4/2/2008 – Editorials


By Richard Peterson

 

According to the Associated Press, the most prominent politicians and a number of celebrities in the US are distant relatives — one big, happy family, so to speak.

This could make for one odd family reunion: Barack Obama is a distant cousin of Brad Pitt and Hillary Rodham Clinton is related to Pitt’s girlfriend, Angelina Jolie.

Researchers at the New England Historic Genealogical Society found some remarkable family connections for the three presidential candidates — Democratic rivals Obama and Clinton and Republican John McCain.

Clinton, who is of French-Canadian descent on her mother’s side, is also a distant cousin of singers Madonna, Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette. Obama, the son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, can call six US presidents, including George W. Bush, his cousins. McCain is a sixth cousin of first lady Laura Bush.

"You’d think with all that singing talent in the family she’d be able to carry a tune," Clinton’s senior adviser Philippe Reines said. "But now it makes much more sense how she snagged a Grammy."

Clinton won a Grammy for best spoken word in 1997 for "It Takes a Village." Obama also won a Grammy in that category this year for the audio version of his book, "The Audacity Of Hope: Thoughts On Reclaiming The American Dream."

Genealogist Christopher Child said that while the candidates often focus on pointing out differences between them, their ancestry shows they are more alike than they think.

"It shows that lots of different people can be related, people you wouldn’t necessarily expect," Child said.

Obama has a prolific presidential lineage that features Democrats and Republicans. His distant cousins include President George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Lyndon Johnson, Harry S.

Truman and James Madison. Other Obama cousins include Vice President Dick Cheney, British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill and Civil War General Robert E. Lee.

Obama often jokes about his cousin Cheney at campaign appearances.

"His kinships are across the political spectrum," Child said.

Child has spent the last three years tracing the candidates’

genealogy, along with senior research scholar Gary Boyd Roberts, author of the 1989 book, "Ancestors of American Presidents."

Clinton’s distant cousins include beatnik author Jack Kerouac and Camilla Parker-Bowles, wife of Prince Charles of England.

McCain’s ancestry was more difficult to trace because records on his relatives were not as complete as records for the families of Obama and Clinton, Child said.

Obama and President Bush are 10th cousins, once removed, linked by Samuel Hinkley of Cape Cod, who died in 1662.

Pitt and Obama are ninth cousins, linked by Edwin Hickman, who died in Virginia in 1769. Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, declined to comment on the senator’s ancestry.

Clinton and Jolie are ninth cousins, twice removed, both related to Jean Cusson who died in St. Sulpice, Quebec, in 1718.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society, founded in 1845, is the oldest and largest nonprofit genealogical organization in the country.

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Do you think it’s more expensive to raise a child or own a car? Well, it depends on the car!

Perhaps you’ve seen a report that the government has estimated it currently costs an average of $11,337 per year to raise a child for 18 years.

A quick look at the Edmunds.com True Cost to Own tool at http://www.edmunds.com/apps/cto/CTOintroController indicates that it costs about:

* $7,182 per year to own a 2008 Toyota Camry for five years (see http://www.edmunds.com/new/2008/toyota/camry/100900018/cto.html?setzip=19081&vdp=off

for details)

* $10,108 per year to own a 2008 Ford F-150 for five years (see http://www.edmunds.com/new/2008/ford/f150/100903333/cto.html?

setzip=19081&vdp=off)

* $14,176 per year to own a 2008 Mercedes E-Class for five years (see http://www.edmunds.com/new/2008/mercedesbenz/eclass/100931589/cto.html?setzip

=19081&vdp=off for details)

* See http://www.edmunds.com/apps/cto/CTOintroController for more automotive examples. The Web site takes into account average depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, maintenance, repairs, taxes and fees . . . not entirely dissimilar from the expenses associated with raising a child!

Middle-income families can expect to spend $204,060 on feeding, housing and schooling a child born in 2007 until his or her 18th birthday, the US government reported March 24.

Child care and education costs will represent a larger share of costs for raising the ’07 baby through to adulthood than they have in the past, the Agriculture Department said in an annual study on child-rearing costs.

"The cost of providing food decreased from 24 percent to 17 percent of total child-rearing costs, while child care and education expenses increased from 2 percent to 12 percent," the department said.

Housing will be the single largest cost for US families — making up

33 to 27 percent of total expenses across income groups, USDA said.

Factoring in inflation, the grand total for middle-income families comes to $269,040, USDA said. Total costs also include transportation, health care and other necessities.

Child-rearing costs have soared since USDA began conducting its annual study in 1960, and can vary dramatically according to a family’s income.

Families making less than $45,800 before taxes can expect to spend less, $148,320 in real terms over the course of their child’s first

17 years. Those on the other end of the income spectrum, making more than $77,100 a year, will spend $298,680 in 2007 dollars on raising their ’07 child.

Even though the study does not include the cost of college, USDA found that children get more expensive as they get older. Teenagers were the most costly.

The department also noted that child-rearing costs are the greatest in the urban West, and lowest in the urban Midwest and rural areas across the country.

 


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