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Parenting, Politics, and Shareholders Primacy

November 2, 2015

Tony Schwartz’ October 30 Dealbook post in October 30 NYTimes describes the link researchers find between the presence of a father and young men’s academic success. Citing research studies and flagging the decision of Representative Paul Ryan’s insistence that his appointment as Speaker of the House not interfere with the time he spends with his family,  Schwartz notes our businesses do not reward fathers who devote time to their families.

As noted in an earlier post, “Broken Covenants“, I was fortunate that during my formative years my father, who worked in sales for DuPont at the time, was home virtually every night for dinner, had the time to manage my little league team, time to sing in the choir and community chorus, and time to be involved in the PTA at the schools my siblings and I attended. He didn’t get more than 2-3 weeks of vacation during that time period, but he was available every evening and weekend without being interrupted by cell phone messages, texts, and emails.

That is not the way the world is now for many working parents. Family time and time to devote to community activities does not directly contribute to the bottom line, and so work schedules are virtually 24/7 for those in responsible positions and wildly unpredictable for those employed in retail and non-union on-demand jobs. The result is that family time is an afterthought.

Schwartz notes Representative Ryan’s ability to secure for itself what he cannot support for voters because of his notion that the government has no role in fixing this problem, only the marketplace can do so. While Schwartz doesn’t say so, it is abundantly clear that the unfettered free market that answers only to shareholders benefits from short term thinking… and in the short term having talented employees on a 24/7 treadmill and on-demand low-skill employees available on demand is a victory for the bottom line. In the meantime, many voters see the system as unchangeable and fixed and end up supporting legislators who have the power to meet Representative Ryan’s demands for family time while supporting bills that diminish the opportunity for workers to form unions, shelving bills that would mandate family leave, and introducing bills that reinforce the shareholders’ primacy.

Schwartz’ column is apolitical… but it is clear that he, too, is troubled by the long term effects of the status quo and hopes to see some changes in the near future. If not, we’ll witness even more devolution in the years ahead.

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