Social Problems and My Views One might think they know a lot about certain issues going on in the world, but in many cases, they do not know all of the details. If they did, they might think of these issues much differently. Before taking the Social Problems course I thought I knew what the most important problems going on in the United States were. The systemic view of the course has made me feel as though the problems we learned about are very serious, and capitalism in the U. S. is involved in many of them. I knew that the economy was a major issue and unemployment was a side effect of the collapse.
I also knew that there were environmental problems that could lead to global warming. What I did not know was the all the details within all of these problems, and how they became problems in the first place. Some of the problems we discussed in class I did not even realize were problems in the first place. I did not know that our healthcare system was an issue, and I also did not know how involved we were in global inequality. In general, I feel as though this course has brought to light how serious certain social problems are, by explaining why they are happening and introducing topics that I did not realize were problems to begin with.
The problem I found to be most disturbing was the healthcare system in the United States. Before taking this course, I did not think there was anything wrong with the U. S. healthcare, and I actually believed it was probably one of the best in the world because our country is so developed. When we began discussing this topic in class in the perspective that the system was to blame, I was shocked to learn that healthcare in the U. S. is more expensive than most places because of our insurance companies (Eitzen et al. 490).
The insurance companies are for-profit, and even though most jobs offer some kind of health benefits, they can be very expensive for people who have lost their jobs and are unemployed. These companies are the main source of the healthcare problem in the U. S. because they do not have the best interest of the people as a priority; their first priority is making as much money as possible. I knew that medical expenses can be high, and I just assumed that it was the same way in other countries as well. In the Michael Moore film Sicko, I learned that many other countries do not have insurance plans.
They get free healthcare, which leads to higher taxes. Some countries do have insurance plans, but they are non-profit and cover all citizens (Eitzen et al. 509). The insurance plans in the U. S. often deny people the coverage they need. In the film, a man who had health insurance needed a special procedure done because it had been shown to successfully treat his illness, but he was denied coverage for the procedure because it was considered “experimental,” and he ended up losing his battle with the illness (Moore).
Many insurance companies will also find other reasons to deny insurance for people trying to get it, by hiring investigators to look for these reasons. They could include being too overweight, which could predispose people to heart problems or diabetes, or even something as simple as having a yeast infection (Moore, Eitzen et al. 493). Insurance companies will also not insure someone if they have a “preexisting condition”, even though these people need the insurance the most (Eitzen et al. 494).
The most disturbing part of these facts is that lack of insurance kills 45,000 people a year, a number that could probably be lowered significantly if coverage was easier to get. Learning more in depth about the healthcare problem in the United States completely changed my original thoughts about the healthcare system. I was very angry when I first read about it and watched Sicko, and I just could not understand how insurance companies could let so many people die or become sicker because they deny them the care that they need.
I have always thought of the United States as a very developed nation that cares for everyone’s needs, and the systemic perspective taken by this course has shown that our system is more based on making money than on giving people what they really need. The U. S. has turned into a capitalist nation, so this should not really come as a surprise, but it can still be hard to digest for someone who thinks otherwise. I believe that the only way to solve the healthcare problem is to get rid of the for-profit insurance companies and replace them with a new system, similar to France of Great Britain.
The Bismarck model has private insurance plans, but covers everyone, and the Beveridge model provides healthcare through the government (Eitzen et al. 509). The National Health Insurance model is used in Canada, where the government collects monthly premiums from every citizen and then pays their medical bills. The U. S. would benefit greatly from a system like this because everyone would get the care that they need, regardless of social status, race, or employment status.
It is a fact that more privileged people get the healthcare they need, whereas poor people cannot afford health insurance and may need it more because they do not have the money to afford a healthy lifestyle (Eitzen et al. 499). Poor people can get some coverage through Medicaid, but depending on the funds of the state they live in, Medicaid could have budget cuts, which can affect how much it actually helps (Eitzen et al. 498). People under Medicaid often will have delayed medical care because some physicians refuse to treat them.
By switching to a different system, many American citizens would benefit, and everyone would get equal treatment. It seems like such a simple thing to do, but it will be hard to get the wealthy people who are in control to give up, because they are more focused on making money (Eitzen et al. 559). As long as these people make money, they will have the most control over what happens. This course has really introduced me to what a large and involved problem healthcare is in the United States as a result of how our system is organized.
Because we have a capitalist system, the focus is on gaining wealth, which is exactly what insurance companies do. While I did not realize how big of an issue healthcare is, I knew before taking Social Problems that the economic crisis was a major problem in the United States. I knew that the stock market crashed in 2007, resulting in job loss for a lot of people, and economic problems that are still affecting the U. S. today. What I did not know, or ever think about, was why and how the stock market crashed, and the events leading up to the crash.
In the years leading up to the economic crisis, the economy went through a transformation that shifted away from manufacturing and more towards service and information (Eitzen et al. 401). Many jobs were lost and people with jobs were insecure about their jobs, healthcare and retirement as a result. During this time the value of homes had risen, so people were buying homes and taking out mortgages because the subprime loans had low interest rates that people did not know would be increased after 2 years (Eitzen et al. 402).
Loan brokers, mortgage lenders, and many other people would then sell these mortgages and loans to third parties involved on Wall Street. These sold loans and mortgages were called “derivatives,” because their contracts derive value from an underlying asset. Low quality mortgages and loans were then turned into high priced derivatives, and eventually this became a problem because people could not keep up with their mortgage. This caused the housing market to plummet (Eitzen et al. 403). The banks that had sold these derivatives had to get capital quickly, and many of them had to sell their assets or they failed.
The stock market then crashed, causing the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. The economic crisis has lead to significant issues in the United States. Unemployment rates were very high; around 7. 2 million lost their jobs in the first two years of the recession (Eitzen et al. 403). The value of housing has gone down substantially, and many homeowners mortgages went up so much that they were paying more than their homes were worth. There were also a lot of foreclosures because people could not keep up with the payments.
People also lost a lot of their retirement savings or went bankrupt which often times lead to homelessness (Eitzen et al. 405). The economic crisis also relates back to the healthcare problem because many of the poor became poor because they lost their jobs to the recession, which means they most likely lost their health insurance. The results of the economic recession are still present today, and they can only be mended if people become less debt-dependent. The government, banks, corporations, and ordinary citizens need to decrease their debt and borrowing, because that is what lead to the crisis in the first place (Wolff).
People rely on credit cards and loans to help them when they do not have the money for something, but the people who bought expensive houses thinking that the value would go up could no longer pay their mortgages as the interest rates went up (Eitzen et al. 402). Unfortunately, there is nothing being done about this problem, so the crisis continues. Another way to solve the economic problems in America would be to use a system like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Wolff). He created Social Security, unemployment compensation, and federal hiring systems during the Great Depression.
For some reason, politicians today have forgotten about the successes of Roosevelt’s actions, and there is a lot of corruption in politics. Politicians create policies that end up failing, and are not really working to fix the problem. However, there is no opposition strong enough to scare them into making significant changes, as there was in the 1930s and 40s. Until the government and the American people start to recognize these issues, the economic crisis will persist. I have learned a lot about the economic crisis and the details involved with the crash of the stock market.
Our capitalist system plays a huge role in why the problem has not been fixed, and also why the problem started in the first place. Corporations and banks want to make money regardless of the consequences. I definitely agree with the view of the class and the readings; the system is to blame for the economic crisis. Global Inequality is another problem that my eyes have been opened to as a result of taking the Social Problems class. Before we learned about it, I knew that global inequality was clearly an issue because of the impoverished people in places like Africa or India.
I knew that they were very poor, but I did not really think about why they are so poor, and how they became that way. I honestly assumed that they had probably always been that way. I eventually learned that the main reason why they are so poor is because they are dominated by developed nations like the United States, who exploit their resources, wealth, and labor (Eitzen et al. 61). The amount of people in the world living under the poverty line is 1. 4 billion (Eitzen et al. 67). Fifty percent of the people living in poverty in the developing world are from sub-Saharan Africa, and 42 percent are from India.
The reason these people are so poor is because they economically dependent on developed nations and transnational corporations, as a result of colonialism and capitalist imperialism (Parenti, Eitzen et al. 74). During colonization, crops were grown for the benefit of the colonizer, not the people who lived in the country. The colonizers exported their raw materials and promoted population growth as a source of cheap labor. Colonialism ruined the way the indigenous people previously lived and sustained a successful society.
The people of these developing countries are still feeling the effects of colonialism today, because other more developed countries have exhausted their resources. Multinational corporations based out of the United States tend to locate themselves in poor countries, because they know they can find a lot of low-wage workers (Eitzen et al. 75). The poor countries do not benefit from this because the profits produced from these corporations are usually sent back to the U. S. , instead of going towards the country’s already minimal wealth.
Most developing countries have a lot of public and private debt because they depend on money from other countries to help them, since they do not have the resources to create a strong economy. Since they are so in debt, they cannot afford the things the citizens really need, such as education and public works. The United States involvement in developing countries has negative consequences besides exploitation of resources and labor. The arms sales cause war and violence amongst the people, and makes existing military conflict even worse (Eitzen et al. 76). Also, the U. S. articipates in corporate dumping, where we export goods that have been banned from being sold in America, such as intrauterine devices that pose health risks and products that have been exposed to carcinogenic chemicals. This means that the developing countries are exposed to hazardous products that could cause serious health problems, and they do not have the medical care to cure people if this happens. The devastation of poverty and sickness that plagues underdeveloped and developing countries could turn around if multinational corporations stopped claiming their land and using it for the benefit of developed countries.
The people of places like Africa and India have the skills to use land, but all of their rich land is being taken over by foreign corporations (Diaz). These underdeveloped countries were not always underdeveloped and poverty stricken; countries like the United States have forcefully imposed it on them (Parenti). Colonialism takes away a developing countries ability to develop because they cannot keep a stable economy when other countries are using all of their resources. If the U. S. ere to remove some of our corporations, the people in these countries could use the skills they have to make the land their own again, and boost their economy by selling and trading goods within and outside of their country. And also, instead of donating money like most charities do, the U. S. should give them things they really need and will last longer, such as hospitals and schools. I have learned from this class that the problem of global inequality is directly related to the capitalist system of the United States, and I definitely agree.
The people in Third World countries are not to blame for their own poverty, because they were forced into their position by the capitalist imperialism of the United States. Capitalism is expansionist in nature, so just because the United States is a capitalist nation, does not mean it does not effect people worldwide (Parenti). The problem that I feel ties all of these problems together is the environmental issues that have become very prevalent in the world today. I knew before taking this class that the global warming was a problem and that some people and corporations were aking steps to becoming “green,” or more energy efficient. After discussing this topic in class, I found out the true seriousness of this problem. People on earth, especially in the United States and other developed countries, are exploiting all of our Earth’s natural resources (Eitzen et al. 83). Part of this is because the world’s population is growing more and more each year, which means there is a higher demand for food and resources. Also, as the inequality between the wealthy and the poor grows, the wealthy over consume resources because they have the means to do so (Eitzen et al. 85).
The United States is a wealthier nation, and we consume 25 percent of the world’s fossil fuels and waste 48 million tons of food per year. Most sub-Saharan Africans do not even get this much food in a year. The economic growth of industrial countries also contributes to environmental degradation because as the economy grows jobs and products are produced at the expense of accelerated consumption of resources like fossil fuels, water, and timber (Eitzen et al. 86). As I mentioned before, I feel as though many of the social problems we have learned about in class stem back to environmental problems.
Seventy thousand people die from respiratory ailments from air pollution every year, and I predict that in years to come there will be places in the world that will become hard to live in because of harsh weather conditions that result from global warming (Eitzen et al. 93). Serious storms or rising sea levels could displace people and harm them, leaving them injured or without a home or job, as we have seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. This could enhance the healthcare problem, because if people are injured and do not have insurance they will not get the help that they need.
Environmental issues are also closely correlated with the economy, because the United States uses many resources within our country, as well as in other places in the world (Eitzen et al. 98). Fossil fuels such as oil are very important to the U. S. , so important that the government spends billions of dollars to keep a military presence in the Middle East, which has some of the biggest oil reserves in the world (Eitzen et al. 96). Global Inequality and environmental issues are also related, because people who are very wealthy over consume (Eitzen et al. 5). The poor are forced to grow crops and cut down trees in order to survive, even though the ways they do it could be harmful to the Earth. One very important abused resource is fossil fuels, which many people in the world depend on for energy. Oil, coal and natural gas are all used for heating, cooking and lighting, and the United States uses more of these than anyone else. The problem with this is not only that we are depleting the supply of these resources, but also that carbon dioxide is emitted from them (Eitzen et al. 94).
Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere contributes to global warming. Another environmental issue is the deforestation of Earth’s forests and rainforests. Lumber and mining companies extract products from the forest and sell them (Eitzen et al. 97). Poor people who are encouraged to settle in the rainforests end up clearing parts of it away for farmland, and the land only stays fertile for so long, causing them to move even farther into the forest. Cattle ranching is a huge source of economic prosperity in countries near the Amazon, and the ranchers are clearing land for cattle as well.
U. S corporations are also involved in deforestation, by sending timber, mining, paper and other companies that destroy parts of the rainforest for profit (Eitzen et al. 98). As more and more trees are cut down, less carbon dioxide is recycled into the oxygen that humans and all other species need to survive. The vanishing of species is a terrible result of the destruction of rainforests, because their habitat is being destroyed with the forests. The problems with the environment are so important because the more we as humans exploit the Earth’s resources, the more damage we cause.
The future of the human race depends on what changes we make right now, because in another few decades, it could be too late to reverse it (DiCaprio). People believe that nature is an endless supply of resources that exists only to be used by humans (Eitzen et al. 101). This is a problem because people think they are superior to nature by constantly changing it and abusing it, but the natural world has existed long before humans and will continue to exist when humans are no longer around (DiCaprio, Eitzen et al. 102).
To stop global climate change from getting worse, the government needs to have better control over resource use and conserving energy. The government and the people need to start taking steps to reduce their consumption, by cutting back on things like outdoor lighting, having a universal daylight savings time, and having lower speed limits so gas is not wasted (Eitzen et al. 108). The government needs to take control over the environmental aspect of businesses and corporations by enforcing laws about conserving energy, even though it could ost them more money to control air pollution and be energy efficient (Eitzen et al. 109). I agree with the systemic perspective that it is the American system that is at fault for these environmental problems, but I also think that this issue involves the rest of the world as well. The United States’ capitalist system is careless, and in attempts to make money capitalism is depleting natural resources and contributing to global climate change. From taking this class, I have developed a new way of thinking about social problems.
I used to not know certain details about the problems we learned about in class, but after learning about them and their causes in the systemic perspective, I see them in a whole new light. I used to blame individuals for some of the bigger social problems, but now I see that capitalism in the United States and it’s institutions play a huge role in why many of these problems exist. Outline Diaz, Phillipe (Director). The End of Poverty. [Film]. United States. Cinema Libre Studios, 2010. DiCaprio, Leonardo. (Producer). The 11th Hour [Film].
United States: Warner Independent Pictures, 2007. Eitzen, Stanley D. and Baca Zinn, Maxine. Social Problems, 12th Ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011. Moore, Michael (Producer/Director). Sicko. [Film]. United States: Dog Eat Dog Films, 2006. Parenti, Michael (a). “Imperialism 101. ” Retrieved March 7, 2010 from (http://michaelparenti. org/Imperialism101. html). Wolff, Richard D. “Five Reasons Why Crisis Persists” August 16, 2012. Retrieved February 21, 2013 from (http://www. zcommunications. org/five-reasons-why-crisis-persists-by-richard-d-wolff).