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David Brooks doesn't like your kid's clothes

Amy Traub: The Times' conservative columnist is more concerned with hipster parents' clothes than whether the tax policies of the city support working families
 
 
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This is more than just a ploy to post the latest photos of my adorable son online. The point here is what he's wearing. What's so special about it? Well, it was made in the USA and purchased here in New York with no regressive sales tax. And it's got the hip slogan.

Which one of those facts is more important? If you're David Brooks, it's definitely the latter. He devoted his Sunday column this week to railing against hipster parents who clothe their offspring in outfits with trendy catchphrases, frequent websites like urbanbaby.com, and make the kids listen to Brian Eno. These parents, he gripes, are making their children ludicrous. The trend has got to stop.

We parents can even get in trouble with Brooks for what we name our kids. Religious families watch out: apparently it's "abusively pretentious" to name your kid after a Biblical figure like the Prophet Elijah. If only my husband and I had known before we named our baby Samuel. If only my great-grandparents had known before they named my grandfather Samuel.

Clearly the one who's being ludicrous here is Brooks. So why is a policy blog preoccupied with a rant that's substantially tongue-in-cheek anyway? Brooks' diatribe matters because it's part of his larger message that lifestyle -- issues like how you dress your child and what music you listen to -- trumps such old-fashioned concerns as economics, race, and gender.

Brooks wants us to laugh at (and despise) the hipster parents and see them as out-of-touch and elitist. Their goofy, urban, alternative lifestyle separates them from down-to-earth suburban parents who let their kids listen to Disney tunes and wear pastels. Highlighting this kind of lifestyle difference obscures what most parents -- and the vast majority of Americans working to hold onto or attain a middle-class standard of living -- share, things like trying to make enough money to make ends meet without going into debt, finding decent schools for the kids and figuring out a way to save for college, the risk of losing pay (or even your job) when a kid gets sick, and just trying to afford health care at all.

Back to my son's outfit. It matters less whether he's wearing a clever slogan or a picture of Bambi than whether the tax policies of the city support working families, for example by raising more revenue through a progressive income tax and less through regressive sales taxes on things like clothing. From now on, Mr. Brooks, let's focus on the challenges all parents face, not whether you like my kid's clothes.

Amy Traub is the Associate Director of Research at the Drum Major Institute .

 
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