January 2, 2012

Providence's First Babies

Justin Katz

Yes, Providence Mayor Angel Tavarares is, by all evidence, a straighter shooter than his predecessors, and he's more willing than Rhode Island's political average to make difficult decisions. Still, he shouldn't get a pass for this:

Congratulations to Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and his partner, Farah Escamilla. Their new baby girl arrived early this morning, just a few hours after her due date. ...

Taveras has steadily dodged reporters' questions about whether he plans to marry girlfriend Escamilla, a legal assistant in Providence.

Certainly, the mayor has the means and the background to mitigate the detriment to his child of being born and raise out of wedlock, but that is not true for many of his constituents, particularly those whom his liberal politics are ostensibly intended to assist. The good example of notable people — role models — could be worth untold sums in public safety net payments.

I note, for example, in what is beginning to feel like the norm, the first baby born in Rhode Island this year appears also to have been born out of wedlock:

Ezekiel may be Dassiel Ferrera's second child, but he's Rhode Island's first for 2012. ...

"I'm excited," said the 25-year-old woman. "I thought he was going to be earlier."

No mention is made of any fathers, husbands, or men at all. I know liberals and libertarians like to believe that the progress of Western Civilization has been built on economic dynamism and evolving enlightenment, but that's simply not the case. As Mark Steyn puts it, "in the end culture trumps economics." The intricate machines of modern government and industry cannot be operated on a floor eaten through with cultural rot.

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Had to laugh when the article quotes a nurse regarding the Anchor Baby's tax detectability.
What a joke.
"Me No Pay Taxes, Me Illegal and live off you"

Stupid American white people-you deserve everything you are going to get over the next few decades.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at January 2, 2012 8:28 AM

We have created a society that puts people in the unenviable position of getting married (legally) and paying tens of thousands of dollars for healthcare coverage, or keeping the mother officially listed as a single head of household and getting taxpayer funded healthcare. People who want children have a choice, and they are taking the logical one. It happens in Providence, Warwick, Cranston and East Greenwich, to dirt poor people, middle class people and even people who could afford to pay for healthcare coverage, but opt for the RITEcare.

This is not a harbinger of the downturn of civilization. It is economics. If healthcare were available to everybody at the same cost the out of wedlock births would dramatically decrease.

Posted by: michael at January 2, 2012 8:45 AM

Tommy, anchor baby? You're assuming that the mother is an illegal alien? What led you to that? I'm reading through the article and don't see any mention of the mother's citizenship status. Or is it because she's not blonde with blue eyes?

Posted by: Patrick at January 2, 2012 8:48 AM


Europe's experience suggests a flaw in your argument. With universal healthcare and generous welfare, the only thing dropping faster than the marriage rate is the birth rate.

There are two incompatible organizing principles, at play: either we're all obligated to take care of each other through a shared government, or we're obligated to take care of each other through widening sphere's of social structures (family, community, region, nation, world). If the former, the incentives for marriage will never be sufficient, over the long haul, no matter how many disincentives we eliminate.

At any rate, neither approach excuses a public figure's blithe disregard.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 2, 2012 9:25 AM

Europeans are weird. That's why we left.

I'd prefer a society based on fairness and opportunity with all of the luxuries and improvements to our quality of life that capitalism brings, but reality shows that in the case of healthcare coverage a giant discrepancy exists. I am in no position to advocate for socialized medicine, but from where I sit, it appears to beat the present system of gross inequality, of which I am on the better end of the spectrum.

Posted by: michael at January 2, 2012 9:31 AM

If you stay single after having a child, you look poorer to the state and become eligible for all kinds of special tax incentives and handouts. The incentives are all stacked in one direction so the response is logical.

Healthcare is already universal in effect. It's just universal in the most inefficient and costly way imaginable - through market-distorting top-down mandates and restrictions stacked on top of one another without any thought to cumulative economic effects. A true market system, as in most areas of the economy, would far better serve the vast majority of the population. Regarding one common misconception, health insurance (separate from care) is not a necessity like food or shelter and is in fact a losing financial proposition for most participants. It is a liability like house insurance or car insurance or any other type of insurance and should be properly decided by individuals based on their own priorities and financial situations. No, car insurance isn't a necessity either - New Hampshire has no mandate and it works fine, much better actually.

Posted by: Dan at January 2, 2012 10:50 AM

Tea-Party favorite Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Illinois), who allegedly owes $100,000 in back child support to his ex-wife for their three children, was given an award for "unwavering support of the family" by the socially conservative Family Research Council Thursday. "I am proud and honored to be recognized by the Family Research Council as the only member from Illinois with a 100 percent pro-family voting record," Walsh said

Posted by: Sammy in Arizona at January 2, 2012 11:22 AM

1. Single out a single individual from the Republican Party, which comprises over 55 million registered voters.
2. Lampoon a bad act committed by the individual.
3. Accuse the entire Party of hypocrisy based on the individual.
4. Rinse.
5. Repeat.

Crib sheet for Sammy the Democratic Troll.

Posted by: Dan at January 2, 2012 11:53 AM

Angel Taveras is a US citizen.Therefore any child he fathers is a US citizen at birth regardless of the mother's citizenship even if the child were born abroad.Taveras has easily satisfied the residence requirement to transmit citizenship to a child born abroad.
Of course this child was born in the US and I'm sure if the mother were here illegally it would have been widely disseminated.
As long as he acknowledges and supports his child,it's no one's business if they get married.
There are lots and lots of deadbeat dads who are or were married to the mother.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 2, 2012 12:02 PM

My Girlfriend is pregnant as we speak. We're planning on getting engaged soon, then getting married in a few years once things 'settle out' a bit and we're done eating the deleveraging on the house.

My parents were pretty adamant about 'being married, for the good of the baby', but I think I laid it out pretty well for them:

We have NO INTENTION of living on-the-dole, but in a worst-case scenario, it's infinitely better for us (financially) to be unmarried. We can pay the bills with the GF at home without a job, without tapping into the social safety net at all. If I lose my job too, we're in deep trouble. I want to prevent that from happening. As a married couple, losing more than one income would be devastating, as single individuals, we have last-resort access pieces to the safety-net that we wouldn't together.

It's a different world than it was when I was raised. Most families operate only a paycheck or two away from complete financial implosion. I'm doing the best I can to fortify the finances, but it's going to be a few more years until I'm truly comfortable enough to take my GF's debts under my already mortgage-burdened wings. In the meantime, there's no way I'm going to let a silly tradition put me at a disadvantage.

Posted by: mangeek at January 2, 2012 12:05 PM

And I'll admit that our reasons are the result of careful thinking, while what you see at the checkout in the grocery is more the result of apathy and cultural decline.

I still see enough value in marriage that I suggested we go to City Hall and get it done right away, despite the poor risk/benefit assessment. The GF said she wanted to play it safe and wait until she could have the wedding she wanted.

Posted by: mangeek at January 2, 2012 12:13 PM


You're wrong. Public figures' marital status is completely relevant, especially when they begin having children. Marriage is a social institution that needs the support of good examples in order to accomplish its necessary ends in organizing our society.

This is even more the case for a politician like Tavares, who benefited more than the average from his ethnic representation and life story.



Where to begin...

It's disheartening to hear that even an intelligent young couple that likely has a bright future lacks the charactistically rugged American faith in the future not to hedge against the possibility that they'll want to soak their neighbors and complete strangers for public benefits.

In so doing, you perpetuate and contribute to the cultural rot that leads to the "apathy and cultural decline" that you note in others. Your careful planning doesn't decrease the degree to which you validate their choices.

And you vastly underestimate the ability of circumstances to beget rationalizations, which is one of the reasons the culture needs an institution like marriage that stands as a pledge of fidelity. Your girlfriend should give a little more thought to the experiences of people who've been down her road. As Creedence put it, sometimes someday never comes. When your girlfriend has spent some time losing ground in her career and you enter into your 30s and decide that you two just aren't as compatible as you thought, she might regret her insouciance about even the minimal protection of your commitment that marriage betokens.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 2, 2012 12:44 PM

@Justin-I've been married for 41 years,but my son and his girlfriend have never married,even though they've got two daughters(with HIS name)and have been together about 8 years,longer than a lot of marriages these days-so I hardly want to be a hypocrite about Taveras-as long as he's honest in office and does a good job I'm ok with that.
I don't agree with him on a number of issues(illegal aliens,guns,and tiptoeing around the Occupy issue,and a $20 fee on mattress disposal)but on
balance he seems to be trying hard to keep the city solvent.
I think maybe his life story was a plus factor for him,but I haven't seen him exploit his ancestry,nor appoint an inordinate number of Hispanics to public positions.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 2, 2012 1:03 PM

Wow Justin, don't hold back.

Do the deed at city hall and then plan the wedding she wants for later. It's done all the time. Having just paid for my own daughter's wedding, I would be worried that finances will always put it off further. They ain't cheap. Congrats and good luck.

If no one made a big deal about Angel's heritage and weren't holding him up as a role model, I would agree with you but that's not the case.

Posted by: Max D at January 2, 2012 1:16 PM

Scheduling my own wedding at the moment. The deal is that she gets to plan everything, but I hold an absolute veto power. Kind of a Legislative versus Judicial branch separation of powers type deal.

To be honest, I see no real value in the institution before having children, and even then the benefits are mostly cultural. From a utilitarian perspective, if it lasts, then it is purely symbolic. If it fails, then it serves only to make the lawyers rich and put all parties through hell. Most of these issues, including the whole "gay marriage" debate, could be resolved by simply getting government out of the equation.

I'm doing it simply because it's been a few years, we know we're going to be together anyway, and we plan on children within a few years afterward. She's the type who would rather die on principle than ever accept a dime of alimony or unnecessary child support - which is nice just in case.

I am well aware of the negative tax consequences this will have for us. Being responsible is expensive in our society.

Posted by: Dan at January 2, 2012 1:57 PM

"lacks the... faith in the future not to hedge against the possibility that they'll want to soak their neighbors... for public benefits."

I think it's a rational hedge... It would be different if we had equity in the home to offset her student loans, but we don't. In our case, the problem isn't the way the benefits are structured, it's the ridiculous idea that young adults come-of-age with $40-$60K in student debt, combined with a housing market that adds another year's income of negative home equity. Until it's closer to a zero-balance, marriage has a lot more downsides than up if things go pear-shaped. Remember that with negative equity, we can't easily move to where the work is, we're not even allowed to move in with parents until the house is 20% paid-for (FHA loan).

"has spent some time losing ground in her career and you enter into your 30s and decide that you two just aren't as compatible as you thought, she might regret her insouciance about even the minimal protection of your commitment"

From what I've seen in failed relationships around me, the no-fault 50/50 divorce laws actually incentivize divorce when there's an income disparity. It's been five years already, neither one of us is going anywhere. My promise is the promise itself, not a ritual (for now).

"Do the deed at city hall and then plan the wedding she wants for later."

That was my original idea, but she's in charge of that end of operations. :-)

Thanks for all the wisdom, though.

Posted by: mangeek at January 2, 2012 2:35 PM

@Max-you make a valid point,but notice you're saying it's other people making a big deal about Taveras being Hispanic-he doesn't seem to be doing so himself.
i think taveras has to watch out for the patronizinng "handler"types who always like to play the ethnic card.
Considering some of the people I know who supported him,like former Police Chief Richard Sullivan,an outstanding public servant,I have some confidence in the guy-not like he has an easy task.
Just for sh*ts and giggles-no one has EVER mentioned Alan Fung was the first Asian descent mayor in RI-and good for
that.We need to get beyond surface identity and concentrate on competence.

Posted by: joe bernstein at January 2, 2012 3:32 PM

Greetings from vacation in sunny SW FL. First baby of the year locally was to a couple who had just married the day before. Looks like the father, a former NYPD detective, also has taken responsibility for the new wife's two other children. And a shout out to my nephew and nephew-in-law, both of whom manned up and did the same thing when they married their spouses. As for Mr. Harvahd/Georgetown-educated Tavares; he should set a better example.
Marriage. It matters. There are several factors that rationally keep mangeek and so many others away from the commitment. The mortgage-sized non-dischargeable student loans, the safety nets designed for women without men, but not for women with men, none of this is going well.

Posted by: chuckR at January 2, 2012 3:55 PM

"Being responsible is expensive in our society."

I think that is one of the best statements I have read in a while. It is also possible to replace the word responsible with honorable. That is not to say that those who do not get married are not honorable...I am speaking of living up to one responsibilities, debts, obligations, and consequences of one's choices/actions:

Paying for the children one sire's (sp?)
Mortgage debt
Student loan debt
Credit Card debt
Not completing education

Posted by: tcc3 at January 2, 2012 4:48 PM


I didn't say you lack rationality; I said you lack faith. Faith in yourself to support your family, no matter what; faith in your society to set the context in which your family can thrive. Faith in God appears out of the question.

One thing in which the position that you've taken does express faith is government — namely, its ability to continue taking money from other people to give to you, if you need it. I find that very disheartening (and not characteristically American), not the least because a couple that will not marry based on the possibility that they'll want public handouts in the future is apt to prioritize the perpetuation of those benefits when voting, even as the entire system gives evidence of not working.

As I said, we human beings are apt to rationalize things.

In a similar vein, I don't think your thinking is as comprehensive as you believe if the emphasis on economics and rationality is equivalent in your thought as it is in your comments. Your GF may or may not make out financially if, when you discover what it's really like to live with another person through good times and bad, with children in the picture, no less, you join so many people in our society in deciding that you can't be held to a promise made when you were younger and less experienced. Whether she'll enjoy the experience of attempting to resume a career as a single mother is another matter.

Of course, that was just a stereotypical example. You may come to wish you'd had the protections of marriage if she leaves you and throws your relationship with your child into turmoil. (No doubt most people have observed such things following others' "promises.")

Here, too, rational thought is not the trump. Your circumstances will affect your decision making. If you know that you are married, you and your wife will tend to be that much more prepared to do such things, and make such changes, as preserve the relationship.

To be sure, our society has done an abysmal job of maintaining the institution of marriage as something permanent, but then, part of my objection to your stated view is that you are contributing to that delinquency. And again, the people who will suffer are the people whom you charge with apathy and their children.

Not to worry, though, I'm sure the government will fill in the gap!

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 2, 2012 5:28 PM

"I said you lack faith. Faith in yourself to support your family"

To be fair, I'm left holding the shovel to fill-in tens of thousands of dollars in 'faith' that the last generation has left for me (by way of a real-estate bubble). I'm willing to do it, but so far my experience has been that hard work, not faith, has been the determining factor in building a life.

"I don't think your thinking is as comprehensive as you believe"

Hey, I'm with you there. I don't have all the answers... There must be SOMETHING to why everyone says 'get married', right? Still, my assessment of 'common sense' as-practiced by Baby Boomers is that they often have it wrong. These are the same people that were extracting massive equity from their homes, voting for government growth AND tax cuts, and encouraging their kids to 'take a loan out to go to college for whatever degree you want'. Those aren't Good Values.

"you are contributing to that delinquency"

Maybe so, but only if I partake of the safety net (remember, that's not the plan, it's a contingency measure). It's a question of Game Theory. Do I do the thing that puts my family at higher risk in order to live in a society that's potentially an iota better, or do I leave the option open to take a sip from the cup I've filled for my neighbors time and again? As far as I can see, I'm better off for now reducing as much risk as possible, there will be time later to 'make things right' in the eyes of my elders.

What I really wished was that the perverse incentives for people to live this way were eliminated. I can see how Rhode Island's ill-informed policies (Free Babies for poor single moms with overall poor outcomes vs High Taxes for hardworking families with statistically good outcomes) are doing harm to our society.

Posted by: mangeek at January 2, 2012 6:10 PM

* I think you're misunderstanding my use of faith. Basically, faith that your hard work and ingenuity will allow you to avoid the public dole.

* What do the Baby Boomers have to do with anything? They're the ones who plunged our country into this mire. And yet, your thinking is precisely along their lines. Me asserting My right to mitigate My risks through reliance on public programs.

* You don't have to partake of the safety net to contribute. Simply by affirming, through your behavior, that you do indeed believe marriage to be "a silly tradition," as you wrote above (followed by "put ME at a disadvantage." And that's even before you structure your voting and political habits in such a way as to ensure that your publicly funded risk insurance remains intact (funding social dysfunction farther down).

* You may see the harm, but that's not stopping you from playing along and buying into the scheme. Thus do civilizations collapse.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 2, 2012 6:59 PM

In case it needs to be said: I'm attacking Mangeek's specific argument on this specific matter. As seriously as I think the issue should be taken, I'm not passing judgment in the sense that this one decision makes him a bad person or invalidates his point of view in unrelated matters.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 2, 2012 9:25 PM

"I'd prefer a society based on fairness"

Michael may I suggest that you stop waiting for the Govt. to dole out fairness. "Fairness" is most likely the name of a planet in a far,far away galaxy.

Posted by: ANTHONY at January 3, 2012 2:48 PM

. Single out a single individual from the Republican Party,
Crib sheet for Sammy the Democratic Troll.

Posted by Dan at January 2, 2012 11:53
The Family Research Counsel is a single individual ?

Posted by: Sammy in Arizona at January 3, 2012 11:35 PM

Justin, I -could- just stop paying my upside-down mortgage, move my family to North Carolina where there are more jobs, and let Rhode Island eat the difference. I wouldn't be the first or the last to do it, it seems one of my friends decides to leave every few weeks; many leave unpaid mortgages and empty homes behind.

Instead, I'm going to stick around in the local economy and (hopefully) do my part to make this place better. I don't think it's a failing to 'plan for the worst' by leaving public assistance as a desperate fallback option.

I don't have the reference, but family financial security is at an all-time low. Estimates nationwide are that 20% of families experience 'fiscal devastation' (tapping-out retirement savings, racking up medical bills they can't afford, or foreclosure) annually.

So instead of looking at this like I'm gaming the system for benefits, think of it as a calculated risk I'm taking with the citizens of Rhode Island as the primary beneficiary. Odds are 80/20 that Rhode Island wins if I stay, and 0 if I have to leave.

Posted by: mangeek at January 5, 2012 3:16 PM

I'm not sure what your willingness to stay in Rhode Island has to do with anything. Even if you leave, the legacy of out-of-wedlock births to which you're contributing will continue.

Of itself, it's irresponsible behavior hastening the decline of our civilization.

Posted by: Justin Katz at January 5, 2012 5:43 PM
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