Worklife
 

Marty Nemko holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He is the worklife columnist in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and is the producer and host of Work With Marty Nemko, heard Sundays at 11 on 91.7 FM in San Francisco, and worldwide on www.martynemko.com. 400+ of his published writings are available free on that website. mnemko@earthlink.net

Are You Lazy?
Career Advice 16 to 60+
Choosing a College or Graduate School
"Deep Down, I Don't Wanna Work!"
Men As Beasts of Burden
Men's Career Issues
The Overwhelming of America
Three Bad Employees
Today’s Double Standard
Toward a Life Well Led

Three Bad Employees


My wife Barbara and I were off to our daughter’s wedding. The trip started poorly.

I pulled over to the curb at Oakland Airport whereupon the traffic control officer, Gerald Boyakins, said, “No curbside check-in. You have to bring your things in.” There was no skycap in sight and we had a lot of luggage plus gifts, so Barbara and I lugged the stuff in. No sooner did we get inside when Boyakins walked over to us: “A guy’s about to give you a ticket.”

With Boyakins close behind, I raced out to find an officer, G.D. Perkins, just then pulling his summons book from his pocket. I said to Perkins, “Thank you, officer. I’m leaving.” “Don’t you go nowhere!” he barked, in a tone perfect for addressing an armed robber.

Perkins ordered Boyakins to stand in front of my car so I couldn’t move. I pleaded, “But he told me I had to bring the bags inside. I was just in there for 30 seconds, and you haven’t started writing the ticket yet. Please!” Boyakins, perhaps because he didn’t want to disagree with a co-worker in front of a “customer” (me), did not come to my defense. Perkins started writing the ticket whereupon a third traffic control officer wandered over to watch the festivities.

At that point, Barbara came out of the terminal and saw the trio clustered around me with Perkins writing the ticket. She pled, “We’re going to our daughter’s wedding.” Perkins kept writing. She continued, “Don’t you people have a heart?” Perhaps defensive about what they were doing, the third officer snapped, “What do you mean, ‘You people’?” (All three officers were Black.) We were dumbfounded: He was implying Barbara was being racist. We stood in shock as Perkins finished writing the ticket and handed it to us saying, “You wanna fight it? You have 21 days to appear.”

Lessons for Employees

Boyakins knew we didn’t deserve the ticket: He told us we had to take our luggage inside. He did not tell one of us to stay with the car. and indeed he watched the two of us go in. Yet in front of his colleague, he refused to defend us. He violated a key principle of the good employee: ethics first.

Perkins’ errors began with his very first utterance. He said, “Don’t you go nowhere!” in a tone that escalated the tension. In any job, from cop to doc, IRS agent to technical support person, a cooperative manner is invaluable.

Despite the absence of curbside check-in, despite our insisting that Boyakins told us to go inside the terminal to check in, despite our having left the car for just seconds, despite knowing that we were off to our only child’s wedding, and despite Perkins not having even started to write the ticket, he chose to issue the citation. He thereby violated another key principle of the good employee: think; exercise good judgment. What would Jesus (or King Solomon or Mohammed or Judge Judy) do? Would they have issued that ticket?

The third employee (We were too flustered to notice his nametag) committed the most egregious error by claiming racism when race had absolutely nothing to do with the situation. Too often, people play the race card to gain power in a dispute even when they know that no racism is involved. In other cases, people claim racism because they are hypersensitive to racial slights—perceiving a statement as racist when it is not. The wise employee reflects carefully before making an accusation as inflammatory as racism.

That third employee shouldn’t even have been there. Already, two employees were ministering over the issuing of a mere parking ticket. A third employee was not necessary—especially since all he did was watch and then make his absurd racial accusation. He thus failed to fulfill the good employee’s most basic responsibility: do your job.

The good news is that after the trip’s bad start, our trip went wonderfully. When the judge pronounced my daughter Amy and her wonderful husband Mike, man and wife, they both cried tears of joy. So did Barbara and I.

Career Advice 16 to 60+


Through the lifespan, there are pivotal career issues. Here is how I’d address them.

I’m 16 and career clueless. First, ask yourself, “Which am I: a word person, people person, numbers person, ideas person, artistic person, make-it person, fix-it person, and/or procedures-following person?”

Then go to a career library at your high school or at a college, and hunt for a career that fits and excites you. Next, job shadow one or more people in that career. Don’t be scared to ask. Many people who are good at what they do, like to be watched or at least are willing to tell you about their career. How to find someone to job shadow? See if your parents, relatives or friends’ parents know someone. If not, use the Yellow Pages, Google, or ask a librarian in the business section of a large public library.

If a career requires a specific major, find a college with a strong program in that major. If not, and you want to go to college, major in something fun. Many people love the theater major, and participating in plays is a terrific way to build your reading, writing, thinking, and public speaking skills.

No matter what your potential career, acquire leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Those will keep your income high and your job offshore-resistant.

Join your college’s alumni association while still in college. It’s a good networking vehicle.

Get summer internships at places you’d like to work after graduation. I believe government will be the last bastion of moderate-workload, well paying, secure jobs, so consider a government-sponsored student internship program. (See www.studentjobs.gov/searchintern.asp). Those programs are a pipeline into good government careers. Note: Most of those programs explicitly give preference to minorities or even require that you be a minority.

I’m 35, an artist (or performer) and am not making enough money. What should I do? Is that because you haven’t exposed your talents broadly enough? If you haven’t, get busy. If you have shown your wares more often than a hooker has yet have had few bites, your talent isn’t commercial enough. Could you make it so? If you doubt it, cut your losses. Consider under-the-radar artsy careers such as exhibit designer, store merchandiser, or costumer.

I’m 40, been working for high-tech companies for years, and want out. Often, the problem is that field’s relentless pace. You can use your experience in a less frenetic environment in an IT job in a government agency, for example, a school district. Or, self-employed, help small old-line businesses set up or upgrade their computer systems. Or handhold cybernovices--but you must be able to patiently explain and reexplain in English, not GeekSpeak.

I’m 45, been a stay-at-home mom, and now want to get back into the workforce. You can’t count on a stranger to employ you well, even if you highlight all the important things you did as a homemaker and volunteer. If possible, ask friends and family for leads. If necessary, take a launchpad job: an entry-level position that offers opportunities for you to rise. An alternative: many stay-at-home moms start businesses such as tutoring, child care, music teaching, or editing.

I’m a 50--year-old manager and worry about being downsized. First, find out how well you are perceived: Request a 360-degree evaluation: an appraisal by your superiors, peers, and supervisees. Consider criticisms open-mindedly. For those criticisms that seem legitimate, tell your evaluators (and yourself) that you’re eager to work on improving. If you suspect your job is in danger, consider moving to health care administration. Demand is high.

I'm 60, getting tired, but am not sure I have enough money to retire. If you’re worried about outliving your savings, can you cut expenses? And regarding your fatigue, it may stem from something other than aging: Should you lose 20 pounds? Drink less? Sleep more? Exercise moderately? If you’re still low on energy, try to get your job description altered so you do less stressful work and more mentoring. Even if you’re in a low-level position, your lifetime of experience can be valuable to young turks: for example, how to manage a difficult boss, tame the paper flow tiger, give good phone, etc.

No matter what your age, my most important career advice, indeed life advice, boils down to two words: be good.

"Deep Down, I Don't Wanna Work!"


When pressed, many of my clients admit they’d rather not work, except on something unlikely to earn much money such as the arts or homemaking.

If that’s an option, fine, but often, not making money can mean you’ll be eating cat food.

So how do you get yourself motivated to look for work?

First, avoid these strategies. They rarely work:

  • Taking a vacation. Many clients figure if they allow themselves, for example, a month to play in France, they’ll return ready to look for a job. In fact, most of them find themselves even more inert. The less you do, the less you feel you can do; the more you do, the more you feel you can do.
  • Psychotherapy. Too often, you gain insight into why you’re stuck, but you’re still stuck.
  • Saying or writing daily affirmations. Just today, a client opened her DayPlanner, and in large letters, a post-it read, “I am capable and responsible.” She’s been unemployed for two years and done essentially nothing to land a job.
  • Praying/meditating. Many clients have tried to pray their way into a job, following the advice of such hymn lyrics as, "There is no situation that God cannot fix. I don't care what you're friends, your family says...Stand still and look up." At least in my clients' experience, standing still and looking up doesn't result in a job descending from heaven like Manna.

Strategies that usually work better

  • If you’re so scared of failing you won’t look for work, at least as an interim step, take a job that’s easy and fun, even if it pays poorly. A client who had been a chemist for 20 years quit, and stayed inert for a year. What got her unstuck was to take a job as a barista at the Starbucks in a Barnes & Noble. After a couple of months, she regained some confidence, took courses in medical transcription, and now is happily (well, sort of) working at Kaiser as a medical records tech
  • Join a job search support group. If you tell your compatriots that you promise to make ten cold calls, the thought of having to tell them you made no cold calls can embarrass you into picking up the phone.
  • Go back to school. Even though it’s expensive, time consuming, and these days, is no guarantee of employment, a certificate or degree does increase your odds. You learn something, make connections, and sometimes, a job effortlessly comes your way, for example, a professor touts you for a job or an internship turns into a job offer.
  • Do a painless job search. Just tell a few friends you’re looking for work. Occasionally, a job drops right in your lap—even if you’re not sure you want it to.
  • Find a source of financial support. I have had a number of clients who refused to
  • look for work but made prodigious efforts to meet Mr. Right (or at least Mr. Sugar Daddy.)
  • Dump your source of support. Sometimes, people are unmotivated to look for a job because they have a parent or romantic partner paying the bills. Have the guts to refuse to take your parents’ handout, and if the main reason you’re staying with a romantic partner is the money (That occurs more often than people like to admit), consider cutting the cord. When you’re facing poverty, your motivation to land a job can suddenly skyrocket. It’s like when welfare reform threw millions of people who claimed to be unemployable off welfare, facing destitution, most found jobs.

Have something to work toward. A Realtor was refusing to prospect, ranking 39th of the 39 agents in her office. Her coach asked her, “If you made more money, what would you love to spend it on?” She said, “a trip to Africa.” The coach said, “Put a picture of Africa on your desk.” She went from being #39 to #3.

The Overwhelming of America


I don’t fit the profile of someone who worries about uncontrolled immigration. My parents are immigrants, I know that immigrants of all races have contributed mightily to America, and I’m no American flag waver. I am ashamed, for example, of America’s international hubris, environmental callousness, obscene materialism, declining ethical standards, and unconscionable disparity between rich and poor.

So, I never was particularly concerned about uncontrolled immigration. I was additionally reassured because the media was reporting research that found illegal immigration to be a net plus for the US.

But occasionally, I saw some contradictory research and heard stories from my wife, Dr. Barbara Nemko, the Napa County Superintendent of Schools, about how challenging it is to meet the immigrant children’s learning and health needs while not shortchanging the other kids.

So I decided to more thoroughly review the evidence on uncontrolled immigration’s effects. As a result, I have had to change my mind. I have come to the conclusion that the greatest threat to America is not terrorism, but uncontrolled immigration.

Heretofore, the effects have not been readily apparent to many of us in the middle class, but that will almost assuredly change.

Prevalence

The number of illegal immigrants in the US has more than doubled in the past decade to at least 9,000,000, the population of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined, and the rate is accelerating.

Effects

There's a major difference between earlier waves of immigrants and this one: this wave is uncontrolled. As a result, the numbers are overwhelming, and because so many in this wave has chosen to flout US immigration laws, they, as a group, are more likely to commit crimes. In fact, the crime rate among illegals is extraordinary.

And the financial and human cost of providing for this wave is dramatically greater than any previous one. Help to earlier waves of immigrants consisted mainly of providing them with night school to learn English and minimum-wage and working-condition laws. Today, the costs are many times higher: free health care, free education K-12, and subsidized higher education, easy-to-illegally-obtain social security, welfare, unemployment, housing subsidies, etc., plus the terrible financial and human costs of their crime rate. Our schools, our health care system, and criminal justice system will likely soon be overwhelmed. In addition, salaries are being driven down, forcing ever more formerly middle-class US residents into poverty.

Uncontrolled immigration and its devastating effects would be dramatically worsened further by President Bush’s Guest Worker proposal, described later. All Guest Workers’ spouses, children, parents, and siblings would receive legal status. And the chain would extend far further: the Guest Worker or spouse could “sponsor” his or her parents and brothers and sisters, and relatives, which means they can come to America legally. In turn, those relatives could sponsor their relatives, ad infinitum. Bush’s Guest Worker Program is a dagger in the US middle class’s heart.

Uncontrolled immigration, which would be exacerbated by President Bush’s so-called Guest Worker program, is a dagger in the middle class’s heart.

Here is the evidence.

Lower wages

Cindy and Ed Kolb used to run a construction service in Hereford, Arizona. On CNN, she said, “We could never win a bid because we paid Americans a living wage. Other firms hire illegals and pay them below minimum wage.” The Kolbs have had to close their business.

Of course, the problem also affects employees. The owner of a Bay Area construction company who insisted on anonymity bragged that he used to have to pay carpenters $20 an hour plus benefits but now gets them for $12, no benefits, because of the ready supply of illegal immigrants.

The Center for Immigration Studies has calculated that illegals have already cost American workers $133 billion in salary cuts and job losses. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, this promises to significantly shrink the middle and working class, forcing ever more people into poverty.

Legally residing young adults without college degrees—an already vulnerable group--are being hit particularly hard. Last year, the employment rate for teens reached a record low, down nine percentage points just since 2000.

President Bush, pandering to Latino voters and to Corporate America’s thirst for cheap labor, is proposing a Guest Worker program that would greatly increase the number of illegal workers. It would provide legal residency for three years (renewable) to all illegals holding US jobs, to their families, and even to those with just a letter stating that an employer promises a job.

The only restriction would be that the employer must first have tried to hire a legal resident. That restriction is practically unenforceable. The cost of investigating each of millions of hiring decisions would be prohibitive. No doubt, as in the 1986 amnesty program for agriculture workers, Bush’s Guest Worker program would rely on employers’ self-serving attestations. Even that amnesty program’s sponsor, Charles Schumer (D-NY) admitted that in that program, fraud occurred in 2/3 of the hires.

According to Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for Numbers USA, a nonpartisan nonprofit that collects immigration statistics, “When that 1986 law was passed, it was support to be a one-time never-to-be repeated action. Since then, however, Congress has passed seven amnesties rewarding more than six million illegal aliens with legal residence and putting them and their relatives on the path of US citizenship.” Why have you not heard about this? Aware that the public opposes amnesty for illegal aliens, politicians disguise amnesty programs by giving them obfuscating labels such as “earned regularization,” or Bush’s term, “Guest Worker.”

I wonder what Bush would say to that carpenter whose income has dropped to $12 an hour, no benefits. “Sorry. We wanted to be sure corporations can get cheap labor.”?

Bush claims that Guest Workers do work that legal Americans won’t. If that were true, then in the 35 states with few illegals (87 percent of illegals reside in just 15 states), lawns wouldn’t get mowed, hotel rooms wouldn’t get cleaned, buildings wouldn’t get built, and crops wouldn’t get picked. In those states, employers simply have to pay a living wage and provide decent working conditions to get people to do that work.

Gutted unions. Unions protect workers against exploitation. Flooding the job market with illegals erodes unions’ power to negotiate. Bush’s Guest Worker proposal, which would add millions of non-unionized workers, would, of course, exacerbate the problem.

Worse public schools. America’s public schools already suffer under severe budget constraints, causing large class sizes, textbook shortages, and leaky ceilings. Yet, US law requires that all illegals receive free public education K-12. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that this costs $7.4 billion dollars each year.

The birthrate among illegals is double that of legal US residents. The Pew Hispanic Center calculates that within seven years, the children of immigrants, legal and illegal, will account for one in nine school-age children in the US. The Urban Institute estimates that already, 15% of all school children in California are illegals, many of whom speak little English. These students are usually mainstreamed in classes with native English speakers. This means that teachers must slow down instruction, denying native English speakers their right to an appropriate-level education.

The challenge is even greater because not all those students’ native language is Spanish: For example, in my nearest major school district, San Francisco, it would not be unusual to find a class that had native speakers of Chinese, Russian, Tagalog, Spanish, and English. Imagine the challenge of trying to educate them all. If your child were in that class, would you be confident that he or she would receive a quality education?

Immigrant children pose less obvious challenges to the schools. Barbara Nemko, the Napa County Superintendent of Schools, points out examples: “Unless she speaks Spanish, we have a hard time justifying hiring an even an excellent teacher… So much of our staff development time must now be allocated to dealing with the needs of ‘English Language Learners.’,,, Our immigrant kids come to school with serious health problems that we must address. For example, dentists now visit our high-immigrant schools, providing dental services at no cost to the student.”

Immigrant advocacy groups such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and La Raza have additionally burdened the public schools by demanding that schools provide special controversial programs such as Bilingual Education, in which students are taught in Spanish for much of the day. Bilingual education programs exist throughout California even after longitudinal research has not demonstrated their effectiveness and after a voter-approved ban on these programs. MALDEF and La Raza also pushed through legislation that allows, in 19 states, illegal immigrants to not only attend any public university in those states, but to pay in-state tuition, while legal residents of neighboring states must pay the out-of-state rate which is three to eight times higher. It’s quite an injustice, for example, that a legal resident can be denied admission to taxpayer-supported Berkeley and must attend community college so an illegal foreign national can attend Berkeley—at in-state rates!

MALDEF's and La Raza's lobbying and legal power is remarkable.

Worse health care. US law states that all illegals and their families are entitled to free emergency health care, and many jurisdictions provide non-emergency care.

Our health care system is already overwhelmed. For example, thousands of Americans die each year because of lack of adequate nursing and other medical care. Illegal immigrants, coming from poor countries, have great health care needs. And in addition to common diseases, illegals bring challenges not normally faced in the US, for example, 7,000 new cases of leprosy in the past three years came in from Mexico, India, and Brazil, 16,000 new cases of multiple-drug-resistant, incurable, and communicable(!) tuberculosis. The Centers for Disease Control reports that illegal immigrants account for over 65 percent of communicable diseases (TB, hepatitis, leprosy, AIDS, etc.,) in the US. Immigration officials are supposed to screen out immigrants who are carrying diseases, but there is no health screening for illegal immigrants.

Illegals’ further burden the health care system because they disproportionately do heavy physical work, which causes their bodies to fall apart faster, and because the violent crime rate among illegals is staggering (See below).

The burden of providing health care to illegals extends beyond disease and saving crime victims. For example, because of illegals’ high birthrate, in Colorado, which has a mere (?) 100,000 illegal immigrants, taxpayers in 2003 alone paid for 6,000 illegals to have their babies. That’s 40% of the births Medicaid paid for in the state. To get immediate care, the illegal only must say “I am undocumented."

The Washington Times reported that dozens of hospitals in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California have either closed their doors or face bankruptcy because of losses caused by uncompensated care given to illegal immigrants.

Brenda Walker, in the same publication writes, "More than 40 million American citizens do not have health insurance while they pay in their tax bills for free medical care for Mexican nationals, many of whom are illegally working at American jobs - a double-dip rip off. Furthermore, hospitals closing and emergency rooms crowded with illegal aliens mean that an American needing speedy treatment may have to wait far longer to receive it. Such delays can mean the difference between life and death."

US House of Representatives member Mark Foley has persuaded the General Accounting Office to study the financial costs that illegals impose on hospitals. He says "we need to remedy this problem before we can no longer afford to take care of Americans."

Adding millions of Guest Workers, their spouses, and children, to our already creaking health care system would be devastating.

I wonder what President Bush would say to a legal resident whose family member died because of an overwhelmed health care system: “Sorry, we allow the illegals because it enables corporations to avoid raising wages.”?

More Dishonesty. The Guest Worker program would give legal status to millions of people whose first act in this country was to commit a crime—sneaking into the US to evade immigration laws--and who soon committed a second crime-- applying for a job when only legal residents are allowed to. Countless illegals soon go on to commit yet another crime: obtain false documents so they can, from US taxpayers, steal (that is the correct albeit unvarnished word) food stamps, housing subsidies, unemployment insurance, Medicare, and other government benefits intended for legal residents.

Obtaining false documents couldn’t be easier. A fake identity package including birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, green card, and driver's license is widely available on the street for $50 to $70. For a similar price, illegals can borrow the real thing. Legal immigrants simply rent their IDs to illegals who want to apply for a job, welfare, or Social Security.

Can we ask legal residents to be honest--for example, to pay their income taxes—while, per the Guest worker program, we reward lawbreaking illegals with legal status, an array of services for themselves and their families, plus full US citizenship for all subsequent offspring? In officially welcoming millions of acknowledged at-least two-time lawbreakers into the US, we would exacerbate America’s already declining honesty.

And the impacts of a dishonest society are profound. Already, we hear of endless examples of rampant dishonesty from corporate malfeasance to welfare fraud, from student cheating to identity theft to elder scams. A viable society requires that we be able to trust what people say and do.

More violent crime. The violent crime rate among illegals is horrific. I wish I could present the most germane statistic: the violent crime rate for legal versus illegal residents, but for reasons I can’t understand, most law enforcement agencies are prohibited from collecting those data. Nevertheless, related statistics are available.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, nearly half of California's drunk driving arrests in 2001 were Latino men. (Data for later years is not yet available.)

An article in City Journal reports, “In Los Angeles, up to two-thirds of all fugitive felony warrants (17,000) are for illegal immigrants. A confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater. The bloody gang collaborates with the Mexican Mafia, the dominant force in California prisons, on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations, and commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County.”

One in seven inmates in California state prisons are illegal immigrants, serving time for crimes other than being in the US illegally. California taxpayers alone spend $500 million a year on incarcerating illegals.

Astonishingly, because of so-called sanctuary laws, police in illegal-saturated cities such as L.A., San Diego, Houston, Austin, Chicago, and New York are prohibited from reporting even felons’ immigration violations to federal authorities.

Even an illegal alien who has committed murder rarely gets deported! According to statistics from the former Immigration and Naturalization Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 80,000 illegals who have served prison time for felonies including murder, rape, drug smuggling, and armed robberies, are roaming our streets. This is frightening indeed because, according to Bureau of Justice statistics, within three years of prison release, 62% commit another crime.

I wonder what President Bush would say to the family of a person who was murdered by an illegal.

And if the Guest Worker proposal is enacted, the violent crime rate among illegals will only worsen. Because most Guest Workers would have physically demanding jobs, when they reach their 40s, their bodies are typically no longer capable of doing that work. At that point, with no experience other than in manual labor, most of these people will not be able to earn a living wage, and hopeless people (or their children) disproportionately turn to crime. So, as time goes on, the already horrendous crime rate among illegals will rise further.

Endangered national security. All 19 of the 9/11 terrorists were in the US illegally. Peyton Knight, Director of Legislative Affairs for the American Policy Center, a Virginia think tank, writes, “At a time when America is under attack by Islamist holy warriors, the Census Bureau estimates that as many as 115,000 illegal immigrants from Middle Eastern countries are living in the United States.

Higher taxes. Many illegals are paid off-the-books. Most others earn low salaries and therefore pay little or no tax. Yet illegals are extremely high users of tax-dollar funded programs: education, health care, and the criminal justice system, for example. According to US Census data, immigrants [1] are 75% more likely to use food stamps, medical benefits, and housing assistance at a cost of $68 billion per year. (Compare this with the estimated $84 billion one-time cost of the war in Iraq.)

Some argue that illegals contribute to our economy through their spending. In fact, because illegals’ salaries are low, they have little to spend. In addition, while American-born workers spend most or all of their earnings here in the US, creating more jobs and in turn, more tax revenues, illegals send much of their earnings back to relatives in their native country. For example, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center and Inter-American Development Bank, Latino immigrants in 2002, despite the soft economy, sent a record $23 billion to relatives and others in their home countries.

California is already almost bankrupt. The Guest Worker programs’ adding millions more illegals would likely push California over the edge. Other states with large numbers of illegals would likely soon follow, causing illegals to move to states that still had money to provide them with services. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) called the Bush plan, “lunacy.”

Ever more illegal border crossing. If I were a poor citizen of a poor country and learned that the US government is not deporting illegal aliens but instead, providing them with free health care and education, and that with easy-to-obtain fake ID, I could get many additional services, my family and I would be ever more tempted to sneak into the US.

And a majority of Mexicans, with whom the US shares a 1,000-mile border, believe there’s nothing wrong with doing so. According to a Zogby poll, 57 percent believe “Mexicans should have the right to enter the US without US permission” and 58 percent agreed that “the territory of the U.S.’ southwest rightfully belongs to Mexico.”

Many Mexican leaders also hold these beliefs. MALDEF co-founder, Mario Obledo, to whom President Clinton awarded the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, boasted, “California is going to be a Hispanic state. Anyone who doesn’t like it should leave." He added: "Every constitutional office in California is going to be held by Hispanics in the next 20 years.” Jose Pescador Osuna, former Mexican Consul General in Los Angeles, said, "Even though I’m saying this part serious and part joking, I believe we are practicing 'La Reconquista' in California." Past Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, in 1997, speaking before the national council of La Raza, was not half-joking when he said: "I have proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders and that Mexican migrants are an important – a very important – part of this." And Mexico’s current president, Vicente Fox has marched La Reconquista forward by having convinced President Bush to provide legal status for millions of illegals.

In Sum

As I mentioned earlier, I am far from an American flag-waver, but despite its flaws, America has, heretofore, been a land of exceptional opportunity and innovation. As I get older, I especially appreciate that America has spawned more life-saving medical advances and quality-of-life improvements than any country in the world. America has also provided trillions in foreign aid, and is the only country in the world with a worldwide Peace Corps, a tremendous service to the people of the developing world.

Uncontrolled immigration promises to destroy that. Of course, many illegal immigrants do valuable work, but their net impact, as I have demonstrated, is already very negative, and promises to decimate America.

Yet, in fear of not sufficiently celebrating diversity, and in pandering to Corporate America’s thirst for cheap, compliant labor, both Democrats and Republicans are not only failing to defend against the overwhelming invasion by illegals but are encouraging it.

As a result, every year, America is dying faster. President Bush’s Guest Worker proposal and the similar bills working their way through Congress would accelerate America’s death, a dagger in the middle class’s heart.

And what about the millions of people worldwide who have patiently waited so they can immigrate to the US legally? Can we expect they’ll continue to wait? Or will they just come on in, accelerating the overwhelming of America.

This is sad, not only for America, but for the world. For example, developing nations benefit from a US government and a Corporate America wealthy enough to invest in those countries. For example, when US corporations establish operations in developing nations, they pay employees much more than the country’s prevailing wages and offer far better working conditions. So, a dying America contributes to declining standard of living to people around the globe.

By having de facto suspended our immigration laws, we will soon be just another of the world’s countries struggling just to cope with its own residents’ poverty.

An Alternative

For both humanitarian and practical reasons, the US should not round up and deport illegal aliens.

Instead, the US should impose and enforce severe penalties on employers who hire illegals. If an employer cannot find a legal worker, it must improve salaries and working conditions until a legal resident will take the position. The government must also eliminate incentives for foreigners to sneak into the US: no benefits to illegals and their families except for emergency health care.

Also, we should do more to make citizens of other countries less eager to leave their homeland.

Such efforts should focus on Mexico because it is the source of the majority of illegal immigrants to the US. What could be done? Mexico is home to half of Latin America’s billionaires. Mexico should more heavily tax its wealthy to provide higher-quality education and health care for all its citizens. US banks and non-profits, perhaps with a government subsidy, should provide microloans to help Mexican citizens start their own local businesses. For 25 years, microloans have helped millions of poor people to raise their standard of living, even in the most poverty-wracked countries. In addition, the Mexican government needs to take some responsibility for its people’s poverty. For example, its government is notoriously corrupt, creating a gap between rich and poor that dwarfs the disparity we so decry in the US. If President Fox is to expect the US to assist Mexico, he needs to make all efforts to clean up the corruption.

If you believe that uncontrolled immigration is damaging to America and indirectly to the world, seek out candidates willing to control immigration. Trouble is, I can’t find one.

[1] The census doesn’t identify residents as legal or illegal, but the consensus estimate is that 2/3 of all immigrants in the US are illegal.

Choosing a College or Graduate School


‘Tis the season to pick your college or grad school.

But how to choose? The colleges don’t make it easy. So many students end up choosing the slickest brochure or most engaging tour guide rather than the best college or graduate program.

Here’s an insider’s approach to choosing:

Ask to see the college or program’s most recent accreditation visiting team report. That document summarizes experts’ evaluation of the college or program. Where might you obtain it? The admissions office, an administrative assistant in the academic department in which you’d be a student, the department chair, the institution’s website, or the office of the president.

Ask for the results from the latest student or alumni satisfaction survey. Try the above sources or the alumni office.

Ask an admissions officer or the chair of your prospective academic department, “What percent of students graduate in the expected time?” For example, what percentage of undergraduates graduate in four years? Even better, ask, “What percentage of students with grades and test scores similar to mine graduate in the expected time?”

Check out a prospective advisor. Read the faculty biographies in your prospective major or graduate program and phone the person you think you’d like to be your advisor. Would you like that advisor to be your mentor?

Go to the college’s or program’s website. Review the course descriptions and syllabi for the courses you’d likely be taking. How beneficial do you think those courses would be?

Sit in on advanced class. At the end of class, ask students how they liked the program and about the career prospects for graduates. Afterwards, also ask yourself, “Could I see myself fitting in with these students?”

Compare financial aid packages among the schools that admitted you. Many financial aid packages consist mostly of interest-bearing loans. Also ask, “If my financial situation doesn’t change, am I guaranteed the same amount of cash aid each year I’m in school?”

Talk with the person who specializes in helping graduates find jobs. What percentage of graduates in your major or program land good jobs within six months of graduation?

Remember, there is a glut of college and graduate degree holders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that for the first time since it started collecting data, there are more unemployed college graduates than high school dropouts! Why? Because colleges continue to admit students without regard to whether they will be employable, and because companies are offshoring many well-paying jobs but not the low-paying ones that only high school dropouts are willing to accept.

Don’t be deceived by the statistic that college and graduate degree holders earn much more over their lifetimes. You could lock the college-bound in a closet for four years and they’d earn more because, as a group, they’re brighter, more motivated, and have more family connections than the non-college bound. Yes, a degree adds to your employability, but so would four years at what I call You U: on-the-job training, especially if you supplement by finding mentors, reading books and articles, attending seminars, and professional conferences. And instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars, you’d be earning tens of thousands of dollars.

Advice I’d Give My Child

Amy, colleges and graduate schools are great places to learn for the sake of learning, to become a more thoughtful citizen, a connoisseur of life, and certainly to meet interesting people. But colleges do a poor job of career preparation. You spend too much time learning huge quantities of arcana of interest primarily to academic types or theoretical models with little applicability to the real world. .Think of all those Yale Law School graduates you know who came out feeling they had no idea how to practice law and had to learn on the job.

Sure, if you wanted to be a doctor, you have to go to medical school. But as someone who aspires to being a leader, an activist, and the like, consider foregoing State U let alone Private U in favor of You U.

Men's Career Issues


Most career issues apply to both sexes, but in honor of Father's day, here are my thoughts on some men's career issues

Used wisely, male aggressiveness is a strength

Do not listen to those who say aggressiveness is a bad characteristic. Use your aggressiveness as a wise warrior would use a weapon. Its power can benefit you, your employer and the world, but it must be used judiciously, sometimes even surreptitiously.

Do not confuse aggressiveness with anger

Angry people are usually unsuccessful in the workplace and may place their health at risk. If you find yourself angry at someone, replace your fury with empathy, remembering that that person is probably doing the best he or she can. Be grateful you are more capable

If you are angry at your life situation, remember that if you are living in the Bay Area and not in chronic pain or late-stage terminal illness, your life is probably better than 95 percent of the people on the planet. Fortune has smiled upon you. Go through life with a spirit of gratitude.

Do not uncritically accept that you should be the primary breadwinner

Each couple must discuss this openly in being the primary breadwinner, are you forced to take a job that makes you unhappy or overly stressed? Would you be much happier in a lower-paying job? Should your wife assume more of the financial responsibility, even if it means that she is not home as much with the kids?(The evidence is equivocal on whether stay-at-home moms' kids do better.) Should you do more of the housework? The parenting? Fortunately, there are no rules -- there is no more "mens work" or women's work." Each couple should craft for themselves the division of labor that best accommodates both spouses' strengths and preferences.

Consider non-traditional careers

Some traditional female careers are unusually rewarding: nurse, librarian, teacher, editor and graphic designer, for example. And in the case of nursing, the job market is good and salaries are high, A real man chooses a career that feels aright for him without worrying that it's a "manly" career.

Consciously decide how you want to react to reverse discrimination

No employer will admit it publicly, but in many, although certainly no all workplaces, women receive favoritism in hiring and promotion over men who are more competent and willing to work longer hours.

You could try a lawsuit, but that is chancy and exhausting. Or you could make a career of changing the conventional wisdom that reverse discrimination is a net good.

If you don't want to pursue either of those options, get over it. Reverse discrimination is a fact of life today. It's bad enough you may be treated unfairly. There is no need to let it destroy your peace of mind. that reminds me of the story of Massoud and Tarik on camels in the meddle of the desert. Suddenly a marauder gallops up, robs them of their money and gallops away. Massoud is distraught while Tarik remains calm, Massoud sputters, "How can you stay calm" Tarik replied, "He stole my money. I won't let him also steal my peace of mind"

Forestall aging

Men die an average of six years younger than women, and it seems that more men than woman in their min-to late-50s show significant decline in physical and mental capability. Some of the cause is probably physiological -- the current theory is that estrogen protects.

But you do have some control. Because men are at-risk of earlier decline, it's especially important that men do what they can to forestall aging and disease. I'm not telling you anything new here, but perhaps this is a wakeup call to get serious about controlling your weight, not smoking, drinking no more than moderately, and doing regular moderate exercise. Science is finding that your mother may have been right. Walking may be the be the best exercise

I'd also recommend thinking twice about any extreme diet, including low-carb. Like most fads that preceded low-carb diets, anything extreme too often ends up having unwanted side effects. And even in terms of weight loss, a recent study found that although for the first six months, low-carb dieters lose more that dieters on balanced low-calorie diets, after a year they're equal. See your doctor before beginning any diet, but you may be on the safest ground by following the just-released FDA guidelines which reject low-carb diets in favor of a well-balanced diet: not too many carbs, not too few. Focus on whole-grain rather than refined-grain carbs. Eat lots of fruits and veggies. Keep your calories down by avoiding high-fat foods,

Advice I'd give my child

Today, men are often portrayed as lesser than women. Textbooks, college professors, sitcoms, movies, even newspaper and magazine features tend to portray women as the good guys and men as testosterone-poisoned boors, crooks, or abusers.

The fact is that most men are hard working, goal-oriented and straight-shooting. The world needs both men and women. Don't forget it.

Are You Lazy?


I know many people who are lazy. Yes, lazy. That’s not a word we’re supposed to use these days. The supposedly more insightful terms include, “fearful,” “stuck,” and “procrastinating,”

Yes, sometimes, fears are so severe as to be paralyzing, but often with reasonable effort, a person can feel the fear and do it anyway. Those who don’t make that effort are lazy.

Are you like any of these people?

The Professional Student. School is fun: You’re always learning new things and doing so on a pleasant college campus. Plus, you’re not responsible for anyone but yourself. So, professional students, after finishing their bachelor’s degree (usually taking more than four years) decide to get a graduate degree, often in an impractical but fun field of study. And if they do choose a practical field, they don’t do what non-lazy people do to ensure future employment: do papers and theses that would enhance their employability and build relationships with potential employers. Instead, a few years after finishing their second degree, many professional students contemplate pursuing a third. Thus, they take, take, take from society, but never contribute.

The Slacker. They take sick days when they’re not sick, take family leave using a bogus excuse, or play on the Internet or chat with friends during the workday. I had a client who bragged that she has managed, for 10 years, to hang on to a 70K a year job at BART while working less than one hour a day! Slackers don’t think of the above as stealing from their employers, but that’s precisely what they’re doing. In addition, slackers force their already hard-working co-workers to do the slacker’s work.

The Workers Comp Fraud. This is a variation on The Slacker. Of course, many workers compensation claims are legitimate, but many are not. I know. In my private practice, I’ve had quite a few clients admit they were malingerers or had exaggerated their disability’s severity.

The Long-Term Stay-At-Home Parent. Even though their kids are in school all day, these people rationalize that it’s better for the kids that they not work outside the home even during the school day! This forces the other parent to have a high-paying career such as manager at a widget corporation, which is often less rewarding than the career they’d otherwise choose: for example, teacher or artist. The unvarnished reason why many long-term stay-at-home parents don’t look for a paying job is laziness.

The Phony Job Seeker. These people hide their laziness by claiming they’re holding out for a great job. They’re unemployed or employed in a too-easy or part-time job for a long time, and make little effort to find that great job, certainly not the 20 to 30 hours a week that all career experts recommend.

I find it hard to believe that such people, as they put their heads on the pillow each night, feel good about themselves

I’m hoping this column is a wakeup call. If you see yourself in any of the people above, ask yourself, “Do I really want to live my life as a lazy person? Is that the role model I want to provide to my children? When I’m looking back on my life, how will I feel that I was a lazy person?”

The irony is that work, along with love, enhances your life more than anything. And I mean anything. Whether you’re a clerk or a CEO, knowing you are contributing to making the world run will make you feel good about who you are. You will have legitimately earned good self-esteem. There is no cure for depression more potent than throwing yourself into work. And of course, there’s the money. The harder (and smarter) you work, the more money you will likely make.

Advice I’d Give My Child

Fortunately, my child is far from lazy. But if she were, I’d first ask, “Amy, compare yourself not to fellow slackers, but to the people you most admire. How much harder do they work than you do? Do they seem less or more happy than you are? Are they more or less financially successful?

Then I’d tell her to try to go cold turkey: “Amy, from this moment on, instead of using that good brain of yours to figure out ways to avoid doing work, think of all the ways you could be as productive as possible. Try it for a week, even a day. See if you’re happier or sadder.

Toward a Life Well Led


Past columns have discussed two keys to a life well led. In one, I argued that status is a false God: that status-seeking--whether in choosing a career or buying possessions--often leads to an unfulfilling life. People who have modest material aspirations and choose less money-centric careers are often more content.

In another column, I spoke of procrastination as career cancer, indeed life cancer. Key to a life well led is recognizing that you’ll be happier if you look for opportunities to work rather than ways to avoid work.

In this column, I’ll discuss three other practices toward a life well led.

How you address problems. When faced with an important decision, many people think, think, and think some more. Usually, they end up thinking themselves into analysis paralysis. They’re scared to ask for help, and if they do, they struggle to make even one phone call because they’re filled with undue fear of imposing or sounding stupid.

You take a big step toward a life well led if you use the following approach to addressing problems:

1. Think for just a short time.

2. They try something—ideally something entailing little risk or time. For example, if you’re thinking about becoming a nurse, Google around, only reading truly on-target web pages. Do not at all be afraid to cold-call nurses to learn more about the profession. Even if you might sound awkward, your honorable intent will still come through. And don’t worry about imposing because you know that most people like to be helpful and if not, the person can say no. You should simply call the Kaiser switchboard and ask to speak with a med-surg nurse, an ICU nurse, an OB-GYN nurse, or all of the above. Another example: if you were thinking of starting a business selling knockoff designer eyeglass frames to optometrists, take that first low-risk step: ask manufacturers for samples and pricing.

3. If such a quick, low-risk step succeeds, keep moving forward with other quick, minimally risky steps. If a step produces a negative result, go back and think--only for a bit--and then try something else.

4. Throughout, enjoy the process of taking each step: the treasure hunt of scouting for information, the pleasure of having interesting interactions with new people.

How you invest. The price of a stock is the entire world’s best estimate of what that stock is worth. Unless you have inside information, you are highly unlikely to better assess whether a stock is a bargain or a rip-off at that price. So, don’t try to pick stocks. Instead, consider putting the stock/bond part of your investments into index funds—a market basket of stocks. For example, an S&P 500 Index Fund invests in all the stocks in the S&P 500—500 major companies. Index funds provide diversification, risk control, and low fees. Vanguard (vanguard.com) offers an S&P 500 Index Fund and many other highly regarded index funds.

Nor should you try to time the market—the world’s greatest financial minds have been unable to. If you try to time the market, psychology is such that you usually buy when the stock is high and sell when it’s low. So, as soon as you have money to invest, invest it immediately. That avoids the psychology problem and puts your money to work for you immediately.

Even though real estate has done very well in the past, realize that it may or may not do well in the future. What is certain is that a real estate investment is time consuming: buying, fixing, managing, and selling. So, especially today, when the average Bay Area home costs much more than even a person earning $150,000 a year can afford, be cautious about investing in real estate.

Avoid playing victim. My father spent years in a Nazi concentration camp and after the war was dumped in the Bronx without any family, money, education, nor speaking a word of English. One day I asked him, “Dad, when you talk about the Holocaust, you never sound bitter.” He replied, “The Nazis took five years of my life. I won’t give them one minute more. Never look back. Always look forward.”

Too many people in the Bay Area spend a lot of time looking back, blaming their present problems on their parents, their spouse, past racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

Advice I’d Give My Child

Don’t look back. Look forward.

Men As Beasts of Burden


There are five widows for every widower.

Kevin, 37, is a computer programmer, making $80,000 a year, $48,000 after taxes. His wife, Lisa, stays home to take care of their two-year old. She is pregnant with another child, and eager for them to buy a home. Kevin doesn’t like being a programmer, but fears that a career change will mean a salary cut.

I asked Kevin, “Is owning a home important to you?” He replied, “It’s very important to Lisa.” I asked him how he felt about having the second child. He sighed, “Okay, but Lisa really wants it.”

I asked, “When you first called me, you said you feel the stress is killing you. Should you be shouldering all the family’s financial responsibilities?” He pursed his lips: “Lisa reminds me that before we got married, I agreed to have two kids. She says, and I guess I agree, that to bring our kids up right and maintain a home is a full-time job. And she doesn’t have my earning capacity.” Kevin rubbed his head.

Over the past 17 years, I have been career coach to 1,500 middle and upper class women and to 500 middle-to-upper class men. Because of our relationships’ confidentiality, I have learned much about what women really think on a number of issues.

Most surprising to me, is that at least half of the women, including many graduates of elite colleges, either don’t want an income-earning job or will only work part-time in an unusually pleasant job.

A recent New York Times article suggests that my clients are not an anomaly. It reported that the number of stay-at-home moms has increased 13 percent in less than a decade, and among working women, 2/3 work part-time. This is true even of graduates of prestigious colleges, women who were bestowed a fiercely competed-for slot at an elite college on the assumption they would use that coveted degree to make a big difference in the world.

Few of those women’s application essays indicated they planned to be housewives. Yet among Stanford’s class of ’81, in just their first decade after graduation, 57 percent of mothers spent at least a year at home full-time. One in four stayed home full-time for three or more years. A survey of the women from the Harvard Business School classes of 1981, 1985, and 1991 found that only 38 percent of all women—even if childless--were working full time. And beyond the elite colleges, among white men, 95% of all MBAs in the U.S. work full time, while the number for white women was just 67 percent.

And “full-time” doesn’t mean the same for men and women. Among my 1,500 female clients and many friends, very few are willing to sacrifice work/life balance to work the 60+ hours a week it normally takes to rise to the top of a profession.

Yet women’s groups complain that women are “underrepresented” in the power professions: senior executives, professors, etc., because of a glass ceiling they claim is erected by men.

Of course, there are many ambitious, achieving women who are men’s equals or superiors. But many of my female clients and friends prefer the life of a housewife, perhaps augmented by a pleasant little part-time job, even if it means their husband, whom they claim to love, must work long, hard hours on jobs few women would consider. For example, the vast majority of people who work in iron foundries, coalmines, and other clanging, polluted environments are men. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 92 percent of workplace deaths occur to men.

Dan, a client of mine (name changed) avoided breathing carcinogenic air, but his life is still at risk. He has two masters degrees in counseling, but in the big city, where it seems there’s a therapist under every rock, hasn’t been able to land a job as a counselor. He has a few private clients, which in total earn him $6,000 a year. He adds $8,000 as a mock patient in a medical school, and at night, Dan, 54, moonlights as a waiter at a large restaurant. He says, “It’s almost ¼ mile from the kitchen to the farthest table, so when I get home at one in the morning, I’m exhausted. But I’m still so wired, I need a couple of glasses of wine to get to sleep. If I’m lucky, I get five hours of sleep before I have to get up again.”

Dan’s wife Denise, a Cornell graduate, is 47 and says she’s a musician. But in their years together, her net income has averaged just $800 a year. When Dan encourages Denise to get a job that pays, she objects:“ But I love being a musician. I’m trying to make a living at it.” He keeps urging her to get a paying job, but after a while, he gives up. He can’t make her get a job.

Meanwhile, Dan continues to drag himself through life like an ox yoked to a plow, a beast of burden. “I don’t know how long I can keep this up.” Statistically, he’s right. Medical science is unequivocal that stress and overwork kills. No doubt, that contributes to their being five widows for every widower.

To be fair, many men prefer their wives to stay home, but often, the impetus comes from the woman. Many women use dubious arguments to convince their husbands that they should have, at most, a part-time job:

It’s better for the children. Yes, on average, kids with a stay-at-home-mom do somewhat better, but that is largely because couples that can afford to have mom staying at home are, on average, from a higher socioeconomic class, which confers many other benefits on the child.

A number of studies indicate that being a working mom doesn't hurt and may even help the child. For example, the most recent study (July 2003) Caring and Counting: The impact of mothers' employment on family relationships by Tracey Reynolds, Claire Callender and Rosalind Edwards, reports, "...the mother's work had a positive impact on their family relationships. The mother's employment provided skills and resources that meant they could meet their children's emotional, developmental and material needs better. Their relationship with their partner was enhanced because they shared the financial burden of providing for their family and had more common interests." Thebook, Ask The Children, is based on in-depth interviews with 600 parents and more than 1,000 children in the third through twelfth grades from diverse backgrounds. Itfound that "having a working mother is not predictive of how children assess their mothers' parenting skills, based on a number of attributes strongly linked to children's healthy development and school success. These include 'being someone I can go to when I am upset' and 'knowing what is really going on in my life.'" This study's results were reported to the public in a cover story in Working Mother magazine called "Hey Moms, Drop the Guilt!" Millions of children with working moms do just fine. What counts most is quality time: reasonably consistent, loving, limit-setting but not punitive parenting, even if it begins after the workday.

Here are links to additional research indicating that, if anything, kids and moms benefit when mom works outside the home:

Lest you think I haven’t practiced what I preach, my wife went back to work full-time, nine weeks after our daughter was born, and she turned out just fine: well-adjusted, voted UCLA’s outstanding undergraduate student, whereafter she got a White House internship, after which she went to Yale Law School, is now a successful attorney and about to marry a wonderful guy.

And even if a child accrues some advantage from having a stay-at-home mom, that advantage is usually more than outweighed by thepressure added to the husband’s life and the lifestyle decrement that comes from the lack of a second income. One such decrement is that men who must earn all the family income are precluded from considering rewarding but not lucrative careers such as teaching, and most jobs in non-profits, the arts, journalism, etc.

Adding to the unfairness, women, on average, are more motivated than their husbands to have children to begin with. The man is often pressured, subtly or not subtly, into parenthood, with all its added financial and time demands.

Taking care of the kids and home is a full-time job. These women stretch homemaking into a full-time job with activities far less beneficial than a second income to the family and certainly to her husband’s health and quality of life: preparing home-cooked dinners most nights, sitting with other moms watching a playgroup when a babysitter could do that, etc.

Being a homemaker is at least as stressful as being in the work world. These women point to their having to deal with a frequently crying baby or claim that being at home is a three-ring circus. But fact is, a significant percentage of many stay-at-home moms' days are spent on low-stress tasks such as supermarket shopping, playing with the baby, making dinner, and chatting with friends while baby is napping.

That life is much less stressful than most out-of-home jobs, which are filled with unpredictable commutes, ever increasing workloads because of the relentless downsizing, bosses with unrealistic expectations, co-workers who don’t pull their weight, and tough tasks, which if not completed satisfactorily can result in criticism or even firing.

I don’t have your earning power. Dr. Warren Farrell’s research debunks the flawed research that claims women earn 79 cents on the dollar. When controlled for hours on the job, performance evaluations, and years of experience, women earn $1.01 for every dollar men earn.

And the reason women have fewer years of experience is that they disproportionately elect to stay home with their children, or even if they work “full-time,” they work far fewer hours than their male counterparts so they can spend more time with their kids or on their avocations. Many more women than men —full-time workers and not-- ensure they have time for yoga, get-togethers with friends, art class, gardening, and visits to the day spa. Since 2000, despite the economic downturn, the number of spa visits nationwide, the vast majority of which are made by women, has doubled!

Women don’t just spend on day spas. They’re, overall, the bigger spenders. Yes, men buy more tools and technotoys but women, even when they contribute little or nothing to the family income, are the predominant spenders: clothing, jewelry, therapy, home redecorating of no interest to the man, etc. Most shopaholics are women. Every expenditure loads additional pressure onto the primary breadwinner, which is usually the husband.

Most of my male clients have accepted their plight of having to work, work, work at unrewarding, even dangerous jobs. Biology, parents, and society have programmed men to be the hunter, the provider, to keep their nose to the grindstone, no matter what. Too many wives only encourage it. Just today, a client of mine who earns more than $200,000 a year as a not-partner attorney at a major law firm, exclaimed, “If I don’t push NOW to make partner, my wife will kill me!”

Usually, the wife won’t kill the husband, but often will divorce him, at least in part because “he wasn't a good provider.” And most courts reward her with custody of the child and a requirement that the father pay child support and/or alimony.

When I ask a male client to step back and think about it, many of them realize that their wives have tried—usually successfully--to subtly or not so subtly coerce them into being the primary or sole breadwinner, the beast of burden. Those women make the above arguments, plus use manipulative techniques such as crying, guilt-tripping, screaming, avoiding the topic of getting a job, and forever promising to look for work but making feeble efforts.

Meanwhile, many men live bleak lives: work 10+ hours, commute home, and drop into the couch exhausted. And their reward: an early grave. Despite obesity being more prevalent among women, there are five widows for every widower. Yet all we hear about is another fundraiser for breast cancer.

If a husband hasn't done so already, he should consider having an open discussion with his wife about work and money. For example:

•“Will buying a house or having another child put too much financial pressure on us?”

•“If we decide to make those high-cost expenditures, do we want to put all the financial burden on one partner so the other can stay home to raise the child? Or should it be divided more evenly?”

•“Should I refuse to work at an unrewarding high-stress or dangerous job?”

The elite colleges should issue the following exhortation to their students, male and female: "As you well know, the diploma you will receive from this institution will open the doors of influence: from medical research to non-profit directorship, from corporate leadership to stewardship of the arts. In accepting one of the precious few student seats at this institution, you tacitly accept the responsibility to society to make the most of that coveted degree. We encourage you to aim high, to use that degree to make the biggest difference you can for humankind. As important as being a good parent is, you don't need an elite degree to do that."

(I changed a few irrelevant details about my clients to protect their anonymity.)

Today’s Double Standard


We justify devoting vastly disproportionate amounts of our tax dollars to African-Americans because of their deficits: low achievement, low income, high rates of crime, drug abuse, and AIDS,

We similarly justify disproportionate spending on women. If women are not proportionately represented in the boardroom and only earn 80 cents on the dollar—even if it’s because, of their own choice, they don’t want to work long hours--advocacy groups, through their mouthpieces in the media, decry the situation and promulgate an endless series of efforts to help women, usually at the expense of men.

So, it would only seem fair that when men have a deficit, they get disproportionate attention. What’s that deficit? A crucial one: how long they live. Men die six years sooner than women. There are more than four widows for every widower!

So, it would only seem fair that more health research and health education dollars be spent on men than on women. Yet in the budget of every federal health agency, more money is spent on women’s health than on men’s. There are seven federal health agencies specifically for women. Not one for men. 39 of the 50 states have an office of women’s health, only six have one for men. A search of more than 3,000 medical journals listed in Index Medicus found that 23 articles were written on women’s health for each one written on men’s. Although a woman is only 14 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than a man is from prostate cancer, funding for breast cancer research is 660 percent greater than funding for prostate cancer research. Even the post office has gotten into the act: there is only one disease for which you can buy a postage stamp and the profits will go to research to cure the disease: breast cancer, even though heart disease kills millions more men prematurely. !

Before the age of 65, men die of heart attacks at three times the rate of women.

The bias against men is not limited to government-funded efforts. Even though men die younger, and men’s last decade is spent in worse health than women’s, most media and private sector attention goes to women’s health: features on menopause on CNN, articles on osteoporosis in the Kaiser Permanente newsletter, and nonstop corporate-sponsored fundraisers for breast cancer: runs for breast cancer, walks for breast cancer, even go to an A’s game for breast cancer. Baseball, a game played by and watched primarily by men, has a Breast Cancer Day, but not a Heart Attack Day, even though millions more people—primarily men—die prematurely of heart disease. Yet when the media pays attention to heart disease, most of it is focused on women, even though women get heart disease long after the average man is dead.

Feminists and other liberals offer excuses such as, “Men got most of the research money in the past. Let’s even the score.” The implication is that researchers were only interested in making men healthy. The real reason men were overrepresented among medical research subjects was because few women would volunteer for the often dangerous trials. As a result, most research was done on volunteers from prison or the military, the vast majority of whom were men. And did men inadvertently benefit? Men still live six years shorter than women, a gap that, over the past four decades, has decreased by just one year.

Another feminist excuse for the underspending on men’s health is, “Men just need to organize like we women do.” I don’t hear women making that argument to other groups. Could you imagine feminists responding to African-Americans’ concerns about lack of funding with, “Blacks just need to organize like we women do?”

Most often, feminists and other liberals justify underspending on men’s health by blaming men themselves for their early demise: “If they only saw their doctor more often.” Fact is, far more potent than doctor visits in staving off the major killers (cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes) are avoiding overweight and not smoking. Yet women, not men, have higher rates of obesity and smoking. Despite that, I don’t hear feminists or liberals saying, “It’s women’s own fault. Let’s not fund research on women and heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.” They want ever more money spent on women’s health. Nor do liberals say, “AIDS is caused by careless behavior so we shouldn’t spend money on AIDS.”

Only when straight men are involved, do the liberals sound like conservatives, telling men to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. With women, gays and minorities, the message is, “It takes a village.”

A fair society cannot have it both ways. It either needs to decide to allocate resources based on deficits or spend in proportion to the population: men 49% and women 51%, minorities 25% and whites 75%, heterosexuals 98% and homosexuals 2%. A double standard that hurts straight men is grossly unfair.

© 2009, Marty Nemko

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Marty Nemko holds a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently taught in Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education. He is the worklife columnist in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle and is the producer and host of Work With Marty Nemko, heard Sundays at 11 on 91.7 FM in (NPR, San Francisco), and worldwide on www.martynemko.com . 400+ of his published writings are available free on that website and is a co-editor of Cool Careers for Dummies. and author of The All-in-One College Guide. E-Mail.



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