Kids, Cash, and Custody of Your Attention
A writing and speaking roundup
I’m sending this from on board my train to New Haven. Tonight I’ll be speaking at the Yale Political Union to debate Resolved: Have More Kids.
This spring, I’ll be at Harvard, Stanford, Furman, and in Minnesota (twice!). If you’re local, I’d love for you to introduce yourself as an Other Feminisms member. I also have two secret projects about which more to come (one is about 2/3 progressed, the other is halfway there).
Sometime this week, we should know if Congress is moving forward on a bipartisan deal to put cash in the pockets of vulnerable, working families. My colleagues at my new job wrote up the financial impact of the bill, and I have a piece at National Review making the case that pro-lifers should come out hard for this tax deal.
Until now, bigger families were harshly penalized by the phase-in structure of the CTC. With every dollar a family earns above a minimum threshold ($2,500), they start receiving benefits with a 15 percent phase in — thus every $100 dollars earned above $2,500 unlocks $15 of the family’s potential benefit.
The new bill would phase in each child’s benefits simultaneously. A family with two children would phase in their CTC at $30 for every eligible $100 earned. A family of three would gain $45 for every $100 of earnings above the minimum. For working families earning minimum wages, this makes a difference of thousands of dollars. A family with three kids, supported by minimum-wage earnings, would go from being able to claim only $1,800 to claiming $5,400. It’s a good recognition of the way complications (and joys) multiply with additional children, especially as American women are disappointed by having fewer children than they hoped. […]
The Dobbs decision means that pro-lifers are fighting a cultural battle, state by state, to keep killing from being the answer to poverty. At the same time, it’s essential that pro-lifers be explicit and enthusiastic backers of policies that would help the most vulnerable women choose life and hope for their children.
Call your reps! Today may be the critical day.
Meanwhile, in the print edition of NR, I got to review Kyle Chakya’s Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture. I’ve really enjoyed Chakya’s culture writing, particularly the essay where he coined “AirSpace” to describe the placeless vibe of modern commercial spaces. What I really appreciated about his latest is the examination of how frictionlessness erodes prudence and character.
When Facebook, Instagram, and the artist formerly known as Twitter shifted from chronological feeds to algorithmic ones, the change was framed as a response to users’ failure to choose. If you follow too many people, it’s impossible ever to be “caught up.” You always might be missing the thing you most want to see. The algorithm was intended to do the filtering that users couldn’t quite bear to do — you’d never have to explicitly unfollow someone, but the content you were least engaged by would eventually vanish from your feed, and you wouldn’t note its absence.
The algorithmic feed promised personal customization, but that curation would be invisible. The user shouldn’t do very much work under the hood, specifying what he or she would like to see less or more of — the website would learn and tune the feed to keep the user happy. Of course, “happy” was hard to measure, so, as a first approximation, it would mean the user stayed on the site, still scrolling or watching, actively if shallowly engaged. […]
In Chayka’s analysis, the end state of an algorithm-driven, competitive media environment is a yearning for oblivion. Burn out the dopamine circuits for long enough and “our natural reaction is to seek out culture that embraces nothingness, that blankets and soothes rather than challenges or surprises, as powerful artwork is meant to do.”
So here’s what I’d love to hear from you: