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WOMEN STILL CAN'T HAVE IT ALL

Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning at the State Department, explains why she left her high-powered government job to return her family and her tenured position at Princeton. In the Atlantic, she writes a nuanced extended essay "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." It's truly worth reading in full at tinyurl.com/tbtimes-canthaveit. Here's an excerpt.

The proposition that women can have high-powered careers as long as their husbands or partners are willing to share the parenting load equally (or disproportionately) assumes that most women will feel as comfortable as men do about being away from their children, as long as their partner is home with them. In my experience, that is simply not the case.

Here I step onto treacherous ground, mined with stereotypes. From years of conversations and observations, however, I've come to believe that men and women respond quite differently when problems at home force them to recognize that their absence is hurting a child, or at least that their presence would likely help. I do not believe fathers love their children any less than mothers do, but men do seem more likely to choose their job at a cost to their family, while women seem more likely to choose their family at a cost to their job. Many factors determine this choice, of course. Men are still socialized to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the breadwinner; women, to believe that their primary family obligation is to be the caregiver. But it may be more than that. When I described the choice between my children and my job to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, she said exactly what I felt: "There's really no choice." She wasn't referring to social expectations, but to a maternal imperative felt so deeply that the "choice" is reflexive.

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Policy U-turns leading to nowhere

In "Unpopular Mandate: Why Do Politicians Reverse Their Positions?" in the New Yorker, Ezra Klein uses the shifting positions over the individual mandate in health insurance (Republicans were for it before they were against it) to look at a broader problem of why politicians of either party suddenly switch positions and yet will not brook the possibility of compromise. Read his essay in full at tinyurl.com/tbtimes-mandate. Here's an excerpt.

You can't assume that policy-based compromises that made sense at the beginning will survive to the end, because by that time whichever group has an interest in not compromising will likely have convinced itself that the compromise position is an awful idea - even if, just a few years ago, that group thought it was a great one. "The basic way you wanted to put together a big deal five years ago is that the thoughtful minds in one party would basically go off and write a bill that had 70 percent of their orthodoxy and 30 percent of the other side's orthodoxy and try to use that to peel off five or six senators from the other side," (the president of the Bipartisan Policy Center) says. "That process just doesn't work anymore." The remarkable and confusing trajectory of the individual-mandate debate, in other words, could simply be the new norm.

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What makes us Americans: Verdict was in; now it's not

Writing about "Why History Matters to Liberalism" in the journal Democracy, E.J. Dionne Jr. argues that progressives need to lay out their version of U.S. history to combat the tea party. Read his essay in full at tinyurl.com/tbtimes-history. Here's an excerpt.

Where others have put forward their own perfectly rational reasons for the polarization of American politics, my account is rooted in the idea that Americans disagree on who we are because we can't agree about who we've been. We are at odds over the meaning of our own history and over what it is, philosophically and spiritually, that makes us "Americans." The consensus that guided our politics through nearly all of the 20th century is broken.In the absence of a new consensus, we will continue to fight and continue to founder.

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World's full of problems, but childlessness isn't one

Blogging at the Opinioniator for the New York Times, Christine Overall, a mother herself, wonders why people have to justify choosing not to have children. Read "Think Before You Breed" in full at tinyurl.com/tbtimes-beforebreed. Here's an excerpt.

People are still expected to provide reasons not to have children, but no reasons are required to have them. It's assumed that if individuals do not have children it is because they are infertile, too selfish or have just not yet gotten around to it. In any case, they owe their interlocutor an explanation. On the other hand, no one says to the proud parents of a newborn, Why did you choose to have that child? What are your reasons? The choice to procreate is not regarded as needing any thought or justification.

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