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Friday, December 14th, 2012
By Amy Julia Becker
Even though I’m the mother of three small children, I’ve never been a huge fan of child safety regulations. I often roll my eyes at warnings on labels. I think back to my own childhood, when Fisher-Price Little People were shaped like cylinders instead of marshmallows, and we still managed to survive. I think back to my helmetless bike riding days. I often tell my kids that I believe in germs and dirt, by which I mean I bypass antibacterial hand wash, and I allow them to play with other kids who have the sniffles (though I avoid stomach bugs like the plague). I also allow them to take calculated risks that sometimes result in skinned knees and sometimes result in greater strength, balance, and flexibility.
So I read the recent Safe Kids Report on the effect of sequestration (aka the fiscal cliff) on children’s health and safety with some degree of skepticism. And yet, despite my own laissez faire parenting, this report convinced me that our current budget impasse could lead to arbitrary and senseless cuts to government programs because these programs are necessary, appropriate, and largely cost-effective for ensuring the health and safety of children across our nation.
According to the report, “Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death for children ages 1 through 19,” and “programs with a direct programmatic relationship to child safety would be cut by $4,586,863,600 in the remaining months of FY 2013.” The report goes on to explain the effect of sequestration upon three government agencies, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (Injury Center), and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Each of these agencies (among dozens of others with some responsibility for kids’ health and safety) will receive sweeping eleven percent cuts if Congress is unable to avoid the fiscal cliff.
The report includes a helpful infographic that relates some of the potential safety risks to children. These risks include a reduction in the oversight of imported and domestic toys and baby gear that, statistically speaking, could mean “4.2 million more dangerous products for kids left on market shelves.” Highway deaths for kids under 19 have decreased by a dramatic 29% in the past decade, due at least in part to the NHTSA’s efforts to support car safety.
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Friday, October 19th, 2012
Over the next few months, the editors of Parents.com will report on hot-button election issues that American families face today, from healthcare to education. In the spirit of offering diverse perspectives on the election, we’ve chosen three moms from across the political spectrum to be guest bloggers on Parents News Now. Each one of them will offer a unique take on the topics that they–and you!–are most passionate about. (Read the entire blog series.)
By Amy Julia Becker
“Use your words.
“You can’t always get what you want.”
“Take a minute to think about it, and then tell me the truth.”
“Remember to share.”
“Instead of grabbing, please ask nicely.”
I repeat these phrases throughout the day, pretty much every day. I want my children to learn how to be kind to one another, how to think about other people’s needs in addition to their own, and how to work out problems. I want them to know how to compromise.
As I watched the second Presidential debate on Tuesday night, I wondered whether President Obama and Governor Romney remembered the lessons their parents had taught them in their early years. The debate heated up at times, with each man accusing the other of misleading or untrue assertions. They interrupted each other. They raised their voices. They gave us reasons to be disappointed. NPR called it a “town brawl” instead of a “town hall” meeting. According to the New York Times, both men exaggerated or misrepresented the other’s position (or flat out lied). And yet I also suspect that these men–both pragmatic leaders with track records of centrist positions and a willingness to work with the opposition (Romney in Massachusetts, Obama as President)—would both be willing to compromise, to work it out civilly. If we still had a system in which the loser of the Presidential contest became Vice President, I could imagine it working out between these two.
When it comes to civil government and common courtesy, it’s not Obama or Romney who need reminders. The people who need a reminder of putting the common good ahead of self-preservation, a reminder of compromise, a reminder of telling the truth and sharing, are our representatives serving in Congress.
President Obama, as he stated in the debate, inherited a mess. The economy was headed towards depression. The unemployment rate was on the rise. The deficit had soared as a result of fighting two unfunded wars. And Obama was prepared to tackle the problems through centrist solutions. He reached out to the Republican opposition. He advanced a health care plan based upon the conservative Heritage Foundation’s proposal (which, incidentally, served as Governor Romney’s blueprint for health care in Massachusetts as well). He initiated conversations about tax cuts for the middle class, a return to Clinton-era tax rates on the wealthiest individuals, and reductions in spending. He tried to pave a middle way.
And then the Republican opposition forgot what they had learned as little children. Instead of deciding that their job as elected officials was to serve the people of this nation, they decided to serve themselves. They decided that their primary goal was to defeat Obama. They worried that compromise would make him look good. They assumed that economic change that benefited us all would ensure his reelection. And so they nearly shut down our government on multiple occasions.
As an independent voter with moderate views on both social and economic policy, I believe the best situation for our country is one in which the President and the majority in Congress come from opposing sides of the aisle. At least in theory, this scenario forces compromise, forces each party to give and take, to listen, to allow the ideas that serve all people to rise to the top. Instead, the Republicans have decided to take their toys and go home, and our nation has continued to wallow in a place of high unemployment, low growth, and increasing poverty.
Whoever wins this election is probably going to be lauded as a great leader, simply because the economy is poised to turn around no matter who holds the highest office in the land. But the mark of true and meaningful leadership in the service of our nation will come only if our president—whomever he may be—can figure out how to bring our nation back to a place where Republicans and Democrats alike can sacrifice their party’s ideology for the common good of the American people. If only our leaders could remember those basic lessons we try to teach our children every day.
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Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
Parents shopping for clothes and supplies for their kids to take into the new school year may be approaching the task with less enthusiasm–and less willingness to spend–than in past years. Reuters reports that though national trends actually indicate increased spending on back-to-school, the timing and expense of it is changing for many families:
With parts of the country such as Atlanta already sending children back to class, the back-to-school season is in full swing and retailers remain hopeful that shoppers will turn out heading into the final stretch.
Kohl’s Corp. Chief Executive Kevin Mansell said the back-to-school season “has been more and more bridging August and September” based on his chain’s research and other data.
“We used to see people starting in late July, and I don’t see that as much anymore,” said Maureen Bausch, executive vice president of business development at the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minnesota.
She expects people to finish their back-to-school shopping in September once kids see what is cool in the classroom.
Total back-to-college spending is expected to reach $53.5 billion this year, while total spending by families with children in kindergarten through 12th grade is expected to be $30.3 billion, the National Retail Federation said.
While the trade group expects the average American family to spend $688.62 on back-to-school shopping this year, a 14.1 percent increase from 2011, conversations with about a dozen shoppers across the country indicate a different story.
Image: Short pencil, via Shutterstock.
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Wednesday, July 18th, 2012
The financial crisis that has engulfed the nation over the past few years has had an additional negative consequence, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics: a rise in physical child abuse.
The study, which focused specifically on mortgage foreclosures, was conducted by researchers at the PolicyLab at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It found that every 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a one-year period was associated with a 3 percent increase in children’s hospital admissions for physical child abuse, and a 5 percent increase in children’s hospital admissions for traumatic brain injuries suspected to be caused by child abuse.
“What this research shows is that there’s a connection between child abuse and families in financial crisis,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the child advocacy group First Focus, in a statement. “Unfortunately, Congress may make the problem worse with cuts to child nutrition, children’s health, childcare, and family tax credits. If Congressional leaders don’t protect these investments today, the danger to kids will increase when parents are pushed into crisis. Lawmakers need to understand that decisions about nutrition, health, and poverty, are also decisions about child abuse and neglect.”
Image: Family finances design, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
A new study conducted by the insurance company Allstate has found that sixty percent of American parents whose children hold drivers’ licenses say the economic downturn has led them to cut back on driving expenses, including buying cars for their teens.
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Not surprisingly, income is a factor in spending and saving decisions.
Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of parents in households earning less than $30,000 per year say they are saving or spending less on their children’s driving, while just one-third (32 percent) of those in households earning more than $75,000 say the same.
Interestingly, among parents who already have a child with a driver’s license, 73 percent say their child has their own car, while another eight percent say their child shares a car with a sibling.
This rate of teenage car ownership is considerably higher than what parents experienced when they were first driving (just 48 percent had their own car or shared with siblings), and also much higher than what is expected among parents whose children do not yet have a license (just 48 percent expect their children to have their own car).