Learning from history: community-run child-care centers during World War II
We face many big challenges. And we will need strong, bold policies to meaningfully address them. Solving our child-care crisis is one of those challenges, and a study of World War II government efforts to ensure accessible and affordable high-quality child care points the way to the kind of bold action we need.
The child care crisis
A number of studies have established that high-quality early childhood programs provide significant community and individual benefits. One found that “per dollar invested, early childhood programs increase present value of state per capita earnings by $5 to $9.” Universal preschool programs have also been shown to offer significant benefits to all children, even producing better outcomes for the most disadvantaged children than means-tested programs. Yet, even before the pandemic, most families struggled with a lack of desirable child-care options.
The 21st Century Nuclear Arms Race
A new report by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)—focusing on nuclear weapons spending– following on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recent decision that their Doomsday Clock, should be set as close as it has ever been to nuclear catastrophe. should serve as a wake up calls for humanity.
Preparations for genocidal or omnicidal nuclear war are undeniably suicidal madness. Worse, with provocative military actions by the U.S., Russia, and China in the Baltic, Black, South and East China Seas, and in relation to Ukraine and Taiwan, an accident or miscalculation could all too easily trigger a life ending nuclear cataclysm.
At a time when scientific, financial, and diplomatic cooperation are desperately needed to stanch and reverse the climate emergency and to overcome and prevent the current and future pandemics, 21st century nuclear arms races are already claiming lives and threatening our future with national treasures being wasted in preparations to end all life as we know it.
For the Sake of Justice
In 1993, Stephen Breyer, then the chief justice for the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, was hit by a car while riding his bike. He suffered a few broken ribs and a punctured lung. Despite the accident, Breyer left his hospital bed just a few days later and traveled to the White House to interview with President Bill Clinton about an opening on the US Supreme Court.
The interview didn’t go as Breyer might have hoped. Clinton ended up choosing Ruth Bader Ginsburg to fill the vacancy left by Byron White’s retirement. But a year later, another Supreme Court justice retired: Harry Blackmun. Blackmun, of course, was the conservative Nixon appointee who famously became a liberal stalwart on the bench. It was Blackmun who wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, which, I’m sure, is not something Nixon had in mind when he appointed him.
The Politics of Immigration,” on the media’s ‘Border Crisis’ (FAIR)
It’s no surprise that right-wing media have hyped a supposed crisis on the US/Mexico border, or that much of the television coverage of current immigration issues has tended to be superficial. What’s striking is how badly the situation has been represented in the more centrist and prestigious parts of the corporate media.
Human Rights First, an advocacy organization that has been monitoring conditions at the southwestern border, has described current media coverage as “unethical reporting.” The group wasn’t just talking about Fox News and Sunday talkshows: The outlets it singled out were the New York Times, Washington Post and Axios.
The Art of War in an Age of Peace: U.S. Grand Strategy and Resolute Restraint
This thoughtful and reflective book could serve as a guide for U.S. President Joe Biden’s national security team as they prepare for the challenges of the next few years. O’Hanlon draws on his experience of engaging in the big policy debates of the last three decades, including examining the preparation behind and the legacy of the United States’ recent wars.
Taking into account the polarized nature of U.S. politics, he concludes that the United States must learn to limit its ambitions even while continuing to defend core interests. He advocates a strategy of “resolute restraint,” which means, for example, that if China attacks Taiwan, the United States should move quickly to help defend the island without believing that it has to then defeat China in a wider war. This is a valuable addition to current policy debates, on issues from climate change to nuclear arms control to the challenges posed by China and Russia.
The Fight Against Corruption Needs Economists
Combating corruption and kleptocracy has traditionally been an afterthought in U.S. foreign policy: a goal that most policymakers considered laudable but hardly a priority. That attitude is no longer acceptable. In recent years, countries such as China and Russia have “weaponized” corruption, as Philip Zelikow, Eric Edelman, Kristofer Harrison, and Celeste Ward Gventer argued in these pages last year. For the ruling regimes in those countries, they wrote, bribery and graft have “become core instruments of national strategy” through which authoritarian rulers seek to exploit “the relative openness and freedom of democratic countries [that] make them particularly vulnerable to this kind of malign influence.”
Strikingly, one particular form of financial aggression—covert foreign money funneled directly into the political processes of democracies—has increased by a factor of ten since 2014.
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Family farms are struggling with two hidden challenges
Kat Becker feeds hundreds of people with the vegetables she grows on her Wisconsin farm, and she wants to expand. But her ability to grow her business collides with her need for affordable health insurance and child care.
She has had to make difficult choices over the years: keep her farm income low enough so her children can qualify for the state’s public health insurance, or expand the farm and buy expensive private insurance. To look after her three young children, she could hire a cheap but inexperienced babysitter, or spend a significant share of her income on child care and have peace of mind that the kids are safe from dangers on the farm. “The stable choice for my children to have health insurance is an irrational choice for my farm business,” she said.
We’ve heard numerous stories like Kat’s in our work as social scientists supporting the next generation of farmers. Through thousands of interviews, surveys and conversations with farmers across the country, we have documented how household expenses like access to health care and child care undercut investments that could increase food production across the United States.
Climate Migration: An Impending Global Challenge
For months, we have watched the crisis at the Mexican border as migrants tried to enter the U.S. In March, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office estimated that there were 171,700 people attempting to cross the border—the highest number in 20 years. About 30 percent were families, of which one third were refused entry under Title 42, a public health statute.
The number of unaccompanied children arriving and being held in custody in U.S. border shelters hit over 5,700 in March. And this week, five unaccompanied girls between the ages of seven and 11 months were found at the Texas-Mexico border. While a migrant surge occurs every year as people come to the U.S. for seasonal work, the record number of children being sent by themselves is likely a sign of desperate conditions back home.
American Nuclear Strategy: A Complex Problem of Law and Intellect
On core matters of national security, American analysts should think in terms of intellectual and legal criteria. Ignoring the day-to-day banalities of national and international politics, these strategists and policy-makers ought continuously to bear in mind that such primary standards may intersect with one another, always converging, sometimes in synergistic fashion. In such cases, the “whole” of any examined outcome would more-or-less exceed the sum of its “parts.”
This point should appear obvious to any reasonably-educated US population. American reality, however, has been distressingly different. To wit, during the law-violating and science-flouting Trump administration, tens of millions of citizens sought remedy for broadly complex medical and economic problems in narrowly partisan politics. Most grievously lamentable in this regard was the slow and public-relations oriented Covid-19 response. As was learned later from former White House Covid advisor Dr. Deborah Birx, the American nation suffered more than 400,000 unnecessary pandemic deaths. In essence, these plausibly preventable deaths were the result of a defiling willingness to value “common-sense” thinking more highly than science and law.
Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation
Social and psychological forces are combining to make the sharing and believing of misinformation an endemic problem with no easy solution.
There’s a decent chance you’ve had at least one of these rumors, all false, relayed to you as fact recently: that President Biden plans to force Americans to eat less meat; that Virginia is eliminating advanced math in schools to advance racial equality; and that border officials are mass-purchasing copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’s book to hand out to refugee children.
All were amplified by partisan actors. But you’re just as likely, if not more so, to have heard it relayed from someone you know. And you may have noticed that these cycles of falsehood-fueled outrage keep recurring.