Apathy and Uninformed Voters: Our Nation’s Downfall

 

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Almost 250 years ago, a distinguished body of men gathered together to lay the framework of what the United States is now built on.  This Constitution has provided order and government since and now stands as the supreme law of the land.  Majority of these men had taken part in the Revolutionary War ten years previously and were willing to die for what they believed in.  After the war was won and it came time to found a nation, differing opinions and political ideals were set aside because there was a greater purpose in mind.

The preamble of the Constitution is widely known and yet largely not understood:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

How many people understand that “ensure domestic tranquility” means that it is the government’s purpose, duty, and responsibility to make sure that people can live peacefully within the boundaries of the nation; that they will not be afflicted by riots, rebellions, or wanton criminal activity?  Why does it seem like instead of promoting general welfare, there is an ever-widening gap between social classes?  Why does it seem like the government’s sole purpose today is to take away people’s rights?

Distinguished* individuals still sit up on the hill today.  With their ivy-league educations, years of experience, and debate finesse, our Nation should be operating successfully.  Why then, are both political parties at constant, unresolved impasses? Why then, has our country turned from a mindset of “we” to “us vs. them?”  And why, isn’t anything being done about it?

We the People, have no one to blame but ourselves.

Did you know that you can help elect the people who make the big decisions at a local, state, and national level? You did? Then why aren’t you doing anything about it?  In 2014, just 29.6 percent of elibible voters in Utah cast a ballot, a record low for the state.  Out of those who do vote, how many do so because they know the issues? Or is it because they personally know the candidate, heard an ad for them, align with the same religion, or just wanted a sticker?

We get mad at the leaders making decisions for us, but we put them there in the first place and aren’t doing anything to get them out.  Perhaps out of fear that Utah voters are actually becoming educated and involved, the Utah Senate is currently calling on Congress to repeal the 17th Amendment – so that state senators can again select U.S. senators.  This means that rather than being elected by the voice of the people, the Senate would become an exclusive club.  Don’t worry about it though, it’s a lot easier to remain unaware of what’s going on than to get involved.  Ignorance is bliss. (Read article here)

Donald Trump perhaps said it best after he won the Nevada caucus on February 23: “I love the poorly educated.”  It may not be realistic to expect everyone to be well-informed on every political aspect, but having an understanding of current issues that affect us, along with an active voice, is critical to determining the future of our nation.  Too many leaders today thrive upon the apathy and those who are uneducated politically to push their agendas and campaigns.  The few who do take up an active role have difficulty rallying the majority needed to make significant change.

The field of politics and elections has shifted from civil debates proposing deep and thoughtful policy responses, to constant mudslinging, insults, and exposing others weaknesses while pushing their own strengths.  This current state is nothing new to politics, but now it seems that all of these actions take precedence over providing solutions for our problems.

What makes Donald Trump an effective candidate for the Republican nomination is his ability to fuel the fire the general public has towards the government.  He tells people what they want to hear without providing concrete resolutions.  What’s interesting is that people were upset with Mitt Romney four years ago for being a wealthy businessman who told things as they were (47%) and provided realistic solutions.  Donald Trump is an even wealthier businessman who chooses to sympathize with his supporters by throwing blame at the establishment and creating larger-than-life expectations.  All while being crass, rude, insulting, and arrogant – qualities not commonly associated with the POTUS.

In any business, SMART goals are encouraged (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound).  For an effective goal to be met, these guidelines should be met.  If Trump supporters actually thought hard about the promises being made to them, they would see that those ideas are flawed and seemingly unrealistic.

A few examples

  • Building a giant wall along the border PAID FOR by Mexico – If the US hasn’t been able to provide the funds for a wall, then where would Mexico come up with the money? The former Mexican President recently stated that “I’m not going to pay for that f—— wall.”
  • Deporting all immigrants – You may not stop to think that perhaps the house you live in, the burger you were served, your gas attendant, may have all been provided by an immigrant workforce. If 12 million immigrants are deported, not only is a giant portion of our nation’s workforce depleted, but hundreds of thousands of families will be torn apart.
  • Healthcare – Trump plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act his first day in office. If he does, that leaves insurance companies free to drop their “expensive” customers, leaving perhaps millions of people without access to healthcare.  He has not provided a resolute alternative in its place.
  • Ban Muslims from entering the US – Not only disregarding a right guaranteed by the first amendment, but creating nearly 1.6 billion enemies across the world.

By fanning the public’s anger by bringing up these hot topics, Donald Trump continues to gain supporters, no matter how crass, insulting, or how many countries he offends in the process. How can he expect to be leader of the free world if he has offended every other nation in the process?

Donald Trump is not the only person monopolizing the uninformed voters.

A lot has been said of my own generation, the millennials who are the future leaders of this nation.  The reputation we have gained as lazy, entitled children is embarrassing and the topic has been so thoroughly discussed that to further press the matter would be beating a dead horse.  So I’ll beat it a bit more.

What has seemed to stick with our generation is that if you make a big enough fuss about something, it will be fixed.  Riots, protests, and excessive sharing via social media are platforms on which to accomplish these demands.  Much of this demographic is currently “feeling the BERN,” and throwing support to Bernie Sanders socialistic ideas of a political revolution.

While Bernie Sanders may have some compelling ideas, many would require extreme and radical changes within the government, unlikely to gain support from those currently in congress.  Many people agree with the ideas he presents, but may not seriously consider how they are to be met.  The following clip shows a student lobbying for free education, but struggling to explain how it would be funded – further emphasizing the importance of understanding the issues.

Building off the ideas presented in the clip and concepts of socialism, the idea of distributing wealth and taxing the rich obliterates the longstanding ethos of the American Dream.  The American Dream used to denote that success can be achieved through hard work.  With such a social divide today, this is not necessarily the case and seems to be the exception.  But in such cases, what would drive someone to be successful in a socialist economy if you do not get to reap all the fruits of your labor.  The American Dream then becomes the ability to achieve mediocrity to avoid high tax rates.

Millennials don’t seem to comprehend the full meaning of socialism now, as students and early careerists and view the 1% as the bad guys.  Only once their own income rises and begin to pay more taxes will they become more averse to government social spending.  Why So Many Millenials are Socialists from The Federalist website does a great job at showing millennials stating what they want, but not knowing why they want it or how it is going to happen.

Of course, there are problems and concerns with other candidates that people don’t know about: Why has Marco Rubio never accomplished anything in the Senate? Why is Ben Carson still running? Who is John Kasich? And why does Ted Cruz have such a remarkably forgettable face? But the two previous candidates provide the most extreme examples to draw from.

Now, more than any other time is when our nation is in its greatest need of inspired and thoughtful leadership.  But at no other time besides the civil war have we been more divided as a nation.  Stop relying on the candidates to bully you into a vote and get to know who they are and what they stand for.  We can’t be responsible for the occasional (or frequent) immoral and unjust decisions our leaders make, but we can be responsible for ensuring they never get another shot at a term in office.

There may still be people who believe in the Constitution and fight to uphold it.  So often, their voices are drowned out by the overwhelmingly negative messages portrayed through the media.  It’s time for every citizen to rise up and return America to what it once was (I refuse to use the phrase “Make America Great Again” to avoid and unintentional endorsement).

For anyone interested in knowing what the Constitution says, you can read it here.

Valentines

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It’s that time of year again; when the lines are drawn for one of the most divisive standoffs of the year that is even more intense than the #teamedward/#teamjacob debate of the Twilight era, more trivial than the blue/gold dress debate of 2015, and more petty than the current Republican debates.  It’s the time of year when couples and single people face off: couples going overboard to profess their love (of not being single) and single people counteracting by trying to prove how great it is to be a young millennial who can do anything without being tied down.

From Provo, Utah, these lines are made even more inflated by the articles in BYU’s Valentine’s edition newspaper.  The week of the holiday, multiple stories can be found from the perspective of the marrieds, and the rebuttal of the singles.  Past pro-marriage articles have included favorites such as “I do at BYU” and “Tying the knot in College,” which use statistics and quotes to dishonor those still frolicking in singularity.  Married students are highlighted and classified as “part of the 25 percent of married students on campus,” The “1%,” anyone? They also give out unsolicited advice such as encouraging their single friends to get married so they can start hanging out again.

To show that being single still has its advantages, articles have been written in past years about this wild and fun crowd that include “Single’s Awareness: The Five Stages of Breaking Up,” and “Relationship status impacts self-image” . . . Hmm, actually, maybe more current articles work as better rebuttals: “Students experience three levels of dating fears” and “Studies show negative effects of hookups.”  Uh . . .

What do statistics and data know anyways?  Let’s take a look at the actual night of Valentines.  While couples are dressing up, going out, and feeding each other fondue, singles are hosting their own, themed parties.  Maybe you might have been invited to one of them:

  • Lonely Hearts Club
  • Broken Heart’s Party
  • SAD (Single’s Awareness Day) Party
  • Swipe Right for Awesomeness! (Not sure what exactly will happen here)
  • Galantines Day (Girls going off in groups and leaving men even more alone)
  • We’re Lonely and Have No one to Turn to (Not very subtle)
  • EPIC Dance Party! (Because a weekend in Provo wouldn’t be complete without a dance party)

Most of these parties include baked goods, party games (mafia, smurf, manner of the adverb, etc.), and small talk.  These parties usually finish up when either the food is gone or curfew is met.

In the midst of this clash, there are many who change their allegiance by the next day.  These turncoats may begin the night amongst single friends, but slowly leave as a couple to do their own thing.  By the next morning, you discover that they are now engaged to be married, never to be seen apart again.  If you want to play a fun party game, take bets with your friends on how many engagements will show up on tomorrow’s Facebook feed.

Valentine’s Day is a day of celebration.  It’s up to you what you are celebrating though: Independence or togetherness? Perhaps by next year, you can set resolution’s to either have someone to be with, or throw the largest Anti-Valentine’s party on the block.

Beyond Salary: What Makes a Company a Great Place to Work For?

I began working at the early age of 8.  I delivered Thursday’s newspaper beginning at 4 A.M. with the assistance of my dad (who I now appreciate even more).  I brought in a sizable $30 a month – significant at that age.  From that point on, I usually held some form of work: mowing lawns, scout camp counselor, grocery store stocker (the kind that puts the food on the shelves, not follows people around), restaurants, life guard, custodial work, call centers, acting (I was a Jew in a feature film called Yankles – $3.99 on Google Play), voice work, valet parking, and currently a plans representative at an Insurance company (not to be confused as a salesman).  Needless to say, I’ve held quite a few positions and have worked for a number of companies.

As I’ve gotten older, I have taken notice at what makes a great company to work at.  A decent salary is always appreciated, but how about insurance, fitness facilities, appreciation, and just a good fit within the company?  Although you may be demanding a higher salary, do you feel appreciated and fulfilled within your role?  This has been my limited experience as an employee and how I plan to incorporate this knowledge as a future employer.

I currently work at SelectHealth, a not-for-profit insurance company (how does that work??).  My position is a Personal Plans Representative – no that is not a fancy phrase for insurance salesman.  I help people who have questions about insurance plans and help them navigate through the ACA (Affordable Care Act (for those who view it favorably, Obamacare for those who do not)) as it pertains to them.  I took the job for a number of reasons:

  • I needed a job
  • I needed to pay off student loans before I accumulated more loans
  • Furnish my lavish lifestyle – eating large quantities of Costco churros is expensive
  • Commuting to work signified I was actually an adult and not a useless millennial

The main reason was that the position would educate me on the provisions of the Affordable Care Act as it is critical to my future as a healthcare administrator.

During orientation, I learned that SelectHealth was voted as one of the best places to work in Utah, and had received that honor for the past 8 years.  “What is so great about working at an insurance company?” I thought to myself.  During the past 3 months I have been employed, I have come to realize that no matter the industry, a company can make its employees feel valued and special.

Before I continue, I’d like to talk briefly about a former company I worked for.  I won’t use their name, but will only say that they are known for their aggressive sales tactics and were given an F by the Better Business Bureau.  During their orientation, they boasted a company culture similar to Google: free lunches, gyms (critical at this company), parties, volleyball courts, and free swag giveaways.  In theory, this sounded great and should have been a great place to work for me; out of all those things, I love free lunch the most.  So why was it that in the three months I worked there, my anxiety and dread towards going to work prevented me from enjoying my food and just made me sick to my stomach?

This company’s culture works for many of its employees.  Perhaps I am just an anomaly (along with my two friends who joined me when we all quit together).  We took calls on the phone from both customers and representatives.  Many calls were from angry customers.  These calls would often relate to unfulfilled promises, damaged homes, and the occasional disbelief that a rep was attempting to sell to someone’s parent who has Alzheimer’s.  Anything for the sale, right guys?

What was frustrating was that there was such a lack of communication between departments which created so much confusion and inefficiency.  Even more upsetting was that we were unable to tell off these representatives for their blatant errors and dishonesty because they are “the lifeblood of the company.”  I never felt valued or appreciated for the work I was doing and quit as soon as I had another job lined up.

At SelectHealth, I work with agents and brokers (representatives) who are less concerned with how swoll they can look and more concerned with the wellbeing of those they help (nevermind the fact that most are middle-aged family men).  We still deal with the occasional angry member, but more often than not it is due to uncontrollable circumstances (having to get insurance and the price of premiums, #ThanksObama).  We are trained to be completely open with people and if our plans aren’t a good fit for them, we will refer them to other carriers.  It is common to be thanked sincerely at the end of a call, which offers a sense of satisfaction not found from the previous job.

Aside from job responsibilities, SelectHealth goes to great lengths to ensure its employees are satisfied and happy coming to work.  A full gym is provided to employees at a cost of $2.50 per paycheck, however, they provide additional benefits for staying fit such as $50 per quarter.  Even more convenient is that the gym is nearly empty now since most people have given up on their resolutions to be fit (please see Realistic New Year’s Resolutions).

What has impressed me the most is the executive team at SelectHealth.  They realize that each employee makes a difference and contributes to the success of the company.  During my orientation, an executive member came down to speak with us new hires and joined us for lunch.  From her busy schedule, she took 2 hours to come have an enjoyable conversation with new employees.

A few weeks after I began, I received a letter in the mail.  It was directly from the CEO and President of SelectHealth welcoming me to the team. Yes, it was a printed letter that is likely a template for everyone.  But it was addressed to me and personally hand-signed at the bottom.

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A few weeks later around Christmas time, I received another letter in the mail.  This time it was a Christmas letter signed by all the executives of SelectHealth.  As you can see, it isn’t a very personal letter, but I won’t hold it against them since they did this for over 1,400 employees!  How much simpler would it have been to forward a “best wishes” email out to every employee instead?  This attention to detail makes me appreciate the time (and likely cramps) that went in to these letters and appreciation for every employee.

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At the end of the year, everyone received an email explaining that due to the excellent performance of Intermountain Healthcare/SelectHealth throughout the year, each employee would be receiving an end-of-year bonus dependent upon the number of hours worked.  In a world full of executives receiving millions of dollars in bonuses and inflated salaries, how many companies can boast that their CEO receives the same bonus they do?

All of these small examples signify to me how much the company values its employees and the lengths it will go to in order to prove so.  Obviously, each person will determine a great workplace based off of different variables.  Maybe salary is the only factor or perhaps it is job security.  For me, a great workplace comes from receiving praise and appreciation for the work you are doing and knowing that the company appreciates each and every employee; not just those at the top.

PS – I am writing this post during a redeye flight on Southwest Airlines.  I had never flown with them before, but heard how enjoyable and different the experience was from other airlines.  Some things worth mentioning:

  • I tried trading in my pretzels for one more bag of peanuts, what I got was the stewardess dumping a handful of peanut bags on my tray and enthusiastically say “Have four more!”
  • Their safety announcements:
    • “In the case of an emergency and the oxygen masks drop down, please place the “I can’t believe it’s not butter” cup over your mouth first and then any children with you. If you have multiple children, choose your favorite child.
  • Due to unassigned seats, being able to go clear to the back and stretching out on the empty seats beside me

It takes a great company culture to be able to pass the positivity on to its employees.