Economics is the study of choices and, more importantly, people’s choices. Every day, people make the decision to eat at one restaurant instead of another, or to buy one item from a store instead of saving for something else. Choices are made constantly, although their impact on our lives vary. However, the consumer market is not the only place where people make choices. People can also make decisions about what they wear or what kind of job they want. People decide by weighing the costs and benefits of their actions. Costs are what a person is willing to give up for the benefits of their decision. The factors in making a decision for many people include wages, hours spent working, and how much they like the work. Normally, how much they will get paid is the deciding factor, and enjoyment comes last. But for Mary Healam, the wages aren’t as important.
Mary works as a home health care aide, one of the fastest growing jobs in America. With almost 2 million jobs and expecting to increase to 3 million by 2020, home health care is also one of the lowest paying despite the high demand from the baby boomer generation. The sudden influx of health care patients has caused a severe demand for workers. Yet they still get paid below minimum wage due to a loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1974. Before she worked as an aid, Mary worked at a department store, which according to her, paid more than her current job. So why does she do it? Mary states that the job is rewarding enough. To her, the benefit of caring for the elderly outweighs the forgone income.
Most people don’t see it that way. For them, the most important factor is money. If the job paid more, then more people would work as an aide. There is already a shortage as it is, but with low income, fewer people are willing to do this job. Only a small percentage find that the emotional and spiritual benefit outweigh the need for food stamps and Medicaid. Other aides are usually minorities or foreigners. This is one of the few jobs they can get with minimal training. Additionally, many workers don’t work full time at this job becuase they have other jobs. Even then, with many of the part-time aides, money is most important. Mary Headlam is a rare person. She goes against what drives so many people in the economy. Whether it is buying the cheaper shirt or getting a higher paying job, the ultimate driving force is money and wealth. Mary left her job at a department store, even though it paid more, because she didn’t enjoy it. But most people are willing to give up their enjoyment as a cost of a higher paying job.
If the government raised the wages in healthcare jobs, more people would want the job and the shortage might go away. But that isn’t likely to happen; the government can’t pay the Health Care Aides a higher wage so the shortage is still present. It isn’t because of the demand created by the baby boomers, but because the government simply isn’t willing to pay more. There are so many jobs, and so few people willing to commit that amount of time and effort without ‘material’ compensation; emotional satisfaction just isn’t enough.
Should women be allowed to have active combat roles? Traditionally, the armed forces have been all male. For years, even gay men couldn’t serve openly. It has only been in the past few years, after decades of hiding, that men can be openly gay and serve, so why will they allow women to serve so soon? If history has anything to show, it should take the government another 20 years before they let women into the military. If allowing openly gay men to serve was such a big step, the step to allow female presence is like climbing a mountain. Surprisingly though, the pentagon has taken the idea of women in combat out for a spin before. In 1993, the same year president Clinton agreed to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” compromise, they allowed woman to participate as combat pilots. It may seem like a big step, but sure enough, the following year they denied women’s participation. Being a pilot isn’t new either. During World War II, women served as test pilots. Way before that, during the civil war, wives worked in the artillery and as nurses on the front lines.
Over the years, in just Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 800 women have been wounded and over 150 have died proforming their military duty. So doesn’t that imply that women already serve? No, it doesn’t. Although woman “now make up 14 percent of our armed forces form across all branches of the services”, many women are denied formal recognition of their combat (NYtimes). They do not formally have active combat roles but are still put in hostile situations. How do these branches get around the rules? They “sidestep official policy by “attaching,” rather than assigning, women to infantry and special operations units because their skills were needed” (NYTimes). Army Capt. Kelly Hasselman, 28, commands a company of female soldiers that builds relations with rural Afghan women. Officially, they aren’t in active combat, but everybody knows the truth; “we’re already here”, she states, “it’s just not officially in the books”.
Furthermore, women are beneficial to the military. It’s not like they don’t want women in the military because they are inferior. It’s because of preconcieved gender roles. A key phrase mentioned earlier was that women’s “skills are needed”. Reports dating back to 1951 find that women make just as many important contributions to the military as men do. Two women were even awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest medal for gallantry in combat. (LATimes). It is so shocking that the government can grant two women this medal and not realize the twisted irony. They are awarding two women for something that according to them then shouldn’t have been doing. Granted, since World War II, the United States has been trying to integrate women into the forces but it still isn’t fully condoned. So obviously not many people are truly against women actually serving against the military, many are just against the idea of it.
Opposing viewpoints argue that most women aren’t capable of the physical demands men must endure when in combat, especially in the infantry. They are concerned about upholding military fitness as well as scenarios where a man is injured and the women must carry him out. The honest truth is that most can’t. But the ones that want to join the armed forces are the ones that can. They are the ones that will work hard to meet the same standards. Rosie Darby, a 20 year-old medic was assigned to a combat outpost as a healthcare specialist. Her job requires her to trek through vineyards and fields to avoid mines, all the while carrying medical supplies. The other men in her platoon say that she outperforms half them. She isn’t concerned about physical demands. Her concern is emotional attachment. She says the men in her platoon think of her as a little sister and would want to take care of her if she were injured, even if they should be continuing the fight. This would pose a threat to the success of the mission. But these are minor problems compared to the overall goal. Women who cannot handle the stamina required are weeded out or reassigned just like men are. As for emotional attachment, it is up to women to prove that they are no different, by any means, than the men. It is something that men will have to get used to.
Last month, the Defense Secretary announced that they would be lifting the ban on women in combat. Although the ban will not be fully phased out until 2016, it is a time to celebrate. Women have time and time again proven their effectiveness and worthiness to join men in combat and finally have their chance to prove to the world that this should have happened a long time ago.
Title from political cartoon
The foundation and evolution of our country has always fascinated me, especially the ongoing written argument between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. In the late 1780’s, the framework for American government was like a river in turmoil.
The founding fathers had already discussed different forms of government and had established the Articles of the Confederation. And it was a complete failure, causing America to descend into discord. One group, the Federalists, favored dumping the Articles and replacing it with the Constitution, proposing that it “become the law of the land.” (Shea 58) To accomplish this, “9 out of the 13 states” would have to ratify the new Constitution. And the essay war began. An opposing group, Anti-Federalists, didn’t want the constitution to be passed and began trying to convince the people not to ratify. So James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Fay, leading members of the Federalist Party, wrote a series of essays called the Federalist Papers to persuade people to agree to change the constitution. They were published in newspapers all over the country, especially where anti-federalist views were majority. One specific essay, Federalist #10, interests me most with its discussion of factions. To me, factions can be the breaking or building points of a government. Also, when I compare Madison’s opinion of government and America’s present day form of government, there are some very distinct differences.
First, a definition for factions must be understood. Dictionary.com defines the word faction as a “group or clique within a larger group, party, government, or organization.” Madison defines faction as a majority or a minority united by some common impulse of passion or interest that aggregates the community. In Madison’s eyes, faction has a relatively negative connotation. So why is a faction so negative? Factions can motivate people to cause riots, violent reactions, and dangers to all parties. But factions are also a key part to society.
How can Madison say that something he thinks is negative is actually important to society? Well, without factions, a government would become a dictatorship, with one party ruling all of society. So multiple factions (more than two) keep each other in check and prevent a one party majority rule.
Madison goes on further to explain how these factions correlate and build a republic. A republic properly represents the people by having different parties with different prospects. So almost all points of view are represented. Even if the parties don’t necessarily get along, the republican form of government units all theses parties forming one united country. The only way factions can become positive and cure the mischiefs associated with factions is to have multiple of them. It seems twisted; that to get ride of all the negative aspects of a thing, we want more of them. But the truth is they represent a wider sphere of the country and the opinions of entire population.
The most interesting thing though, is that American government doesn’t follow these guidelines. Of course we still follow the constitution, but we have slipped into lazy pattern. We only have ‘three’ parties, if we can even call it that. Republican. Democratic. And Independent. But the republican and democratic parties are the reigning champions. So relatively, only two parties or factions exist. This goes against everything the founding fathers wanted.
Every year, politicians spend countless hours in a deadlock against one another. They waste so much time opposing one another that nothing gets done. For example, if the Senate is majority democratic, it is almost guaranteed that the House of Representatives will be majority republican. There is so much discourse caused by having only two factions. On top of that, with only two parties, the public isn’t properly represented.
So what should we do? America, the land of the free, actually isn’t what the founding fathers dreamed it would be. What do you think?