There's a particularly interesting editorial in the Times this week, which comments on the subject matter of another, earlier, Times article by Natasha Singer. It seems as if many in the medical profession (and I suppose, in other professions as well) are scooting away from "important" work and heading into more lucrative areas.
In her three years as an obstetrician and gynecologist in Brooklyn, Dr. Ngozi Nwankpa-Keshinro delivered several hundred babies, conducted several thousand pelvic exams and diagnosed everything from infections to infertility. But this year, with a little additional training, she has entered a new field: cosmetic medicine. ... But now obstetricians, family practitioners and emergency room physicians are gravitating to the beauty business, lured by lucrative cosmetic treatments that require same-day payments because they are not covered by insurance and by a medical practice without bothersome midnight emergency calls.
The central thrust of the article is that "rich" America is becoming jealous of the "super-rich," and is doing something about it by avoiding lower-paying (but still waaaaay above the average American income) jobs. We're becoming more superficial, or, at the very least, working just for the buck. From the editorial:
It’s hard for people flying in coach to have much patience with those in first class bemoaning their lack of a personal jet. Neither policymakers nor society at large need sympathize with the longing of millionaires to become billionaires. But we do need to worry about the effects on society as a whole when members of the educated elite think they are grossly underpaid. The more they feel as if they are losing ground against their peers, the more likely they are to ditch professions in which the pay is only good — like delivering babies — in favor of less useful careers in which the compensation is off the charts — like eliminating lines from wealthy people’s foreheads.
America has long had a problem attracting enough well-trained people to important but not particularly well-compensated positions, like public defender, social worker or teacher. But an era in which a cancer researcher moves over into health-care management consulting because the pay is better — as Louis Uchitelle reported in The Times this week — is something else entirely.
It's sad to see, but I knew this was happening. I've seen several of my colleagues, who, just a few years ago, wrote on their law school application personal statements of a desire to "change the world" and "make a difference." Now, suddenly they plan to work as corporate/tax attorneys. Part of the reason is the reduction in government subsidy of public education, leaving tremendous student debt. But I also think that the dollar is becoming to trump ambition, passion, and desire. Everyone wants to be Paris Hilton.
While I agree with the point of the article, I think the medical profession - or at least the specific example of OB-GYN - is probably a stretch to prove the point. OB-GYN is a tough profession right now due to the supper high rates of liability insurance because there are so many law suits when you are delivering babies. I've heard many stories of people who literial can't afford to be in the profession...not aren't making as much as they wish, but really can afford to pay the bills.
That said, I think it speaks to the widening divide in this country between the rich and poor. The rich is now considered multi-millionaires while single millionaires living in McMasions are becoming middle class. I think it also points out the fact that has been obvious to me for many years that we have some screwed up priorities in this country. When public school teachers get paid so little, it is difficult to attract top talent that is necessary to prepare our contries youth to compete on the national stage. Nearly every profession I can think of (ie teacher or doctor) those that work with younger people get paid less. A grade school teach gets paid less than a high school teach, who gets paid less than a college professor. A pediatrician gets paid less than their adult medicine counter part.
[sarcasm]I think the obvious thing to do is privatize...everything[/sarcasm]