Men and Women
Progress in the United Kingdom?
During a chat with a group of 17-year-old girls recently, our conversation turned to their dreams for the future. One girl, Patty, wants to be a lawyer. Another, Justine, has her heart set on becoming a doctor.
But it seems there's one aspiration that's proving surprisingly popular -- and it doesn't involve years of dedicated study, either.
Yes -- feminists look away now -- most of the girls I talked to are intent on marrying a rich man. . .
As a teacher, perhaps I should have argued with these teenagers and told them their happiness depended on financial independence and high-flying careers. A few years ago I would have done, but not any more.
So what's changed? Well, four years ago my daughter Nancy was born and I became a harassed working mother. It was my implacable belief that a career was the path to female fulfilment that kept me working after her birth.
Back then, I honestly believed that women who didn't work were boring little drones who had given up all vestige of personality.
How wrong I was!
Exit question: if, as a rule, men and women want different things out of life, and if one of the the central questions of liberal eduction is how to live, how should we address the differences between men and women in our schools? A start would be recognizing at least the possibility that the reason why just about every society in history has had gender roles is because men and women like to differentiate themselves from each other.
Has the idea of the equality of men and women been rendered secure enough in modern America to allow us to discuss the both the ways in which men and women are equal and the ways in which men and women are not the same, and don't want to be the same?
Quote of the Day
Since some Progressives have been suggesting that amending the constitution to block the nationalization of health care is un-conservative, I thought it might be wise to post a bit from President Washington's Farewel Address:
You have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.
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The president must have thought that distancing himself from left and right would make him more attractive to the center. But you get credit for going to the center only if you say the centrist position you've just embraced is right. If you suggest, as the president did, that the seemingly moderate plan you agreed to is awful and you'll try to rescind it in two years, you won't leave the center thinking, "He's our guy!" You'll leave them thinking, "Note to self: Remove Obama in two years."I think it is revealing to the point--almost--of obscenity that Obama chose that particular moment to chastise his base. Watching it, you get the sense, almost of having walked in on a private conversation that you were not meant to overhear. It is remarkably aloof and abstract and distant--directed almost over your head, as if you were a bug crawling on the floor. It is especially to be noted when you combine that outburst at the left with the utter dismissive contempt he demonstrated for Republicans (e.g., tax cuts for the wealthy are their "holy grail"!?). It shows that he is only open to arguments and sensitive to criticism coming at him from his left flank. This--and this alone--was the knife that cut at him. His left flank is the only place where he imagines real political conversation happens. And you will note, too, what "political conversation" looks like. It is not about the ends. It is ONLY about the means. It is about what is possible and how to accomplish it. This reveals that he does not believe that serious debate about the nature and meaning of justice in American politics is either possible or legitimate. He does not consider his political opponents to be potential friends or, even, fellow citizens. They are, alternately, "terrorists" or "enemies" or now "hostage takers." It ought to go without saying, but I cannot let it pass without remarking that this is an utterly despicable way for a President of the United States to address himself to the people.
Reihan Salam gives us a remarkably thoughtful and civil critique of the DREAM Act.
"So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health-care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for a hundred years," Obama began, "but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for a hundred million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise."
The result of such a inflexible approach, he said, is that "people will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people."
Defending his own tactics, he invoked his race, something he rarely does in political discussions.
"This country was founded on compromise. I couldn't go through the front
door at this country's founding," he said. "And, you know, if we were
really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn't have a union."
1. I'm enjoying the tantrum that many liberals are throwing.
2. There is something weirdly hyperbolic about all this carrying on over extending the 35 percent top marginal income tax rate for two more years. It isn't usually something people get that angry about. If I thought that Bernie Sanders. Michael Lerner, and Keith Olbermann were serious about bringing down the short-term budget deficit, this hissy fit would make a little more sense, but even then not really. They still support the deficit-financed middle class tax cuts and payroll tax holiday. David Limbaugh argues that it is about a desire to get at the rich. I don't think that is it. A desire to see higher marginal tax rates on the rich might be a reason to oppose keeping the top marginal income tax rate at 35 percent rather than 39.9 percent but it doesn't begin to explain the current freakout. I think a lot of this is about George W. Bush. Repealing the "Bush tax cut" on the "rich" would have been a victory over Bush and one more step toward obliterating his economic legacy. I wouldn't discount this kind of pettiness. I remember a debate in 2004 where Howard Dean suggested repealing all of the Bush tax cuts. The other Democrats reminded him that some of the tax cuts were actually quite popular even among Democrats. Dean then suggested repealing all the Bush tax cuts and then re-passing some of them. This isn't even about economics. It is about pride and vengeance. Now Bush has gotten the better of them again and worst of all Obama helped Bush make fools out of liberals one more time.
3. There is also a self-promoting, self-dramatizing, and principled explanation too. As David Weigel points out, criticizing Obama in extravagant terms and threatening to support a primary challenge from the left brings more media attention to the left critique of the compromise and to to the people doing the critiquing/threatening.
4. This tax cut extension/new round of economic stimulus won't break us of course, but there is something ominous about the fact that the bipartisan deficit commission reported last week, and this week we get a bipartisan bill that will increase the deficit. I get the whole short-term weak economy vs. long-term thing entitlement crisis thing, but I don't see much reason to feel good about the long-term either.
Obama continues to excite the rage of the "professional left," as he has derogatorily referred to his liberal detractors. Still under fire for his compromise to freeze federal workers' pay, Obama yesterday faced "an uprising among angry Democrats who strongly opposed his deal with Republicans on tax cuts" Leftist commentators are even beginning to call for a challenge to Obama in the next Democratic primary.
And Obama isn't taking it lightly. Once rated the "most liberal member of the Senate," a visibly angry Obama branded his former compatriots "sanctimonious," accused them of not understanding that "the New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America," and chastised Democrats to remember the virtue of "compromise."
Hello pot. Meet kettle.
To be fair, the president has also repeatedly referred to the GOP as terrorists. But Obama's new-found charity toward compromise is amusing. No longer insulated by a Democratic super-majority, the harsh reality of an actual diversity of opinions has suddenly awakened our dear leader to an appreciation of the give-and-take of politics (as opposed to his usual tactic of brute-force, hyper-partisan warfare).
So the president is now taking it from both sides. I'd say that is a good thing - both objectively (it shows compromise, which is necessary from so ideologically extreme a politician) and for the president's approval (again, it shows compromise - a quality of which he has been viewed as sorely lacking). Idle primary threats aside, such a course is the most likely to keep Obama in the Oval Office for six more years. Let's see if it lasts.
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First, "highly educated Americans are embracing a pro-marriage mindset even as Middle Americans are losing faith in marriage."
...marriage is in trouble among so-called "Middle Americans," defined as the 58% of adults who have a high school diploma ... no four-year college degree.
...trends in non-marital childbearing, divorce and marital quality in Middle America increasingly resemble those of the poor, many of whose marriages are fragile. However, among the highly educated and affluent, marriage is stable and appears to be getting even stronger - yet more evidence of America's "marriage gap."
The "marriage gap" also accompanies a corollary "faith gap," as the upper-class now attend church more often than middle-class Americans. Another recently study by NMP concluded that "across America's major racial and ethnic groups ... shared religious activity - attending church together and especially praying together - is linked to higher levels of relationship quality."
The logic is not surprising. Religious people consistently report higher levels of happiness and stability, as do married people, and religious people are more likely to marry and remain married. It's a virtuous circle. Decrease either the religion or marriage components of the equation and you're certain to produce a decrease in happiness and stability.
The retreat from marriage in Middle America cuts deeply into the nation's hopes and dreams as well. For if marriage is increasingly unachievable for our moderately educated citizens--a group that represents 58 percent of the adult population (age 25-60)--then it is likely that we will witness the emergence of a new society. For a substantial share of the United States, economic mobility will be out of reach, their children's life chances will diminish, and large numbers of young men will live apart from the civilizing power of married life.
This retreat is also troubling because highly educated Americans (defined here as having at least a bachelor's degree) have in recent years been largely unaffected by the tidal wave of family change that first hit the poor in the 1960s and has since moved higher into Middle America. Indeed, highly educated Americans, who make up 30 percent of the adult population, now enjoy marriages that are as stable and happy as those four decades ago. There is thus a growing "marriage gap" between moderately and highly educated America.5 This means that more affluent Americans are now doubly privileged in comparison to their moderately educated fellow citizens--by their superior socioeconomic resources and by their stable family lives.
Men and Women
It deserves notice that Elizabeth Edwards passed away yesterday. The NY Times obituary summarizes her life as consisting of "idyllic successes and crushing reverses." In her own words, when she decided to forgo further treatment for her terminal breast cancer, Ms Edwards wrote:
I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces -- my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope... The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that.
Our prayers for her, her family and friends.
Foolishly, I supposed that Helen Thomas' most recent meltdown would be the most fanatical anti-Semitic sentiment I would read today.
...we are owned by propagandists against the Arabs. There's no question about that. Congress, the White House, and Hollywood, Wall Street, are owned by the Zionists.
Then I read that Egypt has blamed the recent spree of shark attacks off their coast on ... the Jews.
Speaking on the public TV program "Egypt Today" yesterday, a specialist introduced as "Captain Mustafa Ismael, a famous diver in Sharm El Sheikh," said that the sharks involved in the attack are ocean sharks and do not live in Egypt's waters.
When asked by the anchor how the shark entered Sharm El Sheikh waters, he burst out, "no, who let them in."
Urged to elaborate, Ismael said that he recently got a call from an Israeli diver in Eilat telling him that they captured a small shark with a GPS planted in its back, implying that the sharks were monitored to attack in Egypt's waters only.
"Why would these sharks travel 4000 km and not have any accidents until it entered Sinai?" said Ismael.
Earlier today, General Abdel Fadeel Shosha, the governor of South Sinai, backed Ismael's theory. In a phone call to the TV program, he said that it is possible that Israeli intelligence, Mossad, is behind the incident and that they are doing it to undermine the Egyptian tourism industry. He added that Egypt needs time to investigate the theory.
GPS, meh. If only they had "sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads."
You can't make this stuff up - and shouldn't have to take it seriously.
The GOP is trying a new tactic for bringing down Obamacare and I while I don't think it will actually get Obamacare repealed in the forthcoming Congress, it might be a useful exercise. Medicare is set to cut reimbursements to health care providers by 25 percent. If the cut goes through, it might be tougher for many old people to continue seeing the same providers. The GOP is looking to pass a "Doc Fix" which would keep Medicare reimbursements at the current level. This would of course cost more money, but the money to pay for the Doc Fix would come from shifting money from Obamacare to Medicare. I especially like Douglas Holtz-Eakin's idea of trying to take money from the future Obamacare subsidies to finance the Doc Fix.
It's a neat trick that won't work, but might do some good. As Jonathan Chait points out, the Senate will probably not pass and Obama would in any case veto a bill that shifted funds out of Obamacare. So what? The fight would dramatize that Obamacare took money out of an already underfunded Medicare program to create an expensive new subsidy that won't even exist until years from now - if ever.
So I'm for this tactic, but only tepidly. Most old people already know that Obamacare robbed Medicare and dramatizing this could have real, but only limited benefits. I'm not even sure how many Americans will even hear of (never mind understand) the controversy. Even one concrete state-level initiative to significantly increase the availability and usage of consumer-driven health insurance policies (and the attendant controversies with the HHS bureaucracy and with congressional Republicans cheering the state government on) would do more good in eroding the policy and political basis for Obamacare - though it isn't an either/or matter.
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Modern democracies have created a new morality. Government benefits, once conferred, cannot be revoked. People expect them and consider them property rights. Just as government cannot randomly confiscate property, it cannot withdraw benefits without violating a moral code. The old-fashioned idea that government policies should serve the "national interest" has given way to inertia and squatters' rights.
So opines Robert Samuelson in today's WaPo, drawing specific attention to Europe's present fiscal miseries, America's reckless similarities and the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform's "accounting exercise to shrink the deficit without trying to define what government should do and why." The overarching problem is that commission has failed to produce "a moral rationale for change."
The "entitlement" mentality has long been a feature of American politics, but the urgency of an economic downturn is finally forcing Americans to confront the unsustainability and pending consequences of this problem. Samuelson notes:
The social contract will be rewritten either by design or, as in Europe, under outside pressures. If we keep the expedient morality of perpetual programs - so that nothing fundamental can ever be abandoned - then Europe's social unrest could be a prelude to our own.
Samuelson hopes to begin a conversation about "the broader national interest" in order to form a philosophy of government. I salute his intention, second his diagnosis of the problem and commend his prescription for change - but I wonder if he has noticed that the Tea Party has already begun this particular conversation - and November's election was America's response.
The principle question now is whether our politicians have the knowledge and prudence to decipher the public will and translate it into governing policy. This would be a considerable accomplishment in the formulation of a new governing philosophy, as it would provide an example of true "politics": statesmen responding to sentiments of the citizens by crafting just and prudent laws respecting the will of the people and mindful of the good of the state.
The Supreme Court on Monday accepted what will likely become the highest-profile business case of the year, agreeing to decide whether 1.5 million female employees of Wal-Mart can pursue job discrimination claims [worth billions of dollars in damages -JP] in the largest employment class-action suit in the country's history.
Without having looked at any facts of the case, I presume that the underlying claim (that Wal-Mart "pays women less than men and promotes women less frequently") is factually true. However, I also assume it is irrelevant. This seeming inequality is likely due to a historical trend of women working less hours / part-time as compared to career-oriented men. The assertion that the world's largest private employer has somehow managed to convey a secret message of gender discrimination to store managers across the world seems a bit preposterous.
Wal-Mart is hated by the left, serving as the quintessential model of corporate evil - suffocating humanity beneath a plastic shell of enervating greed. Of course, most on the left have no idea that their regurgitated sound-bites are simply flowery rhetoric peddled by union bosses who recognize Wal-Mart's opposition to unionization as a grave threat to their existence. The largest employer in the world refusing to unionize workers. What could more directly strike at the heart of union power and prestige?
The left apparently fails to notice that Wal-Mart provides 1) jobs to unskilled workers and 2) a wide range of affordable commodities to low-income buyers. These are critical services which the government simply cannot duplicate. (What is the average cost per job created by Obama's stimulus package?) Unions have convinced liberals to sacrifice their concern for the poor, enlisting them instead to oppose the company providing the most benefits to low income families. All due to the left's blind loyalty to labor unions.
The infamous 9th Circuit in San Francisco ruled that the class-action suit could continue to trial. The Supreme Court's acceptance of Wal-Mart's appeal of that ruling suggests the possibility for a dismissal. The high court will not rule on the merits of the underlying discrimination claim, but rather a question of class action suits. However, on my assumption that the global conspiracy theorists are wrong in their Wal-Mart-hates-women campaign, dismissal is the best ultimate conclusion. (I just hope Wal-Mart doesn't have to raise prices to pay for the lawyer bills!)
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