, compared to wealthier, whiter communities…” Furthermore, “middle- and upper-income communities in Los Angeles County have twice as many supermarkets per capita as low-income communities; the same study found that predominantly white communities have three times the supermarkets of predominantly black communities, and nearly twice those of predominantly Latino communities.

http://www.nhi.org/online/issues/147/healthyfoods.html

During my first year of college had to do a food project for a Critical Thinking class and I remember of a classmate who lived in the projects in the Bronx who told the professor a similar story about mine. She said  “I feel at a disadvantaged for not being able to find all those healthy foods I found on my food research project” So I decided to mention this now since I still see a huge difference in access to different quality of foods when I shop for instance, in the city compared to the local grocery store in my neighborhood. But what is the meaning before good taste or quality? What is the issue? In fact, some studies confirm my observations by stating that:

‘Low-income and minority communities are by far the hardest hit as obesity and diet related Disease rates skyrocket across America.1 Health disparities among US population groups are related to inequalities In socioeconomic status…”

Moreover, their statistics show that:

■ Latino adults (43%) are the most likely to travel outside of their neighborhoods to a supermarket followed by Black (39%), Asian (30%), and White (24%) adults.

■ there is a 50% greater need among poor adults to travel to a grocery store than among the non-poor; nearly half of poor adults (44%) travel outside of their neighborhood to a grocery store, compared to 30% of the non-poor.

In conclusion, it is very conspicuous not only to see the big differences in services and products among the different social classes in every department. Whether it is food, clothing, pharmacies, etc. Of course the problem does not start with quality food access to poor neighborhoods. The problem starts with an income disadvantage and from there every product or service is a disadvantaged to the poorer communities. So even if there’s a family who receives food stamps from the government and is able to always buy food, that family does not have much of an option to choose from, but to buy what is available in their neighborhood. Thus, I realize the problem is not a food problem, but a root social problem. The huge gap between rich and poor of a “rich” country among different ethnicities.

http://www.thefoodtrust.org/pdf/Food%20Geography%20Final.pdf

Still Waiting: Black Male Achievement in America


As I was surfing through the internet the other day I came across this article. I was very intrigued immediately when I saw the title of this article because it was directly related to the class discussion we had on Friday, 12/2/2011. The article mainly speaks about how male African American high school students are much more likely to fail then their fellow white classmates. Lavar Young, the author of this article, attacks this issue in a very vigorous manner almost as if he were to be shouting it at you. The part in this article that really caught my eye was the statistics that he gave because it brought me back to our discussion in class about how education is directly related to social, economic and cultural capitol.

Young states that, “Two-thirds of black children live in single parent households, which is three times that of white children.” Growing up in a single parent household compared to living with a father and a mother have completely different social, cultural and economic capitols. For example a single parent has to work much harder in every aspect of life compared to a two parent household with a mother and a father. Single parents often work so many hours that they cannot help their children with school work or guidance as much as they would like to so that child may lead a much different path than a student of a two parent household who receives constant tutoring and mentoring from their parents. A single parent has to do everything on their own so it is much harder for them to monitor their child’s education as closely as a two parent family could. This is one reason that helps explain why African American students are more likely to drop out of high school compared to their white classmates. If 2/3’s of African American kids are growing up in a single parent household, than clearly there is going to be a difference between them and white kids. Also another huge factor is economic capitol.

Money pretty much decides everything when it comes to education. We all know that the more money you have, the better education that you can get. As we discussed on Friday, graduation rates directly correlate with economic capitol. In this article Lavar Young spits out a statistic that proves this to be true especially among African Americans being that, “one-third live in poverty, compared with one tenth of their white counterparts.” The less money you have the less of an education you get and this statistic makes that completely obvious because so many more African American’s are under the poverty line compared to whites. Graduation rates are clearly going to show a huge difference when ten times more African Americans are suffering from poverty compared to whites.

Although I did not like the way that Lavar Young wrote this article, it was very true. I don’t think that he approached the topic in the correct manner, but he definitely got his point across. I think that something needs to be done about this but before we start on the education, in my opinion we need to start on the poverty first.

(Here’s the URL below in case you are interested!)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lavar-young/black-male-achievement_b_1121379.html

Affirmative Action in Brazil — helpful or harmful?


The film “Brazil in Black and White,” aired on PBS in 2007, discusses Brazil’s experiment with the race-based quota to education, a program inspired by U.S. style affirmative action. The race-based quota serves to guarantee 20% of freshmen admissions into the University of Brasilia to Black students. In Brazil, blacks often live in impoverished conditions, making up 66% of the nation’s poor population. Although they make up 54% of the total Brazilian population [1], only 2% hold college degrees, compared to 10% of whites and more than 25% of Asians [2]. Federal Universities in Brazil, although public and free, have been “monopolized” by the wealthy elite (mostly whites), who have the necessary means to obtain a high-quality education prior to applying to the public universities competitive entrance exams. The Brazilian racial-quota program aims to reduce the racial discrepancy in college admissions and graduation rates by increasing Blacks’—the disadvantaged population—chances of attaining a free higher education and eventually accessing to better jobs.

If the race-based quota program is successful, federal legislature (if passed) will implement it at a national level to all public, federal universities in Brazil. According to the PBS video, some of the main concerns dealing with the racial quota legislature in Brazil includes problems that could potentially arise from creating the concept of race in an otherwise non-racialized society [1], the subjectivity of the “blackness” or the “whiteness” of Brazilians, whether the program will lead to “U.S. style racism” [1], the failure of the program to attack the true reason why so many blacks are not obtaining college degrees when compared to whites—their economic status.

Although affirmative action in the United States aims at providing racial minorities with equal education and employment opportunities, the program is much more controversial in Brazil, a country which the racial boundaries of its population are not as well defined. Brazil consists of a racially mixed and diverse population–Brazilians come in all hair, skin, and eye colors, and sometimes these do not quite “match” one another. According to the introduction to the video located on the PBS website, national surveys in Brazil indicate ‘over 130 different categories of skin color, including “cinnamon,” “coffee with milk,” and “toasted.’ Race and racism in Brazil, although existent and present institutionally, are socially transparent. I was born and grew up in Brazil until 1999, and can tell from experience that one does not look at a person and say “let me guess, you’re Irish” or “you have an Italian nose, are you Italian?” These racial and ethnic details are not as prevalent in Brazil as in the United States– they are not discussed as soon as one makes a new friend.  One of the problems arising from the racial-quota is that individuals are being asked to define themselves dichotomously as either black or white, when reality is much more complicated. By having individuals define themselves racially, the race-based quota if implemented at a national level, would eventually “create race” by dividing Brazilians into two different groups of people with different rights [1]. This could place one group against the other [1] and could lead to surfaced forms of racism.

With respect to the subjectivity of the blackness or whiteness of the college applicants, unlike U.S. affirmative action where the individual indicates his or her own race, in the Brazilian program the student has to be “judged” as either black or white. Students line up and pose for a photograph which is later evaluated by “a secret committee” [1]. Students that are considered sufficiently “black” qualify for the status quota whereas those who are “not black enough” do not. The problem with this subjective test is evident: a student whose father is Afro-Brazilian and whose mother is white may not look sufficiently black to this “secret committee” and may therefore not qualify for the quota even though she truly is Afro-Brazilian. Variables such as the environment in which the pictures are taken and the lighting can easily alter how a person looks in a photograph. Also, whether or not the person uses hair straightening or hair dying products, and even the individual’s facial features can also have an impact the secret committee’s perception of the student’s race.

The subjective evaluation of photographs only opens the doors to even more racism. Because the criteria to the evaluation of the photographs is not well defined (for example, are some shades of brown more or less black than others when combined with facial features, hair and eye color?), judges are at their own discretion to pick and choose which participants qualify under the quota. If the committee is poorly selected, racial biases in the admissions may be increased rather than reduced. The PBS video did not address who exactly would make up such a “secret committee.” An example of the subjectivity problem was provided in the video in the case example of twin brothers who applied to the University of Brasilia under the racial quota, and one brother was considered black whereas the other was not [1].  The brothers were nearly identical, and stated that they are often confused with one another due to their high resemblance.

While Affirmative action in the United States has assisted the disadvantaged minorities in obtaining equal opportunities at school and work, is has also lead to racism, which is something Brazilian scholars and legislatives fear. Racism that occurs in the U.S as a result of affirmative action often comes in the the form of stigma against the populations benefitting from the program. Beneficiaries of affirmative action may be stigmatized against in the sense that they might be viewed by others as less qualified, or less worthy of the job or education program. According to Stephanie Stahlberg,

 A number of studies show that people rate others lower and as less qualified for a job or graduate school when they learned the person benefitted [sic] from affirmative action. Madeline Heilman, professor of Psychology at New York University, has also found that the lower the opinion men held about a coworker, the more they regarded affirmative action as the reason why the coworker was hired. [2]

In the PBS video, one of the students was applying to the University under the racial quota even though she had blonde hair and was not viewed by others as “black.” She mentioned that she had never thought of herself as either black or white, but was going to try to “pass as black” since admission standards would be lowered and entrance into the university would be easier. If dark skinned students can choose whether or not to apply as part of the quota, and the quota is associated with lowered standards and easier entrance, then the abilities of the black students would be questioned, regardless of whether they were admitted under the quota or the general pool of applicants.

Another student in the video felt offended by the quota and decided to apply for admission under the general pool, even though she had dark skin, curly hair and would probably qualify to apply under the racial quota. In spite the fact that  she grew up in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood, attended a public high school and did not have formal training for the entrance exam, she stated that she would like to know that she was accepted into the university because she truly belongs there, not because the standards were lowered due to her race. It is this difference in thinking that would lead to discrimination against black students in Brazil. If many hold this view, students in Brazil may become racist of black students and assume that all of them applied under the racial quota because they were not sufficiently qualified to apply under general admission standards.

Affirmative action may also have negative psychological influences on the disadvantaged beneficiary’s self-esteem and ability to successfully compete with the advantaged majority. Individuals who themselves feel less worthy of their newly acquired job or college admission may feel that they are less competent or capable of success, which can also influence how hard they will try to succeed, whether they will perceive failures as being caused by internal or external forces, and how far they will be willing to endure their failures prior to giving up. With a lower self-esteem and inferior skills, students may face many challenges that might throw them off course and reduce their chances of success.

Although affirmative action in the United States has provided disadvantaged minorities with otherwise unattainable opportunities, it is not perfect, and one of its major problems is that although it provides an individual with an opportunity, it does not equip the individual with the knowledge and skill necessary to succeed. U.S. style affirmative action in Brazil is not likely to succeed as in the United States due to the differences in Brazil’s education system, starting with elementary education. Brazil consists of public and private elementary schools, high schools, and universities. Public elementary and high schools often provide the least quality education, whereas public universities provide the highest quality education.

In order to get into the public, federal university, students have to take an entrance exam (formally called “vestibular”). Regardless of whether one attended a public or private high school, the entrance exam is exactly the same—exams only vary by area of study. Because the federal (public) universities provide the best quality education in the nation free of charge, the admissions process is very competitive. The reason why many Brazilian universities have consisted of mainly white students and why only 2% of Brazil’s black population hold college degrees is not so much due to racism itself but rather because blacks make 66% of Brazil’s poor, spend most of their lives attending less favorable public schools and are therefore simply not prepared for the entrance exams. While middle and higher class students can obtain a higher quality education from early childhood and can afford to attend pre-entrance exam courses to better prepare them for the Vestibular, poor students, regardless of race, do not hold such luxuries. Students who could not afford to attend private elementary and high schools or pre-entrance exam training end up taking and failing the entrance exams year after year, until they either get in or give up.

A racially based affirmative action program in Brazil would simply not remedy the problem with higher education, which is economic status, not race. In the United States, we have remedial courses for students who are accepted into college but who are not yet prepared for college level courses. In Brazil there is no such thing as a remedial course. Either you are college material and you get in, or you are not. Lowering the admissions standards is not a good solution to the problem of having low acceptance and graduation rates of blacks because it does not deal with these students’ ability to succeed once admitted. Drop-out rates for students under the quota may be high if the students who were not prepared for college level work begin to do poorly in their courses.

If race-based affirmative action isn’t the solution to Brazil’s discrepancy in the admission rates of black and white students, then how exactly can the problem be fixed? At first I thought that a class-based affirmative action would be better than a race-based program. Scholars in the U.S. have been proposing a shift from race based affirmative action to class based affirmative action [3]. If Brazil wants to mirror the U.S. affirmative action as a solution to its own problems, then it should also consider America’s trials and errors. Brazil might as well “skip a few steps in the ladder” and go straight into class based affirmative action. A class based affirmative action would not only solve the racial discrepancies in the institutions but it would also benefit poor whites, whose chances of getting into college would be reduced under the race-based quota. A class based affirmative action would kill two birds with one stone – it would benefit the truly disadvantaged population (the poor) and it would increase the percentage of black students that are accepted into the university without racializing the society.

Although a class based affirmative action program sounds appealing, it would still not prepare the students for college level courses. Although the program would guarantee the student’s entrance into the school, these students would still face many academic challenges because of Brazil’s lack of remedial courses. Since the low rates of blacks who get into and graduate colleges in Brazil is often a result of their failure to pass the entrance exams, it seems obvious that better preparation would resolve the problem. An alternative  that would be able to improve poor students’ scores on the exam while simultaneously and indirectly addressing the racism issue would be to provide poor students with the opportunity for a better education prior to college. The true solution would be to improve Brazil’s public education system, but this is too large of a problem for a quick fix. A much simpler revision to the affirmative action program  however, would be to provide students who meet a specific family income criteria and are currently enrolled or have attended public schools to be able to attend high quality entrance exam preparation courses free of charge. Perhaps even the combination of class-based affirmative action and free entrance exam prep courses could provide Brazil’ poor (again 66% of which are blacks) with the knowledge and skills necessary to not only get in but to also finish college.

References

[1] Stephan, A. (Producer & Director).(2007n). Brazil in Black and White [Wide angle]. United States: Thirteen/WNET New York and Robert Stone Productions.

[2] Stahlberg, S. G. (2010, August). Racial inequality and affirmative action in education in Brazil. Stanford Progressive.

[3] Goldsmith, N. (2010). Class-Based Affirmative Action: Creating a New Model of Diversity in Higher Education. Journal of Law and Policy, 34, 313-345.

Divisions Within the Black Community


I recently started a new job back in retail, just about two weeks ago. With a staff of three full time employees and two seasonal workers, and being the only person working there who is not black, I have gained what seems to some very interesting insight into at least one faction of the black community.

In conversation with my coworkers, I have noticed a kind of anti-black sentiment despite their belonging to the black community themselves. One coworker described blacks as “painfully ghetto” and that he “cannot deal with such ignorance”, justifying his steering clear of black males his age with this reasoning. Another went so far as to say that she wants nothing to do with black men romantically and that it “leads to nothing but trouble”. And finally my manager took a less blunt route by explaining that she was a Republican as a means of separating herself, and that “that just doesn’t mix with the black community”. Needless to say I was shocked; I wasn’t sure if these people were actually black or if I was on some sort of reality show to test whether I’d cave and make obscenely racist comments in agreement.

In hearing statements like these on nearly a daily basis, it all acted as a kind of rude awakening for myself and what I would hope would be for blacks as well; that there are forces providing adversity and stifling the progression of black people as a whole in society that hit much closer to home than just prejudiced whites. What was especially shocking was that I couldn’t understand how anyone black, already dealing with the pressures and adverse effects of our culture as a white society, would be so oblivious to the further damage these comments can have. With such divisiveness within the black community and the kinds of feelings these coworkers have characterized by a kind of “I’m not like them” sentiment, blacks as a whole do not stand a chance against the image placed upon them by white America. With a separatist attitude, members of the black community cannot learn from one another, benefit from the discourse meant to be carried out between members of any particular group be it ethnic or social, and the community as a whole certainly cannot rid itself of the very problems ascribed to them.