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Is Day Care a luxury or a benefit?
July 5, 2008 9:49 AM   Subscribe

On Day Care, Google Makes a Rare Fumble You’re probably guessing that because it involves “do no evil” Google, Fortune magazine’s “Best Company to Work For” the past two years, this is a heart-warming tale of a good company reversing a dumb decision. If only.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (140 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
At a T.G.I.F. in June, the Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he had no sympathy for the parents, and that he was tired of “Googlers” who felt entitled to perks like “bottled water and M&Ms,” according to several people in the meeting.

From Google's "Top 10 Reasons to Work At Google": "...and plenty of snacks to get you through the day."

Hmm.
posted by DMan at 10:04 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


what's the average salary of a googler?
posted by fuzzypantalones at 10:05 AM on July 5, 2008


At least the employees aren't forced to eat Tofutti.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:08 AM on July 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


As an aside, I wonder if the fun atmosphere and such that Google has so aggressively promoted is really a reflection of how its executives feel, or just a way to attract more people. We'd all like to think it's the former, but this article seems to solidify the idea that it's probably the latter.
posted by DMan at 10:14 AM on July 5, 2008


what's the average salary of a googler

$120K would be my guess.
posted by yort at 10:14 AM on July 5, 2008


Sense of entitlement, meet sense of disappointment. You guys should get along great.
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 10:16 AM on July 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


You mean a corporation did something to help with the bottom line? I'm shocked.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 10:16 AM on July 5, 2008


Parents who had been paying $1,425 a month for infant care would see their costs rise to nearly $2,500 — well above the market rate.

Um, what? Isn't $1,425 well above the market rate already?
posted by Big_B at 10:18 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Um, what? Isn't $1,425 well above the market rate already?

In Silicon Valley? I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:20 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, someone at Google woke up one day and realized that the company was subsidizing each child to the tune of $37,000 a year

!
posted by Slothrup at 10:22 AM on July 5, 2008


So, yeah, it turns out that you can only "do no evil" when your profits are doubling every year. After that, evil becomes necessary to secure the bottom line.
posted by Avenger at 10:24 AM on July 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


A for profit corporation exists for one purpose, and if it deviates from that single purpose it can be successfully sued by its stockholders. That singular purpose is "make as much money as possible". If breaking the law and paying the fines costs less than obeying the law they'll break the law and pay the fines. If treating its employees well costs more than treating their employees poorly, they'll treat their employees poorly.

For profit corporations are extremely good at fulfilling their singular purpose, and not so good at much else. When google went for profit, anyone with a brain knew that all the feel good "don't be evil" stuff would go out the window sooner or later, its as inevitable as gravity.

The only thing that keeps corporations in line is regulation with teeth behind it, and a belief that somehow corporate mission statements and catchy slogans make any difference at all is simply a demonstration that the person holding that belief hasn't been exposed much to reality.

TL;DR - This was coming from the IPO and anyone who thought otherwise is either stupid or crazy.
posted by sotonohito at 10:25 AM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Let the children work so's theys can earn their keep or better yet...put them in a school or sumptin'.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:26 AM on July 5, 2008


Google just figured out that it was sitting on a goldmine of liability for agreeing to look after the little brats of confirmed snobs all day.
posted by Brian B. at 10:27 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Their motto isn't ironclad. Apparently there's an Evil Scale....
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 10:29 AM on July 5, 2008


This isn't just day care, this is luxury day care specified by upper level management's whims to the level that makes it unattainable by the people who don't make the gigantic salaries over there. It's unaffordable because they designed it to be unaffordable.

It's the Whole Foods of kid care when most people would be happy with better than McDonald's.
posted by Gucky at 10:30 AM on July 5, 2008


Not to defend Google if this is true, but did anyone else get the feeling that the author has an axe or two to grind with Google? By the end of the article I was starting to think that Joe Nocera was a pseudonym for Mark Cuban or something.
posted by saraswati at 10:30 AM on July 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Google just figured out that it was sitting on a goldmine of liability for agreeing to look after the little brats of confirmed snobs all day.

Did you even read to the second page of the article? It's the opposite. They are building a snobby daycare for the kids of everybody there and expecting the rank and file to pay snob prices.
posted by Gucky at 10:31 AM on July 5, 2008


It's the Whole Foods of kid care when most people would be happy with better than McDonald's.

No kidding. Meanwhile, a bit of info on the Reggio Emilia approach, for those who are interested.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:34 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


what's the average salary of a googler?

According to Glassdoor, depending on the position the average (per position) is between $57k and $190k, mostly in the 100k region.
posted by bjrn at 10:36 AM on July 5, 2008


Did you even read to the second page of the article? It's the opposite. They are building a snobby daycare for the kids of everybody there and expecting the rank and file to pay snob prices.

As price setters, they don't expect anyone to pay anything above their affordability, and they seem to want to keep it limited. Their legal risk is probably more than double the average because of the deep pocket involved.
posted by Brian B. at 10:37 AM on July 5, 2008


Wait, can't Google's upper management get Haitian women to raise their children for $7 an hour like the Wall Street dudes up in Greenwich and Wesport?
posted by The Straightener at 10:39 AM on July 5, 2008


Um, what? Isn't $1,425 well above the market rate already?

When we were shopping for day care here in north Seattle a couple years ago, the price quotes we got for an 18 month old were $1300, $1395, and $900. So, $1425 sounds within the bounds of normal for Silicon Valley.

Location plays into it as well. If your kid's on campus, it means the kid comes with you and leave with you. If the daycare isn't on campus, then your work day is plotted around the daycare run.
posted by dw at 10:42 AM on July 5, 2008


Perhaps they wouldn't have a sense of entitlement if they hadn't started offering all those nice perks in the first place.

Also: According to Google, there were numerous complains about C.C.L.C., but the Google parents I spoke to disagree.

Hey, New York Times! If you need a copyeditor, I'm here for you! I don't know AP Style, but I learn quick.
posted by Caduceus at 10:45 AM on July 5, 2008


Oh, and I first read this story on Valleywag:

Google daycare now a luxury for Larry and Sergey's inner circle
Google's daycare debacle: the Kinderplex memos

For as much as we hate Valleywag, those blind masturbating gay squirrels over there do occasionally find nuts that aren't their own.
posted by dw at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


A couple things this article doesn't mention:
Google's Kinderplex is currently housed in what used to be a public elementary school. The school district of Mountain View faced declining enrollment and budget issues a couple years ago, and closed the school and rented it to Google, at a pretty penny. Win-Win for everybody, they thought, but the public school kids who lived in that neighborhood were split up between 2 or 3 other schools, increasing the number of students at each of the other district schools (there are only 6). I don't know the child-teacher ratios after that, but the parents in the former Slater neighborhood are pissed that their kids can't walk to school any more. A Google Manager just joined the school board, so we'll see what happens there.

A new city-run child care center is supposed to open in the fall, with tuition between $1,050 to $1,665 a month, according to that article. About a third of the enrollees will be low-income. (Low income requirements are here, scroll down to the bottom.) Almost 50% of kids in public school in the city get subsidized or free lunches, as well.

Google is also buying up office parks and land like crazy, some of which is for child care. Seriously, just go to the Mountain View Voice (local paper) and search on Google and see what comes up. (Not surprising who powers that search, is it?) So, clearly, they're not short on cash, but I would conclude that they are being careful with their spending.
posted by sarahnade at 10:49 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


sotonohito -- that's a huge oversimplification. Please at least distinguish between privately and publicly held companies. There are also some companies whose shareholders are more interested than what they do and how they do it than in immediate returns.
posted by phooky at 10:52 AM on July 5, 2008


DW made a good point - companies that offer daycare do so because it serves the company. Parents with daycare downstairs, rather than across town, stay at work longer and miss less work. Some companies subsidize daycare completely for some employees, just to keep them at the office longer.
posted by pomegranate at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2008


My interpretation of the article suggests we're seeing one side of the issue. I don't get why there isn't a plan for tiered day care options. There seems to be this push to create an incredibly rarefied plan focussed around the latest fad science of child development, when I suspect most parents would be profoundly grateful for any on-site safe haven for their children that didn't involve a steady curriculum of TV.

Google just figured out that it was sitting on a goldmine of liability for agreeing to look after the little brats of confirmed snobs all day.
posted by Brian B. at 10:27 AM on July 5 [+] [!]


I don't even know what that means, as a troll or as a statement that was somehow meant to convey an organized thought.
posted by docpops at 10:54 AM on July 5, 2008


It's not "do no evil" it's "don't be evil". There's a big difference that everyone conveniently ignores.

They, like Apple and Harley Davidson, are just a company. They are in it to make money. You may think it's part of your lifestyle, but that's just because you believed the hype.
posted by nyxxxx at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't even know what that means, as a troll or as a statement that was somehow meant to convey an organized thought.

I was worried you wouldn't understand it.
posted by Brian B. at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2008


Google parents could ask Brin how day care subsidies compare to total annual expenditures on the Google party jet.
posted by jamjam at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2008


While cisco never had the massive excesses that Google has indulged in, I remember very well what it was like to be there as the IPO millionaires wandered off to their new lives and were replaced by kids who were straight out of school and not independently wealthy.

The cultural divide was significant, particularly whenever the stock price stalled and the new employees' dreams of being millionares sputtered. Fortunately cisco was always pretty tight with its benefits, so when the stock finally did crash, the removal of the remaining luxury items wasn't a big enough deal to spark mass departures. (Also, it happened in the context of a much larger market crash, so there weren't a lot of places to go to)

The numbers being talked about are interesting too. It looks like they were subsidizing day care to the tune of about $525 per employee per year. I guarantee you they have perks that are costing them a whole lot more than that, and I wondering which one is next on the chopping block?
posted by tkolar at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Jamjam - the jet is personally owned by Larry and Sergey. They also carbon-offset the whole thing.
posted by w0mbat at 11:15 AM on July 5, 2008


No kidding. Meanwhile, a bit of info on the Reggio Emilia approach, for those who are interested.

Ha. That was interesting, my daughter is attending a Reggio Emilia school - we're in line to Montessori but seem straight out of luck in ever getting a place in one of those - and her school is pretty much exactly not what that article describes. Like a bizarro Reggio Emilia. *sigh*
posted by dabitch at 11:35 AM on July 5, 2008


A few years ago I attended a charity benefit at Google. The company donated the use of its cafeteria and a whole bunch of Google employees volunteered. It was a wonderful event, and I was glad to see Google supporting a good cause.

While I was waiting in line for food, I had a conversation with a few people who were telling me all about how Google was this "new kind of company" that was "reinventing work." Uh huh. I grew up in the Valley, so I told them that no, this was just how it worked when the profit margins were high. Eventually the perks dry up. Senior management is no longer so directly connected to the majority of the workers and then it all goes downhill. It's an old story. Both of them had moved here from the East Coast.

It's easy to be seduced by the Valley. There's a lot of great things happening here, to be sure, and a lot of open minded people doing interesting things. However, as long as the legal and decision-making structures of organizations remain with the status quo, all the good intentions eventually end up with the situation in which the Google employees find themselves. It used to take longer than just a few years-- HP, for example, was a humane and decent place to work for many years, before Carly Fiorina and her investment banker backers fucked it all up.

However, at the end of the day, if your organizational happiness depends on having benevolent masters, eventually, things will change and you will get the indifferent masters. That's when things really go wrong.

Phooky:
Sontohito isn't making an oversimplification. Most courts have held that corporations do have a duty to maximize the profits of the shareholders. That's the law. When that doesn't happen, you'll have angry shareholders suing management. Even if many of the shareholders want a kinder, gentler corporation, all it takes is one large shareholder to sue, and away you go.
posted by wuwei at 11:44 AM on July 5, 2008 [15 favorites]


I don't entirely disagree with sotonohito's comments about the negative implications of publicly-held companies' fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders and whatnot, but it's worth considering that this specific case may be a bit different. Google didn't want to go public. They were forced to by Section XII(g) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.

Supporting the idea that the founders aren't particularly interested in simply doing what shareholders want is the (controversial?) section in the Google IPO prospectus titled "A Letter from the Founders," where they promise, "If opportunities arise that might cause us to sacrifice short term results but are in the best long term interest of our shareholders, we will take those opportunities." (Emphasis theirs.) Of course, the Founders' Letter is open to interpretation, but many took that as a repudiation of fiduciary responsibility.
posted by sdodd at 11:45 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Reggio Emilia : Google :: Bob/Clippy : Microsoft ?
posted by erniepan at 11:50 AM on July 5, 2008


'Many thousands (of Googler children) are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.'

'Are there no prisons?"

'Plenty of prisons,' said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

'And the Union workhouses.' demanded Scrooge. 'Are they still in operation?'

'Both very busy, sir.'

'Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,' said Scrooge. 'I'm very glad to hear it.'

posted by blue_beetle at 11:53 AM on July 5, 2008


a bit of info on the Reggio Emilia approach, for those who are interested.

My daughter attended a Reggio Emilia school for 2 years, and we're most likely going to have to supplement her public schooling now that she's going into Kindergarten...because she's reading and writing about 2 grades beyond the public school kids. I just wish they had a charter school around here so we could keep sending her there (I don't mind the lack of a big bill every month, though)
posted by thanotopsis at 12:18 PM on July 5, 2008


There are many people in this country — including, I’ll bet, many Googlers — who believe that employer-provided day care, at affordable prices, ought to be like health insurance, a benefit that every company provides as a matter of course.

And then there are those of us -- including, I'll bet, many freelancers such as myself -- who think that affordable day care, like health insurance, ought to be something that everyone can afford, no matter what their job status.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:44 PM on July 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


One of the first principles of practical management is that any take-back is way worse than never giving it to begin with. That's when the toilet paper and light bulbs start disappearing from the supply closet.

On the other hand, rare fumbles sure beat daily fumbles.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:46 PM on July 5, 2008


There are many people in this country — including, I’ll bet, many Googlers — who believe that employer-provided day care, at affordable prices, ought to be like health insurance, a benefit that every company provides as a matter of course.

Health insurance is bad enough, because it subsidizes idiots, fatties, smokers, druggies, and drunks--but hey, most of us are one of those things at some point or another. I'm not really enthusiastic about subsidizing breeders too. If a kid would be too expensive for you, don't fucking have one.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I can't really warp my head around day care that costs $54K a year per child.
posted by ssg at 12:56 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Health insurance is bad enough, because it subsidizes idiots, fatties, smokers, druggies, and drunks--but hey, most of us are one of those things at some point or another. I'm not really enthusiastic about subsidizing breeders too. If a kid would be too expensive for you, don't fucking have one.

That's some stinky bait. How long has that been sitting in your bait bucket exactly?
posted by dw at 12:56 PM on July 5, 2008 [14 favorites]


Health insurance is bad enough, because it subsidizes idiots, fatties, smokers, druggies, and drunks--but hey, most of us are one of those things at some point or another. I'm not really enthusiastic about subsidizing breeders too. If a kid would be too expensive for you, don't fucking have one.

We were all also kids at one point.
posted by onya at 1:00 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


sodd: Google didn't want to go public. They were forced to by Section XII(g) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934.

That's not what the link says. The rules forced them to disclose their accounting, but nothing directly to do with going public.
posted by Gyan at 1:03 PM on July 5, 2008


If a kid would be too expensive for you, don't fucking have one.

With that logic then Google shouldn't hire people with kids. Regardless, people "should" probably have kids when they can, while young, which is before they usually have extra time and money in the bank. So, to suggest as a policy, public or private, that healthy childbearing should be a function of income or savings is saying that a supply of money dictates policy, which is circular, because the policy makers also supply the money.
posted by Brian B. at 1:07 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Health insurance is bad enough, because it subsidizes idiots, fatties, smokers, druggies, and drunks--but hey, most of us are one of those things at some point or another. I'm not really enthusiastic about subsidizing breeders too. If a kid would be too expensive for you, don't fucking have one.

Isn't this a re-run? Somehow it's less offensive the more often you say it - you might want to mix your trolling up a bit, it's getting stale.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:09 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


With that logic then Google shouldn't hire people with kids.

Why not? Google can do whatever they want. I just get irritated at companies that devote an ever-increasing budget to compensation paid solely to employees who have children. It's a great deal for those employees, and a raw deal for the rest. Obviously, I'm part of the rest.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:20 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Isn't this a re-run? Somehow it's less offensive the more often you say it - you might want to mix your trolling up a bit, it's getting stale.

Maybe you're starting to see how sensible my position is.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 1:21 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


The article does sound a little axe-grindy, but it also sounds like Google didn't handle the situation exceptionally well.

My question is this: would it kill the Gray Lady to hire a proofreader or two?
posted by trip and a half at 1:26 PM on July 5, 2008


Yeah, Gyan, it's certainly subject to interpretation. The law says that once you meet certain conditions (number of private shareholders, etc.), you're effectively a public company. So you're required to meet the same legal requirements as you would if you'd gone public. The common interpretation is that when that happens you get all the disadvantages of being public with none of the advantages, and so are effectively forced to IPO. You're certainly correct in that the law doesn't literally require anybody to go public. If, in fact, this rule (and other factors) forced the Google founders' hand, you can see why they might not be terribly interested in what shareholders have to say about how the company should be run, making them different from other publicly-held businesses.
posted by sdodd at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2008


Maybe you're starting to see how sensible my position is.

No, I think we're going to need to agree to disagree on this one. I sincerely hope you never need to eat your words - no one deserves the eventual fate of the uninsured.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:38 PM on July 5, 2008


On-site daycare has always seemed like a no-brainer good idea for large companies; just contract with a third party daycare (which gives you some liability protection), rent them space, and maybe set up special rates for your employees. Cut down on commute time/lateness, absences, and raise productivity and loyalty. Dr. Whatisface's rantings to the contrary, most working Americans eventually have kids, and don't want to stop working when they do, or have to be making half a million a year to pay for them.

Wouldn't be hard for the govt to encourage this sort of thing, either, with tax incentives and such. The only explanation I can see for it not being common is leftover sexist attitudes (wimmens should stay home!) and CEOs who can afford live-in nannies and so never give the issue much thought.
posted by emjaybee at 1:54 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I sort of see Dr. President et al's point -- if you were a child-free person working at Google, it would probably chafe that the company was subsidizing the guy next to you to the tune of $37,000 per year. I'd probably be asking what the company has done for me lately.
posted by loiseau at 1:54 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Dr. Whatisface's rantings to the contrary, most working Americans eventually have kids, and don't want to stop working when they do, or have to be making half a million a year to pay for them.

Awesome. Those people can pool their money and pay for it, then. If it's true that most working Americans eventually have kids, I really don't see why it's necessary to screw over the handful of us who don't.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:10 PM on July 5, 2008


if you were a child-free person working at Google, it would probably chafe that the company was subsidizing the guy next to you to the tune of $37,000 per year.

This is always a big problem with Americans who define equal as same (ie, specifically rather than categorically). So the idea that someone gets a handicap parking space while the rest are forced to march a hundred yards each way can actually cause resentment among Limbaugh listeners. They miss the point of course, which is that the company supports a family policy as part of a community vision and offers it to everyone on a fair and non-discriminatory basis. This method is the bedrock of the rule of law, where a majority can legislate a benefit or incentive (or disincentive), but only if it extends to each and all, and not just to the many or few.
posted by Brian B. at 2:15 PM on July 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


They miss the point of course, which is that the company supports a family policy as part of a community vision and offers it to everyone on a fair and non-discriminatory basis.

What is "fair" about making me pay for other people's kids? What is non-discriminatory about compensating workers with children more highly than workers without?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:21 PM on July 5, 2008


if you were a child-free person working at Google, it would probably chafe that the company was subsidizing the guy next to you to the tune of $37,000 per year. I'd probably be asking what the company has done for me lately.

My employer has nearly constant workshops on elder care and offers all sorts of help related to it.

For child care, they have a website that pretty much says "You're on your own."

Of course, I feel the lack of child care support vis-a-vis elder care is grossly unfair. But I'm sure heterosexual unmarried childless couples feel the health insurance premium setup (I can put my wife and kids on the plan but they can't put their SO on theirs) is grossly unfair. And I'm sure homosexual couples think the one-year-in-residence rule to establish a domestic partnership is grossly unfair compared to the insta-partnership that unmarried hetero couple would have if they got marries. And I'm sure drivers think it's unfair they're subsidizing bus riders through the org-wide bus pass they have to buy to get a parking pass, while the bus riders think it's unfair part of their bus pass money goes to building parking lots...

Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Life is unfair. Get used to it.
posted by dw at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2008


What is "fair" about making me pay for other people's kids?

Not getting something is not the same as paying. But it illustrates the mindset.

What is non-discriminatory about compensating workers with children more highly than workers without?

They compensate people at different levels for any number of reasons, this being a social one that benefits them publicly or privately in some way. The point is that you can get the same benefit if you so choose. If you choose not to, then you tacitly admit that it does not necessarily give you incentive, and therefore is presumably not deemed unfair to you. In other words, if you thought that their meager offer was not enough to cover the real cost of a kid, and you didn't want them anyway, then you came out ahead regardless, not behind, as you claim.
posted by Brian B. at 2:26 PM on July 5, 2008


Not getting something is not the same as paying. But it illustrates the mindset.

Haha! I stopped reading there. I would just suggest that you think this through a little harder, because your grasp of reality is hilariously lacking.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:32 PM on July 5, 2008


If you don't have a kid, they're not taking anything from you, you're just not taking advantage of all of the benefits available to you. It's similar to paying into health insurance despite being healthy, you're low usage is subsidizing someone else with chronic conditions, just as someone else will help bear the burdens of your cost when you get older.
posted by drezdn at 2:39 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Haha! I stopped reading there.

And then proceeded to suggest I think something through a little harder.
posted by Brian B. at 2:39 PM on July 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Health insurance is bad enough, because it subsidizes idiots, fatties, smokers, druggies, and drunks--but hey, most of us are one of those things at some point or another. I'm not really enthusiastic about subsidizing breeders too. If a kid would be too expensive for you, don't fucking have one.

You really, really should visit at least four or five European countries for at least three months each. I don't care which ones - you pick them.

After that, tell me with a straight face that those countries have more idiots, fatties, smokers, druggies, and drunks than your precious USA.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:40 PM on July 5, 2008


Meanwhile, a bit of info on the Reggio Emilia approach...

If I had kids, they'd be going to a Parmigiano-Reggiano school.
posted by ericb at 2:47 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


If you don't have a kid, they're not taking anything from you, you're just not taking advantage of all of the benefits available to you.

God, another one. Look, you have to compare the consequences of providing compensation in the form of cash (e.g., salary and bonuses, which everyone can use) or as in-kind benefits (e.g., child care).

From a purely financial perspective, the company is indifferent, assuming the outlays are the same. The workers with kids probably are not indifferent, since they get more child care if it is provided in-kind than they could purchase if simply given a pro rata share of the company's child care expenses. The workers without kids aren't indifferent either, since compensation is being converted from cash (which they can use) to in-kind benefits (which they can't).

Assuming company provided child care were off the table, it's very clear that salaries would be higher across the board--the workers with children (the majority) are OK with this, though, because they're actually better off with a lower salary and the benefits of low-priced child care negotiated by the company, since they would have to pay child care expenses anyway. The minority of workers without children are unhappy, but they don't have any power, so who cares.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:49 PM on July 5, 2008


You really, really should visit at least four or five European countries for at least three months each. I don't care which ones - you pick them.

Oh man, I'd love to. I can't afford it, though, since instead of paying a decent salary, my employer compensates workers with benefits I can't use.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:50 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


What is "fair" about making me pay for other people's kids?

I used to feel this way before I traveled in some third world countries.

Specifically I thought: "We all start equal in this life. We do not emerge from the womb owing a debt to anyone or anything, and what our own efforts achieve belongs to us."

Then I had a chance to meet some very bright and talented people -- certainly more motivated than me -- who were complete screwed by an accident of birth. There is simply no infrastructure in their countries. The huge economic pyramid that I and everyone else who can afford to pay for their own internet connections exist at the top of doesn't exist for them.

200 years of social, political, and economic effort created a system that I can prosper in. I don't take that for granted any more. Sure, I still get annoyed when we pour billions into a war we don't need, but when it comes to basic education and health care-- well, those are the necessities that keep the economic engine humming along. The system was there for me the day I was born, and what would be monumentally unfair would be for me to refuse to pay for its upkeep.
posted by tkolar at 2:53 PM on July 5, 2008 [9 favorites]


If it's true that most working Americans eventually have kids, I really don't see why it's necessary to screw over the handful of us who don't.

And for the sake of my entirely hypothetical Metafilter-member children, I hope you choose to remain a non-breeder. The next generation on the blue deserves less of your kind of trolling and thread-shitting.

Please, think of the children!
posted by sixswitch at 2:53 PM on July 5, 2008


Oh man, I'd love to.

at this point I should probably throw back a snark about changing employers, but I won't.

Instead, when you do manage to get the funds to visit Europe, even for a few days, and if the Netherlands manage to make it to your list, drop me a mail.

Although (or perhaps I should say "because") I disagree with a lot of the things you say on this site, I'd love to show you around, and after that take you to a good pub and show you what the word beer really means. We'd probably still disagree on quite a lot, but I'd love to discuss things with you and give you a really different view of how the world works. And mind you, it does indeed work.

and you'd probably be able to point out to me a lot of things that are not working which I fail to see because I'm living in it every day, so we'd both gain by it....
posted by DreamerFi at 3:01 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


But really - $1400 a month for daycare? Really? You could rent the child a decent apartment for that here in Seattle. How are there not people lining up to be child carers on every corner? Thank god I never had kids; I have no idea where a chunk of money like that would come from every month. We'd be eating ramen and picking through the garbage for new shoes. (Plus they're stinky. Kids, not the garbage shoes. Well, yes, those too.)
posted by TochterAusElysium at 3:02 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I'd love to. I can't afford it, though, since instead of paying a decent salary, my employer compensates workers with benefits I can't use.

Really, nobody cared if you went or not. Most people rightly accept that the next generation in America will be supplying our retirement investments with their returns in all possible forms.
posted by Brian B. at 3:05 PM on July 5, 2008


Assuming company provided child care were off the table, it's very clear that salaries would be higher across the board

That's your problem right there. That isn't at all clear. The company would try to pay "market rates" and "benchmark" their salary with other companies, and "conveniently" forget the side benefits in their calculations. So, when employees are negotiating as a group, it's in their best collective interests to get as many side benefits as possible, even if not all members of the group would use them. Alternatively, they could tried to negotiate as individuals, and the company will fuck them individually.

Of course, you'd feel that they could change employers if that happened, but unless employees at the other plant would negotiate as a group, they'd be fucked in the same way.

So you'd end up where it's better if employees negotiated as a group, and the group would get benefits not all members would use or appreciate.

Life is, indeed, imperfect. and the trick is to make the imperfections as little as possible, even if that clashes with your principles.
posted by DreamerFi at 3:07 PM on July 5, 2008


Plus they're stinky.

And sticky little germ machines.
posted by ericb at 3:07 PM on July 5, 2008


But really - $1400 a month for daycare? Really? You could rent the child a decent apartment for that here in Seattle.

See above.

How are there not people lining up to be child carers on every corner?

Because the actual wages are crap. The $1395 center I referenced was paying its careworkers what it thought was a "fair wage" -- $13/hour. The state regulations are out the wazzoo, too.

Thank god I never had kids; I have no idea where a chunk of money like that would come from every month.

I pay about 30% less in taxes thanks to dependent exemptions and a larger standard deduction. And there's a little pittance with the dependent care deduction. It almost offsets day care costs.

We'd be eating ramen and picking through the garbage for new shoes. (Plus they're stinky. Kids, not the garbage shoes. Well, yes, those too.)

More sticky than stinky. Of course, I'm sure they're appreciate your sentiments when they're paying your Social Security check and providing Medicare in our current pay-as-you-go system.
posted by dw at 3:18 PM on July 5, 2008


What is "fair" about making me pay for other people's kids?
"Other people's." Cross that bit out and the answer becomes clear.

Kids are not personal stuff, like your underpants, or your TV set, or your Cheetos. Kids are people, separate from yourself, capable of independent action within society. As they are naive, and small, we protect them. Any group that didn't give at least some protection to kids has long since been outcompeted by those that did. This occurred long before we got sentience, before we were mammals, probably before we were fish. Insects do it.

The method for producing kids is personal, they look like their parents, their parents have emotional attachments to them above and beyond that of the rest of humanity; so it's inevitable that the act of having a child will acquire some proprietorial character.

Economic activity acts as a lens focussed on social ideas, in that it amplifies ideas that are economically profitable (like corporations as liability shielding), and dampens ideas that are economically unprofitable (like women not working). It does this with little regard to the morality of these ideas; morally intolerable (but economically profitable) activity, such as slavery, war, forced prostitution, addictive drug production etc, will be amplified to the point where it affects people's view of themselves as moral beings, and then dampened down to the point where it ceases to be practical to stamp it out. As long as it remains economically profitable, though, an evil will never go away. This isn't a complaint, it's an observation. Steel, wet and left exposed to the air, will rust. Nobody likes their steel rusting, either.

So. Childcare, and so on. It's been a profitable economic idea, for some time, that children are almost exclusively the property of their parents. That we even question it--and that our political institutions (which includes corporations) are sometimes providing creches--implies that the idea is now under some pressure. We don't question those ideas that are not; it's hard to even think of contrary examples. Here's one: should "phone" be spelt with a "g"? There is no pressure on that idea at all. As far as I know, no-one's ever proposed it.

I think creche raising of all children, and of no children, can both pass the morality test readily enough. Few people will shake their fists in rage at either idea, fewer still take up arms over it. So, where does the economic profit lie? Is it more profitable to provide free creches to all, to almost all, to some (as is done now, and the method for selecting the "some" is, as per usual, "how much money have you got?"), or to none (which would never happen, as anyone with money and a desire to do so could hire a nanny)? In that regard, it is a very similar question to healthcare, to transport, to internet access, to education, etc etc.

Education's an interesting example. We found, some time ago, that the answer really was yes, it is most economically profitable to educate everyone for free. While I imagine Dr Steve has a little whine to himself about that every time he does his taxes or passes a school, it is a well-established fact of life that collective purchase of a good makes the good cheaper, and that the largest possible group discount can be obtained by the group called "everyone".

I would bet on the same applying to childcare.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:31 PM on July 5, 2008 [19 favorites]


So, when employees are negotiating as a group, it's in their best collective interests to get as many side benefits as possible, even if not all members of the group would use them.

To the extent this even makes sense, it's so obviously wrong, it hurts. What do you mean by "collective interests?" I want to be better off personally--I don't give a sweet fuck if some group I'm a member of is collectively better off if I'm personally worse off.

It's in the individual best interest of the majority to negotiate for certain in-kind benefits instead of salary. It's bad for me, though, because my interests aren't aligned with the majority's.

The majority obviously doesn't care, and they're quite happy to soak me to get what they want. Look, the majority sees me as a defenseless source of easy cash, and to a large extent, they're right. I don't have the power to keep from getting fucked over repeatedly to pay for shit other people want. I sure as hell am not going to buy any line of bullshit that tries to convince me that getting fucked over is good for me, though.

Most people rightly accept that the next generation in America will be supplying our retirement investments with their returns in all possible forms.

What are you even trying to say? The next generation will be fine irrespective of whether I get screwed to pay for some little brat's expensive daycare.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:39 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't really warp my head around day care that costs $54K a year per child.

It depends on the care provided. I know the state pays just over $40,000 a year for my son to attended a program for kids on the autistic spectrum.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:44 PM on July 5, 2008


We found, some time ago, that the answer really was yes, it is most economically profitable to educate everyone for free.

We haven't found anything of the sort, and the question would remain, economically profitable for who, and why do we want to benefit them.

While I imagine Dr Steve has a little whine to himself about that every time he does his taxes or passes a school, it is a well-established fact of life that collective purchase of a good makes the good cheaper, and that the largest possible group discount can be obtained by the group called "everyone".

Haha! I feel like I'm being trolled. You're really suggesting that collective (e.g., government) purchases are always at the best price? There are situations in which collective bargaining allows for a better price, and there are situations in which the collective bargaining agent gets captured by the supplier, or its interests otherwise diverge from that of the group its bargaining for (which have divergent interests to begin with).

Look, as a general statement, your "well-established fact" is a pure fantasy. It's true in some situations, not true in others.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:46 PM on July 5, 2008


What are you even trying to say? The next generation will be fine irrespective of whether I get screwed to pay for some little brat's expensive daycare.

The next generation is paying the dividends on all retirement packages, especially if you don't have one. You only discourage their quality and potential at your own peril. I thought I was rather explicit, but maybe not.
posted by Brian B. at 3:48 PM on July 5, 2008


The next generation is paying the dividends on all retirement packages, especially if you don't have one. You only discourage their quality and potential at your own peril. I thought I was rather explicit, but maybe not.

And maybe if I had an infinite amount of money, this would seem like a great investment, but come on. You can't seriously be trying to sell me on the idea that the best investment I could make, as measured by returns, is paying for some random kid's daycare?

Do I seem that stupid to you?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:56 PM on July 5, 2008


You can't seriously be trying to sell me on the idea that the best investment I could make, as measured by returns, is paying for some random kid's daycare?

It wouldn't be a good social investment to worry only about the childless bottom line, because if we did, then everyone would be screwed. You opted out of children, and don't need our social reward by the same logic. Also, I don't see you as paying for it at any time, because you aren't next in line for the savings per se, because it doesn't change the competitive nature of your job status across the economic board because you can't or don't work for a company that benefits you in this way. The cost is also offset by tax issues, so the money would probably not exist for the company if it didn't serve a greater social function.
posted by Brian B. at 4:04 PM on July 5, 2008


My mom runs a home child care business in Mountain View. Several children have parents working at Google. She charges $13XX/mo, somewhat more than the area average. But despite the high price, her waiting list is substantially larger than the maximum enrollment allowed by her license.

My interpretation of this situation is (1) my mom is awesome, and (2) there might be a shortage of child care services in Mountain View.
posted by ryanrs at 4:16 PM on July 5, 2008


"You mean a corporation did something to help with the bottom line? I'm shocked."

Wait, let's think about this a second. corporations do things to help their bottom lines in the moment. That is why my company, bleeding money, focuses on the grade of toliet paper we use rather than focusing on the piece of shit $20 million dollar system that the CIO capitalized.

That is why a director will outsource a whole department to make his last two quarters, and yet already be promoted when the fact comes out that the outsourcing is actually more expensive.

Corporations act and operate as hyper, differently abled children rather than actually focusing on the real bottom line. Google isn't immune from this thinking after all it appears.
posted by UseyurBrain at 4:19 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Talking about supply and demand in reference to child care only makes sense if you are in the child care business. Unless Google decides to become the Search and Child Care Company, the only reason for them to supply child care is if it supports their business. As people have said, it helps with employee retention and with working hours (if they don't have to drive all over town to drop/pick up kids).

Looking at it like this, the fact that there is a big waiting list suggests that the employees like it, so it works well as a benefit. And if the parents are paying for it, you get happy and productive employees for very little cost--a classic win-win situation.

Therefore the exact wrong response is to make it more expensive and exclusive.

I really should get into management and make more money. They probably have lots of high paid managers with MBAs from exclusive business schools, and they can't figure this one out??
posted by eye of newt at 4:34 PM on July 5, 2008


Back in my day we used to say, and believe in, the simple statement, "Don't feed the troll".

We would often then add, "fucktard".

Make of it what you will.
posted by nyxxxx at 4:38 PM on July 5, 2008


I wrote to Dr. Steve Elvis:
Also, I don't see you as paying for it at any time, because you aren't next in line for the savings per se, because it doesn't change the competitive nature of your job status across the economic board because you can't or don't work for a company that benefits you in this way.

To make more plain upon request: The money you see as would be going to yourself is non-existent, because your company would use it to cover the loss in benefits formerly used to attract others--in order to keep them. They already have you locked in for less. In other words, you don't have an argument left.
posted by Brian B. at 4:47 PM on July 5, 2008


> Therefore the exact wrong response is to make it more expensive and exclusive. [...] They probably have lots of high paid managers with MBAs from exclusive business schools, and they can't figure this one out??

I thought so, too. However, if we take on premise that they aren't just completely stupid (which is a possibility), it might be that they've determined the cost isn't worth the benefit.

I could think of a few reasons this is the case. Maybe they've determined that the employees whom the company derives the most benefit from providing child-care for, are the employees at the top of the pay spectrum. I.e., it's worth subsidizing a VP's child-care, but not the cafeteria employees'. If we assume, as seems logical, that people who get paid more will be less sensitive to a price hike, raising the prices might make sense.

Alternately, it might just be a belief that the small number of employees who are influenced by the availability of child-care aren't worth the cost required to keep it in operation. Hence, perhaps they're raising the per-child rate up to a point where the company's contribution is more in line with their benefit. I think this is possibility if they have a lot of young employees who don't have children, and thus even if they think the child-care is a good idea in theory, might not leave the company or change their work patterns if it was eliminated.

I think there are quite a few explanations you could come up with for what on the surface looks irrational. It may be the case that it is irrational, but it might also be well thought-out and calculated. As money gets tighter, they'll probably have to cut back more and more on some of the bennys. If they're as smart a company as they give the impression of being, they'll cut back on the ones that motivate the fewest, least-important employees and have the least benefits to the company first, then move to the ones that are relatively inexpensive and motivate more people.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:07 PM on July 5, 2008


If your employer isn't willing to pay you the equivalent of what they pay for childcare for other employees, then I guess that says something about your worth to the company. If you disagree with their assessment, you could always get another job, or start a business of your own.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:15 PM on July 5, 2008


Listen, Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America. I think it's a terrible shame that you don't feel able to negotiate compenation commensurate with your abilities, but that's how capitalism works. Can I suggest that you either find another job, or do some additional training in order to increase your renumeration to a level that you think appropriate instead of boring the rest of us shitless with your whining?

Hope this helps.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:29 PM on July 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


Kadin2048 I disagree. Google isn't like some factory where you have high paid managers and designers and a bunch of lower-paid factory workers. Pretty much everyone is a highly skilled worker. Also, it sounds like it was poorly communicated. And if you read the Valleywag comments, you'll see a number of them are quitting the company over this mismanagement.

You're right that we don't really know what went into the decision and it is all to easy to be an armchair manager, but this just looks and smells like bad management. (I mean, come on--18,500 square feet for 80 children??)

Many, many years ago I worked for a very large company that decided on an experiment with on-site childcare. It really suprised the company with how many benefits they received from this--happy employees who wouldn't leave even when working conditions became bad just because it became so convenient, less missed hours and days per employee, easier recruitment of new employees. I think it was the less missed hours that really suprised them. It was a very noticeable benefit to the company's bottom line, so they greatly expanded it to include anyone who needed it.

From the comments it sounds like this all came from Brin, bypassing their probably more rational management staff.

So my lesson from this shouldn't be to get into management.
posted by eye of newt at 5:29 PM on July 5, 2008


On second thought 18500 square feet for 80 children doesn't seem so outragous. My other comments stand.
posted by eye of newt at 5:40 PM on July 5, 2008


Can I suggest that you either find another job, or do some additional training in order to increase your renumeration to a level that you think appropriate instead of boring the rest of us shitless with your whining?

No, I prefer whining. I could make more money, but the government would just take most of it. What's the point.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 5:50 PM on July 5, 2008


(I said) if you were a child-free person working at Google, it would probably chafe that the company was subsidizing the guy next to you to the tune of $37,000 per year.

Brian B. said: "This is always a big problem with Americans who define equal as same (ie, specifically rather than categorically). "

Not American.
I believe wholeheartedly in the healthcare for all which my country provides to its citizens. But I can also sympathize with the other position. Maybe you should try it.
posted by loiseau at 6:01 PM on July 5, 2008


Not American.
I believe wholeheartedly in the healthcare for all which my country provides to its citizens. But I can also sympathize with the other position. Maybe you should try it.


Try what? Try sympathizing with the status quo?
posted by Brian B. at 6:07 PM on July 5, 2008


Not American.
I believe wholeheartedly in the healthcare for all which my country provides to its citizens. But I can also sympathize with the other position. Maybe you should try it.


Brian B. said: "Try what? Try sympathizing with the status quo?"

You're really wound up. If I were you I'd try taking a walk around the block.

Maybe part of the reason the US is so divided is because people like you don't care why others feel the way they do, and don't care about compromise. All you see is an opponent, someone to fight.
posted by loiseau at 6:27 PM on July 5, 2008


You're really wound up. If I were you I'd try taking a walk around the block.

This is rather stupid, or projecting as it were, I see an opponent in you is all, and I could care less.
posted by Brian B. at 6:30 PM on July 5, 2008


phooky Ok, sub "publicly held for profit" for "for profit", though honestly I think the point holds even for private for profits, but since they're usually little mom 'n pop outfits I figure they don't much count anyway.

But on what basis do you think I'm being over simplistic? Minority stockholder suits are quite real, theoretically all it takes is a single stockholder complaining about a well intentioned scheme that lowers corporate profits and that's that.

A publicly held corporation has a legal obligation to maximize shareholder value, it does not have a legal obligation to abide by its feelgood PR crap. We'd have to completely rework our corporate law [1] to make a publicly held for profit anything but the monomaniac critters they are today.

[1] Note, I think this would be an extremely good idea, and I also think it won't happen short of a revolution.
posted by sotonohito at 6:34 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


On second thought 18500 square feet for 80 children doesn't seem so outragous.

Huh? That's a 15x15 room for every single kid in the day care. My daughter's day care room is roughly 25x15... for seven kids. And they are not packed in there in any way -- plenty of room for tables, cots, shelves, toys, whatnot.

How many kids do you know with 15x15 rooms?
posted by dw at 6:40 PM on July 5, 2008


We'd have to completely rework our corporate law [1] to make a publicly held for profit anything but the monomaniac critters they are today.

This seems incredibly difficult to do effectively. If a corporation isn't obligated to maximize shareholder returns, why would I want my 401(k) or pension invested in it? As a practical matter, simply to be competitive for capital, it seems that corporations are always going to have to make some credibly commitment to maximize returns.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:02 PM on July 5, 2008


You can't seriously be trying to sell me on the idea that the best investment I could make, as measured by returns, is paying for some random kid's daycare?

Do I seem that stupid to you?


So the old saying "a conservative is a liberal has been mugged" can be expanded to say "a libertarian is a liberal who hasn't been mugged yet."
posted by Space Coyote at 7:48 PM on July 5, 2008


Sotonohito,
I think we have to start rethinking how we organize work. Those initial conditions set the stage for everything else that develops. I'm mostly skeptical of revolutions. I have talked to people who've lived through revolutions-- in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and it's just terrible.

What is intriguing to me, however, are a lot of the new technologies like solar, wind, urban agriculture, cheap rapid prototyping etc. I think there are unique opportunities here for people to organize themselves into alternative modes of production/business. In this way, perhaps, we can move forward.
posted by wuwei at 7:56 PM on July 5, 2008


I'm perfectly happy if people with kids get huge benefits that I don't. I'm a single guy; I make more money than I need. Reward me for my ability on my salary; benefits help cover needs of others.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:17 PM on July 5, 2008


So the old saying "a conservative is a liberal has been mugged" can be expanded to say "a libertarian is a liberal who hasn't been mugged yet."

I'm not a libertarian, or anything close to one. I was just responding to Brian B.'s ludicrous claim that subsidizing daycare is a good investment, financially.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:19 PM on July 5, 2008


You can't seriously be trying to sell me on the idea that the best investment I could make, as measured by returns, is paying for some random kid's daycare?

It's quite likely a good investment for Google.

Google's growth is dependent on hiring highly skilled employees in the South Bay. Depending on the state of the economy, that can be very difficult. It's pretty hard today. There are a huge number of cool high-tech employers in the area. But jobs at Google are highly coveted, primarily because of the great benefits and other perks. The perks are probably a stronger draw than Google's stock performance. People rarely lust for jobs at Apple, even though AAPL has performed as well as GOOG due to the iPod and iPhone. I'm pretty sure Apple salaries are higher, too. Despite that, more people want to work at Google than Apple. This allows Google to be more selective in hiring and build a more talented work force.
posted by ryanrs at 8:31 PM on July 5, 2008


How many kids do you know with 15x15 rooms?

I got a container full of bungee cords recently, and I have a couple rolls of duct tape and some cardboard. I bet I could fit at least 50 kids into there, and that's just with what I got. With some sort of ducting system, sealed containers and pumps, maybe 100.

Last time I was a part of anything like this, we got 314 babies into a bathroom in a studio apartment in Manhattan. Don't recall much of the next two weeks, but it was a crazy time.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:37 PM on July 5, 2008


ryanrs, Apple's starting salaries are lower than Microsoft, Google and Yahoo!'s. Do you have any sources to back up your other statements? I'm asking because I'm curious.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:44 PM on July 5, 2008


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America quotes "We found, some time ago, that the answer really was yes, it is most economically profitable to educate everyone for free.
then writes "We haven't found anything of the sort, and the question would remain, economically profitable for who, and why do we want to benefit them."

Whenever some childless hyper pay-as-you-go and who cares about anyone else type rants about having to pay for the education of other peoples kids I like to imagine them being the centre of attention of some disaster caused by other people's ignorant, illiterate, all grown up, kid. You know, something painful like renal failure from E. Coli from not being able to read the instructions on how to safely make chili. Or maybe having to sit in their own wastes for 12 hours a day for the last 10 years of their life because the old folks home can't attract anything but unsocialized wankers. A little schadenfreude from those who don't acknowledge the need for society to invest in it's future workers.

Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America writes "No, I prefer whining. I could make more money, but the government would just take most of it. What's the point."

Even in Canada the goverment doesn't take most of it. The point, at least to those who seek more money, would be to make more money.
posted by Mitheral at 9:06 PM on July 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I was just responding to Brian B.'s ludicrous claim that subsidizing daycare is a good investment, financially.

Well, if you really want an answer and aren't trolling, it is for three reasons:

1. It attracts workers with families, who are less likely to job-surf than the childless, since they need that stable source of income to support their kids. So, improved retention rates, less drag caused by need to continually recruit.

2. It keeps workers with families at the company by giving them a cheaper daycare option than they would get in the open market. Again, improved retention rates.

3. If the daycare is on-site, it means workers won't be spending a chunk of their time running to/from daycare. Improved productivity. Even if it's not on-site, there's some indirect productivity impact from reduced anxiety about daycare.

Don't devalue how much churn can drag down a company, especially a tech company. In some cases, turnover costs can be 100% of the employee's salary. Given the choice between $17K/year for child care and $17K-$100K for each employee you have to replace due to childcare issues (or some other employer offering them a position with childcare benefits), which would you choose?
posted by dw at 9:11 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


This seems incredibly difficult to do effectively. If a corporation isn't obligated to maximize shareholder returns, why would I want my 401(k) or pension invested in it?

Here's a chart comparing two companies' returns over the last 22 years -- Costco, considered one of the best companies to work for in America, and Home Depot, considered one of the worst companies to work for.

On the surface of it, it really looks like Home Depot wins out -- they have virtually wiped out their benefits the last ten years and still have a 5000% return vs. Costco's flatter 500% return.

Wait, I said last ten years, didn't I? That does change things.

Costco has taken a lot of flak over the years from investors saying their employee salaries and benefits are too nice compared to their other competitors in the warehouse business (mainly Sam's Club). And yet, those benefits have helped give Costco a nice, solid, consistent return every year for investors, to the point that it's now 82% institution owned. It forms a nice conservative base for broad market mutual funds.
posted by dw at 9:29 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Huh, I had heard Google salaries were on the low side.

Regarding stock appreciation, see AAPL vs GOOG.
posted by ryanrs at 9:36 PM on July 5, 2008


Well, if you really want an answer and aren't trolling, it is for three reasons:

I think we're talking past each other. I know why employers do it, and I think they have good reasons to. I was arguing, though, that it's financially bad for me, personally. Brian B. appeared to be insisting that it wasn't, because of some nebulous benefit I would derive in the future from a properly daycared citizenry.

Costco has taken a lot of flak...

I'm not sure Costco is really a counterexample. It's one thing to say, "look, the way to really grow this business is to develop a solid, stable workforce composed of the best people, and that's unavoidably going to cost more than merely rolling out enough warm bodies to open the stores tomorrow." That's a business decision, and in Costco's case, was apparently a good one.

It's quite another thing to say, "we're going to provide fantastic benefits, and we don't need to worry whether or not we grow the business or not!" That's what I interpreted the comment above to be expressing. I think institutional investors would be a little less eager to invest in that company.

Even in Canada the goverment doesn't take most of it. The point, at least to those who seek more money, would be to make more money.

Really? Maybe I should move to Canada. They take most of it down here.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:45 PM on July 5, 2008


Maybe Steve lives in California. We charge an extra 10% for the nice weather.
posted by ryanrs at 10:19 PM on July 5, 2008


Maybe I should move to Canada. They take most of it down here.

Define most? Because if you're defining most the way most people would define most, you're wrong.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:24 PM on July 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


TPS, it's quite possible Fed+State+SS+SDI+Sales+Property+... > 50% income.
posted by ryanrs at 10:30 PM on July 5, 2008


TPS, it's quite possible Fed+State+SS+SDI+Sales+Property+... > 50% income.

According to this estimate of all taxes, federal, state and local, in 2003:

The bottom fifth pays 18 percent, the top fifth pays 19 percent, and the three groups in between pay between 14 percent and 17 percent—which is to say, roughly the same. Obviously there's some individual variation, but on average Americans pay approximately 17 percent of their income in taxes, no matter what income they earn.
posted by Brian B. at 11:05 PM on July 5, 2008


The highest fed bracket is 35% and the highest California bracket is 10.3%. Add in a few miscellaneous taxes and it could reach 50%. These are marginal rates though, so you'd have to earn a lot (maybe over $1M) to actually reach 50% overall.
posted by ryanrs at 11:18 PM on July 5, 2008


I was arguing, though, that it's financially bad for me, personally.

Not necessarily. If a company isn't pulling a boat anchor of churn behind it, that frees up resources to do other things, like provide fringe benefits, bonuses, retention bonuses, or higher salaries you'll see. Admittedly, you may not get a perfect return out of it, but it does mean that the resources are there. If the company doesn't funnel it back to you that way, it could just return those savings to shareholders in the form of lower costs pushing up the earnings per share. If the organization gives you stock or options, you'll see a better return on your stock and make more when you sell the stock.

Lower churn also means higher productivity -- and higher productivity for you, too. No need to train people, so more time to push papers or program or sell. And this, again, means a better chance at a raise, or better earnings per share.

No, you're not going to get a buck for every buck parsed out to child care. But potentially, it could make you richer than you'd be at a place that doesn't provide it.

It's quite another thing to say, "we're going to provide fantastic benefits, and we don't need to worry whether or not we grow the business or not!" That's what I interpreted the comment above to be expressing. I think institutional investors would be a little less eager to invest in that company.

To a point, that's been Patagonia's model. They've focused more on great benefits, environmental stewardship, and doing all this regardless of profits. In fact, they tithe part of their profits to environmental causes. OTOH, there's no question that Yvon Chouinard has been running a business -- he aims to bring in more revenue than expenses. But because they've never felt they can explain their model to outside investors in a way that they can understand that profit is not their single driving force, they've remained a private company. (I recommend Let My People Go Surfing to get a peek inside Chouinard's mind.)

So no, I don't think a benefits-before-ROI company could ever do well with a public listing. But they are out there.
posted by dw at 11:33 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Every big software company in the valley has lost top employees to Google. That's the return on Google's investment. All the new Google hires I've met have burbled on about the benefits at length.
posted by ryanrs at 11:43 PM on July 5, 2008


So, when employees are negotiating as a group, it's in their best collective interests to get as many side benefits as possible, even if not all members of the group would use them.

To the extent this even makes sense, it's so obviously wrong, it hurts. What do you mean by "collective interests?" I want to be better off personally


Here's the thing you seem to be missing: you can be better of personally this way. A hypothetical example for you: negotiating individually, you can manage to get a $X per month salary. Negotiating as a group, you can say $X+100 or we all walk, oh, and by the way, we want the following 10 extra benefits. After haggling, the group gets $X+50 and five benefits, two of which are of use to you personally.

You now have $X+50 and two extra things, where without the group you'd have $X.

That's how unions worked over here for the past century. The experiences in your country may be different, but it sure isn't "so obviously wrong it hurts".

Here's another thing: if somebody says something 'so obviously wrong it hurts' yet it clearly works for them, you may have to question your own position.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:43 AM on July 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Steve, sometimes fringe benefits can be converted into cold, hard cash. For instance, I steal bean bags from the employee lounge and sell them on eBay. As a single person, maybe you can arrange to smuggle a non-employee's child into your company's child care facility, for a fee. As long as the little fucker calls you "Daddy", who's gonna argue?
posted by ryanrs at 1:01 AM on July 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Do I seem that stupid to you?

Yes.

and mean too.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:35 AM on July 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


wuwei I didn't mean to imply that I was suggesting we should have a revolution, we shouldn't because yeah they do suck massively (I've always figured that come the revolution I'd be the first against the wall). Revolutions should be reserved for when things get completely intolerable, and we're nowhere near that and hopefully never will be.

I was simply observing that given the enormous power corporations wield due to our system of legalized bribery "campaign contributions" no significant reform of corporate law will ever take place in the USA absent something as catastrophic as a revolution.

As for rapid prototyping, etc, I don't think it'll really make a significant difference. Joe Inventor can come up with a new product quicker, but that'll just mean that megacorp X will have to be quicker with their patent trolling lawsuits and/or buyout offers. The fact is that capitalism, in the sense of an entrepreneur starting a new company and guiding it to dominance, or even competition with the big boys, died a long time ago. These days the goal is to be bought out, not to succeed on your own terms.

Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America Actually our current "nothing but maximized profits" setup is relatively new. Only a bit more than a hundred years ago the formation of a new limited liability corporation took an act of state congress (and therefore happened much less frequently) and *required* various public interest commitments which, if violated, would result in the destruction of the corporation. Then New Jersey and Delaware fucked things up by setting up the modern revolving door corporate charter system because they realized they could get some quick cash that way.

And, yup, that meant people were less inclined to invest in corporations back then. Industry somehow survived by, and I know this is a stunning concept, actually producing goods and selling them for a profit rather than depending on an influx of cash from investors.

Personally I think we could fix a lot of problems simply by banning corporations from purchasing one another, or owning stock in another corporation, and making that ban retroactive to, say 1980. The entire "hey, why compete when we can merge" mentality is at least as anti-capitalist as Communism ever was and is 90% of the reason why insanely large corporations can screw people over with the ease they do.

The biggest threat to capitalism is not Communism, but successful capitalists who'd like that nasty competition stuff to just go away. Once they succeed in that goal (as they largely have) you no longer have a capitalism.
posted by sotonohito at 5:01 AM on July 6, 2008 [6 favorites]


I want to be better off personally

Then start your own company. As it is, you are apparently an employee. Your employer needs to keep the business moving along well and keeping lots of talented employees happy, lest they leave. Those talented employees create value, which produces revenue for the company, which pays for your salary.
posted by deanc at 6:46 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Then start your own company

Would this be a good point to startle Steve some more and tell him I own my own company?
posted by DreamerFi at 8:26 AM on July 6, 2008


Daycare as a wage also punishes men who marry well. And it's "a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, and a libertarian was never a liberal so he had a semi-automatic rifle handy and shot the mugger."
posted by rob paxon at 8:56 AM on July 6, 2008


Do I seem that stupid to you?

Actually you just seem stuck. One way or another you've ended up with a worldview that doesn't map onto reality very well, and you'll likely spend the rest of your life railing against the fact that what happens in the real world doesn't match your expectations of what "should" happen.

As I said earlier, I've been there, and it requires a radical shift in perspective to move on from it. If you even want to move on from it. There is, after all, a particular joy to crying out righteously as the oppressed underdog.
posted by tkolar at 9:39 AM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


And it's "a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, and a libertarian was never a liberal so he had a semi-automatic rifle handy and shot the mugger."

Huh. I always thought it was "a libertarian is a freedom loving gun nut with a thousand and one reasons why military service isn't right for him personally."
posted by tkolar at 9:42 AM on July 6, 2008


Daycare as a wage also punishes men who marry well.

Bwa ha hahahaa...

...hopes very sincerely that you're being facetious...
posted by sixswitch at 9:45 AM on July 6, 2008


tkolar: One way or another you've ended up with a worldview that doesn't map onto reality very well, and you'll likely spend the rest of your life railing against the fact that what happens in the real world doesn't match your expectations of what "should" happen.

I think you've been reading a lot into my comments that I haven't actually said. This doesn't surprise me. People tend to pigeonhole me into their conception of a "libertarian" and argue against what their imaginary straw man libertarian says.

I think the only thing I said "should" happen is that I "should" move to Canada. I don't think companies "should" stop providing daycare. In fact, I outlined in some detail why its in companies' best interests (or they're indifferent) and the best interests of most employees for companies to provide daycare.

I can't even begin to fathom how you read this as an argument that company-provided daycare "should" not happen. I do think I would be better off if companies provided fewer parental benefits, but this is in no way a statement of what "should" happen.

As I said earlier, I've been there, and it requires a radical shift in perspective to move on from it. If you even want to move on from it. There is, after all, a particular joy to crying out righteously as the oppressed underdog.

I'm not convinced you have. It's possible that my comments reminded you of something you used to believe, and you responded to your former beliefs instead of my comments, though. I'm also at a loss to explain who you interpreted anything I said as "crying out righteously as the oppressed underdog."

I never said I was oppressed or anything like it. I explained that certain policies aren't to my advantage, which they aren't, so I disapprove of them. I explained that since the policies are probably to most people's advantage, there's little chance of them changing. This is also true.

I don't know why you injected the moral language of "should" and "righteously" and "oppressed," except perhaps to set up a straw man for an easy take down. You're better than that, though.

ThePinkSuperhero: Define most? Because if you're defining most the way most people would define most, you're wrong.

If I got a $1 raise, the government would take more than half of that $1. That's what I mean by "most."
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 2:32 PM on July 6, 2008


I can't even begin to fathom how you read this as an argument that company-provided daycare "should" not happen.

I think we're talking past each other, as I didn't even mention daycare.

The moral language here is all contained in the use of the word "fair". I realize you were quoting when you used it, but you used it nonetheless.

If fairness is not an issue for you here than I've misread you. My apologies.
posted by tkolar at 2:53 PM on July 6, 2008


I think we're talking past each other, as I didn't even mention daycare.

Well, I was talking about daycare, and you were ostensibly responding to me, so I assumed you were talking about daycare as well. What were you talking about, then?

The moral language here is all contained in the use of the word "fair". I realize you were quoting when you used it, but you used it nonetheless.

Yes, that was a mistake. I try to speak very carefully on Metafilter, because people delight in casting me as the libertarian bogeyman and will seize on the smallest word or phrase, ignoring context and everything else I've said.

I was responding to Brian B.'s "offers it to everyone on a fair and non-discriminatory basis" remark. All I was trying to get at is that there are many different ways to look at fairness, and whether a particular policy seems fair will often depend on how it burdens you. I should've fleshed the comment out more, because it gave people an opening to cast everything I was saying as a complaint about fairness.

Of course, I didn't bring up fairness, and I didn't suggest that fairness should be the standard by which a policy is measured, but there you go.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 3:15 PM on July 6, 2008


On playback, fwiw, I thought this comment was the Tsar Bomba of this thread.
posted by yort at 12:10 AM on July 7, 2008


If I got a $1 raise, the government would take more than half of that $1. That's what I mean by "most."
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. If you got a $100 pre-tax rise ... that's just what they put on your payslip. So if what you get in your hand is $40, would you turn down a $40 pay rise if you got to keep the whole $40?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:15 AM on July 7, 2008


Do I seem that stupid to you?
Is this some sort of trick question, or what?
posted by scrump at 1:56 AM on July 7, 2008


Huh. I always thought it was "a libertarian is a freedom loving gun nut with a thousand and one reasons why military service isn't right for him personally."
posted by tkolar at 12:42 PM on July 6


Understanding that as a joke, as you understood mine to be, that line is thematically incorrect. Ideologically it'd be 1,001 reasons why there should not be a military, so I don't think the line works as well. It applies quite well to those who believe in gun rights and a strong military; those who consequently are stereotypically hawkish, yet are nowhere to be found on a military base. These people fall under conservative ideologies. Ron Paul's internet congregation has vastly skewed the ideological difference between various groups of conservatives and various libertarians, minarchists, etc where there may be overlapping stances but essentially no similarity in ideological basis.

And to whomever that was, yes I was being facetious in calling them "men who marry well." At the same time, the subdiscussion on whether "daycare benefits as wage" are fair to employees without children seemed to overlook the many other groups that apply to the situation.

Certainly it is obvious to anyone that it similarly effects any people who have/had kids but also do not require daycare services (including any couple with one as a stay-at-home parent), yet I felt like poking at the matter in a jokey fashion since this thread went in "it takes a village" sorts of directions, and it should be kept in mind that it wouldn't just be those who chose not to have kids that are (dependent on your position in the debate) "negatively" effected.
posted by rob paxon at 8:47 PM on July 7, 2008


sotonohito -- The fact is that capitalism, in the sense of an entrepreneur starting a new company and guiding it to dominance, or even competition with the big boys, died a long time ago.

A discussion about Google is a poor forum to advocate this position.
posted by NortonDC at 9:01 PM on July 7, 2008


NortonDC I fail to see why. People are acting surprised that a large, public, for profit, corporation is (gasp, shock) doing everything it can to maximize profits, including cutting benefits. The fact that people are surprised about this illustrates that they simply do not understand for profit corporations in their modern incarnation.

People, like it says in the X Files, "want to believe". They want to believe the transparently fake PR crap that some companies (Apple, Google, etc) put out claiming that magically those publicly held for profit corporations are *different*, that *they* won't do what every other one does.

We're talking about corporations and their behavior in a pseudo-capitalist society. Further, we're talking about a very rare corporation that really did match the olde style "bold entrepreneur" model, which is quite rare and helps breed the myths that people want to believe in.

Hell, Ben & Jerry's, a company founded by genuine hippies, couldn't make the transition to publicly held for profit status without turning into yet another corporation, and people want me to believe that somehow its surprising that Google didn't?

And, finally, you've been a member of MeFi since 2000 and you are acting surprised at topic drift? Dr insanely long name and a few others have been having an interesting discussion of libertarianism which is about as closely related to the topic at hand as me and wuwei's brief digression into capitalist theory was, why aren't you scolding them for not staying on topic?
posted by sotonohito at 6:27 AM on July 8, 2008


Yeah, you did fail. A discussion about Google is a poor forum to advocate that "capitalism, in the sense of an entrepreneur starting a new company and guiding it to dominance, or even competition with the big boys, died a long time ago" because Google is a fine example of (student!) entrepreneurs starting a new company and guiding it to dominance. For fuck's sake, they incorporated in a Menlo Park garage.

So, yeah: FAIL.

Further, we're talking about a very rare corporation that really did match the olde style "bold entrepreneur" model, which is quite rare and helps breed the myths that people want to believe in.

No, what it does it is disprove that first statement of yours that I quoted.

And, finally, you've been a member of MeFi since 2000 and you are acting surprised at topic drift?

This tells me that you didn't research my MetaFilter history as much as you should to make pronouncements about me. Though, honestly, I don't know how much research would justify your strawman. Shit, you didn't even put enough work into it to get all the way from just putting words into my mouth "up" to strawman. Here's a starter, from three years before your account existed.
posted by NortonDC at 2:43 PM on July 8, 2008


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