The different groups of homelessness outside of economic hardships

Note 1- I wrote this college essay in December of 2011. All links and references may not be relevant.

Note 2- (I had misplace my original copy of my research project. Page numbers are not included in citation).

A lot of people attribute homelessness to the current economic hardships. A majority of people and families are homeless because of the decline of the job market. Homelessness is a sad reality in our current society. There are resources out there that can help homeless people like Section 8 housing or Welfare. Congress last year implemented a plan called “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to End Homelessness,” which is a 5 year plan to end homelessness (United States). Programs designed to help homelessness have significantly improved over the years, some of which have started to yield results by addressing the root causes of homelessness. However, there are still people who stay homeless despite public assistance. In a brief Q and A section in a college English class, the students listed their opinions on the topic of homelessness. Most of the students wrote theory reports about the people begging on the streets having to do with job loss; some reports were inquiring about why housing isn’t better; a few people wrote reports theorizing about the work ethic of those on the streets. Some people are not able emotionally, physically, nor mentally to handle traumatic situations in their life, such as physical or sexual abuse or schizophrenia. Research shows that there are some people who are homeless because it is a self-destructive symptom of a much deeper issue. Most homelessness is linked to a poor economy, but there are other people who are on the streets due to a myriad of mental and physical issues beyond their control. It is important to find key groups of homeless people and the issues that the homeless face which may prevent the ability to fully address homelessness.

The first type of homeless, which makes up about 20 percent of the overall homeless population, is people who are chronically homeless. People who experience chronic homelessness are usually middle aged men and they typically live on the streets or in places unfit for human habitation. Due to different federal programs and initiatives, the rate of people who are chronically homeless have declined by 28 percent since 2005. However, despite the increase in programs and initiatives, there are still 124,000 people who qualify as chronically homeless (National).

The chronically homeless suffer from different mental issues such as schizophrenia, major depression, and bipolar disorders. Mental issues are intensified by co-occurring substance abuse. At least 38% of the chronically homeless abuse alcohol, 26% abuse drugs, and an extra 30% abuse both types of substances. Because the chronically homeless have both disabling mental issues and drug abuse, they may not qualify for housing and services that will give proper care to homelessness (Rickards). Programs that provide housing and care should address substance abuse and dependency before addressing mental issues so that the disabled chronically homeless person can qualify for services.

Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness may suffer from chronic and acute medical conditions that are exasperated by living on the street. Besides the common medical issues like colds, flu, and muscle aches, there are different disorders like lung diseases, cardiovascular issues, and even sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS/HIV. It was found that 43% of the mentally disabled homeless have co-occurring devastating medical issues [lung, heart, brain and STDs] as well (Rickards).

Paradoxes exist to those who are chronically homeless. Some may carve out an income by panhandling in locations that may “tolerate” their presence. A person who has found a safe location to panhandle may develop a sense of attachment or ownership (Farrell). By claiming stake to key locations, a panhandler has a place that remains constant. Some of the chronically homeless may receive disability checks, which could be used to buy drugs, alcohol, sex, or even gamble, then afterwards, people receiving the checks wait in anticipation for the new check (Farrell). These attachment and cycles create a sense of familiarity. Living in a state of constant upheaval, people seek a form of structure in a chaotic environment. The cycles may, at times, prove difficult to break for both the chronic homeless person and services who seek to help the needy. Panhandling or collection of welfare checks are used to fuel a habit, but the habit is a co-dependency on a negative lifestyle (Farrell). The co-dependency is similar to abused people depending on their abusers and choosing not to leave abusive situations.

The chronically homeless typically use more charitable resources than other types of homelessness. In a journal by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a study in one shelter found that “chronically homeless people account for about 10 percent of shelter users but consumed about 50 percent of shelter resources (National).” However, studies further show that permanent supportive housing with supportive services emphasizing health, mental, and substance abuse care have proven effective in recovery of the chronically homeless and decreases resources funded by the public.

People who are homeless for over a year or have had four episodes of homelessness during 3 years is classed as chronically homeless (Rickards). There are other groups of people that fall under the umbrella of chronically homeless, highest statistically being Veterans, Juveniles, and Women.

Veterans make up 26% of the homeless population. Nearly 200,000 veterans do not have places to go. The veterans who are at most high risk for homelessness are usually those who lived in poverty are either of Hispanic or African-American heritages. Homeless veterans are usually single men who are between the ages of 31 to 50. A small number of homeless veteran are younger minority women who are not disabled. Veterans from poor areas that do not have family or friends, and do not have a homestead end up on the streets. Additionally, homeless veterans who are alone are more socially isolated than the rest of the homeless (National Center). Veterans who have disabilities may not be able to enter into the workforce and a stipend from the Government is not enough to cover the cost of rent or housing. Combat or high stress crisis can create mental issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which disables a person’s ability to cope with past traumatic events (Appelt). Not every veteran with PTSD becomes homeless, but it is a factor that contributes to a person’s mental well-being in relation to being homeless.

Much like the chronically homeless, vets are susceptible to the same pitfalls like substance abuse and mental issues. However, homeless veterans were more likely to use shelter-based clinics or outreach programs than community clinics or other publicly supported resources (O’Toole). Because veterans are not using publically supported program, it becomes difficult to track or follow up with additional care. The other issue that separates the chronically homeless from homeless veterans is that veterans may receive help from Veterans Affairs, but VA services might not be enough to care for Veterans. In a brief report by Dr. Thomas P. O’Toole titled “Health Care of the Homeless Veterans: Why are some people failing though the safety net,” Dr. O’Toole theorized that VA services may need to expand and coordinate its efforts to maximize their effect in reducing the number of homeless vets.

Veterans face the additional issue of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD) is an anxiety disorder where a psychological trauma to a person’s physical, sexual, or psychological self has exceeded their ability to cope. In an article titled “Comorbidity between Psychiatric and General Medical Disorders in Homeless Veterans,” the study pointed out that there is “a relatively large proportion of people with combat related disorders, and numerous individuals having PTSD.” The people that have co-occurring issues combined with PTSD disables the homeless veteran’s ability to function. Sometimes, veterans who had medical and mental issues often sought self-medication in the form of narcotics, although substance addiction is much higher in younger veterans than older veterans. (Appelt). Much like the chronically homeless, veterans are susceptible to the same mental and medical issues with physically traumatizing events such as brain injuries or loss of appendages; in fact, the Veteran Affairs report that many of the returning soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders and traumatic brain injuries. (Vogal).

Similar to veterans, another group who has the same type of issues is older inmates now released. Older prisoners who are released have to finance their own medical and mental care. This puts older prisoners at high risk for homelessness. Much like veterans, older prisoners need medical and psychiatric services for their issues. And prisoners, due to their record, may have trouble with applying for housing or even employment (Kushel). Veterans and prisoners may share the same struggles with reintegration into society, but there are more resources for vets than there are for former inmates (Kushel). Much like the chronically homeless, studies has shown that mental help and substance addiction recovery is an effective way of dealing with homeless vets and inmates.

Unlike chronically homeless adults or veterans, homeless youth’s upbringing, or “foundation,” are skewed because of the dangers and issues that come with life on the streets. It has been difficult to measure youth homelessness, but researchers estimate over 1 million to 1.6 million of the youth in America has experienced homelessness. Youth homelessness has many causes, but the underlining theme to the causes tend to revolve around social issues such as a dysfunctional family dynamic (including sexual or physical abuse), a breakdown in social services (such as foster care), and at times, social rejection. Unaccompanied youth are at higher risk for different illnesses as well as anxiety and other mental disorders. Furthermore, homeless youth are more likely to choose dangerous activities such as prostitution or drug abuse and distribution (National Alliance). Veterans may not be as much drawn to illegal activities to supplement income as would homeless juveniles.

A factor that separates homeless youth from veterans or the chronically homeless is the lack of self-sustainability. Homeless Youth haven’t had a history of living independently and may not have the skills needed for survival. Homeless youth may not have marketable legal skills and the jobs available for homeless youth that do exist may not cover necessities such as housing, food, clothing, or even health care. In many communities, resources for homeless outreach are designed for adults, but youths may not qualify for the same resources due to their age (Corliss). It becomes important for programs to understand that teaching self-sustaining skills is as important as mental and physical care for homeless youth.

Much like veterans and the chronically homeless, the homeless juveniles are susceptible to abusing drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Homeless youth suffer from anxiety as well as anger and may seek negative methods to manage the distress they feel. Homeless youth are a higher suicide risk and tend to have trust issues in relationships (Corliss).Homeless juveniles, as studies show, stay on the streets to become homeless adults. The longer a homeless youth is on the streets, the more likely the person will develop “deep-seated social and personal realities” (Corliss).

About 20,000 to 25,000 sixteen and older youths transition from foster care to age out or qualify for legal emancipation. The young adults enter into a system with fewer resources and a limited job market. In addition, homeless youth are arrested for “status offenses” such as breaking curfew or running away. Reentry into society, at times, proves difficult without the resources like a family support system or work opportunities (Coats and McHkenzie).

Another factor that affect youth is physical or sexual abuse. In a journal article titled “Out of the Fraying Pan, Into the Fire: Trauma in the Lives of Homeless Youth Prior to and During Homelessness”, one of the major reasons for youths to become homeless is to escape physical or sexual assault. The study reported that a higher amount of young girls ran away due to sexual and physical abuse by a non-family member than a family member. However, young men who were sexually abused by a family member are more likely to run away. The study points out that young adults escaping an abusive home believe that the homeless youth felt safer on the streets than at home. However, the study reports that the physical and psychological risk and trauma exceeded that of the trauma in the home. The study theorizes that with youths escaping an abusive homestead, it “more correctly is understood as a coping strategy (Coats and McHkenzie).” Youths on the street compound their traumatic abuse issues with risk factors like poverty, further physical and sexual abuse, crime, and violence.

Domestic violence happens at many social economic levels, but studies show that the trend is more severe in women in poor areas. In a research project by Deden Rukamana titled “Gender Differences in the Residential Origins of the Homeless: Identification of Areas with High Risk of Homeless,” Dr. Rukamana researched the difference between homelessness among men and women. Women are also more likely to cite domestic issues for homelessness as oppose to men who might attribute homelessness to job loss and occurrence of mental or substance abuse issues. The study recorded a sample of 110 Atlanta women who are victims of domestic violence. 50% of the women left the home after separating from their partners. 78% of those women became homeless afterwards. The housing problem for women were not related to if they stayed or left; rather the factors for women being homeless were money, credit, job, community resource access or even the ability to get housing in their name. Women have more social contacts (and theoretically more resources) than the other types of homelessness, but women struggle with the same issues of self-sustainment similar to homeless juveniles (Rukmana).

The issues that affect homeless youth are issues that have affected women who are homeless. Homeless women are a classification on their own because of the rise of the demographic in the United States. A study featured in the Journal of Mental Health titled “The Health Circumstances of Homeless Women in the United States,” recorded that on a national level “60 percent of homeless women had minor children with 39 percent that had at least one of those children living with them.” As similar to other types of homelessness, women are prone to mental, physical, and substance abuse issues. Similar to homeless juveniles, sexual and physical abuse is a cited reason for living on the streets. Also similar to the homeless youth, domestic violence seems is a larger factor in homelessness. Assistance needed for homeless women is similar to assistance that should be provided to homeless youth. Homeless abused women need additional training to obtain job skills. If an abused, homeless woman has children, then care and resources should be provided for the kids too, including psychological care for all (Arangua).

For some women, homelessness is a downward spiral that starts at childhood. Young girls whose lifestyles included substance abuse, parental mental issues, neglect, and physical or sexual abuse may adapt those living patterns. At times, assuming the negative habits or behavior of adults can lead and sustain homelessness. Although homeless women come from dysfunctional families, many have a history of being supported by or living with family or friends. When the situation becomes unsafe or non-adaptive, homeless women will leave because the women do not want to be a burden or involve themselves in other people’s problems. However, with the circumstantial landslide to homelessness, the event is often abrupt and the women who chose a life on the streets cannot easily reverse their decision (Finfgeld). Homeless women may differ from other types of homelessness because the symptom of being homeless may come from a lifelong habit or a learned behavior.

Homeless women, due to a lifetime of abuse and neglect, have abandonment and rejection issues. Oftentimes, feelings of resentment, anger, and fear become common and may lead to a self-destructive behavior [3]. Much like other groups of homelessness, homeless women are susceptible to the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Like most groups of homeless people, women have the same issues with mental and physical health. However, in women, a form of false self-confidence or independence is a type of a coping mechanism to deal with life on the streets. “They may deny their homelessness, reject help, and be extremely self-reliant and highly vigilant (Finfgeld).” At times, women would continue this sense of hyper vigilance about people and places they believe “dangerous.” Unfortunately, these behaviors might be perceived as characteristic paranoia or schizophrenia, but more often than not, the sense of hyper vigilance is because of a counterproductive defense mechanism developed for street survival.

Homelessness is one of many serious issues in America. 3.5 million Adults and children experience homelessness every year. On the surface, homeless people are stereotyped as drug addicts or drunks who were lazy and irresponsible in their lives, but people on the street abusing drugs or alcohol may be using because of other issues outside their control. Some homeless have deeper issues which contributed to their inability to take care of themselves. It is important to become educated about the real issues of homelessness because people can make better choices in their decisions about welfare and social programs. Furthermore, by understanding why some people stay homeless, we can develop better outreach programs to reduce and one-day end homelessness in America. By serving the needs of our fellow American citizens and creating self-sufficient, productive members of society, we as a country will be in a better place to serve the needs of the rest of the world.

Reference

Appelt, Cathleen, et al. “Comorbidity between Psychiatric and General Medical Disorders in Homeless Veterans.” Psychiatric Quarterly 80.4 (2009): 199–212. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

Arangua, Lisa, Ronald Andersen, and Lillian Gelberg. “The Health Circumstances of Homeless Women in the United States.” International Journal 0f Mental Health 34.2 (2005): 62–92. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

Coats, John, and Sue McKenzie-Mohr. “Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire: Trauma in the Lives of Homeless Youth Prior To and During Homelessness.” Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare 37.4 (2010): 65–96. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

Corliss, Heather. et al, “High Burden of Homelessness Among Sexual-Minority Adolescents: Findings From a Representative Massachusetts High School Sample.” American Journal of Public Health 101.9 (2011): 1683–1689.

Farrell, Daniel C. “The Paradox Of Chronic Homelessness: The Conscious Desire To Leave Homelessness And The Unconscious Familiarity Of The Street Life.” Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment 20.2 (2010): 239–254. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

Finfgeld-Connett, Deborah. “Becoming Homeless, Being Homeless, And Resolving Homelessness Among Women.” Issues In Mental Health Nursing 31.7 (2010): 461–469. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

Kushel, Margot, et al. “Coming Home: Health Status and Homelessness Risk Of Older Pre-Release Prisoners.” JGIM: Journal of General Internal Medicine 25.10 (2010): 1038–1044. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2011.

National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Chronic Homelessness.” Chronic Homeless Brief. National Alliance to End Homelessness , March 2010. Web. 20 November 2011 http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/1623

National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Fundamental Issues to Prevent and End Youth Homelessness.” Youth Homelessness Series. National Alliance to End Homelessness, May 2006. Web. 20 November. http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/1058

O’Toole, Thomas P., et al. “BRIEF REPORTS Health Care Of Homeless Veterans Why Are Some Individuals Falling Through the Safety Net?” JGIM: Journal of General Internal Medicine 18.11 (2003): 929–933. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Nov. 2011

Rickards, L, McGraw, S, Araki, L, Casey, R, High, C, Hombs, M, & Raysor, R, ‘Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness: Introduction’, Journal Of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 37. 2 (2010)149–166, Academic Search Premier, Web. 20 November 2011.

Rukmana, Deden. “Gender Differences in the Residential Origins of the Homeless: Identification of Areas with High Risk of Homelessness.” Planning Practice & Research 25.1 (2010): 95–116. Academic Search Premier. Web. 8 Nov. 2011.

The National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. “Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report to the 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress” (2009).

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End homelessness. (2010).

Vogal, Steve. “Face of homelessness is often vet’s.” Seattle Times. The Seattle Times. 9 Nov. 2007. Web. 2o November 2011. http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2004003475_homeless09.html

The fight for income inequality on the battlefield of retail

Note- I wrote this college essay in June of 2011. All links and references may not be relevant.

Peterson’s is a local 24-hour convenience store chain in Portland, Oregon. 27 years ago, Doug Peterson opened a News-stand/Tobacco store at the height of the MAX Light Rail construction. Since 1984, Peterson’s has expanded its goods to include postcards, snack foods and adult magazines. Peterson’s also has two other locations, on 5th avenue and Morrison (also on the MAX Line). Peterson’s remains a fixture in Downtown Portland. If a person is waiting to hop on the MAX to go home, even at 2 am when the bars are closing, Peterson’s incandescent lights call out like a bug zapper to a fly. The prices are a bit steep but it is worth it to shop at Peterson’s, if only to take in an environment that is uniquely Portland.

Across from Peterson’s is a Naito Family owned building called The Galleria. For years the Galleria has struggled to maintain businesses within its walls. The Galleria has been in the market for revitalization for years (Brenneman). In 2003, the Gallery became the home of the Western Culinary Institute. The Galleria Mall also contains a Made in Oregon Store as well as a few other local business retail stores. The Naito family has a long history of successfully establishing businesses and improving Portland. However, the Galleria will now host a Target Store (Cohen). Target is a discount retail store that offers trendy merchandise at affordable prices (Target Brands, Inc). In an effort to revitalize downtown and remove the stigma of Portland being “too expensive, bureaucratic, and antagonist to business,” Mayor Sam Adams approved of Target Brands, Inc creating a store in the Galleria. Best Buy and Sports Authority have also expressed interested in setting up shop downtown (Manning). Target’s prices may force the Yamhill Peterson’s location out of business. Target is not a 24-hour store, but very few businesses thrive on after hours sales. Target stores and other big box retailers moving out local businesses is an example of income inequality; the wealthy become wealthier by shutting out smaller businesses thereby creating a larger lower class to exploit.

Paul Krugman, an economics teacher, wrote an essay about income inequality in American Warfare. In his essay Confronting Inequality, Mr. Krugman begins the piece by comparing modern economic class to the economic post civil war era. “Confronting Inequality” points out that income and social inequality exists and that wealthy families have it much easier education than that of lower class families. Mr. Krugman points out key points in which the U.S. government has played a role in distancing the economic gap between the upper class and the lower classes. The essay also points out what changes congress has been making to fix income inequality. But does discount retailing contribute to income inequality?

Target receives subsidies in order to build. An example of the amount of subsidies Target receives can be found in Brooklyn Park, a suburb of Minneapolis. Target wanted $20 million taken off its taxes and $60 million in public assistance (Mattera). Target earns an estimate $65 billion in annual revenues. Target is a non-union company and offers low-paid to minimum wage jobs (Good Jobs First). Employees of Target in Portland would receive an hourly wage of $8.50 per hour, which comes up to $340 per 40-hour workweek and $17,680 per year. According to the Living Wage Calculator for Multnomah County (Portland), a living wage is $9.38 per hour for one adult or $17.98 per hour for one adult and one child. Annually one adult would need to make $19,509 or $37,392 for one adult and one child (Poverty in America website). The minimum wage indicates a deficit of either $1,829 or $19,712 that may be supplemented by welfare and social services. However, since Target is receiving subsides, welfare is being paid for by workers who do not work for Target or any other discount retailer. Peterson’s, like many other locally owned stores, contributed more to Portland because local businesses do not receive subsidies.

Peterson’s is a dingy store with really bad coffee and an over abundance of pornography magazines. Target is a retail store that is family friendly with trendy goods. However, Peterson’s and other local retailers may contribute more to Portland than Target ever will. The profits from discount stores are not invested back into local economy but to wealthy shareholders. In 2004, the city of Barnstable, Massachusetts, commissioned a study on the taxes earned from a locally owned specialty versus a big box store. The specialty stores generated $326 per 1,000 square feet where as a big-box store created a net loss of $468 per square feet. Taxpayers cost via road maintenance and police/fire protection were taken into consideration (Hansen). Since Big Box Stores tend to get subsidies and tax breaks, chain retails do not offset the cost to cities to maintain roads and protection.

Why don’t workers who do not wish to work for minimum wages or for retailers obtain jobs elsewhere? Although Mr. Krugman points out that congress has been proactive in combating income inequality, there are other factors that may blind people to the reality of their financial situation. “Class Warfare: The Final Chapter” was an essay written by Michael Pirsch, an economic refugee now living in Thailand. The essay points out that mass consumerism are a symptom of propaganda by the wealthy elite. In “Class Warfare”, Mr. Pirsch proposes that the media is a very effective tool in controlling how people think. Television distracts people with a “consumer/celebrity culture“ from the reality that the wealthy is eliminating democracy. Issues like the loss of Social Security, the Endless War, and tax cuts to the rich are not discussed in public because the media is controlled by the wealthy (Pirsch). Diana L. Hayes, a Professor of Systematic Theology in Georgetown, theorizes that television numbs people to reality. “What messages are these shows sending us? Are they simply an opiate, lulling us to the real struggles for survival going on in our country where millions have no health insurance, can’t afford to pay the increasing cost of perception medicines, even when they have insurance, and are facing foreclosures and evictions? (Hayes)” Ms. Hayes has suggested that television numbs viewers’ minds to their wellbeing and financial troubles. Ironically, consumers may find the latest model of plasma or wide screen televisions along with an array of media accessories on sale at their local discount store. Minimum wage earners may be numb to the fact that they are in a financial money-pit due to the very products they are selling.

Discount retail stores contribute to income inequality. Not only do minimum wage workers experience inequality by working at Big Box stores, but neighborhoods and cities will be weakened as well. Fighting against inequality starts with the personal choices we make in where we purchase our goods. Discount retailers like Target do offer low prices and it is very tempting to shop at Target. And personal budgets may dictate where money is spent, but the first step towards fighting income inequality is understanding what it means to shop at a chain store. Another step in fighting inequality is eliminating propaganda via the television is to limit the amount of time spent watching shows on the T.V. or to recognize that the television may have a subliminal effect to convince people to shop and consume. And, if finances permit it, shopping at stores like Peterson’s or Ray’s Ragtime (which is on the other side of the Galleria) can help. Shopping at the Goodwill on 10th across from the public library, which features many designer clothes donated by local designers, or find local businesses that sell the electronics that are desired can also help. Although shopping at stores may be both time consuming and more expensive, it is an investment into the culture and livelihood that makes up Portland (or any other city).

References

Brenneman, Kristina. “Naitos debate selling Galleria.” Portland Tribune 4 January 2002. Cohen, Joh. Target Looks at Downtown Portland . May 2011. 5 June 2011. http://portlandonthemove.blogspot.com/2011/05/target-looks-at-downtown-portland.html

Good Jobs First. Case Study of Target Stores. 2010. Good Jobs First. 5 June 2011. http://www.goodjobsfirst.org/corporate-subsidy-watch/target

Hansen, Brian. “Big-Box Stores.” 10 September 2004. CQ Researcher. 5 June 2011. http://0-library.cqpress.com.oswald.clark.edu/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresrre2004091000

Hayes, Diana L. “TV ‘reality’ distracts us from real struggles.” National Catholic Reporter 20 June 2003: 25.

Manning, Jeff. Retailer Target shows interest in downtown Portland location. 21 September 2010. Oregon Live LLC. 5 June 2011. http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2010/09/target_has_a_bullseye_on_downt.html

Mattera, Philp. Targeting Target. 26 May 2011. Corporate Research Project. 5 June 2011. http://dirtdiggersdigest.org/archives/2161

Pirsch, Michael. Class Warfare, the Final Chapter. 17 March 2011. 5 June 2011. http://www.uncommonthought.com/mtblog/archives/2011/03/17/class-warfare-t.php

Poverty in America website. Living Wage Calculation for Multnomah County, Oregon. 2011. Living Wage Project. 6 June 2011. http://www.livingwage.geog.psu.edu/counties/41051

Target Brands, Inc. Our Stores. 2011. Target Brands, Inc. 5 June 2011. http://sites.target.com/site/en/company/page.jsp?contentId=WCMP04-031761

Minimum Wages contribute to an unhealthy America

Note- I wrote this college essay in June of 2011. All links and references may not be relevant.

In English class my teacher, Ms. Sullivan, wanted us to do a paper that compared a minimum wage to a living wage. Obviously, the teacher wanted us to learn the importance of a living wage and the social benefits, but I had no idea how I would approach this paper.

Stumped, I decided to go visit Burgerville, a locally owned fast food place which serves food from local farms and food companies. I ended up paying $12.59 for my order. I would have paid half that amount had I gone to a worldwide chain like McDonalds or Burger King. Unlike other businesses, Burgerville prides itself on community involvement and being “green”; trash bins are set up so the waste is mostly recyclable. Even the receipts have the amount of calories of printed on it. The service was fantastic and the food was excellent but the price was high. I believe this is an example of a restaurant that thrives on Living Wage consumers. But sadly there were not a lot of customers who patronized this establishment. My visit inspired me; the lack of business at Burgerville had clearly shown that not everyone could afford it. The more popular restaurants are places with cheaper prices but with lower standards in food and lacking in local ingredients (which funds local economy). One of the main problems in America is obesity. Is it possible that American’s are overweight due to the Minimum Wage?

What is the Minimum Wage? The Minimum Wage is the lowest hourly, daily, or monthly wage that an employer may legally pay workers. It is also the minimum amount that workers are to sell their labor (Filion). The United states passed the federal minimum wage law in 1938 under the Fair Labor Standards Act- “ To provide for the establishment of fair labor standards in employment in and affecting interstate commerce, and for other purposes” (United States of America). Some of the results of the law was the banning of child labor and setting work hour limits (Longley). Another reason for the establishment of a Minimum Wage was to combat sweatshops owners who hired their workers at unfair wages. Over the years, the minimum wage has risen and not all states have their Minimum Wage set at the Federal level ($7.25).

During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, studies started to be conducted about the level of obesity in America. Simultaneously, there was an issue with the influx of sugar being imported in the United States. The need for sugar came to a head in the 1970’s, where inflation, the energy crisis, and commodity shortages taxed the import of Sugar. Consequentially, the prices rose and several acts and tariffs were created (Polopolus). Since the demand of sugar grew, food companies started to look elsewhere for sweetener sources. Inexpensive cooking oil sources were also researched. One of the primary crops in America is corn and soy, which vegetable oils and corn syrup are a by-product. Using cheap by-products and preservatives, the food industry (especially those specializing in “junk food”) were able to produce cheaper food (Muller). In a report by the Institute of Agriculture and Trade, they noted that:

“One example is the substitution of HFCS for table sugar. High fructose corn syrup was introduced to the American market in 1967, and ever since, its consumption has exploded. By 1984, Coca-Cola had transitioned to sweetening its sodas sold in the United States with HFCS instead of table sugar (sucrose); other beverage companies quickly followed suit. Today, HFCS is found in a stunning array of processed foods: breads, cereals, breakfast bars, lunch meats, yogurt, soups and condiments, among many others. It‘s a cheap staple of the industry” (David Walling).

So who is eating this food? Perhaps the Minimum Wage earners who are unable to afford to eat well? Other than U.S. government jobs, Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Home Depot Inc. are within the top 20 largest business in America (Transnationale & Co.). Another chart by the New York Job Source lists Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Sears Holding, Target, Kroger, Albertson’s and Safeway in their top 20 national largest employers (NYJobSource). Most of these employers hire workers at the Minimum Wage.

Wal-Mart is the leading employer in both surveys and can serve as an example of Minimum Wage job force to State wealth and health. Statemaster.com listed the number of Wal-marts by state in which the top 3 states with the most Walmarts are Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama (StateMaster.com ). In a 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mississippi citizens on average have a body weight mass index of 34.4%, Tennessee at 32.3%. , Alabama at 31%, and Arkansas at 30.5% (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In a census conducted by the Federal Government, the top three poorest states were Mississippi, Louisiana, and New Mexico. Arkansas ranked at 4, Alabama ranked at 6, and Tennessee at a 10 (U.S. Census Bureau).

A Living Wage, defined by Webster’s Dictionary online, is “a wage sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts essential to an acceptable standard of living (Merriam-Webster).” But a Minimum Wage is not the same as a Living Wage for Minimum Wage earners are unable to afford the essentials for proper nutrition. According to the U.S. Census Bureau , the average family size is 3.14 members (U.S. Census Bureau). The average Minimum Wage is $7.25 (United States Department of Labor). According to The United States Social Security website, the national average wage for 2009 was $40,711 (The Social Security Administration). On a 40 hour Minimum Wage job, a person would make $15,080 a year. In order to acquire the national average wage, a person would have to work over double the amount of time (80+ hours) even with overtime accounted for at a rate of $10.88. Or an alternative way to meet the national average, two people in a household of 3.14 would have to work the 40 hours a week plus 9 extra hours of overtime. How much time left over would a household be able to focus on health and nutrition, let alone afford it? This is assuming that two out of three American citizens of a household are working; the U.S. Labor board states that the national average unemployment rate is at 9% (United States Department of Labor).

Good fats that the human body needs contain monounsaturated fats. Healthcastle.com lists the different foods that contain different fats. Certain nuts, avocados, canola and olive oils contain those fats. polyunsaturated fats lower cholesterol, which are found in salmon and fish oil as well as corn and soy (not manufactured to corn syrup or vegetable oil). Saturated fats raise cholesterol and are found in meats, dairy , eggs, and seafood (Gloria Tsang). Healthcastle.com also lists foods that contain trans fats. Companies use trans fats because they are easy to produce and have extended the shelf life of food. (American Heart Association). America harvests over 72.7 million acres of corn (United States Enviromental Protection Agency). Food and beverages are made and preserved using trans fats like corn syrup and vegetable oil. Trans fats are cheaper to produce, which is cheaper than importing healthy saturated fats like Olive Oil or even plain sugar.

The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services published a study in September of 2010. The title of this study was “A Heavy Burden: The individual cost of being overweight and obese in the United States.” In this study, the authors estimated that an average morbidly obese white male needed an additional $9,961 dollars for health costs; likewise an average morbidly obese white female needed $7,946. In March of 2009, another report by the Institute for the Study of Labor called “Overweight and the Obesity and the Demand for Primary Physician Care”. These studies theorized that being overweight costs money in the long run. Many more studies published state the dangers, both medically and financially, about being overweight. But what choice does a Minimum Wage earner have? It is very difficult to see the long term effects when the short term reality is that Minimum Wage earners cannot afford good foods.

Proper nutrition should be the right of every human being. A minimum wage does not provide the ability to afford nutrition and health like a Living Wage could. A Minimum Wage lifestyle contributes to poor health and the inability for preventive health care. The equation of low pay plus cheap food equals poor quality of life. But in order to eat better, Minimum Wage earners have to work longer hours. But if they work longer hours, will they have time to be able to prepare or even shop for proper nutritional foods? Or will the average Minimum Wage earner settle for what is quick and what is cheap? On the other hand, If the average Minimum Wage earner saves the money from longer hours, would that gain be spent on combatting health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure? The Minimum Wage must be looked at as one of many contributing factors in the growing weight gain of the American people.

References

American Heart Association. Trans Fats. 29 October 2010. 5 February 2011 http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/FatsAndOils/Fats101/Trans-Fats_UCM_301120_Article.jsp.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Obesity Trends. 1 September 2010. 5 February 2011 http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html.

David Wallinga, M.D., Janelle Sorensen, Pooja Mottl, Brian Yablon, M.D. “Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup.” 2009. The Business INtelligence System of Glbalisation and 21st Century Mutations’ Trend. 5 February 2011 http://www.globe-expert.eu/quixplorer/filestorage/Interfocus/5-Climat_Environnement/58-Agriculture/58-SRCNL-IATP/200901/Jan._26_2009_Not_so_Sweet_Missing_Mercury_and_High_Fructose_Corn_Syrup_report_by_By_IATPDavid_Wallinga_M.D._Janelle_Sorensen_Pooja_Mott.

Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Online. living wage. 2011. 5 February 2011 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/living wagec.

Farr, Christain. Wal-Mart Offers $8.75 Minimum Wage. 21 June 2010. 5 February 2011 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/business/chicago-walmart-compromise-96843644.html.

Filion, Kai. EPI’s Minimum Wage Issue Guide. 21 July 2009. 5 February 2011 http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/issue_guide_on_minimum_wage/.

Gloria Tsang, RD. Good Fats and Bad Fats. 2 2004 August. 5 February 2011 http://www.healthcastle.com/goodfats-badfats.shtml.

Longley, Robert. The Federal minimum Wage. 11 January 2001. 5 February 2010 http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/moneymatters/a/Federal-Minimum-Wage.htm.

Muller, Heather Schoonover and Mark. “Food without Thought.” November 2006. institute for AGriculture and Trade Policy. February 2 2011 http://www.iatp.org/iatp/factsheets.cfm?accountID=258&refID=89968.

NYJobSource. Nation’s Largest Employers. 7 April 2006. 5 February 2011 . Polopolus, Jose Alvarez and Leo C. “The History of U.S. Sugar Protection.” 2003. University of Florida IFAS Extension. 5 February 2011 http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SC/SC01900.pdf.

StateMaster.com. Lifestyle Statistics > Walmart Stores > Number of Supercenters (per capita) (most recent) by state. 13 June 2006. 5 February 2011 http://www.statemaster.com/graph/lif_wal_sto_num_of_sup_percap-stores-number-supercenters-per-capita.

The Social Security Administration. National Average Wage Index. 29 October 2010. 5 Febuary 2011 http://www.socialsecurity.gov/OACT/COLA/AWI.html. Transnationale & Co. Largest companies from: United States of America. 15 May 2005. 5 February 2011 http://www.transnationale.org/countries/usas.php.

U.S. Census Bureau. Census 2000 Demographic Profile Highlights:. 31 March 2005. 5 February 2011 http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/SAFFFacts. — . PERSONS BELOW POVERTY LEVEL, 2007. 1 Feb 2007. 5 Febuary 2011 http://www.census.gov/statab/ranks/rank34.html.

United States Department of Labor. Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. 8 February 2011. 5 February 2011 http://data.bls.gov/pdq/SurveyOutputServlet?series_id=LNS14000000. — . Minimum Wage Laws in the States — January 1, 2011. 1 January 2011. 5 February 2011 http://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm.

United States Enviromental Protection Agency. Major Crops Grown in the United States. 20 January 2004. 5 February 2011 http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/cropmajor.html.

United States of America. “Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.” 1938. United States Department of Labor. 5 February 2011 http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/FairLaborStandAct.pdf.

Thoughts on Class Warfare

Note- I wrote this college essay in June of 2011. All links and references may not be relevant.

The essay I recently read was titled “Class Warfare, the Final Chapter” by Michael Pirsch. The paper proposed the idea that the ability to rise up within the social ranks. The article goes into detail about the elimination of Social Security and the elimination of Democracy by the elite. Mr. Pirsch presents his case of the downfall of Democracy through media as well as government. The Author who wrote the article is biased in his opinion but presents cases for his ideas.

Mr. Pirsch’s article on Class Warfare is an article all people should read. It is important in this day and age to read ideas that challenge government and the social elite. It is important for all American citizens to read ideas that present cases on why our government no longer represents the interest of the American People. It is important for the American people to know where their money is at and who is spending it.

I agree with the ideas presented within “Class Warfare.” I agree with the idea that the American public is a society of relentless shoppers. I believe that the US culture is “overwhelmed by the consumer/celebrity culture that distracts from the real situation that they are not fearful of harboring a critical thought.” I believe that the lost of Social Security is an example of the wealthy demolishing democracy and the ability to take part in a democratic society. I believe that the Banking Bailout was completely unfair to Americans. There should be no need for the working poor to bail out the finances of the wealth and the elite. It is not right that Social Security is eliminated because the elite are playing games within the White House. It is not right that some of the police actions the American Military have taken part in were to eliminate examples of pure Democracy in several South American countries. It is not right that our media, our clothes, our very existence is controlled by people who know how to control society. And it is unfair that the American Public no longer has the will or even the ability to understand what is happening to them and why. It is unfair that Americans may never enjoy true life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness which was what the founding fathers declared why it was necessary to separate from England (which was what America revolted for).

Michael Pirsch concludes his essay with different ideas on how American citizens can start spreading true Democracy within their neighborhoods. I believe as a society, we have lost the Class Warfare. I think it is impossible to affect change on a national level; the wealthy elite controls media, commerce and government. I agree with Mr. Pirsch’s notion that “our internet and other long-distance friends will not be able to help.” Even our internet has been designed now to filter information via filter bubbles (Pariser). Mr. Pirsch presents different ideas to re-establish democracy in the form of investing in our neighborhood resources. I believe that people who read Class Warfare and want to change the world should heed Mr. Pirsch’s advice and start investing time and effort into neighborhood programs that help their communities. After reading Mr. Pirsch’s article, I want to spend more of my time working in local programs and writing essays to empower my friends and neighbors. “Class Warfare, the Final Chapter” has inspired me to seek out different ways to help restore Democracy. Although I may not be successful, at least I can look back and know that I’ve tried to be what every American should be, one that stands for truth and justice.

References:

Pariser, Eli. What the Internet knows about you. 22 May 2011. Turner Broadcasing System, Inc. 23 May 2011 http://goo.gl/hIBTAl Pirsch, Michael. “Class Warfar, the Final Chapter.” 16 March 2011.

Monkey Work



Note- I wrote this college essay in February of 2011. All links and references may not be relevant.

As a returning college student, I feel inferior to younger students who may have a better advantage due to their flexibility in thought and comprehension. I have not taken a college course in over 12 years. The results of my placement test were less than desirable; most of the classes that were recommended for me were at basic levels. But there is a recent idea that I am learning to keep in mind that makes me not as stress about learning in college. The one thing that I am keeping in mind is although what I am learning may seem complex, the learning processes are similar to how primates learn.

In Science Daily (Aug 2, 2007), psychologist report that the way the rhesus monkey learns is similar to the way humans learn. Two Rhesus Macaque monkeys were giving a series of images on touch screen monitors similar to ATMs. They were given 18 images and then given the task of assembling them in order. It did not seem the monkeys understood why the order was given, but they knew that the correct order yielded positive results in the form of M and M’s. Researchers concluded that the Rhesus monkeys learn though active learning. “The way the monkeys learn to remember the correct answers is though active learning, like humans.” Stated Nate Kornel, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in psychology. His research in Science Daily gave many examples of how humans learn though hands on and visual instruction. In a study conducted at Duke University in Durham, N.C., two rhesus monkeys and 14 college students were given math task using dotes on computer touch screens. In less than three weeks, the monkeys had to be given more complex math equations due to how quickly the monkeys understood the problems (they were given kool aid as their reward). The college students scored an average of 94% were as the monkeys scored a 74%. However both groups had difficulty picking right answers to similar problems. This lead researchers to believe that humans and monkeys use the same mental estimation process.

In my own efforts to obtain an AA in Graphic Design, I have found that visual learning and classes which I was active I excelled in rather than classes where I had to passively follow along. Most of the computer classes and animation classes utilized computers and tutorials to teach how to do certain methods. Although I did not received awards in the form of candy or sugar drinks, I did received validation in the form of grades and approval from my teachers. In Graphic design classes I was given a series of illustrations and methods to imitate. And by imitation of method I developed a foundation for me to explore my creativity further. In several of math classes I was given examples and problems in which to solve. Although these problems were not on a touch screen, they were on a medium that I can understand. In those math classes, I found that word problems were much more difficult to do because I could not visualize the problems. In fact most of the classes that required passive learning, like Psychology or even Political science, I ended up failing. Classes like Weight Training or Printing I excelled in because I had to learn though visual aids and hands on work.

Although the complexities of the subjects I may learn vary from what primates learn, the methods I am most comfortable in and grown in are strikingly similar. In a way this theory becomes a comfortable thought to me. Whatever I have to learn in the future or what classes I have to take, I know what methods work best for me. It is just a matter of finding how to apply those methods to my subjects. In a sense, if a monkey can do it, then I should have no problems with the challenges that come with college courses.