Parenthood Hasn’t Made Me Conservative:
I'd always heard that becoming a parent makes you more conservative. But so far, I'm finding just the opposite.
Regulating product safety is the perfect case in point.
The New York Times reports that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has experienced staff cuts of 10 percent in the last couple of years and now has only 100 inspectors across the country looking into the safety of tens of billions of dollars worth of toys and other products.
The results of this lax oversight? Most recently, there's the recall of a supposedly high-quality brand of toy trains, found to be adorned with lead paint -- a poison particularly hazardous to the brain development of children. As my son is just about the age where he puts everything into his mouth (cue the photo) the thought of toxic toys keeps me up at night.
For the love of country, couldn't we just pay some more taxes and hire enough inspectors to make sure my baby's toys aren't poisoned? And while we're at it, could we make sure tainted food and toxic medicine aren't on the market for me to give him? A little clean air and water wouldn't hurt either. And I wouldn't mind if that college fund I'm trying to set up for him weren't wiped out by fraudulent business practices. Didn't there used to be some kind of agency that looked into that?
If I were becoming more conservative, perhaps I'd find a way to take more personal responsibility for all of this. I could bone up on my aeronautics and personally inspect the airplane we're taking to visit the grandparents next month.
But so far the conservatizing influence of parenthood eludes me. And it's not just about regulating safety, either. It's about thanking my stars that I had prenatal care and that the kid gets to see a doctor for his well-baby check-ups-- unlike 8 million other children in this country who lack health insurance.
And it's about what happened when my son was born last year, and both my husband and I took time off to nurture and cherish him, an opportunity we had because of the decent human resources policies of our employers. It's hard to imagine not having that intimate time together during the first few months of his life. But millions of American families don't get paid family leave, and can't afford to take much (or any!) unpaid time off work. California and Washington State are the only states in the country that mandate paid leave. New York
and New Jersey just missed their opportunities to provide it this year.
It's about access to high-quality preschool education for every kid-- something New York State did manage to move toward this year, along with many other state and local governments. And what about quality education beyond preschool? What about affording college? What about global warming and the viability of the planet my baby will inherit? What about the kids growing up poor even though their parents work long hours every day? What about the kids with a parent in prison? What about the kids who parents are disqualified from the legal protection of marriage?
Parenthood hasn't made me more conservative. I can scarcely imagine how it could.