Brief Political Musings: For-Profit Industries in America

This past week, my parents returned from their trip to Europe. Yes, they emerged from their two-week adventure with smiles and sore feet after having visited Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and London. If the word “London” catches your attention, you have probably been paying attention to the news, and you know that London has fallen victim to a series of attacks. The day after my parents came home, they sat on the couch and gushed about their trip—from the ubiquitous, urine-smell emitted by the city of Paris, to musicians on street corners, food, art, and yes, the attack on the London Bridge during their visit. They explained the logistics of the attack, involving trucks and knives, but also, more importantly, noted the drastic difference between the news coverage of the incident during their time in Europe and that of which they saw streaming from America. My mother, a fellow politics junkie and media literacy extraordinaire, said that Britain did not mention names, politics, religion, or any specifics associated to the attack—in others words, there was absolutely no speculation in the news coverage for days, until those specifics were known. I watched on my twitter feed as people like J.K Rowling retweeted posts that said: “Tweets I’m seeing from the UK 0n terror attacks much less panicked/political than from US.”

The reason I bring this up is not to speak ill of America’s news industry. Well, actually, wait, yes it is. But I’m not going to complain about the industry and not address the issue that seem to be at the heart of many of America’s most pressing issues—the issue here being simply ‘corporate bias’ in the media, but more specifically, the fact that America’s top for-profit industries include higher education, healthcare, and the news. I’d like to break down some key basics to these industries, and also tie them into how they’re affecting a large portion of the population in America.

The News:

In previous paragraphs, I mentioned something called “corporate bias” – which is basically a phrase people use when they’re trying to say that news companies, especially those involving politics and current events, cover incidents and provide political analysis over things that will benefit the corporation. Basically, things that will please their bosses, acquire higher ratings, and accumulate large amounts of wealth. This causes news channels to cover the same shocking event for weeks, even after it’s relevance has up and disappeared, as well as things such as murders and accidents that are of no use to the American people—and that’s not even the half of it. I don’t need to bring in statistics or anecdotal evidence to convince someone that this is a pressing issue with our news, but I may never be able to convince some people that privatizing the news is something that, in my opinion, we should never have let become as omni-present as it is—that is, to the point where tuning into privatized, for-profit news coverage is exclusively how many Americans get their news. At this point, someone could say that Americans have plenty of options in which to get their news, but in fact, the opposite is true. In America, 5 media conglomerates control 90% of the media we view, which was outlined in my political science class, and in this PBS article:

“The trend of media conglomeration has been steady. In 1983, 50 corporations controlled most of the American media, including magazines, books, music, news feeds, newspapers, movies, radio and television. By 1992 that number had dropped by half. By 2000, six corporations had ownership of most media, and today five dominate the industry: Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch’s News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany and Viacom. With markets branching rapidly into international territories, these few companies are increasingly responsible for deciding what information is shared around the world.”

What happens to these media corporations, is that they buy each other out—they suck each other up like a Pacman game. Largely, this is due to deregulation of governmental barriers that protect the American people from “commercial exploitation of the media.” Either way, the for-profit nature of American news coverage and the lack of options to access various news sources is one of the facets that’s creating Americans who are not completely ignorant, but who are ignorant about the wrong things.

Education:

Awhile ago, a friend of mine and I were having a discussion about college while out with some friends. I said something along the lines of, “a lot of stupid people graduate college every year.” Immediately, a person sitting next to me who is not my friend, but a friend of the people I was with, said, and I quote, “That’s interesting, coming from you, a liberal.” (disclaimer: I am trying my best to make political ideology completely unrelated to the way in which I write and analyze.) I was immediately confused about the logic of this person, but more so, I now want to use this as an opportunity to explain my own logic for such a statement.

A few decades ago, a bunch of educators and scientists, or people who should have known better, if you will, looked at the correlation between high self-esteem and good grades and said, “That’s great! Now we just have to raise their self-esteem so that their grades will also rise!” These people, of course, did not take into account the fact that correlation does not, in any way, imply causation. What they failed to realize is that maybe, perhaps, it’s the other way around, and good grades beget high self-esteem—which is something I can certainly vouch for. What happened next, well, it was the pits. Educators looked at this correlation and began to tell students that they’re doing great, and they’re learning the material so well—even if they weren’t. Come president Bush, you have school funding riding heavily on how well students do on standardized achievement tests—the same students who think they’re doing really great (or, if you will, achieving), but aren’t, and have no idea! Not only did this create an even more unequal distribution of educational opportunities in poverty-stricken communities (book recommendation: “Savage Inequalities” by Jonathon Kozol, explains this phenomenon very well), but it also churned out a bunch of students who may have gotten good grades, but had never learned the things they were supposed to. If you take this into account, as well as the fact that our education system values discipline rather than intelligence, college is relatively easy to get into assuming you can pay for it, and also the fact that college leaves the average person with 37,172 dollars in student debt, then viola! You have only the percentage of the population that can afford to either pay tens of thousands of dollars or live the rest of their life with overwhelming amounts of debt attending colleges meant to educate, broaden horizons, and strengthen critical thinking skills. Of this percentage, many of the people attending college are a disproportionate representation of intelligence, skills, and interests in America—with many of the top colleges admitting only above average intelligence and wealth, and many of the other colleges admitting average intelligence, skill, and interests en masse into their environment (average being the supposed, middle-class “default” in American society). I’m not saying this is objective, or that there aren’t hundreds of anomalies, but I am saying that, along with the media, these two extreme for-profit industries are leaving many Americans ignorant about the wrong things, stuck in the cycle of poverty, and more broadly, largely uneducated past compulsory learning, which nobody likes as much anyway.

Healthcare:

Okay, now we can get into the pinnacle—the pièce de résistance—of for-profit industries in America: healthcare. For me to explain how this is affecting the American people, I have to explain the difference between the “risk pool” and the notorious ‘high-risk pool’. The most basic explanation of how healthcare works goes something like this: everyone pays a lot of money every month, and this money goes into a ‘risk pool’. Eventually, when someone gets sick, money gets taken out of this giant pool of cash, and goes towards doctors appointments, medications, treatments etc. etc. per request of the sick customer. Before the ACA, there were two ‘risk pools’—a risk pool for people who were generally healthy, and a ‘high-risk’ pool for people who have things like cancer, disabilities, mental illnesses, and the list goes on, and includes much more trivial things like c-sections. That, however, is not the only difference between these groups. The high-risk folks have historically been charged at rates tenfold of those who were healthy, that way, the insurance companies can accumulate large amounts of wealth right out of the pockets of sick people. Think about it. In this way, Americans who are already sick, or who recently became sick, were sometimes either kept that way for a very long time, forced to face a premature death, or reduced to making extreme financial sacrifices in order avoid doing the latter. With the ACA, high risk pools were eliminated and individual mandates were put in place to keep costs down as much as possible, and to make sure sick people could avoid financial disasters—among other things. However, many people are now angry because their insurance costs have risen, which is not because of some imaginary law that requires the costs of insurance to rise, but because they are no longer enjoying the facade that includes relatively cheap insurance. And also, because everything health or doctor-related in the United States costs a whopping, crap-ton more than any other country in existence. Well, and also, healthcare is a for-profit industry.

I cannot pretend to understand how anyone could possibly question why the American political system, as well as the constituents residing underneath it, are in such distress and dysfunction, if the top for-profit industries in the U.S include higher education, healthcare, and the news. By this analysis, I hope people find more sense in understanding corporate bias, media conglomerations, the relationship between achievement tests in American schools, decisions of educators in the U.S decades ago, and how it pertains to higher education as a for-profit industry, as well as the basic functions of healthcare and it’s possible effects on Americans across the country.

Now, a few days ago I promoted this blog post through Instagram, and I know the general consensus among humans is that they aren’t ever as interested in politics as they are pictures of the sky, of cute animals, and oddly enough, pictures of physically attractive humans? So, without further adieu, here are your promised pictures:

Pictures of the sky:

Pictures of cute animals:

Cat: Miss Kitty
Horse: Cloudy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Justin Trudeau, Canadian politician.

Oh, what? You thought that all politicians were old white guys with receding hairlines? What’s that? You also thought that I wouldn’t sneak politics into this somehow? You make me laugh!

– Kyah

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