Opt-Ed: America’s Outrageous Student Loan Debt

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Pomp and circumstance is the new doomsday anthem for college graduates as they walk across the stage this spring to receive their newly minted diplomas. They may be all smiles now as they pose for graduation pictures, but those smiles will soon fade once the celebrations are over. Little did these graduates know that they have willfully shackled themselves to the ball and chain of the ever-increasing national student debt of nearly $1.3 trillion dollars that is the result of continual tuition increases.

This exorbitant figure, from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Quarterly Report, foreshadows the possibility of a grave and morbid future that America may endure in the next few years.

We have seen deadly endings when it comes to mass amounts of speculations and demand such as the tulip mania in the 1600s and the housing market in 2009. These life-changing bubbles were caused by investors putting too much faith and demand in a stock to drive it over the true actual worth. Bubbles have always shown to burst which leaves the economy in ruins and shambles. We are merely building a bubble of tomorrow’s crash with student loans.

To prevent another impending recession, college tuition needs to be lowered in order to make higher education more affordable for students and to prevent a possible bubble crash.

If you are looking for one unfortunate student who cannot seemingly pay off his debt as a result of high tuition, look no further than to Sam Garner. Sam Garner, who writes on the publication “Slate,” is an individual whom has spent the past 8 years paying $1,500 a month in an attempt to make a dent in his $200,000 student debt; yet, he still finds himself owing around $190,000 to debt collectors.

Based on the current 8% interest rate he is paying, Sam Garner can look forward to slaving away for another 25 years before he can truly begin to live a free man’s life.

Why are colleges and Washington not taking heed to the problem of student debt like Sam Garner’s? Many individuals, like Sam Garner, are unknowingly contributing to this student loan bubble by taking out more than they can afford. What happens if individuals like Sam Garner all decide to just stop paying their loans? Without doubt, we may see a whole economy crash which would lead our nation into another recession. This is not what higher education is supposed to do for our country. Universities need to lower tuition before it gets to the point where the price tag becomes too steep to pay.

I have seen firsthand from friends and family who have graduated from college only to be shackled down by insurmountable debt. Many of these individuals went to college to realize their dreams, but only to have their paths changed post graduation as a result of the financial burden. Essentially, placing a halt on what they once thought would help them achieve their American Dream. Lowering tuition would enable students like my friends and family to actually reach their goals and dreams instead of diverting from it, while also alleviating the impending bubble.

There is a notion among many that higher education has long been built into the American Dream. This is a dream that promises individuals can find great prosperity and success as long as effort and hard work is put forth. However, the dream has taken a hit, because of the amount of student loans each graduate owes upon completion of school. How then, can graduates of higher education find success and prosperity in this nation with such debt? Even more so, how will a higher education degree help any graduate if the economy crashes as a result of the massive student debt?

I do not by any means suggest students to stop attending college as a solution to this mayhem. Studies have shown that men and women with bachelor degrees typically average around 64% more than those with only a high school diploma. What is the price tag on a “chance” at a higher income though? According to the institute of college access & success, an average of 7 out of 10 seniors within America in 2014 had $28,950 in debt upon graduating.

With 70% of college graduates incurring this amount of debt and nearly 1,800,00 million bachelor graduates according to NCES, there is no question that this debt will only lead to a crash. How many more years can we keep graduating seniors in college until our economy comes tumbling down, because of one of the poor foundations it is built on – student debt.

It is an outrage that America’s millennial has to endure such brutal shackles that may not be released until they are in their 40s if at all. These shackles are surely creating a wide variety of problems to our younger adult population by proposing the question of either “food or college?” Colleges should not be run like for-profit businesses, but should serve as institutions that will help educate and empower citizens to be future productive workers without burdening them with debt.

In 2013, OECD released a report that showed Norway, Sweden, Finland, Solvenia, Germany, and Brazil having free tuition with some small fees for its students. Opponents of free education are stating that this proposal would create a whole new problem for taxpayers. Without question, that is true. There will always be challenges when it comes to solving some of the hardest problems. But, what did these countries showed to the world? They are actually trying. They are doing their best to subsidize their citizens’ education to make their country and economy better. Our country is merely steering itself into the troubled waters of a recession.

At the current state student loans are in, I believe we are only taking one step forward to go two steps backwards. If we look at the research done by a team from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the findings have shown that for every $1 increase in Pell grant a college’s undergraduate receives, the institution raises its tuition by 60 cents. Furthermore, tuition is increased by 60 to 70 cents for each $1 of subsidized student loans that an undergraduate receives. The increase in Pell grant is doing the opposite of what it is intended to do, which is to make college more affordable to students.

It is wrong for colleges to raise money because of more federal grants being given to students. I believe that in order to solve the problem of student debt, more grants and funding by Washington will not do the trick. Instead of handing out money to individual students, Congress should refund public colleges while attaching strings and regulations to those funds. These strings and regulations would come in the form of requiring schools to lower tuition if they decide to take the federal returns. By requiring public institutions to lower their tuition, this puts pressure on private schools to do the same. With lower fees and tuition, we will enable higher education to be more accessible to students who would have thought otherwise.

The current state of the student loan system is harshly broken and unless congress does something about this, there can be great harm done to our economy.

The American education system is quite vital to the health of our economy and national interest. Stronger regulations with federal funding may be the only option to restructure a broken system. It is possible that with the current trajectory this student loan system is heading, we may undoubtedly have a failed economy on our hands. The federal government needs to act sooner than later to prevent another great recession. The $1.3 trillion dollar debt bubble can only grow so much until it pops which can be a nerve-wracking and devastating ordeal.

So the next time you are hearing pomp and circumstance, just remember the celebration is not the end of the journey. Doomsday has only begun.

 

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Is California’s New Minimum Wage $15 Truly a Great Idea?

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(Read more about it here)

California has very well changed the course of its state by recently signing a bill to raise minimum wages to $15 by 2022. Both people and businesses will surely feel the ripple effects of this new bill. Jerry Brown, Governor of California, stated that:

“Morally and socially and politically, they (minimum wages) make every sense because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way.” (Taken from here)

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, one would need to earn roughly $26.65 an hour to afford a moderate two-bedroom apartment in California (Read it here).

With an increase in minimum wage, a combined income of two would surely cover the needed rent. However, we need to keep into consideration on whether or not the cost of living would even remain the same in 6 years when this bill takes place. Furthermore, a big concern that I have regarding this issue is how it would affect small businesses and firms that hire minimum wage workers. This may truly not be a great idea after all.

Local businesses will be greatly affected by the increase in minimum wage in the upcoming future. When we think about a local business, everyone will have to be paid at least $15 regardless of the position within the firm. So, whether a person is a cook, server, or dishwasher, everyone will be paid the same. But, what happens when a business does not do so well? What happens when there is not great traffic and sales for the local restaurant? Small local businesses will incur a lot more “Salaries & Wages Expense” on their income statements than they have seen before. What does this mean? Unemployment.

This is something we have to keep into account when discussing the increase in minimum wages. Will there be any job openings if we keep increasing minimum wages? It is without doubt that a higher wage would serve beneficial to these blue-collar professions, but that does not mean it will help the economy overall. If a business owner can only hire two workers instead of six, we may be taking a step backwards. Therefore, it is best to approach this new bill with caution as opposed to optimism.

According to Professor Harry Holzer, a public policy professor at Georgetown University, he stated on the issue of minimum wage increase that:

“A lot more are going to get hired off the books especially immigrant workers” (Source: Here)

This is something Washington and the state should take into consideration if minimum wage continues to steadily increase with inflation. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation has been forecasted to stay historically low which means great news for workers but bad news for businesses. Inflation remaining low would not enable businesses to have more capital to hire more workers. If small businesses cannot afford workers, they could turn to illegal immigrants in order to add labor. The problem with hiring illegal immigrants aside from how it is against the law would be that it takes jobs away from Americans. Was this bill created to help Americans obtain a better life or was it made to create unemployment?

Another factor to consider with California’s minimum wage increase is the desire of individuals to conduct business within this state. California is already ranked as one of the worst states in terms of tax (Source: Here) and with the increase of minimum wage, businesses may decide to look for cheaper labor. What would this cause to the state of California? More unemployment. With already high taxes to pay, an increase in employee’s expenses will probably not bode well with local small businesses. This is why we must approach this change carefully.

One other issue with this minimum wage increase is that it could negatively affect the youths within the state of California. Since youth ages 16 to 24 hold 50.4% of the jobs at federal minimum wages (Source: Here), they will surely be affected by the increase in minimum wage and not positively. For one, some of these individuals could be pushed out by better-educated workers that are vying for jobs because of the less demand for hiring as a result of higher minimum wage. In addition, instead of opting for higher education, high school graduates may be more

“induced to leave school, interrupting or prematurely ending their formal education.”

-Researchers Dale Belman of Michigan State University and Paul Wolfson of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business

When we incentivize youths to leave school to work, they may never reach their full potential in life. Is this what we want for the future of our state and nation? We must be careful with what we are doing here by increasing the minimum wage. Education has shown to increase the well being of an individual and by increasing minimum wage, youths may be more inclined to work and never go towards higher education.

On the other hand, those in higher technical positions such as engineers, doctors, and lawyers should not have to worry about this bill having a direct effect on them. Most of those professions are salaried which makes this bill a bit irrelevant to them. However, indirectly, businesses containing these professions may choose to hire less blue-collared workers as a result. What would this mean? Well, some hospitals may become understaffed with needed workers as a result of the higher minimum wage increase. Furthermore, there would also be fewer technicians at factories in order to keep costs low, which would decrease company efficiency. This would all in turn affect the economy negatively.

I believe that this minimum wage is a bad move in terms of what it will do to local businesses. This bill may not actually improve the lives of many but worsen it instead. Policymakers should take heed to the negative effects that local businesses will feel. By having numerous businesses leave the state or an increase in illegal labor as a result of higher minimum wages, we may not be making progress as a state. Rather, we are hurting our economy; therefore, policymakers should look to amend this bill in a way where it will create a win-win solution for both workers and businesses. This bill may have been originally created to help but could have an undesirable consequence.

Tesla Model 3 the future?

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Tesla recently revealed the Model 3 at its event this past Thursday, March 31st. (Check it out here) The most interesting factor out of all this chit chat? The $35,000 price tag which makes it affordable to the masses.

What does this mean for Tesla and the world? For one, this is potentially successful or disastrous project for the company. If Tesla is able to pull this project to success, they will essentially change the way we drive cars. Consumers have long been used cars that run on gasoline; however, with a lower priced sleek looking electric car, we may start to see more electric cars on the road in the next decade. With more electric cars, the world may start to see less greenhouse gas emissions that are plaguing climate changes. In addition, we would start to see more cleaner and renewable energy that is being used instead of gasoline. Yet, it is important to note however, that electricity comes from fossil fuels as well. But, electricity has proven to efficiently and cleanly convert fossil fuels to electricity.

Currently, the United States encourages people to buy electric cars as shown with the $7,500 federal tax credit that they give out to purchasers of these cars. In addition, to show their commitment to lowering emissions, the government has also enabled electric car drivers to use the carpool lane. The commitment of those who want the Model 3? 115,000 people have already placed $1,000 deposits down for the car.

However, this project could end up being a disaster for Tesla, as a result of the cash they are quickly burning through. Tesla had to borrow nearly $1 billion dollars in 2015 in order to keep their company afloat. In addition, they have roughly $1.3 billion left in their cash reserve to make this project possible. If the Model 3 does not prove to be successful and sales are mediocre at best, this could possibly mean the end of Tesla as a company. It will take a bit of luck but also convincing words to get people to purchase a Tesla.

What we can take from this unveiling though is how far we have come in the age of innovation and technology. Tesla has pushed the boundaries on how far we as humans can go with building electric cars that are cleaner for the environment. One example is the ability to drive anywhere in the United States with a Tesla, because of the various charging stations located around the country. Furthermore, electricity is cheaper than gasoline which makes it a better alternative to what we currently have right now. Although the company has not yet gained a positive net profit, this could possibly change in the next few quarters.

 

 

Our Flawed Merciless System

“Tougher on crime” seems to be the siren call of politicians and the media as the solution to reducing the high crime rates in the United States. Our American criminal justice system, though “tough on crime” with its retributive justice model, has been ineffective in reducing these high crime rates. While many of those who have wronged others do get locked up and punished for their actions, a big issue the criminal justice system faces is recidivism. Recidivism, the act of relapsing into a previous criminal mindset and state, has long affected many individuals who go through the American justice system. A criminal justice system built with the notion of simply “locking up” as many criminals as it can is far from sufficient for the state of today’s society. Our criminal justice system does not place enough emphasis on rehabilitation and what comes after one finishes serving one’s sentence. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than thirty-seven percent of prisoners who were arrested and released within five years were arrested within the first six months after their release and more than fifty-seven percent were arrested by the end of the first year (Cooper, Durose, and Snyder 1). Clearly, the American criminal justice system falls short in its rehabilitative efforts.

In a sense, rehabilitation should provide the necessary tools to help restore a prisoner into a state of mind that would enable them to be productive individuals upon reentry into society. However, prisoners upon release face countless barriers, as a result of poor rehabilitative services, when trying to reenter as well-functioning members of society and incurring high societal costs when they fail. These prisoners are often ill equipped to work and make a life for themselves in society once they are released. They often return to communities that contain persistent poverty, lack of jobs, limited access to drug or alcohol treatment, lack of access to health care, and lack of affordable housing. Hence, the American criminal justice system becomes a significant contributor to the problem of homelessness and increasing the size of the prison population. Yet, there have been numerous studies pointing to the importance that rehabilitation programs have on prisoners and how the rate of recidivism could surely be decreased from these programs; therefore, implying the positive correlation and importance between these two factors.

Although many critics argue that the American criminal justice system should be strictly one that is punitive, it needs to shift to a system more focused on restorative justice, a model that works to bring the offender back into the community rather than completely push him or her into exile. Thus, the American criminal justice system needs to place more emphasis on rehabilitative programs that educate and advise inmates on how to improve and better themselves to become productive members of society prior to reentry, while also enabling the early release of non-violent elderly citizens in order to prevent overfilled prisons and lower the recidivism rate within the United States.

To begin with, long prison sentences do not necessarily act as a deterrent to crimes. Instead of focusing on how to prevent recidivism, the United States has been increasing “the severity of punishment for criminal offenses” and thus, “leading to swelling prison populations, increasing mandatory minimum sentencing policies, and having one of the highest incarceration rates in the western world (Berenji, Chou, and Orsogna 2).” The approach the United States has taken is one that focuses on punitive instead of the rehabilitation of prisoners. By taking a different avenue on how to improve and help these prisoners, the United States has a higher potential in lowering the amount of individuals who commit crimes after their release upon prison; therefore, creating a more productive society with lesser crime and reducing the amount of taxpayer money spent on keeping these individuals in prison. Furthermore, there has been evidence shown that “social intervention and support combined with punishment and coercion have been shown to be effective in preventing crime (Berenji, Chou, and Orsogna 2).” In a sense, United States’ prisons create an environment of fear and punishment for prisoners, without providing much tools needed for success upon reentry into society. However, if the United States were to foster an environment of both support and punishment, the likelihood of better results from ex-prisoners should be much higher than what it is today.

The issue of recidivism is not just a “prison problem” but also a societal problem. When these inmates get released from prisons without any help or aid, the country is merely brushing off the problem as opposed to actually solving it. The community puts trust into these ex-convicts when they are released, and if these individuals commit crimes again, they are not only affecting themselves but the surrounding community. Recidivism affects all of us, because we jeopardize the public’s safety by not taking heed to this problem; but, merely burying the issue by creating more monetary, societal, and property damages as a result of not dealing with released ex-convicts. The issue of recidivism can affect the community by creating “economic strain, psychological and emotional distress, and social stigma” that is placed on loved ones, while also causing prisoners to “endure isolation from their family and the community (Deady 2).” When one is isolated from his or her family and community, a sense of distrust and anger can be developed as a result, which may lead an individual to recommit crimes in order to return to a place that they know best – prison. Therefore, if society does not stress the importance of recidivism and why it is an imperative problem to solve, we are merely only causing inmates to “leave prison worse off than when they arrived, which can be detrimental to communities and society as a whole (Deady 3).” As a result, in order to prevent issues stemming from recidivism, we need to understand that it is an important our society is facing.

Evidence has shown that prison programs have helped reduce the recidivism rate in our nation. An example of this program is called “Prison University Project (PUP)” that is provided to the San Quentin prison as an extension site of Patten University. This program enables students to receive an Associate of Arts degree while providing over 20 courses a semester that includes college math and English. With the studies provided by the 2012 CDCR Outcome Evaluation Report, it has shown that only 5.4 percent of those “who graduated from the PUP program and earned an associate’s degree prior to releasing from prison had a one-year recidivism” which goes to show the effectiveness of providing an education program for inmates (California 65).” By providing the tools of education for prison inmates, the United States can break an intergenerational cycle of crimes by becoming role models to their children. In addition, rather than sending an uneducated convict out of prison at the end of his or her term, the ex-convict will have had the necessary tools and education to hopefully secure a job upon release. Although an argument can be made that convicts should not receive free education when many others in society cannot afford to even get educated because of crippling debt, a prisoner by the name of Jerome Boone has offered his insight that ‘“if we come in here and just stay the people we are when we come in” and “without any growth or insight or any opportunity to better ourselves,” then “we’re going to get our of prison that same person (Westervelt 1).”’ If such individuals believe that partaking these programs will help them succeed in becoming a better person upon returning to society, then why should we not continually fund and encourage inmates to participate in these programs. In doing so, the United States will see that “every dollar” spent “on higher education in prison” yields “an 18 dollar return” on investment; thus, proving that providing education to prisoners is beneficial to both the country and economy by reducing the need to spend money on keeping inmates in there (Fleischer 1). These claims question whether or not the United States is doing much to provide the necessary care and resources in ensuring that its prisoners do not recommit the same crime again in the future. Programs like the Prison University Project at San Quentin are neither state nor federally funded, but have shown its effectiveness in lowering recidivism rates in the country. Likewise, it has been able to lower the overfilling of prison populations as a result of ex-inmates securing jobs post release as a result of their degree. Yet, the United States has not been placing more emphasis in investing more into programs such as this.

Although internal prison programs have proven to help prisoners rehabilitate, policy makers and opponents think otherwise. Despite what research has demonstrated about the benefits of these college programs, under the administration of Bill Clinton, the United States passed the “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act” in 1994, an act that took the United States several steps back just as it took a step forward. This act states that “No basic grant shall be awarded under this subpart to any individual who is incarcerated in any Federal or State penal institution,” which overturned the Higher Education Act of 1965 that allowed the Pell Grant for postsecondary education (Keeping 28). Therefore, effectively ending a lot of college and vocational programs in college. Prior to the 1994 bill, in 1990, “there had been several hundred college programs in prison,” but nearly every program had disappeared afterwards (Keeping 30). By preventing prisoners within the United States from receiving federal funding for education behind bars, there is not much option left except to rely on volunteer and donations from the local community or different organization. Yet, even then, there is not enough capital to support such funding before the budget becomes exhausted. Although lawmakers may have believed that this bill passed in 1994 helped the overall country, there was not quite enough information research regarding the “knowledge about the relationship between education and recidivism.” In 1997, after the bill had been passed, there was a study conducted that “focused on 3,200 prisoners in Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio,” which showed that “simply attending school behind bars reduced the likelihood of incarceration by twenty-nine percent (Keeping 38).” Furthermore, in 2000, there was research done by “the Texas Department of Education” that conducted a study in which “883 men and women who earned college degrees while incarcerated” had only a “27.2 percent recidivism rate for AA degree” and “7.8 percent for completion of a BA degree” in comparison to a “system-wide recidivism rate between 40 and 43 percent (Keeping 38).” These studies have shown that by preventing inmates from receiving an education while in prison, the United States government has pursued the antithesis of what the country should have done, which is to promote education amongst the inmates to possibly lower the recidivism rate. As a result, reaffirming how by providing the tools of education to these prison inmates, the United States can start create a solution to the issue of overcrowding and crime rate within our society. Furthermore, the stigma that stems from being a criminal alone is already enough to thwart success once a convict is released, regardless of his/her intellectual skills or abilities. Education in jail gives the inmate a fighting chance and sets up the inmate for successfully serving as an upstanding member of society (Spearit 15). Changing laws and rules in regards to crime can help overcome the problem of our justice system being a punitive one.

In relation to providing the necessary education to prisoners to survive this current century, some prisons with job and vocational training have shown success in lowering recidivism rate. According to Professor Maltz of the University of Illinois at Chicago, “lack of education and job related skills affect the propensity of an individual to resort to crime” which shows the need for job training in prison to lower the rate of recidivism and to prepare these individuals for the workforce. There are couple programs within the United States that have shown a proven model to prevent recidivism and create a more productive workforce. One such job-training program is the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) led in part by Baylor University in Texas. This program serves as a “new crime reduction model,” while also attempting to unlock “the human potential through entrepreneurial passion” that starts when inmates are incarcerated until their release and afterwards by continuing to “provide services to participants (Johnson, Wubbenhorst, and Schroeder 9).” This program takes into the account of the skills that many prisoners may have developed through drug dealing and illegal business crimes, but channeling them to create legitimate businesses upon release. By creating a job training setting in which prisoners can somewhat use the skills they have developed illegitimately, they will be better prepared for success in the workforce after release. This model has proven to work by having “fewer than five percent of the PEP graduates released in good standing in 2008 recidivated within three years (Johnson, Wubbenhorst, and Schroeder 12).” Furthermore, what is astonishing is that “Pep found that 95% of its graduates reported being employed (Johnson, Wubbenhorst, and Schroeder 19).” Although the sample size may have been small, this shows the great potential that these programs have in the fight to reduce recidivism. By providing more job training to these inmates, society may have more peace of mind by knowing these inmates are creating legitimate business or working rather than partaking in crimes as a result of having no abilities post release. The placement of ex-inmates into the workforce with jobs would enable our society to be more productive, while also lessening the cost that we incur keeping these individuals within this system.

Furthermore, in providing job training for inmates during incarceration, early release for certain elderly prisoners convicted of nonviolent offenses are necessary to decrease the prison population in the United Sates. The United States’ current practice of continuing to house these nonviolent elderly offenders may soon prove unsustainable if meaningful action is not taken by the U.S. government to reform its guidelines for housing prisoners. Costs of housing nonviolent offenders is not the only reason why the United States needs to move away from its reliance on incarceration – “the continued long-term incarceration of aging citizens has serious moral, ethical, public health, and public safety implications” (Osborne 25). The current aging prison population has continued to rise at an alarming rate. From 1995-2010, the overall prison population has grown 42% while the aging population “increased by 282%” with “no signs of slowing down” (Osborne 28). This large growth for the aging population demonstrates the unsustainability of the United States’ current practice in continuing to house nonviolent elderly offenders of crime. Today, there are an “estimated 246,600 prisoners age 50 or older in the United States” (Osborne 30).

By securing early release for elderly and older prisoners, the United States can look to save money. For these 246,600 prisoners, the United States spends over $16 billion annually – an amount more than the entire Department of Energy budgets or the Department of Education funds for school improvements (Osborne 25). Clearly, the United States is not wisely allocating its resources. The current amount the United States is spending on the aging population in prison also includes money towards providing medical care for these individuals. In addition to paying for the costs of medical care, something already very expensive, the government must also make sure to provide security watch for each of the prisoners when they are sent out for treatment. This security usually costs about $2,000 per 24 hours the prisoners are sent out for their medical treatment (Osborne 25). Not only is the United States spending far too much on an aging population of nonviolent offenders, but also once these elderly offenders are released, they may have trouble being highly productive members of society. If someone is aged due to the long years they have spent in prison, they are worn out and because they are 50 or older, they will have trouble finding jobs that will hire them. Not only does continuing to house the prison population waste fiscal resources for the United States, it also negatively “ripple outward to affect individuals, families, communities, and social structures in ways that are less immediately tangible” (Osborne 32). Keeping these aging individuals who have committed nonviolent crimes will only leave the nation in insurmountable national debt that can be lowered if the nation were to ensure their earlier release. In addition, instead of using our resources to keep these nonviolent prisoners behind bars, we can allocate those resources to criminal offenders who need it more and have committed more atrocious crimes.

Some opponents to the rehabilitative model have argued that there are no hard facts or evidence to prove that this has a positive effect on the society around us. Instead of believing that the human mind can be rehabilitated from past problems and crimes in order to create a better society, these opponents argue those who are acquitted of any crime regardless of a petty or big one, should strictly be punished and nothing more. California’s Three Strikes Law is an example of brutal punishment such as when a man who stole a pair of $2.50 tube socks at the mall was unfortunately sentenced to life in prison (Taibbi 1). The law should no doubt punish individuals who have committed a crime, but instead of just being brutally punished, they should receive the necessary help that these lawmakers and opponents have longed wanted to forbid them from getting, while also receiving a fair sentence. According to Smart Justice, the idea of “longer sentences are supported on the basis that they deter crime by sending a message to offenders” but there have been studies that have shown “harsher prison sentences don’t deter crime and can increase reoffending (Smart 2).” Therefore, the thought of sending a message by the supporters of harsh punishments and punitive models should be reconsidered in a different light. If inmates are going to recommit crimes, why should we not approach this situation in a different method? This argument against those in favor of a punitive system is not one where society as whole abolishes punishing offenders, but rather offering the needed guidance and support to help create a better society.

There is a quote that some of us like to live by, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Yet, however, the prison system has clearly shown itself to be a broken system that is unsustainable. With the overfill of prison population, there are numerous resources and money being dumped into keeping a system that is not sustainable for the long haul. If we continue on this path in punishing prisoners instead of giving them the necessary help, we are merely only taking two steps forward to go five steps backwards. There have been numerous studies that have shown what benefits society can incur from enabling these inmates to receive the necessary rehabilitative services. Instead of continuing on this broken path and method of dealing with prisoners, we must do our best to promote more educational and job training to these inmates to lower the prison population and decrease recidivism. Education and job training has only began to show its potential to help rehabilitate prisoners, but without the necessary federal funding, donations and volunteering can only help to a certain point. By changing the current punitive path we are on and choosing to rehabilitative route, not only will we save money as a society, but also we are creating a better society by helping those who have made mistakes to be better individuals. In order to fix what is clearly a damaged system, we need to take the necessary steps to begin mending the current state of the system that has long been ineffective within our society.

Works Cited

Anderson, Nick. “Advocates Push to Renew Pell Grants for Prisoners, Citing Benefits of Higher Education.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Berenji, Bijan, Tom Chou, and Maria R. D’Orsogna. “Recidivism and Rehabilitation of Criminal Offenders: A Carrot and Stick Evolutionary Game.” PLOS ONE. Public Library of Science, Jan. 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Curtin, Timothy. “The Continuing Problem of America’s Aging Prison Population and the Search for a Cost-Effective and Socially Acceptable Means of Addressing It.” Associated with Aging Prison Populations and Improved Funding. I. Introduction (2007): n. pag. The Elder Law Journal. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

Deady, Carolyn W. “Incarceration and Recidivism: Lessons from Abroad.” (n.d.): n. pag. Pell Center, Mar. 2014. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.

Fleischer, Matt. “U.S. Prisons Don’t Fund Education, and Everybody Pays a Price.” TakePart. N.p., 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Johnson, Bryon, William Wubbenhorst, and Curtis Schroeder. “Recidivism Reduction and Return on Investment: An Empirical Assessment of the Prison Entrepreneurship         Program.” Prison Entrepreneurship Program(n.d.): n. pag. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

“Keeping It REAL: Why Congress Must Act to Restore Pell Grant Funding For    Prisoners.” UMass Law Review (2016): 28-36. SpearIt. Web. 22 Mar. 2016.

Maltz, Michael. University of Illinois at Chicago. Orlando: Academic, 2001. Print. “More Prisons Are Not the Answer to Reducing Crime.” Smart Justice (2012): n. pag. Print.

Ndrecka, Mirlinda. The Impact of Reentry Programs on Recidivism: A Meta-Analysis. Diss. U of Cincinnati, 2014. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

“The High Costs of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population.” The High Costs of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population (2014): n. pag. The Osborne Foundation. Osborne Association, July 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

Westervelt, Eric. “Why Aren’t There More Higher Ed Programs Behind Bars?” NPR. NPR, 7 Sept. 2015. Web. 24 Mar. 2016.

All Aboard the Trump Train to a “Brokered Convention”?

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As of this post, Donald Trump has just wrapped up the second “Super Tuesday” with a decisive victory in four but one state.

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However, with Marco Rubio dropping and as we are inching closer and closer to the Republican convention, what does that mean for the Trump Train? There are many opponents against Trump winning the Republican nomination. Trump acknowledges that and realizes that there could be something called a “brokered convention” ahead of him.

A brokered convention happens when no candidates win the necessary 1,237 pledged delegates to capture the nomination, which leads to delegates having more of a symbolic power. Delegates from different states have various laws governing the way they can vote in the case of a brokered convention. In the first round, delegates have to vote for the candidates that they had originally pledged for. However, this will lead to a no single candidate winning the nomination, which leads to round two.

According to the New York Times, 57 percent of delegates are free to vote for whomever after round one and 81 percent of delegates are free after round two. (Read more about brokered conventions: here) This presents a unique situation, because the last brokered convention occurred in 1976 and these types of conventions are considered rare. So, this mean Trump still has a long way to go if he wants to get to DC as the next President.

Trump has responded to some of the threats of a brokered convention with how it would cause riots if he were not the nominee chosen (Check it out). In order to ensure Trump does not make it as the nominee, numerous Super PACs and organizations have spent millions on “anti-Trump” campaigns (Here).

In relation to this situation, I believe we should stop trying to create “anti-Trump” campaigns and either rally behind him or another candidate such as Clinton or Sanders. When Republican leaders hope for a brokered convention to change the outcome, they are essentially undermining the desires and wants of the American people. I thought America was a democracy and not an oligarchy?

Regardless of the outcome, I do believe that Trump’s progress thus far has opened the floodgates to many political events in the future. For one, he has shown that a candidate with a non-political background has the chance of winning the nomination of a major political party and possibly the presidency. But, there is a chance that him running has destroyed the opportunity for those not in “political” positions to become President.

On the other hand, Trump running has made a dent into politics like never before. He has gotten candidates to talk about the wall between the United States and Mexico. Furthermore, he has made us think about issues that we have otherwise not have thought about. I believe he has been good for politics because of that spark he carries with him.

With that said, it will be interesting to see how Trump does now until the Republican convention. Whether or not he wins the nomination, I believe he has caused the American people to discuss and talk about topics that have otherwise not been brought up.

 

United States Hypocrisy?

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As we continue on with the presidential election, there was one event that caught my eye. After Donald Trump had won Super Tuesday, there were numerous articles on people Google searching “how can I move to Canada?” (Read more here) What is quite hysterical to me is the fact that some individuals in the United States think it is their right to be able to move out of the United States, because they do not like the thought of Donald Trump being President. Does that not seem like entitlement?

The reason I bring this issue up is, what about the Syrian refugees trying to flee ISIS but they cannot? (Read more here) The United States refuses to let these refugees in, but yet we can simply waltz out of this country and live anywhere, because we are “americans”? I believe that logic is just flawed. Why is it that others who want to better their lives cannot come to America? The whole reason for people Google searching “how can I move to Canada” may be based on the reason that they want to better their lives in case of a Donald Trump presidency. So, if we feel like we can better our lives by going to Canada, why not let others better their lives by moving to the United States?

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We have done it in the past, but yet we cannot do it again? Is it because we are afraid of a “Muslim problem?” In the past, we have let one famous individual in by the name of Albert Einstein during pre-World War II phase. What did he help us do? For all those who do not know, he helped us on the Manhattan Project which is better known as creating the world’s first atomic bomb. What if we had let Einstein stay back in Germany or Europe to be prosecuted?

However, to go back to this situation, maybe the individuals within the United States should stop and think about their “ability” to move wherever they want. Just because you are an american should not place you in the mindset of I can move wherever I want. I think it is quite hypocritical that others cannot do the same and move to the United States as they please. Is it that we are superior and everyone else is inferior?

To add to this, I think the media adds fuel to the fire in the feeling of entitlement. Since when did Donald Trump have the right to say the United States is having a “Muslim Problem.” Are muslim people not human like me and you, but rather a different type of species? Therefore, I think we should really think about what we are truly saying and reinforcing when we say “how can I move to Canada?”

 

 

 

Millennial not Voting?

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With the 2016 election coming this November, it is quite interesting to think about the numerous millennials that are not actually voting in this election. The turnout among young individuals from the ages of 18 to 29 appear to be quite low at around 20%. When we think about the education system in America, our Founding Fathers created the school system to better educate our voters. Yet however, this does not seem to be the case.

Read more (here)

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Education itself is supposed to help us become more informed and smarter voters, but the young individuals within the institution have not shown to step forward and vote. So why is that, is it just that these individuals are just lazy and do not seemed empowered to go out to the voting booths?  One cannot use the line “but my vote won’t matter anyways,” because it does and is important on how this nation will be shaped in the future. Many young adults may tend to vocalize common problems that our country faces, but yet, they do not show up to the voting booths to back the change that they want. Does that not seem to  be a problem here?

If millennials want change in this nation, then they need to go out there and back it up by voting. Take the city of Garden Grove for instance, Mayor Bao Nguyen won by a mere 15 votes (Check it out here). Evidently, this shows that every single votes matter. If millennials want to make a difference and feel like they are, this is not a bad way to do so.

So, how do we create change when change is so hard? One can argue it starts with the parents. If parents encourage their children early on that voting is an important aspect of being a citizen in the United States, that could possibly create an impression on the individuals that have not yet voted. On the other hand, the age of social media and technology amongst millennials seem to be growing quickly, so why not change the way people are allowed to vote in this nation.

Since some Americans will not even bother to step outside of their house to vote, maybe it is time the government devise an effect means to vote online. By enabling an individual to vote online, there should be an increase in voting among the millennials in this nation. However, I do understand if this is not possible, since numerous personal data could be stolen or hacked in the process. So, what now?

With what America can work with right now, the best option would be to simply empower leaders to encourage their peers within their universities and workforce to go out and vote. However, adding great marketing would be a game changer. At the end of the day, humans will not respond to things unless it affects them personally. Finding that personal connection with millennials and effectively marketing that connection could possibly increase voter outcome.

How to create change when change is hard? That is the million dollar question.

Apple Inc Vs. FBI?

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Read more about this issue (here)

Apple has recently found itself in hot waters with the government after the San Bernardino shooting. The San Bernardino attack was a terrorist organized shooting that left 14 people killed and 22 others injured. After the event, the FBI wanted access to one of the two shooter’s iPhone 5C work phone (Syed Rizwan Farook’s) in order to find answers to some questions that left them puzzled. Apple had reportedly handed over all of Farook’s information that he backed up onto Apple’s cloud through October 19, but that leaves a one-and-a-half month gap between Oct. 19 and the date of the shooting. The phone has a four-digit code encrypted lock that after 10 failed attempts would delete all data and information stored within the phone. What was Apple’s response to the FBI’s request for the firm to unlock this phone? No.

Instead, on February 16, 2016, Tim Cook released a statement on Apple’s website harshly criticizing the U.S. government in the aftermath of the tragic San Bernardino event. This is part of the statement that he released (Read full statement here):

         “The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could   be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.”

This statement is quite powerful because if Apple decides to follow through with orders, then the firm will set a precedent in the years to come in terms of privacy encryption related issues. Apple knows that by complying, they could possibly open a Pandora’s box. The photo above is a great illustration of what would occur. The photo shows that upon Tim Cook opening the door, little does he know that behind the FBI are hackers, repressive regimes, and more are lurking in the shadows. The moment the FBI is given access is when these entities would have an opportunity to exploit this “back door.”

The issues that I can see with giving the FBI access are the following:

  • The government mandating the creation of a “back door” on all technology to monitor our activities
  • The individual right to use technology without the government knowing our private data and information would be violated

I believe that if Apple were to give the FBI access, we would no longer have any “private” information or data anymore. We would start to see numerous hackers and various other parties having access to our phones without our consent. All of which, would be quite nerve-wracking to experience.

The information that we have on our phone can be many things such as our financial data, personal photos, and health records. Imagine if the government required a mandated “back door” to our phones in the aftermath of this ongoing case with Apple vs. FBI.

For one, not many individuals on this planet would be safe from hackers attempting to gain their financial information in order to steal money. Online banking would create disastrous financial repercussions, which would affect the economy that we live in.

In addition, we may also see this “back door” as having a great affect on our social lives. The social issue this “back door” has is the ability to have our personal information or embarrassing photos released. This could possibly affect our ability to maintain relationships with others or obtain jobs. Friends and family may have the ability to read what you have said about them. On the other hand, employers may have access to the things you do privately at home. Worst, one would wake up every morning not knowing if their information or data is safe. Therefore, encryptions of phones are vital to the security of our identities.

Luckily, Tim Cook and Apple do not agree with the FBI’s stance on this issue.

This is not the first time though that a company has chosen to take a stance against a government. In 2010, Blackberry appeared in the crosshairs of different governments seeking a “back door” access on its citizens’ communication devices (Read more about it here). India requested that the company give the government access or else it would be denied the ability to sell and do business in the country. India’s officials justified this act by stating:

            “If the company agrees to set up a server in India, it will help monitoring agencies keep track of emails and SMSes as and when required for security reasons.”

I cannot help but question what are the “security reasons”? Where do we draw the boundaries of “security reasons”? This is similar to this Apple vs. FBI case, because if the FBI is given access to our phones, where do we draw the line on the FBI’s ability to look at our phones for “security reasons”? One can see this as a kid having access to candy in a cabinet. Having one candy could possibly turn into “another one” and “another one” until there is an addiction created. The FBI and other agencies would continually force Apple to “open” a phone up every time there is an incident.

I applaud Tim Cooks and Apple’s fight against the FBI for privacy of its users. This goes to show the company’s stance on its customers’ privacy and the issues surrounding encryption. I do agree with Tim Cook’s statement on how complying with the FBI’s request would undermine all of the engineer’s encryption work that they have done. With privacy being harder and harder to protect as technology gets more advanced, Apple would destroy all the progress they have made on security with this compliance.

Although I agree with Tim Cook and Apple’s stance, it is hard not to think about how numerous individuals post their private information somewhere on the Internet that is not quite hard to find. We should not rely solely on Apple in protecting our private information, but rather, we need to take precautionary actions ourselves. If one knows that certain information is confidential and can come back and hurt him or her, then do not post it online.

Do I support the idea of a backdoor to the iPhone? No. But, for those that think we are currently safe from any cyber attacks, we are not. Take a look at the 2014 “Celebgate” that occurred (Read more here). Regardless of any security features that technologists take to protect phones, computers, and other devices, there will always be someone out there attempting to break the code.

So, should we feel safe that Tim Cooks and Apple are fighting the FBI about this backdoor policy? Sure, but let us not get comfortable here.

 

The Future of Cars? Or, the future of jobless America?

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With the future of driverless cars coming soon (Here), it is hard not to think about the possibilities that humans can reach with this invention. What many thought was not quite possible before has now slowly been accomplished. However, with continually inventions and innovations, one has to think about the consequences.

A big consequence with the rise of driverless cars will be an increase in the unskilled labor force. The direction that Google and many other high tech companies want to take their company towards is being able to make things such as transporting goods, people, and various things more driverless. Without the need for drivers, one cannot help but wonder what will happen to those that are truck drivers or use a vehicle as part of their daily work lives. With an approximate 3.5 million professional truck drivers within the United States, what are those individuals going to do with their lives?

That is what makes technology scary at times. However, we should not take this as an excuse to not continually innovate. Technology should not be looked at as something to replace mankind. Technology should coincide with mankind and make our lives better whether simplifying tasks or alleviating  strenuous labor. Whether technology will harm the labor force in the future is uncertain, however with new innovation, there will be a rise in a new labor force.

A new labor force that needs to be created in order to service these vehicles may be created. Therefore, technology is not as evil as people may make it out to be. The rise of new innovations will only make our lives better rather than worse. Instead of worrying about how machines will take over our lives one day, we should focus more on how we can be more productive alongside these new machinery.

Therefore, there is no need to be afraid of technology. Embrace the new creations that man has created as life may only get better. Maybe in the next 20 years we will have flying cars or something, who knows?

 

 

Super Bowl 50 or Sex Trade Bowl?

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While millions of Americans were spending their Sunday night watching the Super Bowl this past weekend, there was a dark secret not known to many. The Super Bowl in itself was and continues to be a magnet for increased sex trafficking (Read more here) along with other sporting events.

The days of slavery from the early 19th century has not gone away but rather simply changed in form. The people trade has now taken the form of invisible violence. Whether we know it or not, this form of crime happens around us daily. Most may have thought of such a heinous act occurs outside of the United States only, but it is right around us. The human trafficking trade bolsters a $150 billion-per-year juggernaut industry that does not seem to be slowing down. It is saddening how problems like this goes unnoticed to many in the public eye. Whether you are the star Quarterback of an NFL team or just a college student, we are all humans that can make a change to this.

It is important that we open our eyes to such an act and keep an open awareness for things like this that is going around in our world. Although this may not seem like an imminent problem to us, it is still our duty as human individuals to look out for one another. The article discusses how there seems to be a tendency for more human trafficking around big sport events such as this past Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby, and more. Is it that hard to play a 30 second commercial to help save the lives of individual people like you and me?

Spreading awareness and creating a message that would leave an impact on people is difficult; hence, it is necessary that we find ways to slowly bring to the public this issue on human trafficking. Change does not come in a matter of minutes, it takes time like many things do. If we want to try and create a better world, it starts with ending tragedies like this. So, when you watch these multibillion dollar sporting events in the future, think about what is really going on behind the scenes. Is that something you are okay living with?

But okay, maybe human trafficking does not strike a chord in your body. What if it was your brother, sister, or child who was being trafficked, does that make a difference?