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Posts Tagged ‘doctors’

American Competitiveness: The New Untouchables or The New Half Truth?

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

— Henry David Thoreau

In “The New Untouchables “, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman argues that in this downwardly mobile economy there is no room for average. Extraordinary is what it takes to survive and thrive in the modern workplace.

I get that.

Yet for all my appreciation for education — I hold two degrees so I do, in fact, lean in favor of Friedman’s premise that education is key to American competitiveness — his education-as-a-panacea argument oversteps its reach.

Most strikingly, Friedman’s description of a successful “untouchable” American worker isn’t a portrait of educational endowment at all. Friedman’s favorite descriptors, instead, refer to personality attributes: entrepreneur (risk taker), creative (visionary), analytical (critical thinker), and persuasive (charismatic). The obvious problem with Friedman’s pin-the-tail-on-the-wrong-donkey premise is that temperament is inborn — teachers, let alone parents, cannot instill personality characteristics that are not there to begin with.

Friedman’s eagerness to finger the usual suspects — schools — also ignores six reasons why Americans are at a competitive disadvantage in the global era. Here we examine those realities, and the future these changing times have in store.

First, there are more of us occupying this country — and this planet at large — than ever before. At some point, the mathematics of population growth have to matter. The sheer number of people in today’s workforce suggests more and more people are competing for the same jobs even as we adopt more and more technology to displace human hands. That’s not a sign of a lack of education; it’s a sign that business owners comprehend that productivity gadgets and gizmos don’t require breaks, a salary or workers’ compensation.

It comes down to the numbers.

Second, I would argue the inverse in response to Friedman’s suggestion that there just isn’t enough talent to be had here in the States. Over the past 50-some years there are more colleges turning out more graduates on an annual basis than employers of the past had access to. Many foreign nationals, in fact, come to the US for higher education opportunities. On the flip side, there are only so many engineers, M.B.A.s, lawyers, scientists and the like universities can churn out before higher-end fields become saturated in much the same way low-end jobs are chalk full of contenders.

It’s no longer merely a question of whether there are clear winners and losers on the academic front.

Job scarcity is a threat, in part, because of the decades-long trend of mergers, acquisitions and a globalized labor pool. Consider: There are generally fewer than a dozen heavyweights in a given industry — everything from mainstream media to appliance manufacturing. This trend does not bode well for domestic job expansion. And if jobs aren’t available to begin with, it is tough to gain a competitive advantage even with above-average potential. So what we are seeing, in this author’s opinion, is an over-supply of talent.

But that doesn’t mean the proponents of Friedman’s dire self-fulfilling prophecy won’t get their wish.

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Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop“, made an untimely exit from the stage of life after suffering a cardiac arrest Thursday, June 25, Brian Oxman, a Jackson family attorney, reports. More shockingly, Oxman told a CNN reporter that he warned the Jackson family that the star may be headed for a fate not unlike Anna Nicole Smith, who died little over two years ago following prolonged prescription painkiller dependence. Smith also lost her teenage son to a fatal drug interaction in 2006. In Jackson’s case, Oxman says the entertainer suffered chronic pain from a multitude of former stage injuries, among them a fractured vertebra and a broken leg.

Prescription drug abuse often starts legitimately enough. Life happens. We suffer injuries and accidents. And we don’t want to live like cripples before our time. But oftentimes the so-called cure comes with its own consequences.

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Have you taken steps to assemble a disaster preparedness kit? Those with medical conditions requiring daily medications — or those with loved ones who need them — may be in for a rude awakening.

Emergency preparedness experts advise individuals and their household members to plan for a minimum of three days without access to outside sources of food, water, sanitation, utilities and transportation. Some experts take it a step further, however: Be prepared to become self reliant for up to a week. That means stocking supplies not only at home, but often at work, school or even one’s automobile. After all, you never know where you will be when disaster strikes.

Disaster preparedness literature advocates stocking necessary medications, but those who are insured and require daily medications to treat asthma, diabetes or other chronic conditions may run into an unexpected and ironic obstacle: Many health insurance companies have no provision in place to allow subscribers to obtain doctor-authorized refills for use in an emergency supply kit. (more…)

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