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Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

The latest headlines, “Recession Hits Social Security Hard,” are just that, the latest headlines. We’ve all been reading for years of the trouble Social Security and Medicare are facing and that long term solutions should “start now”. I was in my twenty’s the first time I read about this – I only remember because I laughed, with a Murphy’s Law cynicism, the news predicted at that time it would run out the same year I turned 65.

I’m not laughing now. Since then I’ve learned that women only make 78 cents to the dollar a man makes and one of the biggest area that impacts women is their retirement years. It used to be thought (and still is depending upon whom you talk with), “that’s ok, a woman will live off her husband’s pension anyway.”  Given the current economy, one feels like asking, “what pension?” And if a woman is single, unless she started (or starts) financial planning early, well, let’s just say, YIKES!

So when years later, I hear that Social Security and its companion, Medicare, are in trouble, I hope that this time someone will listen. The fact that the recession has only added to its woes compounds the bigger issue of preparedness. And the impact on women extends to their families, for obvious reasons.

For decades, the government seems to have been ignoring its own warning signs. Just as equally, people haven’t been preparing enough. I hope the current government in Washington has the ability to not just put a band-aide on the wound, but to gather our community focus – government, corporations, small businesses, everyone of us – on solving the real issues now, for my future, for your future and for the next generations to come.

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I pass the National Education Association (NEA) main office everyday going to work and today I happened to notice a big sign out front celebrating “National Teachers Day.” Of course it made me think of the numerous teachers in my life, both good and bad, and pay a mental tribute – again both good and bad.

I remember in third grade a certain Mrs. Kennedy (it was always Mrs. or Miss in those days, no Ms. to choose from). She was an African American women, strong in opinion but gentle in approach. There was no doubt that I liked her, but what made her memorable was the fact she was going to have a baby and actually talked about it. I think we all learned more about “sex ed” though her conversations on the subject than anything we received officially for years to come, whether in school or at home. It made us more aware of what was real vs. rumor as well,  helping down the road when the subject was of much more considerable interest.

Then there was Mr. Cook in the 9th grade, our Spanish teacher who refused to speak English to us from day one. I suppose he thought that was a good approach, “immersion” as it might be called now, but without any English explanation, I was lost from the beginning, and Spanish was my first language too – not from heritage but logistics as my dad was in the Army and we had been stationed in Columbia. An honor student, I actually flunked the class which was shocking to everyone but me, I felt relief the year of torture was over, until I discovered upon entering the 10th grade, that “Senior Cook” and I were paired once again.

There was Mr. Mason, a high school history teacher who made me realize the importance of learning from the past so as not to repeat the future. There were others who taught me lessons I only vaguely remember now but who’s impact I feel all of the time as they have become part of who I am. And there was that nameless substitute health teacher (coach of the football team), whose one-liner, “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are” has stuck with me always.

So here’s to you, the teachers of America, underpaid, overworked and unfortunately leaving the profession in droves as a result. You tend to be wonderful, compassionate people who really do care about our children. As we honor you today, may the halls of our leadership do something about recognizing your value to the future of this country and address your needs.

And if you are not a teacher but would like to show support, there is DonorsChoose.org, a wonderful organization that allows you to contribute in a meaningful way to the school of your choice. Of course, there is AAUW too, contribute so that a graduate study student can continue their higher education in today’s tough economy.

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Blog for Fair Pay

Blog for Fair Pay

I’ve decided that every sibling remembers how their parents raised them as though they came from a different set of parents, so matter that their ages may be only a year or two apart. I’ve three, two sisters and a brother, and I tell you listening to our stories, you would have thought we were raised on different planets, let alone by the same two people.

Even on the issue of equality, the differences are striking. My brother, being the boy and the eldest, got a set of “you must do’s” on the grand scale, go to private schools, etc., etc., however seemed to be left alone on the day-to-day to do whatever he wanted, simply because, “oh you know, he’s the son”.  My two sisters also received a road map for their lives, much centered around the right social circles and both eventually rebelled in their different ways.

As the youngest and as a girl, I didn’t get spoiled but I did get left alone, which in my mind was just as good. I was the observer, watching the trials and tribulations of my siblings, thankful that I escaped a lot of their “must dos”, but dreaming of equality  none-the-less. Equality?? You bet, except I didn’t call it that. I called it freedom to do, for example, what my brother got to do simply because he was the son (working for above 25 cents an hour babysitting vs. $5 for his lawn mowing).

To be honest, I didn’t think again about equality in that sense until a lot later when I decided my years of reading mystery novels should help me when applying to the FBI. I wrote away for an application (no Internet in those days) and upon receipt was stunned to learn that I would not be an acceptable candidate  because I was under 5’7″! I was devastated, thinking my mind and its capabilities ought to stand for something, but no go.  In today’s language they would have called me “height challenged” I would imagine, I won’t repeat what I called it.

As I entered into the workforce, I realized time and again my male colleagues, some less able than I, often made two or three times the salary than I simply because they were men. That this form of discrimination still occurs in 2009 is what’s shocking today. I was telling a table of men and women at a conference recently of the fact that on average, women make only 78 cents to the dollar a man does, even less when you combine race with gender. A man replied, “well you all got the vote didn’t you.”  Yikes! I think he was looking for a laugh, but no one else, man or woman, even smiled.

Who knew that equality would still be an issue in the new millennium? Why is it just a dream? Although I guess one could call it a nightmare given the fact it is still prevalent not just in the United States, but throughout most of the world. What can we do? We can take action, we can spread the word, we can stop the need for Equal Pay Day. Will you?  And if you tweet, please raise your voices with us and include #fairpay and #aauw. Thanks!

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A story making the headlines (“From jobless to topless” ) the other day focused on women who were turning to stripping as a profession, making as much as a six figure salary. The example in the story I heard indicated the woman had her MBA and just couldn’t find a job that paid her on that same scale in the “real world”.

We got to talking about it at work and we actually talked about the short shelf life of a stripper. What if they were treated like a pro in the sports world who also tend to have short shelf lives? What about contract negotiations, health care, investment planning, retirement coverage, etc. As I read more about it, I ran across a very interesting blog post by Christinathestripper, entitled, “Rich Stripper, Poor Stripper“.  She talks about stripping from a job perspective and details the four major “types” of strippers – and no, she doesn’t focus on methodology, but rather from the financial goals of the women. The range goes from the Investment Stripper who pays taxes and makes investments toward fiscal responsibility and security, to the Subsistence Stripper who tends to blow any salary on immediate gratification.

After our conversation, a friend sent the following link to a blog post talking about the possible benefits of making pole dancing an official Olympic sport.  The blogger, Samhita, brings up a good point, “I guess my question would be, would making pole-dancing an Olympic sport bring to light some of the horrible treatment of exotic dancers and give them a standard wage with some worker rights?”

Of course the difference between stripping and pole dancing and other professions or sports is the seamy side, the abuse by “customers”, the abuse by the participants themselves. There are also ethical questions by some, legal issues by others.  I tend to think that as it has for centuries, so too will these professions continue forward, so let’s think about protection. Just as regular professions and sports are regulated to protect the employee or player, so too should we look at doing the same for the stripper or pole dancer, or at least strengthening any regs that may be in place.

As to the question, “doesn’t this always lead to prostitution?”, I think Christinathestripper gave an interesting perspective when she described the financial choices that can be made among the different areas of her profession:

“Of course, in any club there is always the possibility for exchanging contact info and meeting a customer outside the club. You’re right that a Subsistence Stripper is most likely to end up performing “extras” as we call activities that are outside club norms, often when she comes in needing to make a certain amount of money and isn’t making it doing normal, “clean” dances. Investment Strippers never face this problem because we always have money put away. However, the biggest reason you won’t find Investment Strippers offering outcall or extras is because if they’re open to prostitution they’ll leave stripping and escort. Classy, clean escorts have significantly higher earning potential than strippers for a lot less work. The amounts I’ve been offered for sex by club customers is ridiculously low – never more than a good day’s take. If I wanted to prostitute I would go to a legal Nevada brothel and make more than I do stripping in a safe environment. But I don’t choose to do it for more money legally, so I’m certainly not going to do it for less money illegally.”

For those who can make it a business, who are strong enough to take care of themselves, more power to you.   But no matter the financial gain of some, we need to focus on the victims here, the individuals whose backgrounds led to such low self-esteem that they consider their life  in these circles as “survival” not “investment”.  Just as bailout money is being given those who took advantage of others, let’s put more resources toward helping those in need now, to those who young lives may lead them down this path in the future if they don’t receive intervention. I think that type of “bailout” may be one of the best investments yet.

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Well did you see it? If you didn’t the Huffington Post has the full transcript and the video– even before any was posted on YouTube!

I thought the President did ok, although his comment about his poor bowling skills being on par with the Special Olympics is bringing a bit of flack on the news shows this morning. He talked about the hot news of his day, which in this case happens to impact all of us.

People have commented upon his even appearing on The Tonight Show. I think more folks watch the show – or will watch the repeat via the Internet – then read the papers, watch C-Span, or listen to any radio addresses. What better way to reach those folks than this, especially addressing concerns such as AIG bonuses that are fanning the flames of our indignation.

You have to wonder if he realizes that what goes around for him, comes around for all of us. I know  he is a smart man, but for anyone, is just a few months of being responsible for an entire country, with major spill-over throughout the world…well, has it really sunk in?

I did love his comment that being in the Beltway is like facing all Simon Cowel’s of American Idol. But then Simon, arrogant though he is, usually tells it like it is for his public world, and I rarely get the impression that most of the Beltway folks rarely tell it like it really is, albeit doing so arrogantly.

As the day progresses, we’ll hear more and more about Obama’s performance. Wonder if he’ll be asked back 😉

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Watching the news, I have noticed commentators using the word “Depression” in their descriptions of the current economic crises far more frequently than even a few months ago. Most of us have only heard that word as it relates to state of mind when met with seemingly unbearable obstacles:  loss of family member or friend, health issues, relationship problems, or whatever may make you frown instead of smile.

On second thought, many issues today are depression makers, whether economically or emotionally. Loss of job, of home, of ability to put food on the table – those certainly lead to depression or “Depression”.  Since there seems to be a variety of pills ready to cure a person’s depression, it does makes you wonder if people think of having a “quick fix” for the Depression, a few bailouts and everything will be rosy? I have a feeling the term “bitter pill” is more likely to be the case here given the greed, lack of oversight, and prevalence amongst governments, industries, banks,and people.

I recently read Gena Haskett’s blog post, Comparing Facts About 1929 Great Depression and 2009 Part 1, interesting enough to have me checking her blog for Part 2. Another perspective is highlighted in the blog post, Explaining these Chaotic times to a thirteen year old, an earlier reflective piece that helps remind us to make sure all around us are aware of the facts, not just the rumors or headlines.

My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, one set on a farm where they had food and kept working throughout, the other in the military. They talked about the era their entire lives, thinking they were the lucky ones, but always cautious  about what may be just around the corner.

I think there’s been many years now of high consumership, easy access, expectations that make the fall in our economuy harder to realize or deal with, even if it not as severe as in the 1930’s. Friends in their twenty’s are realizing they are not being courted for jobs as they had been led to expect. Older friends on the verge of buying a home are glad they can buy at lower costs than a lot of us who bought just a few years ago, but are shocked to find they can’t get mortgage approval. And many others who have lost their jobs or are afraid of losing their job, for whom the term depression now resonnates closer to home then “Depression”.

With the rest of the world, I’ll be glad to be looking back at these times, when balance has been restored and hopefully improved, when we can once again look forward without fear.

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I wrote earlier about women who buy large ticket items and instruct the sales person to put them in white bags so as not to overtly flaunt the money they spent. Now a recent Time magazine article, “How Consumers Shop Differently Today,” actually delves into the habits of real shoppers and describes the changing face of shopping today.

Basically, you have three types of shoppers: those with consumer needs vs. wants, who in essence have “slammed their wallets shut”; those who haven’t lost their job but know somebody who has so are cautious and slammed their wallets from “choice” rather than need; and the last third who still has plenty of money but are not spending to not show off in front of others or are one of those white bag shoppers. Either way, as the article states, “the era of ‘bling’ is over”.

I’m certainly not in the last group but find myself fluctuating between focusing more and more on needs vs wants and looking at all the sale items thinking “if I don’t get it now, I’ll never get it at that price”. Caution still wins and that HDtv that I’ve wanted for several years still finds itself on the store shelf instead of my living room wall.

This weekend I heard reports from “expert economists” indicating that most think 2009 will continue to be bad, but that 2010 will find us starting to get out of the current “slump”. Firstly, who are these expert economists and why didn’t they tell us to watch out from the beginning, when we started heading down the path that led us to the recession/depression. What do they define as “slump” anyway? I think those experts are all still employed for folks not working or who lost their homes or are on the edge of foreclosure would use a different descriptive.

My “ok” today could be my “loss of everything” tomorrow and I know many people feel the same way. Spare change is going into nest eggs vs “shopping” for nonessentials, no matter the sale. Discretion is one thing, reality is another and more of us are facing the latter vs. being worried about the former. It does appear that sales of lotto tickets are rising. I guess investing in possibilities is considered a reality, so I’ll give it a dollar.

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