One of the most overused terms of the 2012 election season was “job creator.” In campaign parlance, job creators occupied hallowed ground, not to be interfered with by government in any way as they went about their important work. Little noted was the fact that many job creators are women; according to one study, women will help create five million jobs in the United States by 2018.
Contrary to campaign wisdom, there is one key area where government could provide these job creators with special help: child care. Many women are unable to work a full-time job or spend the time they would like at work because they have few affordable options for child care. Affluent families may be able to afford full-time care for their children, but many would-be entrepreneurs are unable to exercise their skills because it is simply not cost-effective for them to enter the marketplace.
Increasingly, this is true for men as well as women. Many families choose to have one parent stay at home because an additional salary is not sufficient to cover the cost of child care. It is a wonderful thing when a parent can stay home to help raise the children; but this decision should be made out of choice, not necessity.
Clearly the free market has not provided families with the necessary support services. Who else but the state can step in? One effective government program provides affordable day care, tax breaks for families employing nannies and universal free preschool. Regrettably, those benefits are only available to residents of France.
There was some guardedly good news from the Anti-Defamation League last month. The A.D.L.’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, released on Oct. 29, recorded 1,080 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2011. That figure represents a 13 percent decrease from the number of incidents in 2010.
That is a significant reduction of public manifestations of anti-Semitism, and it is cause for measured relief. Still, more than 1,000 recorded incidents—and surely many more go unreported—is hardly insignificant. The acts that were tracked in 2011 leave plenty of reason to remain vigilant about anti-Semitism in the United States. According to the A.D.L., even as anti-Semitic harassment and threats decline, anti-Semitic vandalism and physical assaults are holding steady. There were 19 physical assaults on Jewish individuals last year and 330 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism, by far the two most serious expressions of anti-Semitism.
In addition, the A.D.L. has been alarmed by a “continued outpouring of online hatred” against Jews on conspiracy Web sites and blogs. It appears the impulsive and usually anonymous world of the Web has provided a new digital breeding ground for this oldest of bigotries. That trend is accompanied by a lower-tech version of anti-Semitism in bullying among school children. As always, parents must remain alert to the influences their children will be exposed to or tempted to replicate, whether in the schoolyard or online.
China’s “one child” policy has been a human rights catastrophe since its “temporary” institution in 1980. The policy has been ruthlessly enforced through coerced sterilizations and abortions and crippling fines or job losses for violators. The phenomenon of “gendercide”—the systematic abortion of girls, female infanticide and the abandonment of baby girls—has been a direct result.
Beyond the moral horrors propelled by the policy, one-child has always represented a potential demographic and social breakdown that now seems to have become fully realized. In China, the birth ratio of girls to boys is the most skewed in the world: 100 girls born for every 118 boys. These “excess males,” an estimated 37 million of them, are coming of age, and the shortage of partners is driving a demand that has led to human trafficking, forced marriages, sexual exploitation and even the outright abduction of young women and children. China’s shrinking workforce and growing proportion of seniors threatens to strain government social services, and the one-child policy itself—actually a misnomer for a complicated program that can be haphazardly applied—has created widespread internal tensions and encouraged official corruption.
In October some high-level recognition that this 30-year-old policy may require retooling finally appeared. A government-sanctioned research center, the China Deve-lopment Research Foundation, offered an unprecedented criticism of the one-child policy, acknowledging its many drawbacks and urging the government to implement a nationwide two-child policy by 2015. Beyond 2015, the foundation suggests allowing China’s families to decide for themselves how many children they want to have. China-watchers say the C.D.R.F. has strong connections to government leadership, so the agency’s willingness to go on the record suggests that the change, even abandonment, of the long-resented policy may be inevitable. More clarity on the issue can be expected over the next few months as China’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition continues.