Sunday, May 30, 2010

How Devastating is the BP Oil Spill?

Aquatic animals and plants that inhabit the Gulf of Mexico are being killed off by the black liquid of death that we commonly call oil. The oil spill by the company British Petroleum (or BP) has caused a rush to stop the gushing hazard from further killing our ecosystem.

Plans to use the 'top kill' procedure failed to stop the voluble oil leak in the Gulf, BP moved on to its next plan to try to cap the well with a containment structure.

The Washington Post reports that the BP managing director Robert Dudley said it is possible the oil flow will not completely stop until sometime in August when the relief wells are ready. But according to the presidential adviser Carol Browner said on CBS's Face the Nation, the U.S. is preparing for the worst and acknowledged that the new containment cap strategy comes with big risks, the New York Times reports. It could increase the flow of oil by as much as 20 percent.

Many compare this disaster to Hurricane Katrina during George W. Bush's presidency in 2005. Many fishermen along the gulf's coast have been deprived of work as all the native seafood has been killed off from the oil. Tar balls are washing up on the gulf's beaches effecting tourism.

The sad thing about this disaster is that there is still a hole in the Earth, crude oil is still spewing from it and there is still, excruciatingly, no end in sight. And with the Atlantic hurricane season beginning Tuesday, this whole situation is looking even worse.

Scientists from several universities have reported large underwater plumes of oil stretching for miles and reaching hundreds of feet beneath the Gulf's surface, though BP PLC CEO Tony Hayward on Sunday disputed their findings, saying the company's tests found no such evidence of oily clouds underwater. But even if there wasn't oil covering the ocean's floor, using government figures, if the leak continues at its current pace and is stopped on Aug. 1, 51 million to 106 million gallons will have spilled.

I have no doubt that this is probably the biggest environmental disaster we've ever faced in this country, and I view this as a wakeup call to America. It makes you wonder whether off-shore drilling is the best way to go. And I'm assuming that alternate energy sources wouldn't do the damage that we are experiencing off our nation's shore at the moment. At least solar energy seems to be a bit more of a bright idea unlike the oil drilling that surges in its wake a leak so awful that it leaves us with no end in sight.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Unequal Pay after 47 Years

Tell me. Does rent for women cost less than their male counterparts? Do women only get discounts for food from the grocery store? No? Then tell me why there is a gap in the wages that men and women earn?

We live in a country that stands for equality and freedom for all, but when it comes to equal pay, Uncle Sam turns the other cheek. What ever happened to equality between men and women?

I don't know if it's just me, but I thought that there was some Equal Pay Act that was signed in 1963. Isn't it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who hold the same job and do the same work?
At the time of the EPA's passage, women earned only 58 cents for every dollar earned by men. By 2006, that rate had only increased to 77 cents, an improvement of less than half a penny a year. Minority women fare the worst. African-American women earn just 64 cents to every dollar earned by white men, and for Hispanic women that figure drops to merely 52 cents per dollar. Why is there still such a disparity?
Here are the facts according to the IWPR. "$434,000 is the median amount that a full-time female worker loses in wages over a 40-year period as a direct result of the gender pay gap, also known as the "career wage gap. 78 cents is the amount that the average, full-time working woman makes for every $1 a man makes over a year. I'm pissed. Where's my money?
This loss of money affects the livelihood of women in a very devastating way. A report from the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women's Policy Research found that if women were paid fairly, family incomes would rise and poverty levels would fall.

Single women would take home 17 percent more in income if they were paid fairly. This would lead to a 50 percent reduction in poverty for these women, from 25.3 percent to 12.6 percent. Married women would receive 6 percent more if they were paid fairly. This would lead to a 62 percent reduction in poverty for these women, from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent.

 The wage gap has narrowed over time since the beginning of the last century, but it is still significant. Women earned 59% of the wages men earned in 1963; in 2008 they earned 77% of men's wages—an improvement of about half a penny per dollar earned every year.

There has been some progress in the direction of equality in pay recently though. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows victims of pay inequity to file a complaint with the government against their employer within 180 days of their last paycheck. This Act is named after a former employee of Goodyear who alleged that she was paid 15-40 percent less than her male counterparts. President Obama has vowed to reduce the wage gap between the genders. Currently women make approximately 80 cents for every dollar that men earn.

Women have made enormous progress in the workforce since the Equal Pay Act, but the fact still remains the same four-and-a-half decades later, that the basic goal of the act has not been realized. Women work just as hard as men do and are still not paid in the same amount that men are paid. When is that going to change?

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Revised Budget Plan for California

Governor Schwarzenegger has done it again. Last week, the Governor revised the state's budget which included eliminating health programs and ceasing the increase of funding for it k-12 schools. Home healthcare for the elderly and disabled and the Healthy Families program for low-income children are being cut from the budget as previous efforts at scaling back such programs were overturned.

California is only digging itself deeper and deeper into a hole that will take a while to climb out of. It's true, "California no longer has low hanging fruits," as the governor has stated in his speech on Friday concerning the newly revised budget plan, but eliminating much needed programs isn't going to really help a lot of people now is it?

Schwarzenegger has announced that he would reduce Health and Human Services, including CALWORKs, eliminate 60 percent of funding for Community Mental Health and child care funding except for preschool and after-school programs. He has also proposed downsizing some of our natural resource programs. And the list goes on even further.

Previous attempts to eliminate the vital programs have been reversed by federal courts. The rulings, issued mostly over the last two years, have already forced the state to unwind roughly $2.4 billion in cuts approved by the governor and Legislature and have alarmed other financially strapped states seeking ways to balance their budgets.

Why not tax the oil companies? We are the only one of the 22 major oil states to give the industry a free ride. And we're the third-biggest producer in the country. It's just in times like these; we need all the money that we can get. Not from robbing little old ladies via their health care, but taxing the guys with thousands of dollars lining their pockets. I'm just saying.