the united states could pay for daddyland, no problem

I always assumed that the cost of parental leave in the US would be too high, that it would take some massive overhaul of our entire system to make Swedish-style parental leave a reality.  So I always talk about how we have to find an American way, a way that I can’t come up with myself, but there has to be some way – American ingenuity and all that.

Then in the recent Newsweek cover story on masculinity, a Columbia professor – Jane Waldfogel – is quoted saying that giving every working parent a full year of paid parental leave would cost about 25 billion dollars a year.

Oooh, that sounds like a lot, right?

It’s nothing.  If true, people should be knocking down their politicians’ doors to get this done.

Here are some numbers.  In nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has spent 1.1 trillion dollars.

That equals about 44 years of paid parental leave.

Citizens Against Government Waste says that congress earmarked 16.9 billion dollars worth of projects in 2010.  That takes care of a lot of the parental leave.  I know that pork projects serve as a kind of local stimulus, but, believe me, paying parents is a better way.

The conservative Hogue News listed a whole lot of wasteful federal projects, including references:

  1. The federal government made at least $72 billion in improper payments in 2008.
  2. Washington spends $92 billion on corporate welfare (excluding TARP) versus $71 billion on homeland security.
  3. Washington spends $25 billion annually maintaining unused or vacant federal properties.
  4. Government auditors spent the past five years examining all federal programs and found that 22 percent of them–costing taxpayers a total of $123 billion annually–fail to show any positive impact on the populations they serve.
  5. The Congressional Budget Office published a “Budget Options” series identifying more than $100 billion in potential spending cuts.

I’m sure the Hogue people wouldn’t the savings to go the safety net, but tough luck.  I’m seeing the future of an American Daddyland in that list.

We wouldn’t even notice 25 billion a year, a drop in the bucket.  Start taxing corporations right and we can even let the hypocritical Tea Party folks have a tax cut or two …


why can’t baby boomers shut up about woodstock?

Here is my latest, long-delayed Huffington Post blog entry …

Enough with Woodstock. Please. Put me out of this baby boomer misery.

I have lived with this generation’s self-absorbed false sense of grandeur long enough. I can not take one more day of Woodstock nostalgia, of both crass commercialism and well-crafted gooey reminiscences. I can not stand another thirty years of pats on the back, of admiration for a short lived burst of rebellion forty years ago (by a small fraction of the population) followed by a systematic destruction of most things good in America.

Hey, boomers. Let’s put the sixties aside and examine your report card. So, um, thanks for Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Thanks for Yuppies and the culture wars and this silly division into red and blue America. Thanks for your generation’s two signature presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Could you have produced two more ethically challenged leaders? Thanks for Iraq, both times. Thanks for all the burst bubbles and the lack of infrastructure. Thanks for the exurbs and the McMansions and all those horrifying Cadillac commercials that ruined Led Zeppelin for me.

The failures of the baby boomers are no secret, of course. Back in June, the Wall Street Journal did a story on all the boomer college commencement speakers who castigated their own generation for all sorts of sins.

Yes, the music was great. Of course it was. I love the music, just about all of it. And Woodstock is a tough target, three days of groovy peace, love and jamming. I get it. I lived an hour from Bethel, NY, where Woodstock took place, for five years. I heard all the stories. But I also was awash in boomer nostalgia, covering both boomer politicians and boomer urban refugees fleeing to the exurbs to drive their kids between subdivisions.

So, you know, I snapped. At least generationally. Then I got called out in this column by a former boomer colleague for my GenX churlishness on the 60s (though you notice he sticks to music and divisive mockery, never addressing anything of substance … typical boomer).

But unless you were backing up Janis Joplin in a secret jam session, or at least at, you know, actually at Woodstock, please, shut up.

One of the only good things that may come out of our current Great Recession is this: baby boomers will not be able to turn themselves into the Greatest Generation Part II.

Because you know they would if they could. After all, the Greatest Generation accomplished most of its heroics early on (afterwards, it gave us the military-industrial complex and raised the baby boomers).

So why not keep commercializing the 1960s and make everyone feel good about themselves out at the boomer retirement community? Boomers would be happy to take on that challenge.

That is impossible now, I hope. And that is good. For once in a coddled life, maybe this generation will have to stand accountable and stop coasting on all that incredibly good music.

And, in all seriousness, putting the 60s behind us is a good thing. Yes, the movements that came to a head in that era — civil rights, gay rights, women’s lib — have now disseminated into the larger culture.

That is a victory. But those movements are not really of the 60s. They each were a culmination of decades, if not centuries, of activism and sacrifice.

And, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out in The Atlantic in 2007, the nation has been for decades largely defined on how it reacts to the 60s.

That is not a victory.

So let’s put the Janis and Jimi next to Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman in the “Really Cool Old Music” file. Let’s put a moratorium on new books and documentaries about Woodstock. Let’s help the boomers look beyond their own interests.

Let’s move on.