Kids are expensive

This is not a health policy post, just an observation from my life.

The New York Times reported that fertility rates are declining in America.

Americans are having fewer babies. At first, researchers thought the declining fertility rate was because of the recession, but it kept falling even as the economy recovered. Now it has reached a record low for the second consecutive year.

Because the fertility rate subtly shapes many major issues of the day — including immigration, education, housing, the labor supply, the social safety net and support for working families — there’s a lot of concern about why today’s young adults aren’t having as many children.

The Times asked the young adults who have fewer kids than they want why. The biggest reason (64%) was that childcare was too expensive. Most of the top responses were some variation on the simple fact that kids are expensive.

They are expensive even when you don’t take them to a baseball game where they want popcorn.

I have two kids. Both are out of daycare. The two of them were in daycare concurrently for two years straight and then my youngest was in daycare by himself for another three years. Paying for daycare was the biggest financial challenge that we have faced, it was a bigger challenge than me being out of work for almost all of 2010.

When my wife and I decided that we wanted to start trying for kid #2, we had a long series of discussions as to how we would handle childcare. We used a community based non-profit daycare for our daughter when we were both working and she was an only child. Its price point for full time care was below the Pittsburgh regional average. The two year overlap between our daughter and kid #2 both needing daycare and the first day of her kindergarten scared the ever living shit out of us. We were both doing okay in our careers. We were both employed at salaried positions, and probably a tad underemployed as this was still during the recovery from the Great Recession.

We had two major options conditional on us having kid #2. The first option was to suck it up, acknowledge that we would be broke and in debt and keep both kids in daycare. The other choice was for us to flip a coin to see who would stay home for two years. We figured that, after accounting for bus passes, work clothes and other job related expenses, one of us would be working solely for daycare expenses for two years. The upside of both of us working is that it would not leave another hole in our resumes, as we were reaching a point where careers either launched or flat-lined.

We decided to be broke. We put both kids in daycare. I went to referee every soccer game that my knees allowed. It was a close call. We lucked out. We made it through those two years and both of our careers were able to launch. Those launches would not have occurred if one of us was out of the labor force.

We also joked that at least paying for college would be easy. California University of Pennsylvania is a state school where I refereed too many games. It is a perfectly decent mid-tier school. In 2018, its tuition and fees for in-state students is less than what I was paying for my son’s infant year of daycare in 2013.

College is far less scary financially than daycare. The biggest difference between college and daycare is financing. I have access to relatively easy/cheap credit for college through the federal college loan programs. I am still paying off a chunk of grad school and will do so for another decade at 2.875%. My kids won’t get the same interest rate but we will be able to finance a year of college at a reasonable interest rate for ten to fifteen years. Daycare required payment in full for the upcoming month by the 28th of the current month every single month. We were paying effectively college tuition in cash every month.

The other, far more important challenge for financing daycare versus college is income life cycle. As cohorts, income tends to increase with age through middle-age and then stabilizes for a while. In less fancy terms, people are far more likely to make more money in their thirties than in their twenties and then they’re also more likely to make more money in their forties and fifties than in their thirties. If there was cheap financing that could shift financial burdens through time like student loans, this would not be a big deal. Daycare has no ten year financing option to shift burdens to better times.

Instead, it is a massive cash outlay at a point in one’s life when the odds of having a lot of cash available is fairly low. Helping my kids pay for college is going to be easy compared to daycare as we are likely to be earning more in nine years when my oldest will be a freshman than we are earning now and we can spread her expenses out over several years. We can also save money with seriously valuable and socially non-productive tax advantages to pre-pay a part of college unlike with daycare.

So when we, as a society, tie so many benefits to work and then tell young adults that they have to come up with state school tuition to pay for daycare in cash, some young adults look at the problem of working and raising kids as an impossibility and therefore they don’t have kids or as many kids as they would want.



Back to the phones

You know what to do — call your Senators and let them know your thoughts.



Just Your Typical Friday Afternoon in the Trump Era

America, fuck yeah.








Apropos Of Not Much

So I read the latest over at Talking Points Memo on the slow-rolling Republican “moderate” cave on the tax bill to Trump and the GOP’s I Got Mine/Tongue-Bath-A-Billionaire Caucus.  That led me to a Twitter rant born of despair and rage.

The TL:DR is that dominant-power decline has happened before, will happen to whoever comes next, and is well underway now.  None of this is new; none original.  It just bubbled up, and as misery loves company, I give you a slightly edited version of the rant below.

As the GOP prepares to transfer wealth up and gut national finances in the process, it’s worth reflecting a little on national power. US predominance is no law of nature. It emerged in specific historical circumstances, & it will erode (is eroding) within its historical moment.

Trump and GOP actions are powering that decline, from gutting US diplomacy to abandoning soft power/trade alliances to an over reliance on the trappings of military power on the international security side to an attack on the US’s domestic capacity to solve problems, propel economic growth, and secure good lives for the great mass of its people.

The attack on universities that is both part of GOP rhetoric and built into the tax bill, for example is an attack both on civic life (in the form of engaged and critical-thinking citizens) and on the dollars and sense of economic life. Universities are where research happens, ideas turn into companies and all that. Whack them and we become not just dumber, but poorer too.

More decline follows as the basic sequence of life gets made harder for more people. CHIP follies are making pregnancy and childhood more wretched and even deadly. Ongoing assaults on the ACA, Medicaid and Medicare do the same for all of us and if/when the GOP passes its tax bill, most Americans will see taxes and deficits go up, threatening Social Security and everyone’s old age.

This kneecapping of American well-being and power extends across the policy spectrum.  Crapping on the environment isn’t just a matter of not hugging trees.  Just ask the citizens of Flint, MI if bad water is just an aesthetic loss. Recall the LA of my childhood and consider whether air pollution is just a matter of obscured views and great sunsets, etc.

All of these (and many more) domestic policy choices actually make us poorer, as individuals and as a nation. One more example: we already have crappier infrastructure than many of our national competitors. Among much else, that means it can take us longer to get to work — which is both an individual cost and and a net weakening of the US economy as a whole.

These are hidden taxes, charges we pay not in cash, but in our ability to choose how to spend our lives. That cuts US productivity as a matter of GDP, and our contentment as a matter of GHQ (Gross Happiness Quotient) (I made that up. I think.)

None of this means American will (necessarily) collapse entirely. It just means we will be less well off and, in the context of national power, less able to act in the world as a whole. We won’t be able to afford as much (see Britain, post 1918), and…we will — we already — find ourselves with less moral capital, less ability to persuade and encourage fidelity and emulation abroad. (Again, see Britain, post 1918).

There’s real danger ins such decline.  See Putin’s post Soviet Russia for one approach to the loss of economic, military and ideological/moral power.

In that context, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Trump, backed by the GOP, launch into a second war of choice in an as many decades, with similarly awful consequences.

But, that said, even though nations find it hard enough just to muddle through a relative decline in international stature, the world goes on, in somewhat different order. That’s happening now. We can’t really stop it.

We do have a choice though — we can accept a relative decline that still has the US eagerly pursuing a rich and just future…

Or we can dive further the implications of the current GOP program, and watch as our politics become yet more of a zero sum game in which those with the most grab all the crumbs they can, leaving the rest of us to our own devices, while US power dwindles.

And that, by way of the long road home, leads me here: Trump’s GOP* is a fundamentally anti-American party. It is working as hard as it can to deliver wealth and power to a small constituency to the detriment of our national interest. That’s how an organized crime ring acts, not a party of government.

And with that….this thread.  It is open.

*And it is his party, or, if you prefer, he’s the predictable face of what that party has long been becoming.

Images: J. W. M. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up1839.

after Hieronymous Bosch, The Hay Wain (central panel of a tryptich), between 1510-1520.



Random Thoughts about the Vietnam War Documentary

One of the things that I have been wondering about our involvement in the Vietnam War is how arrogant we were- at one point late in episode 2, Neil Sheehan mentions that “We thought we were the exceptions to history, the Americans. History didn’t apply to us.”

It makes me wonder- how did we get so arrogant so fast? We weren’t a global power until recently in the post WWII era. Or am I wrong about that? I never thought of the United States as a real global power until the 1950’s. I sort of thought of us as bit players throughout WW1 and up until the very end of WWII and our development of nukes. And we were damned near really humbled in Korea. How did we get the mentality that we can’t lose?

Or, again, am I just wrong about this?








Well That Was Certainly Worth all the God Damned Fuss

So it appears the conviction and abuse of Chelsea Manning served no purpose other than to fulfill our sadistic tendencies and send a message to others, because her leaks did nothing to harm American interests:

In the seven years since WikiLeaks published the largest leak of classified documents in history, the federal government has said they caused enormous damage to national security.

But a secret, 107-page report, prepared by a Department of Defense task force and newly obtained by BuzzFeed News, tells a starkly different story: It says the disclosures were largely insignificant and did not cause any real harm to US interests.

Regarding the hundreds of thousands of Iraq-related military documents and State Department cables provided by the Army private Chelsea Manning, the report assessed “with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq.”

The report also determined that a different set of documents published the same year, relating to the US war in Afghanistan, would not result in “significant impact” to US operations. It did, however, have the potential to cause “serious damage” to “intelligence sources, informants and the Afghan population,” and US and NATO intelligence collection efforts. The most significant impact of the leaks, the report concluded, would likely be on the lives of “cooperative Afghans, Iraqis, and other foreign interlocutors.”

You can read the document here.

The leaks exposed this, which I guess we just weren’t supposed to know about.

America, fuck yeah.

The folks at LGM say this article and I are full of shit.








Who are those people

Quinnipiac has a new poll out on Trump.  I am confounded by a subset of people:

President Donald Trump did something illegal in his relationship with Russia, 31 percent of American voters say, while another 29 percent say he did something unethical, but not illegal, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. The president did nothing wrong, 32 percent of voters say.

President Trump’s campaign advisors did something illegal in dealing with Russia, 40 percent of voters say, as 25 percent say they did something unethical but not illegal and 24 percent say they did nothing wrong.

The president’s job approval rating dips to a new low, a negative 34 – 57 percent, compared to a negative 37 – 55 percent in a May 24

So 60% of the public think he did something personally fishy with Russia. 65% of the public think his inner circle did something fishy with Russia. And yet only 57% of the country disapproves of his performance. So there are at least 3% of the country who think he is doing a good job and he is up to his eyeballs with Russia in at least an unethical manner. Who are those people?

Open thread…..