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Wal-Mart’s Effect on Local Economies


Built on the formula “buy cheap, sell for less than the other guy, and make a profit on high volume and fast turnover,” Wal-Mart today is the world’s largest retailer – and one of the most controversial.  Founded in 1962 by Sam Walton, the company’s key focus is selling goods at the lowest price possible, with the slogan “Save Money. Live Better.”  Saving money to help people live better is the goal Sam Walton envisioned when he created the first Wal-Mart (Wal-Mart Corporate).  For Americans with tight budgets, Wal-Mart has become a staple place to shop – a place for people to enjoy the products they need and love, at a price they can afford.

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The Wal-Mart effect, in essence, is when a big box retailer comes into town, reshapes the shopping habits of consumers, drives prices down, and ultimately creates a “race to the bottom” among businesses (Fishman, 2006).  Today, Wal-Mart’s ubiquitous presence has subjected the retailer to considerable attention over its effect on local economic activity.  From an economic perspective, Wal-Mart is criticized for “infiltrating small-town America” while offering an extremely large variety of consumer goods at very low prices (McCune, 1994).  Many critics argue that this strategy undermines the ability of small, locally owned businesses to compete, forcing many to close.  Additionally, Wal-Mart has an extensive history of using public money to aid in financing its rapid expansion across the United States.

Up until now, the local and state governments have done little to address the phenomenon known as the “Wal-Mart effect.”  I believe state and local governments need to play a much bigger role in protecting their community’s future.

Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd: “Fight” to Save Whales


The launch of the TV show Whale Wars on Animal Planet spread the issue of Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean.  Organizations like Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd campaign to protect whales.  However, an underlying tension exists between these two major players.  Greenpeace is committed to non-violent direct action while the Sea Shepherd has been know to take radical and innovative direct action against the whalers.  This difference in opinion is causing turmoil between the two groups and their lack of cooperation is inhibiting the effectiveness of their anti-whaling campaigns.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qxdkZGBLKU

Living in a Throwaway Society


It is trash day. Consumers have placed their garbage and recycling units outside to be whisked away by municipal garbage trucks. This ritualistic behavior has contributed to American’s accustomed lifestyle of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to garbage. What needs to be enlightened is the dark side of decay and filth: a subject that most people are not consciously aware of or perhaps do not even care to think about. It is time to start caring as our country, and the world as we know it, is becoming a giant heap of trash.

https://sites.google.com/a/bucknell.edu/biz-gov-soc/research-for-white-papers/white-paper-archives-or-sources

Torture Interrogations


In my White Paper, I focused on educating the reader on the practices of torture and its use in prisoner interrogations, providing evidence supporting and condoning these practices, and ultimately suggesting policies to aid Army executives on the subject of torturing. The use of torture has been documented well throughout history, primarily used as a form of intimidation and aggression from one group to another. However, this ancient practice has turned into an information-gathering tool from incarcerated prisoners in modern times. These torture interrogations hope to physically and psychologically breaking down helpless prisoners to the point that they relay vital information to their torturers.

Evidence points to the United States Army as utilizing such techniques to gather intel from captive terrorists. While many countries admit to using torture interrogations, the fact that the United States uses similar strategies is nothing short of appalling. Though the United States is involved in a difficult War on Terror, the country who holds individual’s rights above all else should focus on leading by example with the way she treats her prisoners. Therefore, it is shocking that the United States has been implicated in numerous torture interrogation scenarios, such as Bagram Prison, Guantanamo Bay, and Abu Ghraib.

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Domestic Violence in the US: Not Just A Domestic Problem


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women have experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. 1 Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. Every nine seconds in the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten. 2 3.3 million children witness domestic violence in their homes every year.3 According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, “232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day.”4 The Bureau of Justice reported in 1995, women of all races are about equally vulnerable to violence by an intimate partner. On average, intimate partners murder more than three women and one man in the United States every single day. 2 Even more alarming, 74% of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. That means that statistically speaking, you personally know at least one domestic violence victim. It could be your professor or your student, a co-worker or your neighbor. It could even be your mother, your sister, or your daughter.

           

However, violence in the household does not end with women. The abuse and neglect of children is also a pressing issue that many domestic violence advocates try to address as well. In fact, child abuse in the United States has recently grown worse. In Appendix 1 is a graph displaying the number of child deaths per day due to child abuse in the US; from 1998 to 2010, it has risen from 3.13 to 5. This gives the United States the worst record in the industrialized nation.15 Each year, 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving 6 million children; reports can include multiple children. 16  Other disturbing statistics include the frequency of reports of child abuse, one report every ten seconds, and the estimation that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates. 

The statistics do not lie about the severity of the domestic violence problem on a national and global level. It will affect 75% of American citizens sometime in their lifetime, regardless of their age, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, income level, or gender. For many of these victims, those effects may have life-changing, or even life-ending, consequences. Although the United States has passed a comprehensive set of legislation on domestic violence, I still believe there is much more our government can do to help prevent domestic violence and help victims. In my paper, I will present a comprehensive set of facts on how domestic violence affects our country, what is already in place to help prevent domestic violence, and what more can be done.

Reducing Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Costs for Small Public Companies


The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) has been in place for nearly a decade. The elements of the act have conflict controversy between Congress, the SEC, investors, public accounting firms, and public companies. Many feel as though costs associated with the act are higher than the benefits, especially the public companies. However, it has been proven that investor confidence has increased since the act was instated (Wolkoff). An even bigger issue is over the disproportional costs of complying with SOX between small and large companies. Small companies operate very differently compared to large companies but they are still expected to meet all of SOX requirements. There is much evidence that these extra costs stem from increased audit fees, complying with Section 404, and from having to hire more employees and consultants. These costs are causing many small public companies to deregister, go dark, or merge in order to absorb the extra costs.

The amount of IPO’s has decreased over the years and has hurt the American economy. The economy is in a recession and one solution is to increase the number of IPOs. An increase in IPO’s would provide more investor opportunity as well as create more jobs. In order to get more private companies to go public and keep small public companies public, SOX compliance costs need to be lower for small companies. I have made three recommendations that would help to lower SOX compliance costs. The first recommendation is to establish a three tier system in which public companies are divided into three different sized groups. Each bracket would have a different set of requirements that matches their cost capability and company structure. A second recommendation is for the PCAOB to release a compliance road map that would help small companies meet SOX standards and to provide private companies with a process for complying. The last recommendation is for the PCAOB to publish a pamphlet that would give advice to small public companies on how to be more cost effective and efficient. There are multiple ways in which public companies can help themselves.

Educating our Future Entrepreneurs


Remember when you were a kid and you thought you could do anything – absolutely anything? When does that stop? When do all of our limitless imaginations and creative capacities disappear and why does that happen? The United States Education System is failing us. It is not only failing us in the present, but it is failing us in preparation for the future. Through a standardized and uniform primary and secondary education agenda, our children are severely limited.

Needing entrepreneurship is nothing new to this country. Our forefathers founded the United States of America and our democratic capitalist system with entrepreneurial values. It is in our history. It is inherent to all of us. Our economy is in need of a revival, and entrepreneurship and innovation have never been as important than at this very moment.The question that remains is who will be our next entrepreneurs? The answer is our children – America’s youth, America’s youngest generation. There is no disputing this answer. Our youth are next in line to join the workforce, to start their own companies, to lead our country, and to change our world. That being said, it would seem that the obvious answer to the need for more entrepreneurs would be to create an environment in our schools that makes the entrepreneurial characteristics that all kids have come to life. However, our public school system does just the opposite of that. Our schools suppress entrepreneurial qualities in students. This is fundamentally contradictory to America’s values and to America’s vision for the future.

It is time to usher in an era of revived entrepreneurship and innovation. The manifesto of Peter Thiel’s venture-capital fund is, “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” He is underwhelmed with what technology has given us for the past decade. He is an extreme libertarian who believes the power of the government to create positive change for innovation and entrepreneurship is hopeless. Let’s prove him wrong. Through initiatives driven by the U.S. Department of Education, let’s make preparing students to be entrepreneurs a central part of primary and secondary education. Peter Thiel wants flying cars. Our children will give them to him.

US foreign policy has exacerbated poverty in Latin America


During the liberal insurgence in Latin America, charismatic leaders spoke eloquently to the desires of the working class majority in their respective countries. They desired to give the poor greater rights, to expand education, and to nationalize industries among other things. Their rhetoric connected with the people and following their elections, there was an uptick in newly formed government funded social programs. Unfortunately, Cold War politics reared its ugly head and the United States perceived these nationalistic actions as communism. The United States used economic and social powers to put pressure on these democratically elected leaders, fuel rage within the upper classes, cripple economies, and pave the way for the rise of oligarchic regimes. Many perceived stability from this change in leadership; however, it eventually resulted in decades of violence and human rights violations. Now, Latin America stands at an important moment in history. Most countries within the region are growing but they are still grappling with inequality and heightened poverty. My paper is directed at U.S. policy makers and offers suggestions in order to improve foreign policy within the region and support those who have been marginalized historically by both the United States and their countries’ governments.

Preserve College Sports


The institution of college sports is faltering.  With growing revenues, greater exposure, and increasing volatility, college athletics are more heavily scrutinized as institutions bring in more money.  In tandem with this grand commercialization of college sports, the governing body of major college sports – the NCAA – hands out more and more violations each year.  Most violations are frivolous rules that seek to aggressively enforce the NCAA ideal of amateurism in college sports.  That is, college athletes will never see a penny of the billions of dollars generated by one of the greatest spectator sports in the world.  The issue of whether to provide salaries for college athletes has gained steam in the last few years; people are beginning to get fed up with players losing eligibility and teams being vacated of their wins and championships.  

However, paying student – athletes a salary will cause irreparable damage to the institution of college sports, creating complications that will not only shake the foundation of college sports, but could prove to destroy them altogether.  This is no doubt that college athletics need to be fixed, but it is a matter of deciding to effectively overhaul the way college sports is governed.

Inequalities in Collegiate Athletics – 40 Years after Title IX


On March 8, 2010, President Barack Obama stated, I didn’t run for President so that the dreams of our daughters could be deferred or denied. I didn’t run for President to see inequality and injustice persist in our time. I ran for President to put the same rights, the same opportunities, and the same dreams within reach for our daughters and our sons alike. I ran for President to put the American Dream within the reach of all of our people, no matter what their gender, or race, or faith, or station.[1] With the President’s unwavering support for gender equality, one would assume that the United States’ government would be taking proactive and protective measures to eliminate the number of discrimination cases and incidences that continue to plague our society. Despite the fact that women face an array of obstacles in today’s culture, the source of these hurdles is often rooted in the notion of parity. Whether it is in the private or public domain, women have been pressing for equality and working towards eradicating gender stereotypes through governmental channels for centuries and despite immense strides, inequalities still plague our nation.

Even though both men and women have benefited from the implementation of Title IX and despite the fact that the law clearly states that its purpose is to promote fairness and equality, cases of inequity and discrimination are still emerging from the athletic realm. Although we live in an age where some people would agree that women have made tremendous strides towards social, political, economic equivalence, there is still much room for improvement and change. Within the context of intercollegiate sports, while the number of women and women participating in athletic programs and the number of teams at institutions have consistently trended upwards, why are there increases in the number of discrimination cases filed with the Office of Civil Rights?


[1] Barack Obama. “Obama Administration Record for Women and Girls,” White House, 2012, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/womens_record.pdf, 1.

Addressing the Childhood Obesity Epidemic


The childhood obesity epidemic is a social, economic, and public health challenge (Wechsler, et al, 2004).  It constitutes a critical threat to the health and well-being of our nation, as rates have risen dramatically over the past decades.  The United States now has the highest rate of childhood obesity among all developed nations (Kluger, 2008).  Its mitigation requires a multi-disciplinary strategy, as it has become a serious public health concern, not only in the U.S., but also worldwide.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that, over the last thirty years, the number of overweight children has doubled, while the number has almost tripled among adolescents (Ogden and Carroll, 2010).  The main issue is that children and adolescents are eating unhealthy high calorie, high fat, processed foods, and are not getting enough physical activity.

Children, in contrast to adults, are treated as unable to weigh the future consequences of their actions.  Children may have a poor understanding of the long-term health consequences of overeating or lack of physical activity.  In the case that they have adequate information, they may assign minimal importance to problems in the distant future.  Therefore, government actively regulates the decisions of children more strictly than those of adults.  Additionally, when children are enrolled in the public school system, the government acts in loco parentis; thus, it is important to consider the relationship of school policies, especially regarding nutrition and physical activity, to the childhood obesity epidemic (Acs and Lyles, 2007). Continue reading

Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder


For my white paper, I plan to focus on poverty in America with a specific lens on the working poor. Through examining statistics about the working poor and poverty in America in general, I hope to get a better understanding of what causes poverty. I want to examine the socioeconomic, demographic, and educational components that together are consistent among individuals who comprise the working poor. While I don’t necessarily expect to fully explain what causes poverty, I hope to gain a better understanding of the wide variety of factors which come into play.

This week we were asked to take a trip to the library to identify sources which would help us in our research for the White Paper. I found a book that was particular helpful with regards to my focus on the working poor.  Profit at the Bottom of the Ladder by Jody Heymann is a book which discusses the stories of businesses which have taken and alternative approach to business and employee treatment. Heymann examines twelve companies from nine countries with workforces which range from as small as 27 to over 100,000. These businesses are very different from one another and serve a diverse range of customers. Despite the significant differences between the businesses, each company has proven to do well financially, successfully implement a strategy that places emphasis on high quality working conditions for low-level employees, and has developed a wide range of other employee centered policies which have made them desirable places to work. Their financial successes have balanced the needs of various parties including owners, shareholders, and all employees of the firm. Some of the firms included are Costco, American Apparel, and Xerox.

Heymann thoroughly examines each example and makes the clear argument that it is beneficial for companies to invest in all employees at all levels. She also draws clear links to data to prove that this practice can be profitable for the companies, despite the investment. She utilizes specific references to prove that the rewards gained from the additional workforce investment outweigh the costs.  The section of the book which I read discussed the companies of American Apparel and Jenkins Brick. In this chapter, the values of incentive policies and appealing salary scales were noted. The explicit link between these types of policies and increases in employee motivation and productivity are made. Furthermore, the heightened lower-level salaries results in recruitment of the most dependable employees. This section of the book also described the case studies of Autoliv Australia and Isola. In these examples, policies involving flexible scheduling of time off and extended leave created a greater sense of loyalty amongst employees along with increased job satisfaction. Both companies determined that more generous policies surrounding sick leave and time to care for family was very important to their respective staffs. After the policies were implemented, the companies experienced lower turnover rates, fewer missed days of work, lower costs, and wrongful use of sick days. The conclusion was that such policies lead to greater employee loyalty and connection to the firm.

Now, you might be wondering how this book applies to my topic of poverty amongst the working poor. This topic is largely “Society” focused. In order to bring in “Government” and “Business” into the picture, I need to offer valuable suggestions to policy makers at the federal level in addition to upper level executives in business. This book directly addresses the “Business” piece. It offers effective solutions to companies which will result in more productivity. Meanwhile, the policies mentioned lead to a better quality of life for ALL employees, even those at the “bottom of the ladder.” Many of those individuals comprise the working poor in America. All in all it was a successful trip to the library!

SOX causes Companies to go Dark


Since I am an accounting major, I have gained a major interest in government policies that may affect my future. I also have enjoyed learning about many accounting frauds that have taken place (especially since some companies went to great lengths to cover up what they were doing, check out ZZZZ Best for example). One of the major policies that has been passed and we have discussed in class is the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002. The article that we read for class analyzed the effects of the act shortly after it was implemented. As a result, I want to see if any results and analyses have changed.

 SOX was implemented after the Enron and WorldCom scandals. It was the government’s quick response and solution to the mistrust the public was gaining of big corporations.  SOX implemented many regulations on auditors and companies in order to make sure no more economic disasters would occur in the future (the financial crisis of 2008?). For my white paper, I want to explore the actual effects of SOX on society, companies, and auditing firms. Continue reading

Why do the FAT CATS keep getting fatter?


One of the subjects that we have briefly touched on during our time in class is CEO compensation and income inequality. We read a brief by AG Lafley who argued that it is time for CEOs to take a stand. He acknowledges in the article that “amounts and forms” of CEO pay are “unacceptable and inappropriate.” He believes that failure to take action will ultimately result in governmental action. Lafley offers several suggestions. His four main points are “reward with equity, restore integrity to equity grants, eliminate post-employment provisions not pegged to performance, and implement more-detailed analyses.” Essentially, Lafley wants to increase CEO incentives to perform well, maintain CEO equity in the firm, remove forms of pay like automatic stock options, and value executive compensation appropriately, including all forms.

I was intrigued by this subject and wanted to research it more because it stands in stark contrast to what I am planning to write about for my final white paper. My first argument draft focused on poverty in America and its impact on children and minorities. I plan to combine this dialogue with a focus on the working poor as well. Eventually, I want to recommend suggestions to federal legislators to assist those who need the most help. Providing information in my paper about the wealthiest Americans would portray the alarming shift of wealth in our country by giving examples of those who are benefitting most.

I conducted some initial research through Google and discovered a Businessweek article which stated that in the 1980s, the CEO of a major corporation made 42 times the average hourly worker in the company. This number has skyrocketed to a remarkable 531 times the average hourly worker in recent years. Many questions have been raised about whether executive compensation is truly connected to the financial performance of their company.  Recent social movements like Occupy Wall Street have shown that the general sentiment is that it is highly unlikely that all or most of the growth of a company is due to just one person. No reputable studies have connected high levels of CEO compensation to company performance. Nevertheless, it continues to increase the gap between CEOs and those front line employees who are heavily relied on to deliver growth. It is predicted that the current pattern will result in less employee motivation.

I conducted a cited reference search and came across an article titled “Exorbitant CEO compensation: just reward or grand theft?” which was written by David O. Friedrichs in October 2008. This article thoroughly discusses CEO compensation and provides a significant volume of data to back up its claims. It makes the  argument that exorbitant CEO compensation should be considered a white collar criminal offense. It even goes so far as to evaluate what changes would be needed legally to criminalize excessive pay. While this article may represent an extreme side of the debate, it provides a good starting point for me as I begin to brainstorm federal legislative changes which need to be made in order to decrease the gap between executives and those who fall below the poverty line.

Whale Wars


I wasn’t really sure what to write about for my first argument for the white paper, but I was browsing the channels and came across the show Whale Wars on Animal Planet.  I’ve watched a couple episodes with my sister so I know the background of the show.  Basically a conservation organization called the Sea Shepherd travels by boat to the Antarctic waters in search of the Japanese whaling fleet.  Their goal is to disrupt the Japanese whaling fleet so that their whaling efforts are hindered to the point where they must return home.

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BLOG INSTRUCTIONS

Blog 5 before session 6 What (interest) or Who (person) Inspires You? For this week’s prompt, the Blog Council wants you to examine how this class relates to your own interests. So, please write about how this class relates to some of your own intellectual or other learning interests. We are NOT interested in how it relates to a specific career goal. Plan B: same idea, but based on a person. See whole post for details.

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