The Politics of Parenthood

In an interview conducted by Rachel Maddow, John Stewart once suggested that the media exaggerates the centrality of the Republican/Democratic divide in America. Looking surprised, Maddow asked what he meant. As an example, Stewart suggested that the difference between people with children and those without was much more significant.

At the time I thought it was a good point. Now I’m seeing how really true it is. Being a father has shaped even my political priorities. I’m much more concerned about economic matters and much more aware of the way in which government choices shape my family’s choices. This hasn’t made me more conservative (as I think some conservative family members expected would happen) – in some ways, quite the opposite.

I was reminded about this in reading an excellent article from Al Jazeera about the “choices” facing mothers in America. The points the author makes have certainly proven true for my own family, and not just for my wife. Especially challenging is the cost of day care. Right now it’s out of our budget. And I can see clearly the ways in which that not only limits our current earning capacity but our long term earning potential.

I grow so frustrated now with articles and conversations that argue endlessly about the quality of day care and whether government intervention would diminish that quality while ignoring the huge crisis in quantity and cost. I am firmly convinced that day care would be better for my family: my son would get more of the social interaction he needs and we would be able to better provide for him now and in the future. But we live in a society where that’s just out of our reach.

From the outside, I think that’s easy to imagine as an individual challenge: we made a choice to have children and these are the consequences. But when I think about this challenge being repeated on a national scale, I’m struck by the volume of wasted potential: economic, cultural, social, political, etc. Do we really want to live in a society where people can either participate in civil society (including the workplace) or have children? That’s a social divide I don’t think we should be increasing.

Diversity in the Classroom is Doomed.

Yesterday, supporters of affirmative action in admissions got a reprieve. The Supreme Court voted 7-1 to return the case to the 5th Circuit for reconsideration. But that reprieve won’t change the ultimate calculus that spells the doom of affirmative action in school admissions. The problem is a fundamental contradiction between the allowed reason for such policies…

Close of the Term

It’s one of my favorite times of year, the close of the Supreme Court’s term. Yes, I’m nerdy like that. But these are some big, significant decisions being made. I suggest, as I always do, that you follow along with Slate‘s Supreme Court Year in Review.  Though I miss having Dahlia Lithwick involved, Emily Bazelon…

The Challenge of Tenure for Women

A recent article in Slate summarizes some of the findings in Do Babies Matter?: Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower, a recent book by a team of Berkeley researchers. Mary Ann Mason, Ph.D., J.D., a co-author of the book, summarizes their findings thus: The most important finding is that family formation negatively affects women’s,…

What the Protests in Turkey Say About Us

As the news of large protests in Turkey began to circulate, I’ve been a bit troubled by the initial reactions and what they say about the American mindset. Where there was little information at the outset about the proximate causes and underlying issues, there was a plethora of conclusions about what it all meant, who…

It Is Time to Reassess Our Wars

In the context of Pres. Obama’s recent speech calling for an end to the ‘war on terror,’ may I suggest that we end another long-running war — and consider starting some others? A friend shared this article with a key quote: But federal research shows that the average sentence for a first time, non-violent drug…

A New FBI Director

In case you hadn’t heard, the current FBI director will complete his service in early September. President Obama will soon nominated James Comey to serve as the director. Comey is a lifelong Republican and former Justice Department official during Bush II’s administration, a fact that has gotten some attention. Most famously, Comey was the acting…

What If Jesus Was Right About The Poor?

The title is the first of two questions that have been been bouncing around in my head for a few months now. It has to do with a comment made by Jesus. Here’s how it was recorded in The Gospel of St. Mark: For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will…

How Should Government Promote Stable Families?

While the achievement of marriage equality will be a tremendous step, it comes at a time when an extended recession has drawn attention to the economic fragility of contemporary families. When two parents are required to support a child (or when only one is available), the consequences of unemployment or underemployment can be devastating for…

Should the Government Promote “Traditional” Families?

Insofar as it is ‘traditional’ to organize families around a legal marriage of two consenting adults, recognized by the state, and securing for them certain rights, I do believe the government has an interest in promoting ‘traditional’ families. But I do not believe the state has a compelling interest in denying marriage to same-sex couples….