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With Father’s Day just around the corner, I’m excited to see the new FamiliesRising Web site get started. While co-producing THE MOTHERHOOD MANIFESTO film, my only disappointment was the number of men I met who didn’t see how these issues applied to them. As the father of a 13 year old, I know just how important it will be to entire American families to win the kinds of things that MomsRising has been working so hard for.

I know that dads in Washington will be as grateful as moms for the new paid family leave bill you helped make happen. I know that lack of sick days affects men as well as women, that fathers, too, want their kids to have healthcare and decent childcare, that after-school programs help everybody’s kids and realistic wages lift all family boats. Every dad I know is as concerned as moms are about the poisonous messages their children see on TV, and a new study shows they also want more flexible work-time just as much—38% are even willing to give up some income for shorter and more flexible hours. So the great things that MomsRising is doing help all of us!!

I admit it, I’m a numbers junkie. It comes from my training in sociology, looking for the big picture to match and strengthen the anecdotal stories I collect for my TV programs. And I’ve been doing a little number-crunching lately, comparing all the statistical data from such sources as the 2007 OECD Fact Book, the World Health Organization and the UN Human Development Index, trying to see how countries are doing in real, empirical terms (and not just catchy anecdotes), when it comes to health, quality of life, justice and sustainability. The results, I’m afraid, would come as a shock to anyone who looks to the Untied States as the model of economic success.

For a country that prides ourselves on its family values, we don’t value families much.

Let me do a few of the numbers: compared, for example, to the western European nations, the US ranks worst or next-to-worst when it comes to child welfare, health care, poverty, income equality, pollution, CO2 emissions, ecological footprint, personal savings, income and pension security, balance of payments, municipal waste, development assistance, longevity, infant mortality, depression, anxiety, obesity, murder, incarceration, motor vehicle fatalities, leisure time, the size of its middle-class and even press and personal freedom or telephones per capita.

We do slightly better in education, inflation rate, divorce rate and employment creation. We’re about in the middle for life satisfaction, hourly worker productivity, home ownership, families with internet access, government corruption, and gender equality. Our unemployment rate looks pretty low, unless you count those 2.3 million people we’ve got behind bars, an incarceration rate 7-10 times as high as anybody else.

So which countries come out on top when you crunch these numbers? It’s the Nordic and northern continental European nations, those that combine a strong social safety net with shorter working hours, high but progressive tax rates and strong environmental regulations. The pattern is as clear as can be.

One thing I’m hoping is that Families Rising will address an issue we’ve been working on a lot at Take Back Your Time (, and that’s America’s disappearing vacations. This morning I read in the Seattle Times that “the new vacation is a long weekend.” This year only 14% of Americans plan to take the traditional two week vacation that our families once took for granted, the kind of vacation that strengthens family bonds, and that kids remember fondly years later, and that actually does wonders for our health, according to lots of heart studies.

Do you realize that the US is the only industrial country with no paid vacation law? Everyone in Europe gets a minimum of four paid weeks off, after the first year on the job. They average six weeks. But we average only two weeks, and people are now taking them as isolated days off. 25% of Americans get no paid vacations at all.

Take Back Your Time, the organization of which I’m the national coordinator, is calling for a national three-week paid vacation law. You could call it the Family Bonding and Personal Restoration Act of 2007. We need it for our kids, our families, our health and even our productivity.

I hope Families Rising and MomsRising will join us in this campaign. But in the meantime, what terrific work you’re doing!

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