Financial and Accounting Equality

Business controls for accounts receivables and inventory turnoverMany minorities in the state of California and around the country often find that they are required to work for lower wages than their Caucasian counter parts. This circumstance isn’t always based solely on the evil hands of discrimination and overt actions of a few powerful people. In many, if not most, cases many minority groups tend to earn less money because of their job descriptions, roles in the company, and overall ability. Discrimination can some times play a bigger role in who is chosen for a job than how much one is paid for the job.

This makes sense in that internal accounting departments of companies rarely, or at least aren’t supposed to, look at race for raises and promotions. These outward characteristics are often looked at during the hiring process though.

Forbes recently wrote and article about how Asian American men are more likely to earn more money than their white counterparts because of these vary reasons. The overall education levels of average Asian Americans applying for professional jobs in California are more advanced than the majority and clearly more advanced than other minorities.

I believe this is a huge step forward for Asian Americans and goal that has been out of reach for a long time. Most companies are concerned with education and merits of employees during the hiring process. Asian Americans’ standardized test scores have consistently out ranked other racial groups in the state in areas such as business and finance. Many other minority groups could even answer the question, what is accounts receivable turnover, while their Asian American business major counter parts could give detailed explanations of how business should use accounting systems to analyze current market trends, asses demand levels, and create opportunities in the market place for new product and idea promotion.

Business is an environment where current Asian American graduates are excelling in the state of California. More than one half of business major graduates with income above the state averages are expected to be Asian American. This is a large advancement compared with prior decades when only a fraction of this ratio could have been realized. Accounting information systems tends to be the degree path of choice that employers are looking for.

Since most companies are concerned with how to control their inventory Turnover ratios with concepts like just in time inventory systems and future predictive methods for judging the amount of merchandise needed to purchase in order to meet future demands. Finance and accounting majors are particularly prone to understanding these technical business issues and are better suited to help guide companies in the right direction.

That is why Berkley just announced a new program dedicated to helping Asian Californians gain access to higher levels of education. All in all, the advancement that has been made in the last few decades is astounding. That’s not to say that we are done fighting for equal rights and general equality. There will always be room to grow, but at least we are seeing positive changes in the present.

The Right To a Quality Education

school-writingOne of the most basic civil rights in modern society is access to a quality education, and today’s education system is failing youths at an alarming rate.

Students across the country are graduating without ever learning how to read or write. They have never read To Kill a Mockingbird; they have never written an essay; they don’t know the correct usage of affect Vs. Effect; and they wouldn’t even know where to begin any of these tasks because they were never taught. This is particularly relevant to the Asian American community because the illiteracy rate for immigrants in America is much higher than native-born Americans.

What makes and breaks access to a quality education is teacher accountability.  Teachers are the lifeblood of a school and the success of a student’s future performance. The problem is that there is very little accountability in America’s school system and no systems set in place that rewards good teachers and removed bad teachers. Oftentimes the only way to get rid of a poorly performing teacher is if they are involved in a school-wide scandal. That is not a very good policy to support students.

There are many ways to fix this problem, some of which have widespread public support.

In order to give students access to a quality education that they are entitled to, teachers need to be held accountable. One such way is to implement a merit-based pay system for teachers in American education. In the private sector, employees are rewarded by pay incentives for how good they do their job and whether or not they are effective in their work. Teachers, however, usually operate on a strict seniority based system. This fact is compounded by the fact that teachers can earn tenure and be guaranteed the security of their jobs. This does little to incentivize teachers to be more effective in their work for students. We like to think of teachers as caring about the children no matter what, but they are also still human and the institutional incentive structures set in place still affect teachers like the affect private sector workers.

Many elementary schools across the country have also stopped teaching formal grammar classes to students. This is especially significant to the Asian American community because a large indicator of success in America is your ability to communicate English well. If grammar is not taught in schools, students will continue making elementary mistakes on the meaning of apart vs. A Part which will affect their potential for employment and future success.

Another way to improve Asian American literacy rates is to adopt more vigorous reading curricula in schools. In many schools across America, student’s reading requirements never surpass fifth grade levels. How can we expect students to read at higher levels if we don’t have them reading at higher levels in schools?

The only way to make school systems serve the students better is to make them more accountable to the parents of those students because they are the ones who care about their child’s success. Parents need to remain vigilant about talking with school boards, teachers, and school administration.

Pension Reforms Affect Asian American Guitar Teachers

In an ever growing process of school districts and states cutting public education funds, school music teachers may have seen the worst of time. This is particularly true in California where a large percentage of Asian American music instructors are facing the loss of their promised pensions.

Tim Wu, a local band teacher, stated, “We have given the schools everything we could for the length of our careers. It’s unfair of the state to take away something that was promised us years ago.”

Tim’s statement couldn’t be more accurate. It’s not fair to leave our nation’s teachers out to dry because the state budgets aren’t under order. Asian Americans have the civil right to receive a pension that they have earned over the course of their careers.

Nationwide pension reform must start now starting with one state at a time. Unnecessary expenditures need to be cut in other education financing in order to maintain and improve the current pension programs. It shouldn’t matter whether the instructor teaches guitar classes on the internet or in the classroom. He or she deserves to be included in the pension reform talks.

One of the main items that is on the table, at least in California, is whether or not pensions are going to have extended vesting periods or continue on the same policies as before. Governor Brown passed a bill that drastically cut pension benefits to all music education teachers to appease voters and show that he is trying to be fiscally conservative now that he is in office. The public unions are protesting this new law and forcing Governor Brown to back pedal on his previous stance of cutting expenditures.

If music educators no longer have the funding to continue, many people will be affected. For instance, there are many guitar companies in southern California like Fender and Schecter that will most likely lose sales because less young people will be interested in playing electric guitars.

New production of guitars might slow down and people will be forced to buy used and older instruments without knowing their value or being able to lookup their fender guitar Serial numbers.

As with most issues that affect our school systems, they have long stretching problems that branch out into almost all industries and ways of life. The California Pension Reform Act isn’t only bad for Asian Californians; this idea is horrible for the entire country.

Proper and adequate public funding of schools and educational costs must be a priority for all states. Please write your congressperson, senator, or governor if you feel that your state is making the wrong decision when it comes to music teacher pensions as well as all public sector pensions.

Civil Rights in the Marketplace: Owning a Small Business

Civil Rights in the Marketplace: Owning a Small Business

One civil right that is often overlooked in wider discussions of civil rights is market-place interactions. Discussions dominate over voting, access to affordable housing, immigration, but access to market-place interactions is rarely discussed.

All Americans deserve the right to marketplace interactions and the ability to start and run their own small businesses. Asian Americans have been instrumental in American business ownership. As a result of being largely excluded from labor markets in the 19th century, Asian Americans took to starting their own small businesses. This is historically where city’s thriving China-town communities have come from. Asian Americans were unable to participate in other areas of the marketplace, so they created their own small businesses to serve their own community and people who shared their cultures.

Asian Americans now own businesses of all kinds. We are manufacturers, convenience store owners, doctors, computer science engineers, anything you can think of. We are oral surgeons doing dental implants in Hartford Connecticut; we work in Silicon Valley and academia; we study law, accounting, and finance. The Asian American community has made great leaps and bounds in the past 100 years in American history and now it is time to set out for the next 100.

What we are currently seeing, however, in our government’s public policy are efforts to make it more difficult to start and operate small businesses. We do not believe that these efforts are aimed at the Asian American community or any community in particular, but are instead a victim of a failed ideology that views the market as an inherently unfair system. For instance, it is much more difficult to get dental implants in Washington D.C. now because of these laws. The only unfairness that we currently see in American markets is that unfairness created by governments. We see trade quotes, and tariffs placed on the import or export of American goods. We see certain industries being favored over others by tax incentives or outright government bailouts.

In the 1800s we saw a tremendous amount of unfairness in the way the Asian American community was treated, but the marketplace was the one area where they were equal. They were allowed to compete with every other business as equals and if they created a better product or produced a better service, well they won out and beat the competition, regardless of any other prejudices that may have been in society at the time.

Markets are great equalizers in America and around the world, but they must remain free and open. Efforts to restrict or put a damper on marketplace interactions are harmful. This goes for any number of regulations or compliance laws that are currently being discussed in state and federal government agencies. Increases in the minimum wage hurt small businesses and force them to lay off valuable employees. Small business groups across the country do not favor raises in the minimum wage because they realize it hurts small business owners. This obviously does not stop small business owners from voluntarily paying more than the minimum wage, and many do. In fact, most small businesses do pay above the minimum wage, but forcing all small businesses to pay an increases minimum wage will hurt businesses across the country.

Government Tracking License Plates

Government Tracking License Plates

License Plate tracking issues

Have you heard the news? The government is after your license plates now. While this might not immediately raise a red flag in your head, it carries many civil rights undertones that need to be addressed and safeguarded for the Asian American community and America as a whole.

After my license plates, what do you mean? Don’t I get the license plate from the government anyway? Yes you do, but, I bet you didn’t know this; did you know that on police cars are cameras that not only scan your license plate as you drive back and forth to work or drive your kids to school, they also record the time and location of scanning them? That’s right, police cars that are out driving out on patrol or driving through a mall parking lot scan every car’s license plate that they pass and record it into a database.

Many people in state governments correctly see this specific surveillance tool as something that is fraught with ways to be abused, and Colorado has introduced a bill that would limit retention of these images. For instance, rather than keeping these records in perpetuity, law enforcements officials would be forced to destroy them after a given time period.

Not surprisingly law enforcement groups are opposed to these restrictions, stating that they would “cripple” their ability to do investigations. You might ask yourself how they conducted investigations in—say—the 1990s when these kinds of technologies were not available. Were police forces across the country crippled? Or is this opposition simply an unwillingness to relinquish any power? It is important to note that the current bills being discussed are already compromises. No is trying to outlaw this kind of surveillance all together; privacy advocates just don’t think these records should be kept forever.

The cause for concern arises because we are approaching a point in time when the government can digitally track a citizen’s every move. They can request cell phone data with geo tracking information, text message requests for entire phone conversations, scan your license plates and see where you have and haven’t gone, and if there are no safeguards, citizens will end up loosing their civil rights and liberties, as they already have in many instances.

States looking to reign in and clarify local law enforcement protocol when it comes to private digital information should not be greeted with hostility but with a welcoming embrace. Frankly these reforms are long overdue considering the widespread abuse of power displayed by President Obama and his administration. Citizen privacy is the civil rights issue of our time and as the world continues to get more and more digital, these protections will only become more important.

Other states that are considering reforms in these areas are Oregon and Delaware. Oregon is considering a bill that would require police to meet a standard of “urgent circumstances” to obtain cell phone geo locating data while Delaware plans to increase privacy protections safeguarding requests for text message conversations and data.

Can the Fourth Amendment be Salvaged?

Can the Fourth Amendment be Salvaged?

4th amendment under attack

Sometimes instead of dragging yourself in the mud, day after day, looking at the government’s excesses and abuse of power, it is better to look at the silver lining. And there might be such a silver lining in the wave of NSA’s oversteps and abuses of power in spying on American citizens without warrants or probable cause.

As we said in our last post, the fourth amendment illustrates a fundamental civil right in America: the right to privacy and the right against unreasonable searches and seizures. We also mentioned the widespread disregard for this basic civil right by both the federal government and local law enforcement.

Well, the massive NSA controversy has caused states all across the union to reevaluate many of their outdated digital privacy laws. Fourteen states so far have made the move in proposing or introducing legislation that would update or clarify existing laws, sending a crystal clear message to the federal government: if you refuse to protect the privacy of our nation’s citizens, we will do everything we can to protect it.

While states cannot stop the abuse of power of the NSA (a federal agency), they can implement and update laws pertaining to local law enforcement’s data collection practices. This is very important because, despite the widespread attention of the NSA scandal, most abuses happen by local and state law enforcement officials. For example, police made 1.1 million data requests to cell phone carriers in 2012. This can be anything from text messages, cell phone calls, Internet data, to geo tracking data.  And to further drive this point home, only four states currently have laws on the books that address how much access to cell phone data law enforcement can have without the use of a search warrant, showing a clear need for updates to these laws.

We are exceedingly pleased with the decision of these fourteen states to move in the direction of protecting their citizens’ privacy, but we are also exceedingly displeased with the federal government behavior. Not only are the federal government and the Obama administration unrepentant about their abuse of power, they are sitting on their hands when reforms clearly need to be made. Citizens around the country are outraged at these practices, yet no reforms are being made.

This further underscores the beauty of the system of governance set up by our founding fathers. The federalist system separates power so that it does not become concentrated in any one single entity. This concept is key because as the saying goes, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” By dividing responsibilities between the state and federal governments, you allow yourself a greater response to citizen action. In many ways, the federalist system is much more democratic because it is much more local.

If we ever want to see the fourth amendment restored and a government that values the civil rights of its citizens, we must argue for a division of powers that is laid out in the constitution and a respect for the protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Protecting our Privacy

Protecting our Privacy

Privacy

One of our most basic and fundamental civil rights in America is the right to privacy. America has long been a leader among the world in protecting its citizens’ privacy and while the right to privacy is not explicitly laid out in the constitution, ideas about it can be found in the fourth amendment protecting citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. The fourth amendment was introduced by James Madison and is part of the Bill of Rights to the U.S. Constitution.

It was written in response to the general search warrants that were commonplace in colonial America. During this time, British soldiers had almost unlimited search power and very little oversight. They were able to barge into your home for no reason whatsoever, search your house, and seize any property they saw fit. This abuse of power caused a great deal of unease for the settlers and they became restless.

After the Revolutionary War when American citizens were drafting their new Constitution, many people saw it necessary to include an explicit amendment protecting this basic civil right.

Fast forward to present day America, there seems to be a new scandal just about every other day with President Obama’s administration and disregard for the fourth amendment to the constitution. With the NSA spy programs and the hacking into of journalists’ computers, it raises serious questions about the government and its abuse of power.

Can the president search anyone’s digital records for any reason? Or must he obtain a search warrant to do so? This is a similar question to the one being asked of local law enforcement officers in states all across the country. What kind of data should police officers be able to access off of smartphones without a warrant? How much and how often? When should they be required to get a warrant?

The answers to these questions are not always black and white, as many law enforcement officials will say this data is necessary to solve crimes and protect the citizenry. Something that also needs to be taken into consideration, however, is what else should we expect a law enforcement official to say? If they were abusing their power and spying on citizens across the country, would we expect them to say, “Sorry, you’re right and we are illegally collecting data on all of you.”? Of course not! The Obama administration was caught doing just that. They were actively spying on millions of American citizens with no reasonable cause or suspicion. Compound this with the fact that they were illegally hacking into journalists’ online accounts for information and tapping our ally’s cell phones.

One thing emerges very clear from all of this: we need stronger safeguards in place to protect citizens. We cannot always expect the government to play fairly, especially when its track record is as poor as it currently is, so we need to be sure to enact civil rights protections for citizens that protect them from these unreasonable searches and seizures, whether it be their home belongings or their online data.