Search

Insights of Analysis

Public Square: The US is becoming more liberal, why is this?

The United States is becoming a more liberal country than ever at the current moment, and this is not surprising at all.

A recent study published by the Pew Research Center found that highly educated democrats are abundantly more liberal than less educated members of the party. The study is clear in that this does not mean less educated democrats are moving closer to center; they are still becoming more liberal, but at a slower rate. So what can we infer by this new data? Why are more educated democrats becoming more liberal? The study does not pose any answer as to why this is happening, but the following paragraphs will provide reasoning and conjecture behind this shift. This inference is purely based off of correlation, but as the US has become abundantly more progressive in recent years, so this synthesis is logical.

Completing postsecondary and postgraduate education fosters a level of critical thought at arguably the most vital time in a person’s life: around the ages of 20-25, our brains are near full development, we are deciding what we want to dedicate our life too, and most importantly, we decide intrinsically what kind of person we want to become. The ability to vote also gives our opinions a new level of meaning.

By completing higher education, individuals begin utilizing their newfound abilities to analyze social issues at a much deeper level than those who do not complete this education. At the surface of many social issues, it can be simple to come to a certain synthesis without fully gathering all of the details.

Conservative viewpoints have a tendency to take the stance of arguing for a certain goal without fully acknowledging the outcomes. Take tax cuts for example, many conservatives are highly in favor of cutting taxes, yet fail to realize that if we cut taxes, eventually we will have to burden our children or grandchildren with tax hikes. If we look at the actual causation deeper, lowering taxes does not seem as appealing as originally. This is but one example, but conventional conservative views on other issues such as gay marriage, welfare, privatized health care, climate change, etc: are all vastly short-sided in their rationale, and nowadays it is increasingly harder to back up this illogical rhetoric.

Liberal viewpoints operate inversely to conservative ones in that initially may not appear attractive, but deeper research unveils some true benefit. As the case with programs like welfare or single-payer healthcare: a common conservative argument is that people need not to rely on others to take care of them, but they must work hard and take care of their own necessities. This argument is incredibly reasonable, but deeper research shows that many of these impoverished individuals are burdened with certain circumstances, which inhibit them from achieving this simple idea.

People who have completed a postgraduate education are arguably the most enlightened individuals around. This wisdom allows them to look beyond potentially self-serving ideologies or shallow ideals, and reason leads them to the most fitting belief. This is not any new idea either, a 2005 study by political science professors Stanley Rothman of Smith College and Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto found that university educators are overwhelmingly liberal as well. Especially at Ivy-League institutions, where 87% of faculty were found to be liberal. With this, the strong correlation between higher education and liberal viewpoints is increasingly apparent.

The rise technology and sophistication have also benefited those with higher education. Research into happiness and well-being can be very telling into the efficacy of certain public policies. It is now generally understood that egalitarian societies take much more care of their citizens, poverty lines are lower, university participation is higher, and overall well-being is much happier in these countries. The US’s reliance on capitalism, despite its benefits, has largely turned its back on those that are less fortunate. As Harry Truman proposed universal health care back in the 1940s, private insurance organizations lobbied heavily against this to protect their business. These capitalistic motivations, which have played a detriment to the masses of society, have occurred regularly in the US throughout the years. I am not arguing against capitalism, but I do believe that our indifference to regulate it has caused a number of issues.

It is not to say democrats are solely becoming more liberal, this same study by the Pew Research Center found that young conservatives are significantly more moderate than their  older counterparts, and many other studies have confirmed this as well.

 
This article is not about attacking one political party or championing another. It is just simply showing that the United States as a whole is becoming more liberal, and it is logical as to why. There is certainly no financial benefit for taking on these beliefs. We are moving towards a more liberal society because it is one that focuses on the well-being of all of its citizens. We know that developing a social safety net, which is a cornerstone belief for the highly liberal, allows people to fall back should they find themselves in harsh financial times. This fosters a sense of relief and encourages well-being for all.

Advertisements

Public Square: Republicans have a cold outlook on our heating atmosphere

Just a little over a week ago on April 22, 155 countries gathered in Paris, France to sign an agreement aimed at limiting the temperature rise induced by climate change. With so many countries agreeing on such an obvious occurrence, why on Earth are the Republican presidential candidates’ indifference to climate change? It is the quintessential example for where their motivations lie on public interests, as well as the overall lack of unity in the GOP, which has caused dysfunction to reverberate throughout the entire party.

At the point we are today: climate change is an issue every country should be in agreement with, and they are. Climate change scientists and climatologists from many countries come to the same conclusion– our world has consistently been increasing in surface temperature, sea levels are rising, and 2015 was the hottest year in recorded history. Hundreds of peer-reviewed journals written by climate experts all buy into the realization that climate change is real.

Yet, basically every single republican presidential candidate outright rejects the idea that climate change is occurring, or they have absolutely no interest in taking any steps to combat this world issue. In an interview with Katie Couric, Ted Cruz asserted that, ”Satellite data shows there has been no significant recorded warming. None”. He continually referenced this satellite evidence throughout his interview with Couric to infer that climate change is not occurring.

To many, this sounds convincing, but the only problem is satellites do not measure temperature. Instead, they measure microwave emissions of oxygen molecules very broadly throughout our atmosphere. These microwave recordings can be converted into an “estimate” of surface temperature, but the data is so broad and inconclusive, no scientist would confidently come to the synthesis that climate change is not occurring.

Cruz is not the only GOP candidate who feels this way, in an article published by NPR, the only serious presidential candidate who has made any reference to fighting climate change is John Kasich (big surprise), and Kasich just made statements that something should be done about climate change, but made no tangible proposal as to how.

Marco Rubio has made several statements claiming that the entire climate change issue is just a move by policymakers to gain more control over our economy and cultivate a big government (Cruz has stated this as well). How can statements such as these be taken seriously when seemingly every other world power is in agreement with the US? After 155 countries signed the Paris agreement just over a week ago, and in late 2014 Obama signed an agreement with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, to promote sustainable practices and make a shift towards low-carbon emitting energies.

Even more, Ben Carson has not even stated publicly whether climate change is real or not, and was quoted calling it, “irrelevant”. Most republicans have also criticized Obama for placing any emphasis on climate change, and instead should be fully focused on the fight against Isis and terror in the middle east. This red herring argument is so short-sided that it completely ignores the potential scope of what this issue could turn into in the future should the Republicans get their way.  

If everyone else accepts what we already know to be true, then why do the faces of the republican party lobby for the opposite? The answer is private interests and institutions who look after these candidates financially, but how much longer will they be able to make these false assumptions and still be trusted?

If Republican candidates cannot agree on an issue as brazenly obvious as climate change, then how are we supposed to trust the validity of any statement they make? The Republican party is experiencing a great divide and deep turmoil at the moment. This is because they all appear to place their beliefs in favor of GOP elites and not in favor of the average citizen. The split in the GOP as of now is unlike other political rifts in the past in that there are no central issues causing a disagreement.

The party is simply all over the place and does not even support its top two candidates (in Cruz and Trump). Party insiders are doing everything they can to distance themselves from Trump, and Trump’s explosion of success articulates perfectly the dissatisfaction the GOP voters feel for their party. They do not believe that current candidates have their best interests in mind, but are instead catering to favor-buying institutions.

If the Republican party is to have any chance of recovering to back to political relevance, party leaders must look past their own self-righteous thirst for power and greed, and instead focus on what is best for all US citizens. Climate change is but one example of their incoherent political discourse. If action is not taken now, in a few decades the Earth could be looking at irreplaceable damage to our atmosphere. It is time the GOP got on board with the rest of the educated world and accept that no matter the economic ramifications, we have no choice but to lower our carbon footprint.

Public Square – The Original Playboy: What one man did for Civil Rights

 

I recently came across a documentary titled, Hugh Hefner: Playboy Activist and Rebel, the documentary explores the humble beginnings of Playboy Magazine and sheds light on a socially admirable side of creator, Hugh Hefner. To the majority, most would think of Hefner as a perverted-misogynist; while these assertions may be true, this documentary proves that Hugh has undeniably been a social activist for equal rights, and yes, even for women. I wanted to explore Playboy and Hefner’s history further beyond the bounds of this documentary, and this is why I have decided to write about this topic. No matter the opinions one holds of Hefner and his publication, I feel it is necessary for people to know of the danger he put his name and his business in, in such a different social climate than what we live in today.

It is quite hard to imagine a world nowadays a society where there is so much close mindedness that entire cultures and races are shut out from the mainstream media. In the late 1950s and 60s, African Americans were very limited relating to rights they had as opposed to how they are today, and the view they had in society was very degrading. African Americans were still struggling with racism and the “separate, but equal” campaigns that forcefully divided blacks and whites in everyday life and in reality there was really nothing at all equal about it. Now, imagine the very first television show that was open about showing a mixed racial group, titled Playboy’s Penthouse and later developed into Playboy After Dark. This late night talk show was a major outlet for prominent members of the black society to come and get their voices heard by the nation at large. Made possible by Hugh Hefner, creator of Playboy Enterprises, he and this show made some of the biggest impacts on society to help change the view of African Americans. They did this by directly advocating civil rights on the show as well as bringing many talented African Americans on the show directly and hanging out with them as equals. Some might ask, did this television show that was created by Hefner and his magazine really have such a profound impact on equal rights and even American Society? Did the company face many discriminatory obstacles for putting this on national television? This will all be explored in the following.

After working for Esquire Magazine, he felt he wanted to go another direction with a magazine so he started his own. Even though being started in Chicago, soon after the company’s inception much of the business was carried out in Los Angeles, CA mainly because of Hugh’s extreme infatuation with Hollywood and cinema. He set out to create the most innovative gentleman’s magazine that had ever been created. He also felt a good way to advertise the magazine was to create a television show. So in 1959, Playboy’s Penthouse was born, and later in 1969 the show was restarted as Playboy After Dark. What these shows were intended to do was treat the viewer like they were attending a party of Hefner’s in a top floor Penthouse in an apartment building. Hefner attributes the style at which the show was created to its success, but on a deeper and more meaningful level the shows did quite more. Hugh repeatedly had African American comedians, musicians, and musical groups come on the show and perform their talents at the party. After they finished, they would all drink and converse over various topics, most very political. This marked the first time for a few of the guests, their first time ever performing on national television and they were not allowed to before simply because of their race. As a consequence of this, the show lost much of its syndication in the southern states for its feature of mixed races and such racy topics. Eventually, Playboy’s Penthouse went off the air in 1963 and there was a six-year drought until its reintroduction. Only this time it came back under the title Playboy After Dark, a revamped and newer version that was built off of the predecessor that again was very politically dominated. The show continued with Hefner as its host and led by example with its advocating of civil rights as left off in Playboy’s Penthouse, but at this time in the late sixties women’s rights had become a substantial issue in the media as well. At the centerfold was the issue of abortions, and the show had politicians as well as some notable psychologists who would come on and debate the issue of abortions. Hefner and the television show were always very open about their side as they were very pro women’s rights and had a pro-choice stance.

Scholarship around the media concerning racism and feminism has mainly spoken about how far society has come since these times in the 1950s. Often highlighting key aspects of our culture that have grown to be more accepting of equal rights.  Justin D. Gifford, a college professor, and author of “Harvard in Hell”: Holloway House Publishing Company, Players Magazine, and the Invention of Black Mass-Market Erotica. This focuses on how a publishing company started printing a magazine called Players Magazine. What Professor Gifford’s argument is, is that the creators of Player’s created a new avant-garde type of literary market for the African-American market. As he puts it, “They capitalized on uprisings in Watts and created a culture industry based on large-scale black readership.” Overall, Gifford feels that what the magazine did was appeal to a large demographic of individuals who were largely ignored by the mainstream media. One individual has very interesting ideologies of the concept of television and how it contributes to our everyday life. Paul C. Adams, professor at the University of Texas-Austin, specializes in Geography and Communication. His article, Television as Gathering Place, he argues that television plays a central role in a society and helps define the societies view of “us” and “them”. He feels that television is unique to books, radio, or even magazines because it is place-like. The point he strives to make throughout is that television is strongly related to long-term historical changes within a society. J. Blaine Hudson, in Affirmative Action and American Racism in Historical Perspective, explores mostly black history and the implementation of Affirmative Action and the subsequent repercussions of it. Hudson argues that Affirmative Action is a measure created to desegregate American institutions but it actually diverts from its whole purpose and now only looks like a token measure to benefit minorities. As a consequence, Hudson feels that an entire new form of segregation has been created. He goes onto argue the reasons why racism was even started in the first place and creates a timeline of events for his examples.

My analysis of Hugh Hefner and the Playboy television shows demonstrate that he indeed helped to bring many changes concerning equal rights to the mass population and I will argue that all people are born with a genetic pre-disposition to want to help one another. My argument in turn will only help to strengthen and give another way of thought to the scholars’ argument’s that are featured. Hugh Hefner is an optimal example of this with the way he conducted his magazine and creating television shows based around helping so many different people that represented their race or sex as a whole. I feel that Hefner saw how these people were treated in everyday life and felt it was his responsibility to help people in need. The same can be said with the argument brought forth by Professor J. Blaine Hudson, with the enactment of Affirmative Action into American society. The overall intent of this measure was to provide a level playing field for those who were less fortunate to still have the ability to attend college and receive a higher education. It was our government’s responsibility to help them out and it is a basic human necessity to help someone in need and so that is what they did. This same idea can be added to Justin D. Gifford’s argument about the start of the African American targeted magazine Player’s. One of the main objectives of starting this magazine was based around African American empowerment and bringing attention to the their ever struggling population.

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel, is a documentary directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Brigitte Berman. In this film, Berman explores the impact that Playboy made on society and gives Hefner credit for his contributions to many things including sexuality becoming a prominent part of mainstream media, the female feminist movement, as well as directly crediting Hefner for helping African Americans push for equality in the United States. The film also gives an in-depth exploration of the Playboy television show Playboy’s Penthouse as it progresses through the years. Starting with its inception in October of 1959, the documentary shows the intro to the show with a subjective camera going up an elevator and reaching the top floor before being met by a cheerful Hugh Hefner who explains the festivities of the evening. The intent of this seems to be that it gives the viewer the real feeling of actually being there developing a stronger connection. The show quickly developed controversy because it was the first nationally televised show that features both African American and Caucasian people in an equal state. These African American cast members included Josh White, The Gateway Singers, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sammy Davis Jr.. This was a huge opportunity for all of these artists because most of which had never been able to perform on television before simply because of the color of their skin. Dick Gregory, a comedian and civil rights activist provides his opinion of the show, “ Where would you see all those great jazz folks he brought on or hear them other than their music, ya know and so he (Hugh Hefner) brought them alive so people could see a human side of them.” This quote is especially useful because that’s exactly what this show did for them, it showed that they were human beings who deserved as much attention and appreciation as anybody. Even still, many people did not buy into this idea in south so the show never was able to air in the southern states. After only two seasons, the show left the air in 1963 so Hefner could pursue new endeavors with the magazine.

However, at the very beginning of 1969, six years after it went off the air the show came back revamped and with the new title Playboy After Dark. The return of the show was even more politically aimed than it was six years previously. Guests on the show included Marvin Gaye, The Checkmates, Jim Brown, and may others. The show was still a major advocate for civil rights. For instance, guest football player Jim Brown came on and gave a memorizing speech where he stated, “We need to concentrate on supplying the same basic needs that African American people need in this country, expertise and financing, until we do this happens we will always occupy a secondary role in the economy.” The focal point of the show was to get these people on and they would talk about what they felt should change in society, and this time more than ever women’s rights was a prominent issue. Women getting illegal abortions was a growing issue as well as contraceptives and another vital argument that Hefner and the show were trying to make is that is was the women’s right to choose if they wanted to partake in this or not. They felt it there should be no law banning them from this if they felt that it was right for them. American writer and political commentator, Gore Vidal, made an appearance on the show advocating the use of contraceptives because his argument was that because society as a whole was dealing with over-population and unwanted child births and this was a necessary cause to help better our society. After all of this advocating and protesting of women’s rights brought forth by the television show Playboy After Dark. One might feel a sense of irony in the fact the famous court case that abolished the law against abortions (Roe v. Wade) took place only a couple of years later in 1973.

To get perhaps, the best understanding of why it was so important that the events that took place in Playboy’s Penthouse that later became know as Playboy After Dark. The arguments referenced above provide great relations between the Playboy television show what makes it important for the real world. In Television as Gathering Place, by Paul C. Adams, is for the most part a geographer and he explores how television relates to geography as a whole and almost becomes a real living place in our lives because so many of our lives revolve around it. Adams even states in his article that 98%, or almost of the population of the United States currently own television sets. Also, that the main focal point of studies on televisions in the last thirty to forty years are based on their psychological effects on viewers. “Current media theory stems from two main traditions. The tradition dominant in North America from 1950s through the mid-1980s looks mainly at supposed psychological and social effects of television on society. In this case, where television is viewed as a technology or mode of communication.” What studies have show is that television has grown to be a symbol of context and a center of meaning for a society. By creating this show, Hefner was able to make his show that very context that Adams was speaking of by advocating of civil and women’s rights when no one else did. The events that occurred with the Playboy television shows provide a great example for Professor Adams’s argument because one can see what he’s told in his article and see a real life example of it.

Now, the entire point of Hefner trying to reach such an incredible audience was solely to help those in need and allow them to have their voices heard. In this case, it was the African American population in our country and later it came to be based on the betterment of women’s rights as well. What Professor J. Blaine Hudson argues in his article relates just the same to this idea. Professor Hudson knows the hardship that the African American people faced in the 1950’s and 60’s and that can be considered why he and Hugh Hefner both went to such great lengths to advocate for their equality. Hugh Hefner makes the statement, “Humans are not born with prejudices, they are taught them from an early age.”(Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel). Professor J. Blaine builds off of Hefner’s ideas because traces the acts of racism in American back to the time when colonists who were derived from the British Isles, i.e., England, Scotland, and Ireland. “They were largely Protestant in their religious leanings and identified strongly with a myth of Anglo-Saxon racial superiority.” (262). Hefner makes it clear when speaking of his racial acceptance that his upbringing had much to do with this. He was never brought up in a home that taught prejudices and racism and that directly correlates with his acceptance of all cultures. It can be assumed that Professor Hudson would subscribe to this idea as well along with Hefner.

Perhaps the most important and biggest impact that that Hefner and the television show made was inspiring others to go and help people out themselves. Players Magazine, was a magazine created in the 1960s and was directly influenced by the events of Playboy Magazine. Professor Justin D. Gifford, in “Harvard in Hell”: Holloway House Publishing Company, Players Magazine, and the Invention of Black Mass-Market Erotica, gives an in-depth background on the beginning of the magazine and what their goal was to do with it and what was to be accomplished. The dominant part of the article is Professor Gifford conducting interviews with two of the past editors, Wanda Coleman and Emory Butch Holmes II. Gifford argues that the company that published Players did not have the company’s best interest and repeatedly tried to take advantage of the writers and editors. By stating, “Even though Holloway House created a space for American voices to be heard, they did so by exploiting writers and artists already at the margins of society.” (113). What this shows is that even in the late 1960s African Americans were still having trouble to take a stand, but the message Hugh Hefner and Playboy were sending still gave them the motivation to try and reach empowerment and equality. These two work together because they show how important the message of this television show was to the helping of an entire race. Players Magazine received commercial success throughout the 1970s and was able to reach many people across the country.

Everyone, no matter what background we have came from, has been exposed to some type of racism or has seen it first hand.  By learning about the creation of Playboy Magazine in the 1950’s and the television show that ensued. We get a chance to look at somebody who fought for equal rights in the thick of this social plight. We get to see how the want for people to help one another is really there and it is something that all of us for the most part are born with. Hugh Hefner has it and is a perfect example of somebody who deeply ingrained in their DNA simply wants to help people. He is truly a visionary who has made his stamp on history in a big way and helped many from his deeds. Equal Rights is something that makes a positive impact on everyone’s life and everyone should all do our part to learn about it and lead by Hugh’s example.

Public Square: Misguided Lifestyles: Why happiness eludes us

It is a generally accepted idea that humans are quite inaccurate at predicting their future emotions. Seemingly everyone will get caught up in the natural way of thinking that, “Once I achieve this milestone (or whatever material item), then I will be fulfilled”.  Much to our, disappointment, we tend to be wrong even when we are successful at attaining these goals. Then, we find a new ambition, and the entire process starts all over again. All the while, we fail to ever achieve true inner-happiness and the contentment we have always been seeking. The reason for these occurrences are the following: the actions and mindsets people expect will solve their problems, or bring them greater happiness, are often altogether erroneous and counterproductive; there is an immense amount of data to support this idea. For instance, especially in Western culture, an individual’s goals tend to be more material-influenced, and we all too often focus on what others have in relation to ourselves. Succumbing to these social comparisons can be awfully naive, however, it is not just the individual’s fault; in our media-driven society, we are constantly reminded of the fact that there are certain people with significantly higher incomes than we will ever have. And we will see that other nations in the world whose citizens are not exposed to these cultural influences, tend to yield more satisfied populations. There is something to be learned from these countries and it is worth exploring why they seem to be so much happier than the rest of us.

When speaking about income, or basically any other social comparison, the most important word to remember is relativity. A 1998 study by Sara J. Solnick and David Hemenway found that, it is not how much money we make, but how much money we make in relation to our peers. Their study found that a large number of individuals would rather live in a world where they made $50,000 while peers made $25,000, than a world where they made $100,000 and their peers made $200,000. This study shares an interesting similarity with the country of Denmark. Denmark operates an egalitarian society, which means they have great equal opportunity for all citizens, and as a consequence, a very unified social class. The country of Denmark is highly taxed: but they have excellent health care, extremely little unemployment, low poverty rates, and virtually no national debt. All of these reasons are why Denmark is consistently ranked among the happiest countries in the world. They are not bothered with the severe variability of income and social standing, which antagonizes other countries like here in the United States. Freedom of these burdens allows their mental focus to be directed toward other, more meaningful aspects of life, which allows them to feel even more life satisfaction.

Countries that are happiest tend to focus less on material elements of life and more on the more meaningful ones: such as family and passions. The Danes have more leisure time from work than any country in the world. Studies show that Danes also tend to enjoy their jobs significantly more than other countries. So it appears where most people go wrong is allowing themselves to be overworked and working in jobs that do not even satisfy them to begin with. So conclusions we can draw from this are imperative to well-being: it is dire for people to be fulfilled in their careers, but also have time to enjoy their personal endeavors. Now, some may argue that people do not necessarily have control over these aspects of their life. Most people work jobs they do not like out of desperation. While this may be the case, it does not change the fact that for people to be happiest, we must find gratification in our careers, while also having a decent amount of time for ourselves. With this time, we must also be in the moment and enjoy life as it happens, without dwelling on our personal issues or the future. There is an extremely beneficial type of therapy that can greatly assist in this notion.

The techniques of Mindfulness meditation have been around for hundreds of years in the Buddhist religion. It is no secret, mindfulness meditation is one of the best ways for anyone to boost their quality of life and well-being, and there are numerous research studies to prove it. This type of meditation has the power to help individuals do things such as: by focusing on the here and now, not get caught up on the anxieties and worries of life, have more mental toughness to deal with strenuous life events, help people savour the precious moments of life, boost self-esteem, and better one’s ability to form deeper relationships with others. In fact, a 2007 study from the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, found that Mindfulness increased couple’s romantic relationships with one another.  These benefits of mindfulness have pronounced effects on both physical and mental health. Mental health for example, this meditation works particularly well for: depression, anxiety, OCD, substance abuse, and eating disorders. For instance, an 8 week study on Chinese undergraduates, after only 5 days in the study, they were reporting less depression, anger, and anxiety. Their benefits far exceeded another group in the study who only received relaxation training.

When people simply put themselves in the correct mindset, they can substantially increase their well-being and happiness. Placing particular emphasis on not allowing one’s self to agonize over irrelevant upward social comparisons. When we allow ourselves to ruminate over adversity in our lives, we allow these distresses to build up and completely occupy our thoughts, and this will not bring us any closer to relief. The practice of Mindfulness meditation is fantastic remedy with proven efficacy. Success at these methods can provide the masses with the opportunity for true long-term prosperity.

Public Square – Stress-Free College: The Fiscal Climate of the American Higher Education System

When I began conducting research on this topic, I soon felt foolish for believing I could  contribute truly meaningful insights to a social issue most educated scholars and policymakers have difficulties answering. As a college senior eight weeks from entering the workforce, the stresses of financing a college education are still vividly fresh in my mind. A first-gen college student, the nuances of completing forms such as the FAFSA, CSS Profile, Income and Expense forms, etc. were quite difficult for me. The lack of clarity as to whether I completed these forms correctly left me in a constant state of worry. With the US is in an election year, many politicians reference the “student debt crisis” and the debate continues as to how we should nationally finance university education for all. I aspired to research this topic, in some fashion or another, to provide a level of empirical analysis to find what are the real drivers of the dysfunction in financing postsecondary education. Naturally, there are hundreds of peer-reviewed articles written on this topic, and most focused on specific areas of college financing instead of the system as a whole. For these reasons, this paper now is by no means complete, and will surely never be. What I have published here are what I believe to be the most relevant commonalities among the papers I researched. As my research continues, I will edit this paper accordingly. To be clear, my intention was to explore many of the questions American society has about paying for higher education. For example: should the US follow other nations and completely subsidize a college education (make college free)? Is our current system truly inhibiting aspiring college students from attending college? For those who do attend college, is difficulty of repaying the loans bringing into question the efficacy of a college degree increasing earnings potential? Finally, how can we fix this system? What I have found, and what I will argue are the reasons for the flawed higher education system are the following: The lack of transparency in all forms of college financing, whether it be financial aid or university reporting is creating a massive barrier in our ability to properly assess and fix the student loan debt issue, whether it exists or not. Current academic studies on student loan effects lack empirical evidence, sticker prices vs. net prices of university tuition can mislead prospective students, and media outlets often deceive the public by overdramatizing the student loan crisis. Finally, the lack of financial advice for young students making such a large personal investment in education also deserves blame for the issue we face today.

To begin, It should be clear that making college completely free to all would be a misuse of our country’s financial resources. This is due to the largest demographic of college attendees are those who do not have as much trouble paying for it. If we unquestionably make a college education free, the students who do not need the subsidy will be the ones to benefit most from it. It could not be summed up better than Matt Bruenig has, “At age nineteen, only around 20 percent of children from the poorest 2 percent of families in the country attend college. For the richest 2 percent of families, the same number is around 90 percent” (Bruenig 2). Why should the federal government provide such massive subsidies to families who are not in need? Forgoing such a massive overhaul in the education system and instead using the saved funds to invest in other struggling governmental programs would be more cost effective. However, we should invest in making college attainable and stress-free for the lower-income families who need it most, which is far less than the bulk of students who would unnecessarily receive these subsidies should college be free.

Despite the fact that I am not for completely subsidizing a college education, I will present reasons why it should be unequivocally attainable for any person, from any background. Due to technological change, employer preference, etc, it is nearly impossible to have a meaningful career without a college degree. In recent years, demand for high-skilled jobs mostly related to technology have increased along with demand for low-skilled jobs; while demand for middle-skilled jobs have decreased during this time. Philip Oreopoulos and Uros Petronijevic, attribute this to the fact that machine automation has rendered those employees obsolete (Oreopoulos and Petronijevic 50). This evidence could lead one to believe that a major reason for the shrinking middle class and rise for the 1% in the US is mostly due to the rise of technology and lack of educational attainment following suit by Americans. If we were to encourage educational success with much higher subsidies for education, would this begin to ease the gap of income inequality? Not necessarily. There is sufficient evidence that technological change is NOT the sole driver of the college premium, if we look at the book- Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses: the book asserts that lesser study time and grade inflation have hampered a college education’s ability to really drive students to develop new skills (Arum, Roksa 2010). Additionally, according to the signaling hypothesis presented in the book, students do not acquire marketable skills while in college, but merely use their college degree to signal to employers that they have some type of intangible ability over lesser educated individuals (Oreopoulos, Petronijevic 53).

What we can synthesize thus far on the necessity college education is the following, there is no doubt that technological change has sparked many new careers, which place these college educated individuals with technical degrees to an advantage (in that they have the highest lifetime earnings of any other college degrees). However, the growth of technology does not fully explain the reason for the exponential growth in the essentiality for a young person to attend college. For those not in technical fields (e.g. liberal arts), where their skills are less tangible, signaling becomes extremely important. According to an Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) study, employers are much more comfortable hiring individuals that are transparent in their skills and abilities (college grads show this through transcripts, university attended, extra curriculars etc.) (Oreopoulos and Petronijevic 54) . Despite the fact that high school educated individuals and college graduates may have the same skill sets, an individual with only a high school diploma will not be of interest to the employers who want to know exactly what the skills of these new hires are. For this reason, making a college education more attainable is critical to help less financially equipped students signal their credentials to potential employers. As many people know, college educated workers usually make much more money than their less educated counterparts of similar job title in the workplace. A study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows how within certain occupations, employers pay employees based on the level of education they indeed have. So it is not to say that higher educated people are necessarily preventing the lesser educated individuals from finding work, but they are indeed being paid much more.

Before a new financial aid program could be implemented, or restructuring of our current ones, in-depth due diligence must be taken to force universities to thoroughly report the actual cost of attendance. At this point, the lack of transparency in the university environment is creating a massive disconnect in our nation’s ability to properly assess whether providing a highly subsidized university education would be an effective endeavor. The California State University System has taken these concerns over college reporting and created the Voluntary System of Accountability (VSA)- the nation already has a universal VSA of its own, but the CSU VSA was created to set stricter standards of financial reporting, which will then be made available to policymakers and taxpayers (Alexander 443). It seems, the CSU VSA would be a proper structure for the entire nation to follow to ensure that we have enough data to make a properly informed decision on how the federal government should treat education moving forward. The VSA includes information such as: undergraduate student debt, data on degrees granted, economic diversity and degree completion. With this type of information provided from every university public school system. We could have the ability to take an informed look at how many students are getting into debt, how many are dropping out, what demographics are dropping out, etc. This information is dire as we could begin to realize the scope of how difficult it is for young people to pay for college.

Many factors go into deciding how a student should finance their college education: university of choice (public or private, in or out-of-state), degree completion, future occupation, etc. However, the the actual cost of tuition (In 2011, $2,490/year at a public university; full degree completion $9,960 – $12,450) and found that it is indeed quite low in comparison to the average income of college grads to high school grads ($56,000 and $32,000, respectively) (Oreopoulos and Petronijevic 59). Other researchers assert that the main reason for societal aversion to taking out loans are due to inaccurate reporting my various media outlets (Avery and Turner 21). In fact, there is such a high level of misunderstanding with students and parents that,”high school students overestimated the tuition cost of public four-year institutions by 65 percent; their parents, by 80 percent” (Oreopoulos and Petronijevic 59). Here again, lack of transparency in the university system and false media reporting has contributed to this anxiety on investing in a college education. A 2012 study by Christopher Avery and Sarah Turner found evidence that some students indeed borrow too little and therefore do not attain an appropriate level of schooling. Given these circumstances, we can be lead to believe that financing is not the issue, and if we are to make college more attainable for the masses, a substantial investment in the education of actual costs and the ease of borrowing should be considered. Furthermore, we have proof that despite hikes in college tuition and fees, the relative amount of students enrolling has remained constant. In summer of 2009, the University of California system lost $800 million of funding, and as a consequence passed these expenses onto students, but saw no subsequent drop in applications (O’Leary, 2009). Other school systems have done this as well, but there is not any evidence that schools lose in attendance numbers as a response. Even if they did, the minimal loss in student revenues from those not enrolling is extremely offset by the large amounts of higher tuition-revenue from the tuition hike. As stated previously, students enrolling in college remains relatively constant among all institutions, however, one paper shows that this is not the issue: the issue is the number of students who do not complete their degree, and are then left with five-figure amounts of debt to pay back with no additional income (Dwyer, Mcloud, Hodgson 2012).

Thus far, it appears that many people suffer from a lack of education on how to properly take on financial debt, which thereby hinders their ability to reap financial success of postsecondary education later in life. However, there is a responsibility for public policymakers to create a framework of sorts, which would analyze the cost benefit analysis of students taking on a certain amount of debt, and looking at their prospective college degrees and career paths. Many experts firmly believe that these factors play a major role in a young person’s decision to attend college, and more importantly finance it. A 2009 study found that, students who received assistance in completing, and knowledge of the FAFSA were 25% more likely to attend and complete a college degree, why cannot we invest in programs to provide students this level of knowledge when making such a large financial decision (Bettinger 2009). Does such a complicated form transcend an individual’s investment in a post secondary education? No. But the research proves it indeed does. Personally, I never received any help when completing my FAFSA OR CSS Profile, both highly intricate documents for a young and low-income individual to fill out. Investing in a program for this would undoubtedly be cheaper than subsidizing the entire education system.

After researching my first few peer-reviewed journal articles, it was overwhelmingly apparent that a lack of clarity is majorly affecting our nation’s ability to properly analyze the benefits of attending college. If this assertion is true, we all must be rational; attending a postsecondary education is one of the most important decisions a person will make in their life, and it no doubt will affect the rest of their life. So why are there such inadequacies in the amount of information a young person is afforded when making such a large financial decision? Would the CEO of a large multinational firm give the greenlight to acquire another firm without having absolutely every amount of information possible? Because they need the utmost of due diligence to make proper financial decisions. If the most successful and educated people in the world demand this level of financial assurance, then why cannot all college prospective students be afforded this as well? When making the decision to attend college, we must look at it as a business decision. As I have learned during my time studying business, any decision that does not yield a company a positive financial return is a decision that should not be made. This may not necessarily be true for all individuals, take for example, an aspiring artist who would like to attend a famous private university, at a base tuition of about 50k$ a year, it is unlikely an arts major would have an easy of a time paying this debt back as an engineering major. Does this mean we should ignore our aspirations? Not necessarily, but an aspiring artist with an inability to pay such high tuition should know every financial aspect of the decision they are about to make; this may sound obvious, but the level of student loan confusion in the US proves it is obvious not a universally known fact. We know, students who have Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) degrees are to earn significantly more than those who do not, so we should do something to ensure that those who partake in fields with lower earning degrees should be aware of what they are getting into, or be diverted from the decision.

As stated previously, a public education should be free for all, but an education should be stress-free for all. Clearly, taking on average amounts of debt can increase a student’s chances of completing college, and if we invest in a program to properly educate lower income students on how to properly manage debts, we could push this number higher. Perhaps, an algorithm of sorts could be created to properly assess prospective students for their ability to properly pay back loans. A Princeton University paper supports this claim that aid can be extremely effective, but only if we create, “well-designed programs producing large increases in college attendance and completion” (Dynarski and Scott-Clayton 86). If students are really dropping out around junior year due to concerns over rising debt, a roadmap of an entire four-year education would be helpful for students to have an idea of the financial stress to expect after school. Such program would need to be highly thorough, and incoming college students have enough stress to deal with; educating them on how to properly manage debt could increase these stresses even further. It may be more cost effective to subsidize education more heavily altogether at the current levels we know to work now. I do not believe debt is that actual issue for seeming crisis we have in the US today, but instead a lack of education, and particularly for students coming from low-income families. The question is: how do we reach these students? Clearly, the programs we have in place now are not working, and costs are going to come from somewhere whether we invest in financial education or higher subsidies? Which one is it? Nothing is wrong with students taking out debt while in college, after all, we are intentionally forgoing joining the workforce for what we know is going to pay off later with higher income due to our degree. The issue we must not ignore is that students and families are still struggling with ultimatum to take on this debt, and it is our social duty as a nation to help these individuals. Baum, McPherson, and Heller articulate why subsidies should be increasing below:

 

Expanding enrollments are a public good that should perhaps be subsidized to a greater degree than in recent years, especially with grant aid to less advantaged students. The current trend, however, is declining state subsidies and increasing private debt tuitions (Baum and McPherson 2008; Heller 2008).

 

We now see that loans can appear to be non-intimidating as a student begins to take them out early in their college career; as they move through college, anxiety may arise as they begin to question if they will in fact be able to repay these sizable loans. This implies that the largest detriment of student loans is that they have they do not necessarily deter students from attending university, but they certainly can inhibit students completing school (Bowen, Chingos and McPherson 2009; Buchmann and DiPrete 2006). The authors’ paper shows that low-income individuals are beginning to more commonly drop out of school after their debt increases over $10,000. If students are beginning to drop out of college once accruing debt around $11,835, the real issue again appears to be a lack of education on the student (Dwyer, Mcloud, Hodgson 2012). Not that this is their fault, they are young people, and young people have rarely seen debt balances exceeding these sums of money. But students incurring debt up to around this $10,000 balance does help them graduate; so it seems a proper balance between appropriate debt and education could be a promising solution.

Despite that it appears so far that the actual student loans are not the issue, there are experts who disagree, and argue the national debt crisis is genuinely real. In the academic paper, The Burden of Borrowing, the authors quantify the severity of the crisis,

 

More than 39 percent of student borrowers graduate with unmanageable debt (over 8% of their gross income goes towards debt service), but lower-income students borrow significantly more than their higher-income counterparts and have a more difficult time with loan repayment (King and Bannon 2002)

 

This data directly contradicts other research already referenced in this paper (Oreopoulos and Petronijevic), which claims college graduates earn around $56,000 with only about $12,000 to pay back in loans. Payments on a $12,000 loan for an individual with an annual salary of $56,000 would be far less than 8 percent.. We cannot forget these claims present now are going on 14 years old, so more research is necessary to find if the validity holds true today as it did then. Even still, if in fact, 39% of student borrowers do rise to this level of debt, there is indeed a glaring issue with the cost of attending college. Furthermore, the authors of the paper, Debt and Graduation from American Universities, acknowledge the research on debt has not materialized into reliable research and the contradictory evidence unveils both positives and negatives of the student debt (Dwyer, Mcloud, Hodgson 2012). What we see here is that, clearly, this data shows us that college must not be as attainable overall as Oreopoulos and Petronijevic’s article. Due to the nature of how the US government solved the problem of the “College for All” campaign- high tuition, some grants, and higher loans have stagnated our nation’s ability to graduate more students. This is proven by the fact that completion rates have not grown near as quickly as enrollments have.

Evidence continues to mount that the bureaucracy of the American education system has made it incredibly difficult for families, especially low-income, to fully estimate the actual cost of college. Again, the actual cost of attending college is not the issue, but the manner in which we go about it. The potential solutions for this issue begin to extend beyond the scope of this paper, but the problem is becoming increasingly apparent. The lack of empirical evidence on the effect of educational loans students use to pay for college is affecting our ability to fully assess the situation. Before our government can even begin to think about possible solutions, we must first be confident on what the actual influence student loans have on attendance, completion of school, and graduates ability to pay back the loans. I have presented evidence in this paper the effects of loans on students staying in school, but as this data still appears to be in its infancy, the future outlook on the eventual solution to financing college education remains uncertain.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Alexander, F. King. “Maintenance of State Effort for Higher Education: “Barriers to Equal Educational Opportunity in Addressing the Rising Costs of a College Education”” JSTOR. University of Illinois Press, Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.

 

Avery, Christopher, and Turner, E. Sarah. “Student Loans: Do College Students Borrow Too Much—Or Not Enough?” Journal of Economic Perspectives 26, no. 1 (2012): 165-92. 23 Feb. 2016.

 

Baum, Sandy, and Michael McPherson. 2008. “Introduction,” Pp. 1-7. The Effectiveness of Student Aid Policies: What the Research Tells Us. Sandy Baum, Michael McPherson and Patricia Steele, editors. New York, NY: The College Board. 5 Mar. 2016.

 

Bettinger, Eric P., and others, “The Role of Simplification and Information in College Decisions: Results from the H&R Block FAFSA Experiment,” Working Paper 15361 (Cambridge, Mass.: National Bureau of Economic Research, September 2009). 17 Feb. 2016.

 

Bowen, William G., Matthew M. Chingos and Michael S. McPherson. 2009. “Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities”. Princeton University Press. 17 Feb. 2016.

 

Buchmann, Claudia, and Thomas A. DiPrete. 2006. “The Growing Female Advantage in College Completion: The Role of Parental Resources and Academic Achievement.” American Sociological Review 1 1 (4) : 5 1 5-4 1. 17 Feb. 2016.

 

Carnevale, Anthony P., Rose, Stephen J.,  and Cheah, Ban, “The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings, report prepared for the Center on Education and the Workforce” (Georgetown University, 2011). 23 Feb. 2016.

 

Dwyer, R. E., L. Mccloud, and R. Hodson. “Debt and Graduation from American Universities.” Social Forces 90.4 (2012): 1133-155. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

 

Dynarski, Susan, and Judith Scott-Clayton. “Financial Aid Policy: Lessons from Research.” NBER. futureofchildren.org, Apr. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.

 

Heller, Donald E. 2008. “The Impact of Student Loans on College Access,” Pp. 39-67. The Effectiveness of Student Aid Policies: What the Research Tells Us. Sandy Baum, Michael McPherson and Patricia Steele, editors. New York, NY: The College Board. 3 Mar. 2016.

 

Hemelt, Steven W., and Dave E. Marcotte. “The Impact of Tuition Increases on Enrollment at Public Colleges and Universities.”JSTOR. American Education Research Association, Dec. 2011. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.

 

King, Tracey, and Ellynne Bannon. “The Burden of Borrowing.” (n.d.): n. pag.PIRG. PIRG, Mar. 2002. Web. 3 Mar. 2016.

 

O’Leary, K. (2009, July 18). California’s crisis hits its prized universities. Time. Available at http:// http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599, 191 1455, 00.html. 19 Feb. 2016.
Oreopoulos, Philip, and Uros Petronijevic. “Making College Worth It: A Review of Research on the Returns to Higher Education.” (2013): n. pag. JSTOR [JSTOR]. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.

Public Square: Big Money, Small Ethics

Apple is unarguably one of the most valuable companies to date. When it comes to purchasing a new laptop or phone, Apple has become the brand of choice. As a company that reported revenue of $42.1 Billion dollars at the end of 2014, Apple seems to be doing everything right. When it comes to their ethical and socially responsible position Apple says, “ To make truly great products, we feel it’s crucial to build them in ways that are ethical and environmentally responsible”. However, with current reports Apples promise to prospective and loyal customers on their website is questionable. Business ethics is the foundation of a good business. A businesses success thrives on a socially responsible and ethical company. When the ethics of the business falls short, it begins to crack the structure of the business itself. The issue of Apple’s ethics comes in the mistreatment of the individuals who are responsible for creating the multi-billion dollar revenue producing products.
The highlight of Apples poor ethics is in Foxconn, the leading supplier of Apple products. The employees at Foxconn work about 70 hours per week and some of the employees haven’t even been paid. There are dormitories in the factory that house about 300 people who share one shower and one bathroom. The demanding and poor working conditions lead 18 employees to commit suicide by jumping out the window in 2010. In order to compensate for the deaths, the company gave the families about 100,00 yuan. Even though Apple isn’t legally responsible for the hectic conditions at Foxconn, Apple was aware of the conditions and chose to do nothing about it. Many people blame the fact that Apple set such poor order prices that Foxconn was unable to improve working conditions. Following the scandal at Foxconn conditions had improved with the help of Apple. However Apple stated, “Our suppliers must live up to the toughest standards in the industry if they want to keep doing business with Apple.” The true test of Apple ethics is how they decide to move forward after this scandal. Apple chose to sweep it under the rug, and the violations of ethics continued in 2011.
Apple decided to outsource to southern China from a change of Foxconn in order to cut costs. Apple hired about 500,000 employees and began to test the extent as to which they can work. Apple forced employees to sign anti-suicide contracts promising not to commit suicide. They also installed nets around the building in order to catch people if they jumped. The first example of the flaw in their ethics is the 98 hours Apple makes its employees work. The Chinese law states that each employee must not work more than 36 hours. Apple is forcing employees to work about three times the legal limit in order to meet product demands. Another way Apple has cut corners is by building dorms near the factory in order to eliminate employee downtime. The dorms also feature bars on the windows in order to prevent further people from jumping. Another example of the extreme work environment was when the first iPhone was released, and Steve Jobs decided to change the screen from plastic to glass. The employees were woken up at 3am in order to start production to meet an unreasonable deadline.
Given Apples billion dollar revenue, they can afford to be a leader in proper business ethics. Proper business ethics begins with the way employees are treated. Even though the scandals had little effect on Apple business sales, Apple should still feel responsible for improving the working conditions of suppliers. With proper business ethics, Apple can set the standard and provide a model for other companies to follow. It can begin by inspecting working conditions of the assembly line employees that are responsible for making their billion dollar revenue generating products. Apple can also include that in their contract with their suppliers in order to ensure proper working conditions for employees. By enforcing proper working conditions, it will cause Apple to pay a little extra to suppliers, however, they can afford it. Proper business ethics isn’t in what a company says but how a company acts. Apple can release as many statements as they want about the proper working conditions they like to believe their business to have. Business ethics of Apple will become positive once they implement their ideas and statements into practice in their company.

Public Square: Tesla Motors: Can they achieve long-term success?

Like any large follower of the technology and innovation sector, Tesla Motors is a company I am naturally intrigued by. Why would not anyone be interested in Tesla? They have managed to do something the principles of economics tells us is impossible: join and compete in a monopolized market. As such, even for a company with as much value proposition as they do, it has been quite a difficult rode for Tesla Motors and for them to achieve any level of long-term sustainability, there are a few hurdles they must successfully cross. For one, they must assure prospective shareholders of the company’s ability to stay competitive in such a fierce market in the long-term. Their share price is extremely volatile and many shareholders place all of their faith in the longevity of the company in Elon Musk. Also, the affordable Gen III Tesla model absolutely MUST be a hit with American car buyers- both for the future of EV vehicles, and for Tesla to enter the mass-market. Now, we’ll take a look at the history of the company, and what risks lie ahead in their future.

Production started on the Model S in June 2012 and the Roadster launched in 2009. They intend to ramp up production of Model S overseas, however, several factors may hinder this goal such as: suppliers inability to meet Tesla’s demand for parts, frequent changes in design to ensure premium innovation, inability to train employees at a quick enough rate, negative results in long term testing, and any other factors beyond the company’s control. The company has also taken great strides in innovating the car industry including: aluminum spot welding, 17 inch display screens, and retractable exterior door handles. With such innovation, the company has over 300 suppliers, and their goal is to find secondary sources of supply to ensure they never encounter a shortage, however, they will not be able to do so in the short-term.  Manufacturing costs for the Model S were also initially quite high, but as their factory and business has matured, costs of production have slowly declined. However, costs need to drop even lower because: Tesla is about to announce what they call the “Gen III”, they intend for this vehicle to be open to the mass-market with its suitable price point. For this to happen, the company will need to be supplied with a substantially larger number of their Lithium-ion cell batteries, and this could put stress on their suppliers. The raw materials used to produce the vehicles including: copper, aluminum steel, and nickel, are all subject to raises in prices depending on the market and demand for them and this could hurt Tesla’s production of vehicles.

For Tesla’s continued growth, they must ensure that that market acceptability continues to advance and for long-term success, electric vehicles need to become a universal success. In the US, this will undoubtedly happen, but overseas they are still not sure. The Model S has been extremely successful in Norway. Simply put, the future growth of Tesla Motors is dependent on consumers willingness to adopt electric cars. Unfortunately, an NY Times reporter writing a story on Tesla’s supercharger network stretching across the New England region, failed to follow Tesla’s instructions on where to fully recharge the vehicle at certain supercharger locations. As a consequence, the Model S failed to complete the journey and the reporter published a negative review. Even though the reporter was at fault and not the vehicle, the article was cited multiple times in arguments against the company and Tesla experienced a dip in sales in the region the event occurred.

To be able to have the company’s name become more widespread, the company intends to put a great deal of capital into marketing and advertising of the company. They intend to do this using traditional means such as print ads, TV ads, and online as well.

Now, these automobiles do have shortcomings, which is a deterrent to many current and future consumers. For one, electric vehicles can only be driven so far on a single charge and many are not satisfied with the distance. Based on various reports and performance testing from Tesla Motors: the vehicle’s battery will not last as long when driven in extremely cold climates. This will surely affect their selling performance in historically colder countries.

EV’s are extremely quiet, and due to this fact, vision impaired pedestrians may be endangered as a consequence; Congress passed a law stating that all vehicles must emit a certain decibel of noise. With this artificial noise Tesla will have to install in their vehicles, potential buyers may be turned off. Also, since Tesla is attempting and succeeding in a virtually oligopolized industry, many of the major car companies are finding ways for Teslas to be banned from sale in certain states. For example, General Motors has pressed the Governor of Michigan to sign a bill banning any sale of automobiles not at a franchised dealership. As a consequence, Tesla will lose revenue in the state of Michigan as potential owners will have to travel to a different state to purchase. Also, the vehicle’s batteries have the possibility to release the energy in manner that produces venting smoke and flames. These risks have raised concerns over the suitability of lithium-ion cell batteries, however, Tesla has redesigned their cell batteries to contain any smoke or flame without letting it escape, but vehicles with the older batteries are still at risk. Also,Tesla’s use a substantial amount of software coding to operate, these complex systems have the tendency to fail to operate from time to time and customer satisfaction may plummet if Tesla cannot remedy the issue within a quick enough time.EV’s as a whole, may have flaws that turn off consumers all together, which other current internal combustion vehicles do not have, for instance: EV’s may not have the durability, longevity, and may not be as easy to repair as current vehicles. Repairing vehicles has been a challenge for Tesla because the company has limited experience in servicing their fleet. They have recently begun their Tesla Rangers program, although they need to hire and train employees, which will take a substantial amount of time. No other automakers provide maintenance and repair services directly, instead, owners must seek these services from 3rd party franchises. Tesla, however, will exclusively offer these services through their own centers. Owners must also be cautious with customizing their Tesla vehicles because: unlike other automobiles, adding after-market products can be an unsafe action because the technology in them is very complex and adding these products may damage the integrity of the car. In the process, if an owner is injured or killed from adding these after-market products, Tesla could face negative backlash.

Tesla Motors continues to be extremely ambitious and has many goals for the future. The company’s sales continues to rise every quarter. Even still, the company did not turn a profit until the first quarter of 2013, and they obviously intend to be more profitable in the future and their goal relies heavily on their ability to expand to other countries, avoid vehicle performance issues, and lower cost of production. Tesla recently opened the Resale Value Guarantee Program, which states that if a customer finances a Tesla vehicle through one of Tesla’s partnered banks- they may resell the vehicle back to Tesla for a predetermined cost. This produces a few issues: 1) Tesla cannot fully recognize the revenue until 39 months have passed, and 2) Since the vehicle is basically a lease, if the consumer returns the vehicle Tesla will overpay because of depreciation. Tesla could potentially be at risk as they do not utilize car dealerships and are competing with more experienced car companies with vast distribution channels. Tesla has recently began implanting Tesla Supercharger stations across the US and Europe. These stations are intended to remedy the concerns of individuals who feel Tesla vehicles are not fit for a long drive. However, since Tesla has promised not to charge owners for use of the stations will raise company operating expenses and does not guarantee more consumers will be drawn to the brand. Furthermore, as more Tesla’s saturate the market, the Supercharger stations could become impacted and owners could face long wait times. The company is also about to ramp up expenditures on building a new factory, development and manufacture of Model X, production of vehicles of higher volumes, and opening new Tesla service centers. They feel that their financial statements may not be reflective of the decent position the company is in. Now, if the company does not consistently have positive cash flows, they will need to raise capital through issuance of equity, debt securities, or obtaining credit from government or federal institutions.

The strength of Tesla’s massive competitors are, perhaps, the largest threat to the company. Tesla is working on releasing the Gen III, but the vehicle is still in its incubation phase and there are several unknowns. For instance, the Gen III will compete in a much more competitive price point and therefore, will have significantly lower margins than their other vehicles. If they are not able to develop the much higher number of vehicles, or be able to produce it at the price they are aiming for, their business will suffer. Many other both established car companies and start up companies are flooding the market with electric vehicles of their own; this is causing a strain on Tesla’s business as their competitors get stronger. None of these vehicles have been able to match the ingenuity and efficiency, but Porsche,Audi, and Land Rover are all rumored to be making a serious attempt. Another large hurdle is that most of these car manufacturers have advantages over Tesla in production, marketing, distribution, promotion, sales and support, and many others.

In addition to safety vulnerability, the company fears alteration in its board members that can adversely affect Tesla’s brand image, profit, and operations. For example, Elon Musk had changed the direction of the company dramatically, constituting for the increase in popularity and profits of the brand. Issuing an extensive number of convertible notes can lead to an adverse change in the company’s ownership, resulting in a great change in the company’s operation. Only time will really tell what the future holds for Tesla Motors- with the release of the Model X and production of the Gen III still ahead, these releases can surely be considered make or break success for the company.

Public Square: Superbowl, or Superbullsh*t?

The Superbowl, apart from say a word cup final, is by far the largest and most watched sporting event in the world. Last Years Superbowl played between the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks was the single most watched event in American Television history (114 million views per minute). As the big game just past a few days ago, it made me question, what kind of impact would an event of this scale have socially, economically, and even culturally. Some estimates claim that Americans spend as much as $1 billion on food alone for the Superbowl. From the halftime performance of one of the world’s top recording artists, to the commercials, where some tune in solely for and manufacturers shell out $5 million for a 30-second spot, the effect of the big game can be quite surprising on American society. But as it turns out, the Superbowl’s influence extends well beyond simply one day throughout the whole year as most people would assume it does. The social and economic effects are mostly contained to the city where the event occurs, but the effects of a city’s successful bid for a Superbowl can have long lasting effects on the city and its citizens.

Now, one of the more obscure impacts the Superbowl has on the economy is the Superbowl Indicator- which is a superstition that the outcome of the game will influence the health of the economy for that year. For those who are unaware, the NFL has two conferences, the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC): the Superbowl Indicator stipulates that on a year when an NFC team wins, the stock market will be a bull market, however, if an AFC team wins, the rest of the year will be a down bull market. What is surprising, the Indicator has a success rate of about 81%. As the Denver Broncos won last Sunday, which is an AFC team, it remains to be seen if the market will stay a bull market for the coming year. Now, the correlation between these events is complete coincidence, and no one should take it as trustworthy evidence of market outcomes, but the popularity of the Superbowl Indicator make it hard to imagine that this is true for everyone.

As for the halftime show- the NFL has a history of getting some of the most famous and historic recording artists to perform the show, and even more surprising, they DO NOT pay them for the performance. Why? A performance generally lasts about 12-15 minutes, and with over 100 million people watching the game, there is really no greater stage for an entertainer to perform on even if you are Beyonce. As a 30-second tv spot costs around $5 million, then a 12 minute performance constitutes about $120 million of television time all given to the artist. Even more, a lot of their recognition comes the weeks leading up to the show as people find out who the performing artist is, and begin searching their music, as well as after when others are introduced to the artist and begin following them on all forms of social media. Both Bruno Mars and Beyonce both added around 70,000 new Twitter followers the night of their performance, over a million mentions of Facebook, and their Wikipedia pages experiences skyrocketing amounts of traffic around the time they perform the event. The exposure of this one performance far outweighs the lack of financial benefit.

Perhaps, the single most important and long lasting effect the Superbowl has is the way it impacts the local economy that hosts the event. Typically, the NFL will entice host cities who are debating to build a new-more modern stadium for their teams, that if they go forward with these extremely expensive projects, then they will be awarded a Superbowl to compensate for this expenditure. This situation has occurred with Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN, MetLife Stadium in New York, Ny, and most recently this year with Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. At first, this deal might not seem like such a problem, but given the fact that the NFL has had the tendency to severely overestimate the financial gains of hosting the Superbowl, local taxpayers end up paying the rest of the bill for cities to construct these new lavish arenas.

That troubling aspect is, the NFL typically drastically overestimates the ROI’s on these projects when pitching the city on building a new stadium. For example, last year’s Superbowl in Phoenix, AZ was projected by the NFL to bring in $500 million of revenue to the area. However, many of the studies used to make these estimates were overseen by the NFL, which many assume was an effort to drive cities to compete for a successful Superbowl bid. One economist, Victor Matheson, estimates the the revenues to between $30 to $130 million maximum. The city of Phoenix spent $30 million to host the game last year, as well as $18 million in 2008 to host. This does still illustrate there could be a sizable profit to be made in Phoenix’s case, but it is quite far from $500 million that the NFL projected as well as not considering the outrageous cost of constructing a new stadium that other cities are faced with.

The city of Santa Clara contributed $114 million dollars to the construction of Levi’s Stadium, as well as over $50 million for their winning bid to host Superbowl 50. Here we start to see how these costs begin to add up, and the feasibility of these investments begins to come into question.

The more important question here is not whether teams should make investments to host a Superbowl: but is there any actual economic benefit of cities investing so heavily in professional sports when their money could be used elsewhere to help their residents?

Between 1990-2000, 95 stadiums were planned or built in the US, costing a massive $21.7 billion! Even more surprising, about, 75% of those funds contributed were public subsidies given by the cities. After the 1970s, cities began fiercely battling one another for the scarce resource of having a sports team in their city, and the public rallied behind them as well. But these massive investments in cities building elaborate stadiums is a complete waste of money for them. Economists John Siegfried and Andrew Zimbalist present three main reasons why US cities investing in professional sports works as a detriment to the city and its citizens:

  1. The Substitution Effect

The NFL and its teams have often presented the argument that building a new stadium or getting a new team will boost spending in the city and spark the local economy, but this is not the case. Rational individuals have saved a certain amount of their income for leisure expenditures, and if something comes along they would rather spend their money on, they will substitute that spending for the more favorable one. If an NFL team colonizes a new city, residents will not spend more, but will just spend less in other areas to enjoy the games.

2. Leakages and Multiplier

Many of the owners and players for these sports teams will not be contributing to the local economy as they are in the highest tax bracket and a large part of their income is going straight to the federal government. They also spend the majority of their time traveling to distant locations, where the potential revenue for the host city is now leaking into other areas. There is also the Sports Multiplier, which is a formula created to measure whether or not a sports team will have a positive impact on the economy of the local city (Sports Multiplier = 1/[1- MPC (1-MPI)(1-t)]. MPC is the marginal propensity of citizens to consume, and MPI is the marginal propensity of goods to be imported to the city rather than produced locally. The authors of this paper found, the Sports Multiplier finds the net economic effect of these investments in sports to be nearly zero.

3.  Budgetary Impacts

For cities to build these stadiums, they must raise taxes or reduce services that they provide to its residents. Economic impact studies commissioned by the NFL argue that the construction and upkeep of the stadium will provide an economic stimulus, but this is a massive oversimplification for stimulating an entire economy and the impact would not be this substantial. The positives in this case certainly do not outweigh the negative budgetary impacts.

The Superbowl is definitely not to blame for all of these shortcomings of professional sports, but as the biggest day in American sports each year, and its usage to lure cities into building new stadiums, it should be in the conversation. We can use the economic impacts of this one mega-event to provide us insight into how American cities should not have to pay the bill for professional teams moving to their cities.

 

 

 

 

 

Public Square: Stress

It is quite interesting how people tend to exhaust themselves with fear of events or situations that are generally extremely rare do not affect the mass-population. For instance: shark attacks, plane crashes, snakes, and other phobias tend to strike fear in almost every individual. However, people fail to realize that we have a substantially better risk of being injured in a car crash on our way to the beach or an airport to catch a plane. What we encounter in our daily lives eventually no longer scares us. Stress seems to be another one of these potentially harmful bodily occurrences that people have grown to underestimate the effects of. Sure, we know that being stressed is unhealthy, but do people realize how detrimental it can really be? I would assume the answer to this question would be, “no”. Especially with finals coming up, I wanted to look at how stress effects the body. It is becoming increasingly apparent how much of a silent killer stress actually is.

Our DNA has a specific coating, called telomeres, and chronic stress is shown to degenerate telomeres, which can have several adverse health effects.

In documentary film, Stress: Portrait of a Killer, neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky takes us on a journey and provides a rather unorthodox, but insightful answer to this very question. Dr. Sapolsky began traveling to Africa to study an indigenous group of baboons while he was a doctoral candidate. His research went so well, he kept returning to Africa every year to study the group for over thirty years. The most interesting aspect of his research is that baboons react to stress in a similar manner to humans, which allowed Dr. Sapolsky discovered so many new insights to human stress by studying baboons. He found that fat stored around the belly can be much more harmful to one’s health than fat on other places in the body. This is due to the fact that belly-fat releases different hormones into the bloodstream causing life-threatening consequences. This is proof that stress not exclusive to affecting us emotionally or psychologically, but physically as well.

Another important understanding of human psychology that Dr. Sapolsky learned from baboons is that our sense social standing can either have a great effect on our sense of well-being, or damage it vastly. With baboons, the alpha males were fed the best and had their choice of what females to mate with. They sleep, relax, and basically obtain anything they please because they have control over others. These alpha male baboons had much less health issues than their inferior counterparts. Interestingly, these same patterns resonate the same with humans, it has been documented that individuals who have high-ranking positions in the work place have a greater sense of well-being and more autonomy with their lives than individuals who are working in subordinate positions.

It is clear that there is so much to be learned about ourselves based off of the way other living organisms behave and interact. This documentary, Stress: The Portrait of a Killer, only reinforces and sheds new light on this idea. Dr. Saplosky’s work I feel should reach the general public because most people downplay the stressors in their life without realizing what a disservice they are doing to their bodies’ and minds’. This film has certainly given me the curiosity to explore the stressors that plague myself and how to fix them, and I am confident it has done the same for others as well.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑