Dear Alibi ,
There are a handful of Republicans out there who are not racists; they are not jingoists; they are not sexually insecure. This group of sane Republicans knows that the party must purge itself of all tea baggers, whereupon, at last, the Republican Party will cross the bridge into the 21st century. Today's Republican leaders are preaching soulless fascism. Soulless fascism is NOT the future of America.
[Re: Opinion, “What a Way to Make a Livin’,” July 12-18] Ms. Adair-Hodges implies that the U.S. is somehow behind the times because we are one of only four countries that don't have "mandated paid maternity leave." As a human, I think women should get paid maternity leave. As a Libertarian, I don't think the government should require it. It's not the government's responsibility. If you don't have paid maternity leave where you work, find somewhere that does and get a job there. Or start a business. Or don't have a child. Or be a stay-at-home mom. But don't expect somebody else to pay for a decision you made.
As for salaries or wages, I think men and women should be paid the same for the same work, plus maybe a little extra for seniority or great attitude. If you're not, refer to the previous paragraph.
Ms. Adair-Hodges also says that we should stop using the words “entitlements,” “perks” and “special treatment” when referring to ideas to improve work-life balance. Anything that someone else gives you at work over and above your salary, e.g., bonuses, corner office, choice parking space, child care, is a perk, entitlement or special treatment and is therefore intrinsic to such discussions.
Personally, I think women are better suited to child raising. Men, with exceptions, can't handle it. It's hard work. Not that men can't do physical labor, but child care is so much more than physical. My wife and I have three daughters and I don't know what I'd do if their mom wasn't around. Really.
We've been fortunate in that, due to our opposing work schedules, we've been able to raise our girls without having to use or pay for day care. But that's because of decisions and sacrifices we've made. And that's the point of this letter: personal responsibility.
Columnist Erin Adair-Hodges responds: The doctrine of personal responsibility and the provision of paid family care aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, ensuring that children have the healthiest start in life is the best way to encourage responsible parenting.
I appreciate the letter-writer's perspective, and he's far from being alone in holding these sentiments. However, I think he actually helps make my case. As a man, he was not forced to choose between work and having children simply because he was a man. That is the essence of discrimination. By his estimation, only women who can afford to go without pay, or those with no jobs to begin with, should have children. That leaves out the majority of women in this country: middle-class, working women.
The other choice, he proposes, is to not have children. Again, this isn't a choice men have to make—they can do both with little impact on their careers.
Lastly, the implication that we're asking for the government to provide leave isn't correct, unless the government is the employer. Paid family leave should be seen as akin to paying overtime, providing vacation, and ensuring safe work conditions. Every one of those items used to be seen as unreasonable demands by workers, but now they're mandatory—we can't imagine working without these in place. I'm hopeful we'll see paid family leave in this category someday.
Go Build a Raft
This anecdote has been circulating the Internet for a little while now, and I agreed with the initial advice, but found myself angry at the latter portions:
Northland College principal John Tapene has offered the following words from a judge who regularly deals with youth. "Always we hear the cry from teenagers, ‘What can we do, where can we go?’ My answer is, go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you've finished, read a book. Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in poverty, or sick and lonely again. In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It's too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you.”
Although this anecdote is from New Zealand, I've noticed an increasing trend of calling America's youth "lazy" or "irresponsible." I'm not yet 30, but I imagine being 10 years younger and I'm horrified. These kids are not growing up in the world I grew up in, and they're barely in the same solar system as the world my parents were raised in. We can't really judge them without taking a moment to stand in their shoes.
Toddlers are playing games on cell phones, computers trump kickball, everything is available to them at warp speed via Google, and as much as we might want to call that parental choice, it's every bit as much a societal choice. We put them into schools that might as well be juvenile detention facilities. We separate them into potential achievement groups based on test scores. Teachers are not allowed to comfort nor discipline them for fear of repercussion, so for a large portion of their day, students are surrounded by adults who can't be adults. They are not encouraged to do any critical thinking because we've come to the conclusion that each child will be better suited to face the world if he/she can pass a test they've all been taught to take, rather than actually learning. We leave them woefully unprepared to enter even the most stable of conditions, and they are not walking out into a stable world.
None of these things are their fault, and they have no say in how things go—because they are not adults and cannot vote on how things work in the world that they will enter. We can't say, Hey, we're going to do a mediocre (at best) job of getting you to adulthood and it's your responsibility to turn that into a marvelous and productive life and fix the mess we've left you. Not because it isn't fair; because it's just plain unrealistic.
The world does not owe anyone anything, but WE, the people who CAN change the way things are done, we DO very much owe them that. Whether that's a real, honest and open discussion about actual education reform; or making sure there are community recreation facilities and plenty of extracurricular activities; or creating more high school internships, we need to make it happen. We owe it to them and we owe it to ourselves, because someday these young people are going to be the ones propelling our country forward while my parents watch from retirement and I watch from a midlife crisis. I'd like them to do a good job of it, but ignoring our role in that would be naive, at best.
The Concept of Value
[Re: Letters, "Trillion-Dollar Shortfall," July 12-18] Steven Dapra faults candidate Gary Johnson for not explaining specifically how he would balance the budget. Mr. Dapra sites some departments that if eliminated would cut $168 billion. But Mr. Dapra fails to account for the enormous cost savings and increased benefits from Johnson's proposed ending of the current government policy on drugs and bringing the military back home.
A different policy on drugs would result in decreased spending on detention centers, for one thing. Law enforcement agencies would have more resources to combat other types of crime. (Maybe DNA testing would lead to speedier arrests of rapists.) The new policy would lower costs for state and local governments, too.
But bringing the military home would save trillions in future costs. (Give me a discount rate and I can give you the present value.) First, you have less disabled vets to care for. (Look at what the VA is going through.) Second, you have less suicides and ruined families. Third, put a price on your loss of limbs or life.
Americans today take casualties pretty well, until it is their legs getting blown off. It might not be your father or son who will be maimed for life or cut down in the prime of his life, but it is someone's father or son. And you should care. Human life has value. Politics do not.
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