Education for Sale: Corporatization of Chicago’s Schooling System

by Nicole Green, UIC senior

With the expansion of the business landscape in the United States, numerous markets have become less controlled and monitored by government, by handing over power to businesses and a corporate-like structure. One of the clearest examples of this transformation is the education system and its movement toward corporatization in Chicago.

The National Education Association defines charter schools as “publicly funded elementary or secondary schools that have been freed from some of the rules, regulations and statutes that apply to other public schools, in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results, which are set forth in each charter school’s charter” (NEA, 2017). In plain terms, charter schools are publically funded, but privately ran. This makes them out of control from government or public regulation, yet gaining these resources from the very groups who have no say in operations.

The quality and consequences of charter schools are a major concern to many. Charter schools drain the resources of public schools, by reallocating those students and the money they contribute to the system (NEA, 2017). They are also unstable, and create unneeded competition in the market (NEA, 2017). Often, these charter schools operate by making a profit, and can hand select students based on the types of results they are hoping to boast (Reuters, 2013). Charters will screen their applicants based on their academic achievements, behavioral history, family support, and national citizenship, breaching state and federal law (Reuters, 2013). Despite these downsides, charter school enrollment is increasing.

Enrollment in Chicago charter schools has increased tenfold from 2000 to 2014. (Lindemulder, 2017) However, when reviewed for educational differences, it has been found that charter schools are behind traditional schools in math and reading. (Lindemulder, 2017). How is it that charter school growth has happened so quickly, if they are not directly supporting and improving student’s educations?

One of the biggest supporters of this movement in the education space was Arne Duncan, former CEO of the Chicago Public School system. He operated under the belief that mayors should have control of these systems, not school boards or parents or local communities. He also promoted this idea nationally during his time later as the Secretary of Education. Was he following the suggestions of Chicago’s influential corporate elite? Most likely so, as this move also shut out teachers’ unions and disbanded democracy forces such as elections, local control and collective bargaining (Kroll, 2009).

Mayor Daley and Duncan rolled out a program to reorganize school systems, called Renaissance 2010 (Kroll, 2009). This program closes underperforming schools and replaces them with new and smaller charter or “contract” schools. These schools are run by independent organizations which most often eliminate teachers unions and outsource management to a for-profit education management organization (Kroll, 2009).

This plan was not their own creation, however. The Commercial Club in Chicago had found an interest in Chicago’s school systems long before 2010. A series of policy changes in the 1990s reformed the structure of decision-makers involved in public schools and placed education systems on the social and corporate agenda (Shipps, 1997). This “System Wide Reconstructing” continued, and by 1995 of the 47 largest education systems stated that for funding, business was the most helpful source, over the government, over colleges, or advocacy groups or elected officials (Shipps, 1997). This pipeline of funding for schooling supported by businesses led to the power and decision making that took place afterwards.

CPS was suffering during this time, with declining enrollment, increasing minority populations, crumbling buildings, low performance and high dropout rates. Minority populations were increasing, which policy makers indicated to be a problem (Shipps, 1997). The graphs below indicate the transforming racial composition of Chicago Public Schools, or CPS schools:

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Charter schools are often highly segregated, as well. A UCLA study found that 7 out of 10 Black students attending charter schools are enrolled in schools that have 90% or more minority population (Anderson, 2010).

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Another concern of charter schools is the inequality in funds given to charter schools versus public schools. With less funding coming in for public education, schools are now even more underserving in staffing capacity, physical upkeep and program offerings (NEA, 2017). Lack of funding undoubtedly influences the quality of education received. It is common in low funded schools for teachers without a background or degree in the subject, be a designated teacher in that subject:

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The truth lies in the numbers. According to the CPS budget, charter schools received $483 million of funding in 2013. (CPS, 2013). In the meantime, CPS unionized teachers went on strike, demanding pay for their longer workdays as well as relief from the under resourced environment they are working in: including classes of 30-40 students, the threat of standardized testing, and job security (Lydersen, 2012). Rahm Emanuel called this a “strike of choice”, ignoring any injustices present in the current system (Lydersen, 2012).

Betsy DeVos, our current Secretary of Education selected by Donald Trump has pushed for charter schools and their adoption across the nation. Her argument is based on the idea that charter schools provide choices for students, and that current traditional systems are failing students, especially in cities with high minority populations (Strauss, 2017). Trump has also called out public schools, calling them “American Carnage” and wants to promote this type of change throughout the country (Strauss, 2017).

We need to remember that charter schools still leave gaps in education, since they can select and regulate who is let into their doors. They also advocate for low regulation and accountability, like many other corporate entities. In fact, it has been proven that this system is already being mismanaged. The Akron Beacon Journal published in 2015 that Ohio charter schools misspent public money nearly 4 times more than other publicly funded organizations (Strauss, 2017). Corporations and politicians would like to believe that growth of education marketplaces is an indicator of economic wellbeing (Shipps, 1997). However, charter schools simply redirect power and resources in a way that benefits should-be outsiders in the education system. Where is the emphasis on educational development in all of these matters? Why split a broken system and corporatize it, instead of repairing an all-serving public offering? Must we treat education as a commodity, with students as the consumers? It’s essential to ask these questions and face the facts when it comes to taking another public commodity and corporatizing it.
References
Anderson, N. (2010). Study: Charter School Growth Accompanied by Racial Imbalance. The Washington Post. Retrieved May 1, 2018 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2010/02/03/AR2010020303959.html

Chicago Public Schools Fiscal Year 2013 Amended Budget. (2013). Retrieved April 25, 2018, from http://www.cps.edu/fy13budget/Pages/Schoolsandnetworks.aspx

Kroll, A. (2009, April 15). The Corporatization of Public Education. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/83572-the-corporatization-of-public-education

Lindemulder, M. D. (2017, January 30). CALCULATING SUCCESS: UNDERSTANDING DATA IN CHICAGO’S CHARTER SCHOOLS. Child & Family, Research in Brief. Retrieved April 20, 2018, from http://chicagopolicyreview.org/2017/01/30/calculating-success-understanding-data-in-chicagos-charter-schools/

Lydersen, K. (2012). Chicago Teachers vs. Rahm Emanuel and Corporatized Education. The Progressive. Retrieved April 28, 2018, from http://progressive.org/dispatches/chicago-teachers-vs.-rahm-emanuel-corporatized-education/

Shipps, D. (1997). The Invisible Hand: Big Business and Chicago School Reform. Teachers College Record. Retrieved April 15, 2018.

Simon, S. (2013). Special Report: Class Struggle – How charter schools get students they want (Publication). Reuters. Retrieved April 25, 2018, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-charters-admissions/special-report-class-struggle-how-charter-schools-get-students-they-want-idUSBRE91E0HF20130216.

Strauss, V. (2017). What School Choice Means in the Era of Trump and DeVos. The Washington Post. Retreieved May 1, 2018 from
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/05/22/what-school-choice-means-in-the-era-of-trump-and-devos/?utm_term=.6df88887ec46

The National Education Association: Charter Schools. (2017). Retrieved April 25, 2018, from http://www.nea.org/home/16332.htm

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Store swiping to at home button pressing: online advertising is getting more dangerous by the day

by Robert Campbell, UIC senior

When the first television commercial was broadcasted on television back in the 50s, our society was heading for a big change in marketing and advertising of products. Since then, there have been millions of commercials, newspapers, internet ads, billboards, radio ads, etc. Capitalism has never been more powerful than it is today. You hear of all these companies coming out with new products, and in 2018 there are no signs of advertisements slowing down. It has never been easier for companies to put an ad out there for the whole world to see, and it makes it even more convenient for the average shopper to use all sorts of technology from the comfort of their own home to find a good price for necessities and wanted luxuries. You supply what people need, and they will respond.

However, how much longer until advertisements can control or influence our decisions on what we use them for all together? Being a product of this generation’s youth, I’ve come to the realization that things people do are influenced by convenience, or technological comfort. As a generation of the future, we are letting technology control what it is we say or do. How much longer until we can be controlled by the very things such as shopping or being influenced by advertisements to shop for something we may not need? Being a victim of this myself, it’s a scary thought to think that someone can be influenced to buy something just by looking at a picture. According to O’Keefe (2011) advertising websites can influence a decision to shop based upon interests and hobbies information put in a social media profile. Once you put something in a social media site or application i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, it is out there for everyone to see. Even when you think you deleted everything, there is still something left over from years prior you didn’t even realize was still there.

Most websites require some sort of information to be put into their system. You need to put in your email address, your residence, your phone number, etc. This is just to have the convenience of shopping online, the next thing you know you have 20 emails from Dick’s Sporting Goods about a weekend sale on shoes. What’s even scarier, is that it’s not just from one store anymore, you get random recommendations from all sorts of websites based upon shopping at one store or on one website. When you shop at a certain type of store, online or not, they tend to give someone offers that allows for a lot of repeat business. For example, emails with discounts for a limited time, a new apparel has come out and is in limited stock, or companies can just simply send coupons via email. When you tend to shop at the same store more than once, companies tend to realize it and take advantage of your repeat business. Most shopping is done online for people who don’t feel like getting up and going to the store, and they are required to put in their demographic information to know where to send the items, so the bottom line is they have your personal information in their system and they plan to take advantage of your information by send you all these discounts and junk to get you to come back and spend money.

For example, you went through a punk rock phase in high school, and you put that some of your favorite bands were Blink 182, Breaking Benjamin, and the next thing you know you see an ad for rock apparel on Facebook. You buy a shirt, then it pops up a week later telling you there is a deal for buy one shirt, get the other one free. Even though I speak from personal experience, this is a very common occurrence in most social media sites. According to Papasolomou (2012) most companies now are developing some sort of social media account to connect with their customers. With the exception of people who choose not to engage on social media, those of us that do know our favorite stores have social media accounts and what kind of promotions they have going on too. Not just our favorite stores, but our favorite bars, restaurants, clubs, music festivals, radio stations, etc. It seems as if the possibilities are endless for staying connected. Businesses used to have to go put out ads in the newspaper, just to get people to come to their shops or restaurants. Now, all you have to do is post a few pictures, send a link to Facebook which takes all of thirty seconds, and voila you’re done. That’s what worries me, is it too easy for something to be posted on the internet for everyone to see? Most people do know that once something is posted on the internet it is here forever, and yes I say most people because there is a rare breed of individuals that do not give in to the influences of technology or do not live in a society that affords them the luxury of having technology.

People will use online shopping for years to come, that’s the good and bad of online shopping. According to Garver (2012), there are a lot of risks people take by using online shopping, especially when the great deals are happening. That is when people are targeted the most. When having to enter in credit card information, it can cause some trouble. What if one online shopping site gets hacked, and the next thing you know your account has been racked up on charges you never authorized, then what? People use their personal information quite often online, and it wouldn’t surprise me if someone was a victim of information theft. I remember one time I paid for same day delivery for an amazon order, and it took over a week to arrive. I asked for my money back, and it didn’t arrive in my account for over a month. Let’s not forget the extra money spent on extra stuff needed for certain products.


When I bought my PS4 online it said my PS4 was only $299, but when the system arrived in the mail, that was just one controller and the system. That didn’t include the games, accessories, extras controller, so in reality, when I bought the games, the extra controller and head set, the total came out to something like $500! Or when I bought my laptop a few years ago, I wasn’t told about the insurance, or the extra accessories such as Microsoft office that would be included in the cost later on. My MacBook Pro came out to be over $1,700. The listed price was only $1,330. At the same time this isn’t exactly a surprise that there are extra costs to luxury items such as laptops and gaming systems, but at the same time it’s how they allow people to have their cake and eat it too. They simply don’t tell you the prices of the extra items due to the fact that they know regardless you will buy the extra items anyway. It’s the blind loyalty to the product, or the supply and demand of the product that makes it deceiving when the price is listed.

The point is, everyone has some problems in their life with using online ads, shopping online, or simply putting their personal information on their computer and most often used shopping or social media websites. Using any sort of site where people can enter in their personal information can be very dangerous. The more people use the internet for personal use, the more dangerous it becomes for people to become victims of stolen identity, credit fraud, social media fraud, etc. There is no going back to the way things were before social media came into the picture, and that’s just the ugly truth of everything. As years pass, possibly ten years down the line, who knows where we will be. It might be easier to post about a place of business if its good or bad. It might be the same, it might be more technologically advanced. For our sake, that’s the best-case scenario, there is no telling what could or will happen in ten years to a lot of local businesses that aren’t a chain, and unless the apocalypse is in our near future social media will still be around for years to come.

Papasolomou, I., & Melanthiou, Y. (2012). Social Media: Marketing Public Relations’ New Best

Friend. Journal of Promotion Management, 18(3), 319-328. doi:10.1080/10496491.2012.696458

O’Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800-804. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-0054

Gerhards, E. V. (2013, April). Your Store Is Gross! How Recent Cases, the FTC, and State Consumer Protection Laws Can Impact A Franchise System’s Response to Negative, Defamatory, or Fake Online Reviews. Retrieved April 6, 2018, from http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/fchlj34&div=33&id=&page=

Garver, A. (2012, November 26). Top 5 Dangers Of Online Shopping And Precautions To Take On Cyber Monday. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/abegarver/2012/09/11/the-top-five-dangers-of-online-shopping-precautions-to-take/

 

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Amazon Makes Headlines

by Michael Berrios, UIC senior

Recently, Amazon has been making headlines for a variety of reasons. From the announcement that Amazon would be entering the health services field, to the news that Amazon will be increasing their Prime memberships, there is no shortage of Amazon related discussions. Amazon holds the title of being the largest Internet retailer in the world. It is only natural that the tech giant’s news be widely broadcasted.

Amazon has recently been targeted for its tax practices. In 2017, Amazon had reportedly paid $957 million towards income taxes. This total is a combination of what should’ve been paid in state, federal, and foreign taxes. However, according to an analysis, all of this income went towards only state and foreign taxes, stating Amazon had paid no federal tax on $5.6 billion of U.S. profits (Gardner, 2018).

Amazon has built themselves a strategy around avoiding taxes. As of May 2nd, the company has halted its plans for expansion within the city of Seattle. Seattle’s City Council is currently considering on passing a new tax in order to counteract its increasing housing rates. The tax specifically targets companies with at least $20 million or more in taxable gross, as these companies are being factored into these increasing rates. This tax would charge the larger employers around $500 per employee. Drew Herdener, Amazon’s Vice President, has stated that “pending the outcome of the head tax vote by City Council, Amazon has paused all construction planning” and that Amazon would be “evaluating options” to sublease space it had recently leased in a building currently being built in downtown Seattle. The new tax would cost Amazon $20 million to $30 million annually. The company is currently searching for a location in North America for its second headquarters, and has announced expansion plans for both Vancouver and Boston.

Beginning May 11th, Amazon will be increasing the price of its annual prime membership by 20%, from $100 to $120, and on June 16th for continuing members. Monthly members and students pricing will remain the same. With this announcement came the first ever reveal that there are over 100 million prime members. On April 26th, Amazon reported its net income of $1.6 billion, up from $724 million. Overall revenue had risen to $51 billion, from 35.7 billion. With this surge of income, Amazon’s CEO and founder, Jeff Bezos, found himself adding over $12 billion into his fortune. The median annual salary for an Amazon employee is around $28,000. Bezos earns this amount in about 10 seconds. He is the richest person on the planet, with a reported net worth of around $134 billion.

Jeff Bezos says that he sees no reason to hold onto his fortune for personal use. He states his plans are to spend his fortune on what he claims to be his most important project, his privately-owned aerospace company, Blue Origin. Currently, Bezos funnels around $1 billion of Amazon stock annually to fund his aerospace company (Michaels, 2018). Bezos’s Blue Origin has set its sights on space exploration and settlement.

Industry giants Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase are currently in the process of forming an independent health care company. This alliance was sparked due to huge increases in medical treatment. Their goal is to reduce the increasing rates and quality of healthcare provided for their employees. This service is claimed to be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints”, but it is unsure if this company would go non-profit. JPMorgan’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, states that this undertaking could eventually be expanded and offered to all United States citizens. The announcement of the health care company, stocks of healthcare providers, such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana Inc. and CVS Health Corp, fell around four to five percent. Critics argue that the three partners will struggle with getting lower rates from hospitals and doctors (Wingfield et al., 2018). With their combined access to consumer data, the partners believe they can create a successful system. The partners are currently in the process of appointing a CEO for their healthcare company, and expect to have an announcement in the coming months.

Amazon holds the position of the world’s largest electronic commerce. The company has shown to be dominating in most markets, such as books, electronics, and toys, playing a role in the closure of traditional retail stores and chains. The organization is so massive and successful that it has an influence in politics. This leaves us to question if this sort of influence should even be possible. If not, what can be done? Should a movement be made against an organization which attempts to form better healthcare coverage for its employees, yet lines the pockets of its CEO even further while the average worker saw no increase in their wage? It’s hard to say, and there just seems to be no outrage on the matter(s). Amazon attempts to do so much good, but this maybe just on the behalf of the shareholders. There’s a reason why Bezos is the largest majority shareholder for Amazon, and this is exactly why his fortune, as well as other majority shareholders’, continues to grow exponentially. It should be expected that we see more profitable innovations come from Amazon in the coming years. 2017 was a year that everyone demanded President Trump release his tax information, but when it comes to Amazon the outrage seems non-existent. As Amazon continues to grow so will its expenditures. It makes me wonder what Amazon related news we’ll receive in the near future.

Works Cited

Bhattarai, Abha. “Amazon Doubles Its Profit – and Hikes Prime Membership Fee 20%.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 26 Apr. 2018, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/amazon-doubles-its-profit—and-hikes-prime-membership-by-20/2018/04/26/31f5a14c-489a-11e8-827e-190efaf1f1ee_story.html?utm_term=.00d7e02355b1.

Buffett: Berkshire-Amazon-JPMorgan Healthcare Initiative to Have a CEO in ‘a Couple of Months’.” Yahoo! Finance, Yahoo!, 5 May 2018, finance.yahoo.com/news/buffett-expect-ceo-healthcare-company-amazon-jpmorgan-couple-months-171828017.html.

Metcalf, Tom, and Jack Witzig. “Jeff Bezos Boosts Fortune by $12 Billion in a Day on Amazon Surge.” Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg, 26 Apr. 2018, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-26/bezos-pads-fortune-by-12-billion-in-a-day-as-amazon-sales-surge.

Michaels, Matthew. “Jeff Bezos, the Richest Person in the World, Thinks It’s Possible to Blow through His Entire $131 Billion Fortune – and He Has One Big Purchase He Plans to Spend It On.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 2 May 2018, http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-plans-to-spend-fortune-space-travel-2018-5.

Weise, Elizabeth. “Amazon’s Fight with Seattle Gives Second Headquarters Cities a Taste of Their Future.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 4 May 2018, http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2018/05/03/amazons-fight-seattle-over-housing-gives-cities-taste-future/578474002/.

Wingfield, Nick, et al. “Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Team Up to Try to Disrupt Health Care.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 Jan. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/30/technology/amazon-berkshire-hathaway-jpmorgan-health-care.html.

 

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How Automation Can Render a Third of the Globe Jobless

by Connor Pein, UIC senior

The process of jobs being replaced by new methods of technological organization is not a new phenomenon. For many centuries, technological change has been apart of our structural evolution of labor: however, this phenomenon is on the cusp of breaking into uncharted territory. That brings us to a long-standing line of thinking used to explain this technological change, or what is commonly referred to as the process of “creative destruction.” Often linked to Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter, the phrase explains that although there is an initial displacement among workers due to the application of technological innovation, the amount of new jobs created always offsets those made obsolete. Now, this was largely true for most of our history for one reason: innovative practices within the realm of work were at a slow enough pace to where the displacement of workers never outlasted the replacement capabilities of this new technology. However, that speed has been increasing since the end of the 20th century, and is getting close to passing that ‘cancellation of displacement’ point that the historical technological advocates claimed as reality. In other words, future automation can produce long-term detrimental effects on everyday laborers.

According to a 2017 joint study on the relationship between “Robots and Jobs” from MIT and Boston University, professors Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo claim that the transportation and manufacturing industries have the “highest robot penetration in both Europe and the United States,” adding that “manufacturing industries use 80% of the industrial robots in the US” (Acemoglu 18). So, given the large influence these sectors have on the mechanics of labor employment, it would behoove the public to have a better understanding on what their future might hold.

In a 2016 op-ed from the Los Angeles Times, author Steven Greenhouse looks into the topic of automation in the automobile industry and what effects it can have on future domestic labor. The overarching claim being made is that “autonomous vehicles could cost America 5 million jobs [nationwide]”. This is cited as largely being due to an across the board endorsement for this development. At the time the article was written, the “Obama administration endorsed the push to develop these [autonomous] vehicles. Adding to the momentum, Ford and BMW say they will produce autonomous cars by 2021.” Greenhouse goes on to quote labor economist from Harvard, Lawrence Katz, in saying that nearly 3% of the workforce will be affected by this development; this includes the following occupations, but is not limited to: truck drivers, bus drivers, taxi drivers, van drivers and e-hailing vehicles (Greenhouse).

Furthermore, even large multinational corporations are taking notice of this impending phenomenon. As reported by CNBC, a 2017 report from Goldman Sachs projects “[w]hen autonomous vehicle saturation peaks, U.S. drivers could see job losses at a rate of 25,000 a month, or 300,000 a year.” They also corroborate Greenhouse’s assessment of the groups most affected by this change, noting that many occupations will be hit, but the hit to the truck driving industry is to be the most detrimental. (Balakrishnan)

The phenomenon of technological unemployment, especially in relation to the automobile industry, appears to be a real problem on the horizon and in need of serious attention. To give a little more perspective, particularly globally, the MIT Technology Review compiled “[e]very study [they] could find on what automation will do to jobs.” Predictions range anywhere from roughly 60,000,000 to 2,000,000,000 jobs lost by the year 2030. Now, that is a pretty significant gap, but even the more conservative estimates are rather troubling. In addition, the Oxford Martin School researched the topic of technological advancement in the workplace in 2013, and came to the conclusion that “47 percent of US jobs were at risk of computerization,” adding they expect this to occur “…over the next decade or two.” In that study, the researchers mapped out the industries projected to be the most and least affected. Some of the biggest losses are projected to be in transportation and material moving, production, and installation, while the industries most safe as of now are management, business, financial and engineering (Frey).

To give another perspective on what a future society with extensive automation might look like, the late theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking gave his take during a 2015 Reddit Ask me Anything session: “If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed. Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality” (Kaufman).

This statement is really quite indicative of the type of major future decisions our society is likely going to have to make. I guess a final question is what is it going to take in order to reach a society where public health and collaboration are at the forefront, when our current structure is seemingly diametrically opposed to such an outcome? Additionally, while this might seem like a rather depressing piece, there are people and groups out there attempting to come up with ways to cope with this projected state. Greenhouse put forth a particularly well-written proposal in his piece:
– Retraining programs for affected workers
– Adjustment assistance for affected workers
– Paid for by the following: companies like “…Uber, Ford, Google and others are eager to earn billions from driverless cars no doubt will press Congress to enact a law creating a nationwide green light for these cars as well as uniform national regulations. In exchange for enacting such a law — Congress could levy a special tax on each driverless mile to finance programs for retraining, adjustment assistance, unemployment insurance and perhaps government jobs.” (Greenhouse)

If those ideas are not convincing, there is also an increasing movement of supporters (from progressives to Silicon Valley insiders) pushing for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) system. In its simplest form, a UBI system provides every adult citizen a certain (livable) amount of money, regardless of employment or income. Opposition to this is often that people think one should hold some type of job in order to receive money from the government. Given that, last month, Bernie Sanders announced “…a plan for the federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker ‘who wants or needs one’.” The jobs would be “aimed at addressing priorities such as infrastructure, care giving, the environment, education, and other goals.” This idea has roots in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proposed “Second Bill of Rights” to Congress in 1944. “First on the list: the right to a useful and remunerative job” (Stein).

While those are not the only proposed solutions, and while I only briefly covered them, they are some of the most talked about. I think the most rational move we can now make is to attempt to open up more platforms and dialogue in discussing this phenomenon, in hopes that it refine preexisting ideas or spawn completely new ones; either way, we need help.

Works Cited

Acemoglu, Daron, and Pascual Restrepo. “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets.” MIT Economics, 12 Mar. 2017, pp. 1–90., doi:10.3386/w23285.

Balakrishnan, Anita. “Drivers Could Lose up to 25,000 Jobs per Month When Self-Driving Cars Hit, Goldman Sachs Says.” CNBC, CNBC, 22 May 2017.

Frey, Carl Benedikt, and Michael A. Osborne. “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol. 114, 17 Sept. 2013, pp. 1–72., doi:10.1016/j.techfore.2016.08.019

Greenhouse, Steven. “Autonomous Vehicles Could Cost America 5 Million Jobs. What Should We Do about It?” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 22 Sept. 2016.

Kaufman, Alexander C. “Stephen Hawking Says We Should Really Be Scared Of Capitalism, Not Robots.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 5 Jan. 2017.

Stein, Jeff. “Bernie Sanders to Announce Plan to Guarantee Every American a Job.” The Washington Post, 23 Apr. 2018.

Winick, Erin. “Every Study We Could Find on What Automation Will Do to Jobs, in One Chart.” MIT Technology Review, MIT Technology Review, 9 Apr. 2018.

 

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Socialism: A Morally Bankrupt System

by Sydni Schwartz, UIC senior

Political division in this country seems like it is at an all-time high. Accompanying Trump’s inauguration came strings of protests, women’s marches, impeachment marches and a laundry list of twitter hashtags creating social movements. Perhaps the overexposure of media platforms and the availability of breaking news wherever we go stage that illusion, or perhaps the Trump victory truly did fuel the fire that is political and ideological division in America. But what happens when the division of groups starts creating a threat to our economic system?

It’s no secret that Bernie Sanders’ Democratic socialist opinions captured the hearts of college students everywhere with his speech about how morally corrupt our system is when the top 1 percent of people in the country own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90%. If the trend holds true in future generations, we could see progressives gaining numbers over the next couple decades.

Talking about taxing the rich always seems to get voters on their side, because most people don’t identify themselves as a member of the 1 percent. There is a negative stigma that the one percenters are a bunch of white snobs playing tennis, going to yacht parties and bathing in money baths. The stereotype of this group is based on the notion of selfish greed that capitalism helps reproduce.

On the other side of the spectrum, socialism tends to be considered a more moral option to some due to its intrinsic definition of being communal. It’s a charitable and selfless thing to redistribute wealth so everyone can be on a more leveled playing field. Unfortunately, the majority of people who would be effected by a socialistic economy don’t want to give away their money, or else they would be writing checks to the government right now. A socialism society wouldn’t be selfless and voluntary; it would be forced.

Think about how the government takes 9-40% of our paychecks now. According to a Pew Research study, only 18% of people today say they trust the government1. Now think about doubling the amount of money and power we are giving them. In our current free market capitalistic society, it might not be best for all but, it is the most just. In a capitalistic system, you get to be a free moral agent engaging in trade and business on the basis of voluntary free will. If something unjust happens, we as consumers get to hold that wrongdoer accountable. Think of your dollar as voting power. If your local bakery run by a Christian family refuses to bake a wedding cake for a heterosexual wedding, you can exercise your free power to go down the block to “vote” for a bakery that will. This ideal is fundamental in a democracy because as a democracy, we vote for what we want. In a free market system, we get to use our dollars as a way of saying, “I value this product and I am supporting this company by engaging in business with you.” These business are held accountable by the people, not by the government. According to C. Bradley Thompson, “Capitalism is the only just system because the sole criterion that determines the value of thing exchanged is the free, voluntary, universal judgement of the consumer”2. This system is great because we get to make our own decision on how to live our lives, and if we partake in discrimination, the market holds us accountable without getting the government involved.

We do see instances where the free market loses its competition and that’s when monopolies come into play. As a human who needs to constantly switch her electric off and on every time I move, I really only have one company I know of, ComEd. If their prices are too high for me, I can’t necessarily just decide to live off the land. As a student and working member of society, I often need to write papers. Although Microsoft office does not have a complete monopoly, they still dominate their field and make it very hard for anyone to switch. These monopolies are great for the companies who have them, but are bad for its consumers. At any given moment they can raise prices or take advantage of their power and we would all be screwed. However, in a socialist or communist society, we would see way more monopolies governed by the state. The government would control all.

Besides, we already have government enforced programs to help people who need it. We have welfare, social security, Medicare, food stamps, section 8 housing, etc. Many countries have tried and failed at socialism including France, Greece, Italy and many more. The left keeps saying it’s never been properly tried and that’s why it has failed, but do they have a better plan for socialism in America? According to a Forbes article, taxing the rich 100% over 1 million would barely put a dent on the national deficit3. Not to mention, wealth creation incentives would crash and burn. No one grows up dreaming of the day where they have to pay 80% or more in taxes. If the average household income annually is somewhere around $50,000, and they are paying 20% in taxes, then they pay roughly $10,000 dollars in tax. Taxing the rich 80% on an income of $250,000 which is what qualifies a 1 percenter, then they get to take home 50,000 and pay 20 times the amount of taxes than a different family and live the same lifestyle. Does that seem moral to anyone? There is something morally incorrect about saying that its moral to take a huge amount of money from someone who has worked hard earning it, but it’s immoral for people to want to keep their money? The debate on socialism needs to be put to rest. Let’s keep our few programs that help people stay off the streets. I am not for kicking anyone while their down. I just think the moral argument for a total socialistic society has no merit in our country.

2 (Thompson, 1993)

Works cited

Bigman, D. (2012, April 3). John Stossel: Tax The Rich? The Rich Don’t Have Enough. Really. Retrieved May 2018, from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danbigman/2012/04/03/john-stossel-tax-the-rich-the-rich-dont-have-enough-really/#4ca7d1ae6e7d

Pew Research Center. (2017, december 14). Public Trust in Government: 1958-2017. (P. R. Center, Producer) Retrieved from http://www.People-press.org: http://www.people-press.org/2017/12/14/public-trust-in-government-1958-2017/

Thompson, C. B. (1993, October). Socialism vs. Capitalism: Which is The Moral System? Retrieved May 2018, from Ashbrook Ashland University: http://ashbrook.org/publications/onprin-v1n3-thompson

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Free Money

by Jacob Mullins, UIC senior

What if the state covered your cost of living? Would you stop pursuing your degree? Would you leave your job in favor of a life of relaxation? Or perhaps, you would use those resources to find a better job? Or finally go to the doctor, or go back for more education, and maybe even become a doctor? When it comes to giving people free money, it is easy to imagine how it could go all wrong, but it is also quite easy to see how it could go all right.

This concept of a government proving its citizens with a standardized amount of free money is known as a Basic Income, and if it leaves everyone above the poverty line, it is known as a Full Basic Income. Its purpose isn’t necessarily to make everyone rich; rather it is meant to cover everyone’s most basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. However there are multiple variations on this idea such as a Universal Basic Income, in which all citizens regardless of socioeconomic status would be granted the standard monthly payment. There is also the Minimum Income, in which anyone not meeting a particular salary threshold will be given enough to meet the minimum income. Although, across the board, all forms have regular intervals of freely useable currency, that is paid to individuals, instead of households. Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Basic Income is that the money provided is given unconditionally. This means that recipients do not need to be working, or even be applying to jobs; everyone in the program receives the money (BIEN, 2018).

While giving people free money may seem like a ludicrous policy that the U.S. can’t pay for, it is actually more realistic than one would think. Say we give every adult in the US was to receive $12,000 per year, and every child $4000. The estimated cost for a Universal Basic Income in the US would be around $3.4 trillion annually (Santens, 2017). While this seems like a tremendous number, we are actually paying more than this every year already. There are endless programs that are state funded that would be able to be replaced by a Universal Basic Income (Santens, 2017). For example, almost all welfare programs that combat poverty can be eliminated; under this system there would not be any more poverty because everyone is provided funds above the poverty line. In addition, an abundance of funds can be found by closing the tax loopholes that are employed by corporations that cost the US hundreds of billions every year (Stodola, 2011).

A Universal Basic Income may also be very necessary in coming years. Automation is quickly taking many jobs from the hands of human people, and if this trend continues we may begin to see massive unemployment (Winick, 2018). A system that would allow people to be jobless while still being able to pay rent, the utility bills, and still buy food may be massive safety net for those who are unwillingly jobless. Although many people are worried that some people, especially those who are poor, may take the money and buy what economists call ‘temptation goods’. These are things like alcohol, drugs, candy, and other useless things. However current research shows that this is overwhelmingly not the result of free cash transfers. In practice, most people of all demographics actually use the money to pay bills, school fees, and buy food (Evans, Popova, 2017).

While we know that people who are given free cash transfers will spend the money one the right things in the short term, we still don’t know if it encourages people to find work, or be productive in other ways. The question of how an economy would react if people were given free sum of money every month is one of our generation’s biggest questions. Research on Basic Income is being done globally to attempt to find answers to this question for as many different places as possible. Finding an effective way to implement such a system holds the hope of potentially ending a country’s poverty, while bolstering its hidden entrepreneurs. Many big projects are currently underway in places such as Finland, Canada, and the U.S. that aim to understand whether a basic income would help or hurt a country’s standard of living, and overall economy (BIEN, 2018). Early findings are promising; one study conducted in Sri Lanka found that four years after being given a grant, males were earning 41% more on average than those who did not get the grant (De Mel, 2008, 2012). One of the first organizations to hit the ground on large-scale Basic Income experimentation was a 501(c)3 called GiveDirectly. Starting in November of 2017, GiveDirectly began testing 3 different modes of transferring money to individuals in Western Kenya. One group of tribes is set to receive monthly payments $22.50 per person for 2 years, another group for 7 years, and a third group receiving a yearly lump sum (Weller, 2017). This systematic approach to designing the best possible economic policy is likely going to provide the most valuable findings. Though the data for many of these studies will not be complete for many more years these projects will provide the most comprehensive sets of data on Basic Income thus far.

Having large sets of data will be key to any country that plans on one day enacting a Basic Income for their people. There are many important questions to take into account when designing a massive new policy such as this. Questions such as, do we give this money to just the lower class or to everyone? Do we give people just enough to stay alive, or do we give them enough to live off of comfortably? What is the best way to fund it? All of these factors will impact how successful basic income will, and finding a successful system is going to take time, but with thoughtful study and careful planning, it can be done, if we chose.

Reference:

Congresses, B. (2018). BIEN | Basic Income Earth Network. [online] BIEN. Available at:

http://basicincome.org (Retrieved May 8 2018).

De Mel, S., McKenzie, D., & Woodruff, C. (2012). One-time transfers of cash or capital

have long-lasting effects on microenterprises in Sri Lanka. Science, 335(6071), 962–966. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.1212973 (Retrieved May 9 2018)

De Mel, S., McKenzie, D., & Woodruff C., “Returns to Capital in Microenterprises:

Evidence from a Field Experiment,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 2008, 123 (4), 1329–1372. https://doi.org/10.1162/qjec.2008.123.4.1329 (Retrieved May 9 2018)

Evans, D. K., & Popova, A. (2017). Cash Transfers and Temptation Goods. Economic

Development and Cultural Change, 65(2), 189–221.

http://doi.org/10.1086/689575 (Retrieved May 9 2018)

Pega, F., Walter, S., Liu, Y. S., Pabayo, R., Lhachimi, S. K., & Saith, R. (2014).

Unconditional cash transfers for reducing poverty and vulnerabilities: effect on use of health services and health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (6). http://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD011135.pub2 (Retrieved May 9 2018)

Santens, Scott. 2017. “The Cost of Universal Basic Income Is the Net Transfer Amount,

Not the Gross Price Tag.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 10, 2018 (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-cost-of-universal-basic-income-is-the-net-transfer_us_5963d0c7e4b0deab7c646ace).

Santens, Scott. 2017. “How to Reform Welfare and Taxes to Provide Every American

Citizen with a Basic Income.” Medium. Retrieved May 10, 2018 (https://medium.com/economicsecproj/how-to-reform-welfare-and-taxes-to-provide-every-american-citizen-with-a-basic-income-bc67d3f4c2b8).

Stodola, Sarah. 2011. “10 Giant Loopholes That Businesses Use To Dodge

Taxes.” Business Insider. Retrieved May 10, 2018 (http://www.businessinsider.com/corporate-tax-breaks-2011-2).

Winick, Erin. 2018. “Every Study We Could Find on What Automation Will Do to Jobs,

in One Chart.” MIT Technology Review. Retrieved May 8, 2018 (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610005/every-study-we-could-find-on-what-automation-will-do-to-jobs-in-one-chart/). (Retrieved May 8 2018).

Weller, Chris. 2017. “The Largest Basic Income Experiment in History Just Launched in

Kenya.” Business Insider. Retrieved May 7, 2018 (http://www.businessinsider.com/kenyas-basic-income-experiment-just-launched-2017-11)

 

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Who is responsible for the death of thousands of people? Not I, distributors say

by Laura Flores, UIC senior

What is the perfect solution to a public health epidemic, an apology? That was the statement of one of the largest pharmaceutical distribution companies in response to the opioid epidemic. It has been increasing drastically since 1999, killing dozens of thousands of people each year. Opioids are a range of pain-killing drugs that can be addictive when misused. They include prescription drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone and codeine, as well as synthetic opioids like fentanyl, that can be made illegally. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been more than 64,000 deaths in 2016 due to drug overdoses, with over 20,000 of them from prescribed opioids. There is a currently a crisis that is taking away the lives of thousands of people across the country, and the big pharmaceutical companies, such as manufacturers and distributors, are denying the blame. The big three drug distributors are AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson. They ship about 80 percent of prescription drugs in the United States, fueling the epidemic, yet minimizing their part.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “West Virginia (52.0 per 100,000), Ohio (39.1), New Hampshire (39.0), the District of Columbia (38.8), and Pennsylvania (37.9) had the highest observed age-adjusted drug overdose death rates in 2016”. Drug distributors claim that they do not manufacture or prescribe the drugs, downplaying their contribution to the epidemic. Yet under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, it is the responsibility of the distributors to monitor the orders, refuse suspicious orders, and report those orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration. To date, these big distribution companies have already had to pay fines for failing to report suspicious orders. In late 2016, Cardinal was fined $44 million dollars, while last year McKesson was fined $150 million dollars. It had to be chump change since they continued to ship massive amounts of drugs to communities like West Virginia.

As highlighted above, West Virginia has the highest drug overdose rate in the country. The House Energy and Commerce Committee began investigating the distribution of prescription opioids in May of 2017. The panel said distributors sent more than 780 million opioid pills to West Virginia in about 5 years in 2007-2012. That averaged to more than 400 pills per person over that period in the state, where only around 1.8 million people live.

In two smaller towns of West Virginia, opioids were delivered in enormous amounts. Williamson, for example, with a population of only about 3,000 people, were shipped 20.8 million opioid pills between 2006 and 2016. Another tiny town of Kermit, with the population of about 400 people, received 9 million opioid pills in just about two years. Clearly, and according to the law, these distributors failed to report such suspicious amounts, and continued to ship millions of pills. Also among the allegations of the distributors, the lawsuits claim that companies were downplaying the risk of addiction of the opioid pills by using deceptive marketing, exaggerating the benefits.

So, what do the distributors have to say about such accusations? When the heads of the five major drug distributors testified in front of a Congressional subcommittee, the National Trade Association representing McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, released a statement saying that the opioid epidemic “was not caused by distributors who neither, prescribe, manufacture nor dispense medicines”. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, another distributor, denied all allegations, stating “our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible. The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated”. The distributors Trade Association, representing Cardinal Health, stated “Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated”. When these distribution corporations are the richest companies in the United States, who would want to give up that power and money. McKesson, for example, is the fifth largest corporation in the U.S., with nearly $200 billion in revenue last year alone. AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health are also in the top 15, with their revenues over $100 billion each year. Those fines mentioned above, are chump change to these corporations.

States, counties, cities, non-profits, health providers, drug rehab centers, opioid-addicted babies, Native American Tribes, and more, have all been affected by this epidemic. Whether it is losing thousands of lives, or losing millions of dollars, they are feeling the direct effect of the actions done by the distributors. That is why dozens of lawsuits have been filed by the Opioid Justice Team on behalf of all of those institutions. Yet, it is not only about moving the money around through litigation. It is about creating a long-term solution to help them deal with the medical, social and legal issues related to the epidemic. Thus, there are various committees working on legislation to find a solution for the root causes of this epidemic, as well as holding the manufacturers and distributors accountable.

Reference Page

Derosier, Alex. “Major drug distributors downplay contribution to opioid crisis in
testimony before Congress
”. CBS Interactive Inc: May, 08/18.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/opioid-crisis-miami-luken-cardinal-health-amerisourcebergen-mckesson-congress-testimony-today-2018-05-08/

 

Fram, Alan. “Drug distributors missed suspicious opioid sales to West Virginia,
lawmakers say
”. PBS Associated Press: May, 08/18.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/drug-distributors-missed-suspicious-opioid-sales-to-west-virginia-lawmakers-say

Siemaszko, Corky. “West Virginia lawmaker rips Big Pharma execs on opioids: ‘I just
want you to feel shame’
”. NBC Universal: May, 08/18.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/west-virginia-lawmaker-rips-big-pharma-execs-opioids-i-just-n872366

 

Roubein, Rachel. (2018). “The ‘forgotten people’ of the opioid epidemic”. The Hill: May
10/18.

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/387028-the-forgotten-people-of-the-opioid-epidemic

 

 

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