Death panels!

Great recent Planet Money episode (sorry, no transcript, just the audio here) about how almost everyone in La Crosse, Wisonsin has an advanced directive (Morning Edition version here).  The result?  The people avoid terrible, unwanted end-of-life situations and unnecessary and unwelcome treatment that plagues so many American deaths.  The result of that?  Huge cost savings.  Win-win.  Who loses?  Doctors who cannot be reimbursed for their time for discussing end-of-life issues with their patients.  You know why?  Those are “death panels.”  Seriously.  Thank you Sarah Palin.  You know who else loses?  Dying people and their families who are therefore missing out on these important conversations.

Short version: Tea Party and Republicans dumb enough to listen to them win.  Pretty much everybody else loses.  Hooray for American democracy.

Teacher appreciation

My college roommate wrote this awesome letter to his hometown (Gastonia, NC) newspaper.  Love it:

A few weeks ago, the phone rang in my office. And on the line was Larry Moore, my French teacher from Southwest Middle School. I had not heard from him since I was in high school at Hunter Huss probably 25 years ago.

He phoned to say that Southwest was having a Black History celebration on Feb. 23, and asked if I would come to participate or send an essay that could be read as part of the event. Mr. Moore also said how very proud he was of me. There are no words for what something like that means to an adult man, after so many years and miles of separation, the simple and genuine act of a teacher’s encouragement and congratulation.

Teachers are the last, best hope for our American democracy. I regret that I’ve seen in North Carolina, here in New York and also nationally, an ill-advised effort to denigrate the work of teachers and what they do for our children every day. Teaching is hard work, and it is also impactful and meaningful individually and as a whole to our society.

What I learned is important about citizenship and my role in building a great country came from fifth grade civics class, and what I still love about reading started with Mrs. Cole’s fourth grade reading challenges and library visits at Hershal H. Beam Elementary. Hershel Beam was also my principal. He was a man with a profound love and interest in children’s development and potential. I remember that kind of love, even though it was more than 30 years ago now.

I have been fortunate in my life to sit in the classrooms of some very learned professors, at Duke, Princeton, Harvard and Columbia universities. I’ve learned from some of the smartest people in the world, but I also have not forgotten where all of that learning began and also where I received the foundation to “go do what God has in store for you,” as Hershel Beam would say with such a commanding voice.

I say without reservation that the most caring educators I’ve had were all in Gastonia. So if you ever wish to know where Gaston County’s most precious resource is, look to your children’s classrooms in appreciation.

Jamie Smarr, of New York, is vice president of The NHP Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making investments that preserve and create affordable multifamily housing for low- to moderate-income families and seniors.

I wish I didn’t feel the need to check off the “politics” category for this.  But sadly, it seems that genuinely appreciating teachers and the work they do has become a partisan issue.  So far, my kids have had almost 19 combined years of public school education, and almost every teacher they’ve had has been a qualified and dedicated professional.  If we want successful education in this country it means investing in teachers and treating them like professionals.  Is that really too much to ask?

Photo of the day

I haven’t been out to a Durham Bulls game in a couple of years.  Definitely will this season, though.  A project documented the 2013 season in photographs and here are some cool one’s in Behold:

DSC_3987Approaching Storm, Goodmon Field*

How to end the gender pay gap

Really nice Atlantic article about the gender pay gap and some new research that argues the key to shrinking it is for companies to allow for far more flexibility among their employees (i.e., allow moms to be moms).

First, some important basics:

When it comes the gender pay gap there is (a) one famous statistic that everybody knows; (b) a couple famous rebuttals to that statistic; and (c) one big unanswered question about equal pay for men and women.

The statistic is that a woman earns $0.77 for every $1 earned by a man. The 77-cent talking point is everywhere, and too often the conversation ends with the double-sevens.

The rebuttals matter. The 77-cent stat doesn’t account for the fact that women choose different jobs than men (often in lower-paid occupations and industries). It doesn’t account for the fact that many women choose to work part-time, or choose to leave the workforce for extended periods of time, which means they have less work experience by the time they turn 40 or 50.

But even when you equalize for all these variables, a pay gap of about 9 percent persists between men and women, and it’s particularly cavernous at the top end of the income scale. Why? …

It’s About Time

The gender pay gap sounds simple when you reduce it to a 77-cent (or 91-cent) soundbite. The reality is more dynamic. In many industries, men and womenenter the workforce earning equal wages. But as they enter their 30s and 40s, men open up a big lead…

What does this graph tell us? It tells us the gender gap isn’t just about gender. It’s also about time—time since entering the workforce and time spent working.

In winner-take-all jobs (e.g.: a CEO, law partner, or a tenured professor), contenders are rewarded for working longer hours, Goldin writes. It’s as if, for the most coveted and high-paying jobs, hours in the office acts as a kind of tie-breaker between similarly talented and deserving candidates for top spots. And it’s a tie-breaker that often goes to the guys because many women take time off to be moms.

Among female Harvard students graduating around 1990, taking off 18-months in their first 15 years was associated a penalty of 41% of earnings for eventual MBAs, 29% for lawyers, and 15% for doctors. In other words, corporations and law firms punish women who take time off much more than the health industry.

The penalty is steepest in corporate America. The gender pay gap for MBAs graduating from the University of Chicago Booth School between 1990 an 2006 starts off around zero. But after 16 years women earn just 55 percent what men do. As Goldin writes, this penalty is basically all about children [emphasis mine], and wives of high-earning husbands are particularly willing to cut back their hours for just that reason.

And how to shrink the gap:

Goldin’s solution is for companies to give workers more autonomy, to encourage more flexibility in work schedules, to find ways to substitute for workers on irregular schedules, and to adopt a policy of pay-per-hour worked, no matter of when it is worked, since these sort of companies tend to have the smallest gender gaps (and also, theoretically, keep the most talented women). Work flexibility is a tremendous idea. It could only close the pay gap at some companies that put too much stock in 9-to-5 face-time but also allow for more telecommuting, which would help the environment and make entire regions more productive by reducing traffic times.

Sounds good to me.   But its not entirely clear to me how you get companies to start thinking this way and compensating their employees accordingly.  It would be great, though.  Allowing more autonomy and flexibility is a win for all employees– male or female, parent or not.

%d bloggers like this: