Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News/Commentary, Blog posts and publications(...)IWF RSS Technology Makes Possible<p> Recently a donor to the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum expressed surprised at how much we were able to do given our relatively small budget.&nbsp; Why, he asked, were we producing more&mdash;more content, more media, more events, more impact&mdash;than some other places with much bigger budgets?</p> <p> Not to sound immodest, but one reason is that IWF actually practices what we preach when it comes to using technology and having a flexible workplace.&nbsp; That doesn&rsquo;t just mean that we offer flex-time and have conference calls, rather than flying around for in-person meetings.&nbsp;</p> <p> Rather, we operate as a fully virtual office.&nbsp; All of our great women work from home, often at opposite ends of the globe, and collaborate using computers, skype and frequent phone calls.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p> This is a win-win for the women who work for IWF&mdash;we have maximum flexibility to get our work done at the time and place of our choosing&mdash;and for our supporters.&nbsp; We aren&rsquo;t spending our time commuting or getting dressed for an office, and workers don&rsquo;t have to buy an expensive lunch at a cafeteria during an official &ldquo;lunch hour.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <p> From an organizational perspective, IWF isn&rsquo;t wasting money on offices and overhead, which means that more of our money goes to support our programs, rather than to keep the lights on.&nbsp; Our staff members generally earn less money than workers at many other similar organization, but that&rsquo;s in part because all of us place a high value on the truly flexible work arrangement that IWF affords.</p> <p> This isn&rsquo;t just bragging about how great IWF is, but it speaks to an important policy issue.&nbsp; None of this would be possible without the widespread availability of modern technologies.&nbsp; I&rsquo;ve been around long enough to remember when IWF did have a formal office, where we all met in person and spent the hours of 9 to 6pm in the office every day.&nbsp; That worked fine, but also meant a lot of time was wasted and a lot of time went to maintaining the office. Today, it truly doesn&rsquo;t matter where anyone who works in front of a computer sits so long as they have a wireless connection, and increasingly it seems, we can get a wireless connection just about anywhere.&nbsp;</p> <p> We shouldn&rsquo;t take this for granted.&nbsp; Communication companies have invested billions in creating the infrastructure that makes this possible.&nbsp; We shouldn&rsquo;t assume that progress will continue indefinitely, especially if government creates policies that make it harder for communications firms to operate, whether that&rsquo;s through bad tax policy or burdensome regulations.</p> <p> In fact, some in the wireless industry warn that we are facing a spectrum shortage.&nbsp; Spectrum is the term for the radio frequencies that are used for wireless, as well as other forms of communication, and which government controls access to.&nbsp; If the wireless industry runs short of spectrum, that means that they might not have the capacity to meet the increasing demand for wireless services just a few years down the road.&nbsp;</p> <p> Policymakers should take this issue seriously.&nbsp; Tomorrow the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is holding a hearing entitled <a href=";ContentRecord_id=57a2f3e1-d86f-4f1a-bb33-36502d4002ce">&quot;Wireless Broadband and the Future of Spectrum Policy&quot; </a>to discuss these issues and how to make sure that such technological innovation can continue.&nbsp; This may not make headlines, but it&rsquo;s critical important to our future. Wherever you are sitting and reading this blog, I bet you are making use of a wireless service and are using technologies that would have been all but unthinkable a few decades ago.&nbsp; Imagine what might happen if all this progress comes to a halt.&nbsp; Or better, imagine what new innovations and communication paradigms might emerge if this progress continues.&nbsp; Let&rsquo;s all encourage government to create a policy environment that ensures that it does.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasTue, 28 Jul 2015 15:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWe Need An All-Of-The-Above Strategy For Protecting Americans' Privacy<p> Technology, for its many benefits, creates tremendous opportunities for criminals of all kinds -- from everyday thieves who seek to steal consumer goods to illegal enterprises that exploit others&#39; intellectual property. Americans should take note and make sure precautions are taken at every level possible.</p> <p> The personnel information of every federal employee and millions of former employees was recently stolen by hackers. This is a breath-taking breach of privacy with national security implications.</p> <p> China may now have the ability to use this information to undermine our activities as well as blackmail individual employees for additional information and access.</p> <p> This breach may standout in scope, but hackers are constantly attacking our government.</p> <p> According to the General Accounting Office (GAO), federal agencies reported more than 46,000 cybersecurity incidents in 2012 -- eight times more than there were in 2006. In 2012, the GAO concluded that such attacks &quot;have placed sensitive information at risk, with potentially serious impacts on federal and military operation; critical infrastructure; and confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive government, private sector, and personal information,&quot; and noted that federal agencies across the board weren&#39;t doing enough to deter, detect and address cyber threats.</p> <p> This latest attack shows that vulnerabilities clearly remain and developing a better strategy must be a priority.</p> <p> It isn&#39;t just government that&#39;s vulnerable.</p> <p> Credit card fraud also remains an enormous problem, costing an estimated $11 billion annually. Consumers aren&#39;t just inconvenienced when their cards are illegally hijacked, but the losses that must be absorbed by stores and credit companies ultimately hit consumers in the form of higher prices and fees. Somewhat surprisingly, a reported 65 percent of credit card breaches in the U.S. occur at retail stores, rather than online.</p> <p> Yet in-store breaches could be reduced immediately by taking advantage of available -- and much more secure -- point-of-sale Chip and PIN credit card technology. Some big banks and credit card companies are instead issuing chip only cards, which unfortunately don&#39;t provide as much protection as when cards are paired with a four digit PIN number.</p> <p> Countries that have adopted Chip and PIN credit cards as the standard have witnessed a consistent decline in rates of credit card fraud -- as much as 70 percent in the UK. The United States lags far behind in the move to Chip and PIN, but if the banks and credit card issuers embrace this change, consumer fraud could be reduced significantly.</p> <p> More progress is needed, and our business community as well as our government should focus more attention on such security measures. Policymakers ought to recall that this -- not providing transfer payments to millions of different groups of Americans, not regulating and micromanaging every aspect of life -- is supposed to among be government&#39;s core functions. Government was created in large measure to protect property rights and prevent theft.</p> <p> At the federal level, legislation has been drafted to require the director of national intelligence to report to Congress annually on the countries engaged in and supporting illegal activities, the companies and technologies that have been compromised, and the products and services being sold using stolen information.</p> <p> The president would be charged with holding offending countries accountable, by blocking the importation of products utilizing stolen information created by state-owned enterprises of priority countries.</p> <p> Such power could be an important step toward discouraging costly cybercrimes, without giving up the goal of encouraging legitimate international commerce.</p> <p> Americans need an all-of-the-above strategy to reducing the damage caused by technology-based crime, which means that businesses, governments and all of us need to get involved.</p> <p> <em>Carrie L. Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women&#39;s Forum.</em></p> L. LukasMon, 27 Jul 2015 14:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumPodcast #15 Future of healthcare after King v. Burwell court ruling<p> Carrie Lukas, IWF's Managing Director, sits down with IWF Director of Health Policy Hadley Heath Manning to discuss the future of America's health care system after the King v. Burwell Supreme Court ruling. Is Obamacare here to stay? What will the future cost of health care look like? How do we solve the problems that keep popping up in the health care system? What is the path forward? Hadley and Carrie answer these questions and more in the latest Working For Women podcast. </p> L. LukasMon, 20 Jul 2015 15:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy Carly Fiorina’s feminism flummoxes liberals<p> Carly Fiorina has become a darling among conservatives hungry for an unapologetic advocate for rolling back big government.</p> <p> That &mdash; and the fact that she sees America as a land of opportunity, not sexist oppression &mdash; means she&rsquo;s also driving liberal feminists crazy.</p> <p> Liberals typically dismiss conservative women as tokens and lightweights. Yet Fiorina&rsquo;s take-on-all-comers attitude makes such criticism absurd.</p> <p> Fiorina speaks nimbly on the minutiae of public policy from taxes to energy issues, projects a commanding knowledge of foreign affairs and navigates the fraught terrain of social issues without alienating her base or moderates.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s no easy feat. She&rsquo;s accepted hard-hitting interviews with George Stephanopoulos, Andrea Mitchell and the liberal-packed &ldquo;The View.&rdquo; She&rsquo;s spoken at venues across the country, most recently winning accolades and a strong second-place finish in the straw poll at the Western Conservative Summit.</p> <p> Compare this to Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose campaign consists of a carefully scripted &ldquo;listening&rdquo; tour &mdash; conveniently allowing Clinton to avoid saying anything herself &mdash; and a few high-profile campaign speeches, which were remarkable only for the total absence of memorable lines.</p> <p> Feminists don&rsquo;t seem to mind Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s unabashed use of her sex as a top qualification for the presidency.</p> <p> In fact, Democrats are so cowed by Clinton and her &ldquo;historic&rdquo; candidacy that they overlook a deluge of scandal that would be disqualifying for any other candidate.</p> <p> But it&rsquo;s unacceptable to them that Fiorina might benefit from being a woman. As Ruth Marcus, the liberal Washington Post columnist, put it: &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think we would be taking her seriously at all if she weren&rsquo;t a woman.&rdquo;</p> <p> Don&rsquo;t be so sure. Certainly, Fiorina capitalizes on conservatives&rsquo; desire to counter Mrs. Clinton and to demonstrate that the Right is welcoming of women leaders. But unlike Clinton, who implies America has a duty to elect her to bleach the country&rsquo;s stain of sexism, Fiorina casts her story as a part of women&rsquo;s steady progress.</p> <p> She can tell jaw-dropping anecdotes about the sexism she faced in the business world, but offers a decidedly positive vision of the United States as a country making strides toward becoming a more perfect union.</p> <p> &ldquo;Here in this country, where women have more opportunities than anywhere else on earth, we still can make our country a better place by fully tapping the potential of every woman,&rdquo; she said in a June speech in Washington.</p> <p> Fiorina strives to reclaim the concept of feminism, which she says is embodied by &ldquo;a woman who lives the life she chooses.&rdquo;</p> <p> She wants women to have greater power to pursue their dreams, whether that&rsquo;s homeschooling their kids or becoming a CEO.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s no surprise traditional liberal feminists are livid at her attempt to appeal to women as women and offer a new, empowered brand of feminism.</p> <p> Salon&rsquo;s Jenny Kutner called Fiorina&rsquo;s feminism &ldquo;an elitist lie&rdquo; and The New Republic said it&rsquo;s an &ldquo;empty marketing strategy.&rdquo; But in fact it&rsquo;s an attitude of true tolerance and respect for women&rsquo;s choices.</p> <p> The biggest legitimate knock on Fiorina is that she lacks experience. Undoubtedly, Americans deserve to hear more about her abilities as a manager and executive, and to assess if her lack of time in Washington&rsquo;s political system is a liability or a new sort of strength.</p> <p> Yet before disqualifying Fiorina, the left and the mainstream media ought to recall President Obama&rsquo;s nonexistent executive experience when he began his presidential campaign as a very junior senator.</p> <p> They might also want to consider what voters are supposed to make of Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s theoretically impressive resum&eacute;. Certainly she has experience, but the bragging rights that come with positions of power disappear when one can&rsquo;t name a single accomplishment.</p> <p> Americans ought to welcome a robust debate about the best path for our country.</p> <p> And feminists should be pleased to see a strong woman playing a leading role in shaping that conversation.</p> <p> Perhaps, eventually, even Mrs. Clinton will join in.</p> <p> <em>?Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum and vice president for policy of Independent Women&rsquo;s Voice.</em></p> L. LukasWed, 1 Jul 2015 08:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumOf Course Cost Matters<p> Americans are waiting for several big Supreme Court rulings.&nbsp; Few are focused on the case relating to power-plant emissions, but it will have big implications for our economy and ultimately all of us.&nbsp;</p> <p> <a href="">The Wall Street Journal</a> summarizes what&rsquo;s at stake:</p> <blockquote> <p> <em>Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA et. al.&nbsp; </em>Issue: Whether the EPA unreasonably disregarded costs when it decided to regulate power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics. The regulations would cost $9.6 billion annually, according to EPA estimates. But the&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>agency said it was appropriate to consider only public health risks</strong></a>&mdash;not industry costs&mdash;when it decided to regulate coal- and oil-fired generation plants.</p> </blockquote> <p> I&rsquo;m sure there is plenty of fine print that will influence exactly how this case comes out and the implications of the Supreme Court ruling, but Americans ought to universally embrace the principle that costs have to matter when it comes to judging regulations. &nbsp;Some are tempted to discount economic costs because it&rsquo;s only money.&nbsp; But money matters.&nbsp; And when industries are hit with new costs, they pass those costs onto consumers.</p> <p> As <a href="">Charlotte</a> recently wrote about a new study showing how much basic energy costs impact American families, particularly those with lower incomes:</p> <blockquote> <p> American families with a pre-tax income of under $50,000 now spend an estimated average of 17 percent of their post-tax income on residential energy and transportation energy, while the breakdown for families earning $30,000 in pre-tax income is 23 percent of their income on energy, before accounting for any subsidies.</p> </blockquote> <p> How much of the thousands of dollars these low-income families are spending on energy costs are actually due to unnecessary regulation? &nbsp;What would they be doing with that money if they had it to keep, rather than lost it to red tape?&nbsp;</p> <p> Higher income levels are associated with all sorts of positive outcomes&mdash;better health, better education, more happiness and well-being. &nbsp;This doesn&rsquo;t mean that we should ignore the need for sensible regulations that mitigate true risks, but cost must be a consideration too when we are deciding what policies make sense for the American people.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasThu, 25 Jun 2015 07:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumDemocrats keep campaigning on debunked gender pay gap<p> Women aren&rsquo;t really paid 23 percent less than men for the same work, but Democrats keep repeating the debunked statistic anyway.</p> <p> &ldquo;In Ohio, women earn 82.7 cents to the dollar compared to men,&rdquo; Sen. Sherrod Brown wrote&nbsp;in a June 18 campaign email. &ldquo;And on average, that number is 77 cents to every dollar.&rdquo;</p> <p> According to Brown and other Democrats &mdash; including Rep.&nbsp;Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee &mdash;&nbsp;a federal law is necessary to&nbsp;fix the&nbsp;gender wage gap.</p> <p> But the &ldquo;77 cents&rdquo; figure used by Democrats and feminists is misleading, Carrie Lukas, managing director of the free-market Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum, said in an email to</p> <p> A&nbsp;<a href="">2009 U.S. Department of Labor study</a> controlling for profession and education found a gender wage gap of less than 10 percent and concluded&nbsp;&ldquo;the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action.&rdquo;</p> <p> To the extent a wage&nbsp;gap even exists, Lukas said it&rsquo;s a reflection of &ldquo;different choices men and women make when it comes to work.&rdquo; Men are more likely to work longer hours, and in more dangerous, physically demanding conditions.</p> <p> This seems to be the case in President Obama&rsquo;s White House, <a href="">where men were still paid more than women</a>&nbsp;five years after Obama <a href="">signed a law</a> meant to fix the wage disparity between the sexes.</p> <p> &ldquo;If there was a policy solution to the wage gap, why wouldn&rsquo;t it have&nbsp;been implemented already? Democrats were in full control of Congress&nbsp;when Obama took office,&rdquo; Lukas said.</p> <p> IWF has&nbsp;worked&nbsp;to refute the &ldquo;77 cents to every dollar&rdquo; myth for several years. Lukas penned <a href="">a Wall Street Journal op-ed</a> on the topic in 2011, and IWF released <a href="">a video summarizing its economists&rsquo; findings</a> in 2013.</p> <p> <iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"></iframe></p> <p> Experts&nbsp;come to varying&nbsp;conclusions about the gender wage gap, but even prominent left-of-center&nbsp;news outlets recognize&nbsp;the &ldquo;77 cents&rdquo; figure has been discredited.</p> <p> In 2012, <a href=""> rated</a>&nbsp;as &ldquo;Mostly False&rdquo; a claim from the president that women are &ldquo;paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.&rdquo;</p> <p> &ldquo;The president must begin to acknowledge that &rsquo;77 cents&rsquo; does not begin to capture what is actually happening in the work force and society,&rdquo; Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler <a href="">wrote in April 2014</a>.</p> <p> So why do Brown and so many others keep pushing for federal action using a debunked talking point?</p> <p> &ldquo;Democrats clearly are very vested in convincing women that&nbsp;American workplaces are riddled with sexism,&rdquo; Lukas told&nbsp;</p> <p> Based on Brown&rsquo;s campaign email, Democrats are&nbsp;intent on resurrecting the &ldquo;War on Women&rdquo; narrative that served Obama so well in the 2012 election; the email&nbsp;directed supporters&nbsp;to <a href="">a petition</a> accusing&nbsp;Republicans of &ldquo;holding women back.&rdquo;</p> <p> Brown&nbsp;and Wasserman Schultz both failed to&nbsp;respond to requests&nbsp;for comment on the pay&nbsp;statistics&nbsp;included in the Friends of Sherrod Brown&nbsp;email last week.</p> <p> Democrats, Lukas&nbsp;said, &ldquo;keep promoting and passing bills&nbsp;under the guise of &lsquo;equal pay&rsquo; that do nothing to advance equal pay or&nbsp;close the wage gap&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;they just create more red tape for businesses&nbsp;and enrich lawyers.&rdquo;</p> L. LukasWed, 24 Jun 2015 10:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy Now is the Time for an Anita Hill Movie<p> Seen solely through a political lens, the timing of HBO&rsquo;s upcoming <a href="">movie</a> about Clarence Thomas&rsquo;s Supreme Court confirmation hearings&mdash;and particularly Anita Hill&rsquo;s accusations that he sexually harassed her&mdash;seems suspicious. Presumably this film will paint 1991 as a much-needed turning point: Feminist groups and liberals stood up against a backward, <em>Mad-Men</em>-esque 80s culture, raised awareness about how women are mistreated in American workplaces, and ushered in an era of progress for women. If the Thomas hearings helped set the stage for Bill Clinton&rsquo;s election the following year, the people behind this film may hope nostalgia for the 1990s will bolster Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s presidential prospects now.</p> <p> Yet some viewers&mdash;many too young to recall the Thomas hearings and Anita Hill&mdash;may react differently and wonder how much better off our society really is today.</p> <p> Certainly, Americans are more aware now of the concept of sexual harassment. New laws and workplace protocols have undoubtedly helped curtail the most egregious behavior, such as offering a sexual quid-pro-quo or penalizing an employee who rebuffs an invitation. Employees also know that intra-office relationships and comments of a sexual nature could be grounds for legal action. Mostly, that&rsquo;s a good thing&mdash;workplaces ought to be free of sexually graphic content, and ideally sexual relationships should be kept out of the office.</p> <p> Of course, this heightened awareness of sexual harassment rules doesn&rsquo;t mean that the workplace is free of innuendo. In 2014, more than <a href=";id=pr803&amp;ed=12%2F31%2F2014">one-third of workers surveyed</a> admitted to having dated a coworker. Crude conversations abound, but one is likely also to hear references to potential lawsuits as part of the banter. In fact, our culture has devolved so much in the last twenty-five years that some viewers may scratch their heads at the alleged behavior that got Thomas in trouble. Jokes about a pubic hair? That seems rather PG-rated in our modern era, when the so-called TV &ldquo;family hour&rdquo; features shows about the porn industry, bigamy, and all-manner of reality TV laced with references to kinky sex.</p> <p> Those who lived through the Thomas hearings will recall competing tales about Anita Hill&rsquo;s veracity. Two women were said to support her characterization of Thomas and a hostile office environment. Others who worked for Thomas (including Ricky Silberman, a founder of the organization I work for, the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum) vehemently disputed the allegations; in addition to attesting to their own positive experiences of working for Thomas, they noted that Anita Hill chose to follow Thomas after a job change&mdash;not exactly the behavior of someone suffering in an unbearably sexist workplace.</p> <p> Yet the confirmation battle demonstrated that the accuracy of such charges hardly matters: The allegation itself was incredibly damaging to Thomas. America learned that the charge of harassment is a powerful weapon&mdash;what Thomas characterized as a &ldquo;high-tech lynching&rdquo;&mdash;for anyone who wanted to use it.</p> <p> People who exploit their power, harass, or coerce an employee into an unwanted sexual relationship should always face serious ramifications. Yet defining what constitutes harassment is difficult and the standards often arbitrary. The joke is that whether something is sexual harassment depends on how good looking the guy doing the &ldquo;harassing&rdquo; is. And certainly there is truth to that. Whether a coworker is out of bounds in asking a woman out or making crude jokes depends entirely on how someone perceives him.</p> <p> The standards used for judging public officials was also quickly revealed to be elastic. The feminists who had suggested that sexual jokes and relationships have no place in a work environment weren&rsquo;t so keen to apply those standards a few years later to President Bill Clinton. His relationship with Monica Lewinsky&mdash;the ultimate exploitative power arrangement, with an intern servicing her boss, the world&rsquo;s most powerful man&mdash;could easily have been cast as creating a hostile work environment for her and for other staffers. But, not surprisingly, women&rsquo;s groups and their allies in the mainstream media never made that case.</p> <p> While sensitivity about respecting women workers has helped more rise to positions of power, women also face costs from the understandable paranoia among high-powered men. Today, female staffers complain about bosses with a &ldquo;<a href="">no-closed-door</a>&rdquo; policy: Powerful men want to protect themselves against charges of misconduct by never being alone with a female staffer. That can be limiting for women who want to be trusted advisors and move up in an organization.</p> <p> The grey guidelines created for our workplaces were also a prelude to what&rsquo;s now happened on college campuses. Male students today can find themselves before a campus tribunal, struggling to prove themselves innocent of misconduct after a relationship has gone bad. The legal deck seems frequently stacked against the &ldquo;he&rdquo; in any &ldquo;he-said-she-said&rdquo; situation, and there is no recourse for the reputational damage experienced by the falsely accused. Liberal campuses and professors are also ironically struggling to navigate the command to shield students from anything that could be construed as creating a hostile environment, while covering increasingly sexualized course content. Somehow Shakespeare and Mark Twain are too upsetting for many students, but soft porn is worthy of deep analysis and a place in modern curricula.</p> <p> In the almost 25 years since the Thomas hearings, we have become more coarse and sexualized while at the same time more fragile and litigious about comments or actions that offend. These two trends inevitably collide, benefiting no one but lawyers and those who believe themselves empowered by being labelled victims. We will have to see how HBO handles the many issues that emerged during the Thomas hearings and its impact. Certainly much has changed for the better, but any honest analysis will also acknowledge that much has also changed for the worse.</p> L. LukasTue, 23 Jun 2015 14:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumRepublican Legislators Seek to Strengthen Accommodations for Pregnant Women in the Workplace<p> Pregnant female employees deserve the same treatment and accommodations as their coworkers, sponsors of the new Pregnancy Discrimination Amendment Act argue. Congressman Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) have&nbsp;introduced this new legislation&nbsp;as a way to ensure that the <a href="">original</a> 1978 bill is clarified and enforced.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s important to ensure women are provided the same protections for pregnancy just as they are for other health issues,&rdquo; said <strong>Congressman Tim Walberg</strong>, Chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee. &ldquo;Unfortunately, the law has been unclear on this issue, but our bill will affirm the intended treatment under the PDA and empower families and working moms-to-be nationwide.&rdquo;</p> <p> Walberg and Murkowski pushed forward this act after the <em>Young v. United Parcel Service</em>, Inc. ruling failed to ensure working women they would be covered by the provisions in The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. The initial bill&rsquo;s language outlines protections in hiring and working conditions, maternity leave and health insurance.</p> <p> While&nbsp;meeting the needs of working women shouldn&rsquo;t be a partisan effort, Republicans and Democrats seem to once again be divided on how to proceed, with members of&nbsp;each party&nbsp;introducing separate pieces of legislation.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> &ldquo;This legislation will make clear that expecting mothers cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. And it will ensure that pregnant employees have access to every accommodation given to employees in similar working conditions&mdash;providing the flexibility to continue working and supporting their families,&rdquo; said <strong>Senator Lamar Alexander</strong>, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. &ldquo;This legislation will accomplish all of that without adding the unclear and duplicative requirements Senate Democrats are proposing that will cause confusion for employers and workers alike.&rdquo;</p> <p> The &ldquo;confusing&rdquo; Democratic effort he&rsquo;s referring to, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, is <a href="">described</a> as such.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> &quot;The legislation, which is closely modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), would require employers to make reasonable accommodations -- such as a minor job modification &ndash; that would allow pregnant workers to continue working and prevent them from being forced out on leave or out of their jobs. The bill also prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.&quot;</p> <p> <strong><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">The Independent Women&#39;s Forum&nbsp;</span></span><a href=""><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">analysis</span></span></a><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;"> concluded that the Democrats&#39;&nbsp;legislation&nbsp;sounds great on paper, but would come with some unwanted&nbsp;baggage&nbsp;in the real world:</span></span></span></strong></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><strong><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;This sounds great at first read&mdash;who wouldn&rsquo;t want to help pregnant women and punish terrible bosses that treat women badly?&mdash;but it&rsquo;s important to consider carefully how such new laws will play out in the real world. Will they really help women by preventing discrimination and compensating those who are treated badly? Or will they do more damage to women&rsquo;s economic prospects by making employers more reticent to hire women of childbearing age in the first place?</span></span></strong></span></p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> <strong><span style="font-size:14px;"><a href=""><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">The New York Times</span></span></a><span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="background-color:#ea425b;"> recently detailed research that shows how policies meant to help women workers&mdash;by providing them paid time off and requiring other accommodations&mdash;can backfire, reducing women&rsquo;s take home pay and discouraging companies from hiring women. The same dynamic will occur if legislation makes pregnant women (or women who may become pregnant) seem like potential liabilities and therefore unattractive hires.&quot;</span></span></span></strong></p> <p> Their efforts are a bit diverse, but hopefully Congress&rsquo;s motives are sincere. We can all agree that employed females who become pregnant should not be punished in the workplace.</p> L. LukasSat, 20 Jun 2015 09:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumProtecting Pregnant Workers Without Harming Their Economic Opportunities<p> Studies show that policies that are supposed to provide benefits for women can actually backfire.&nbsp; Such poorly crafted policies aren&rsquo;t compassionate and don&rsquo;t advancing the cause of equality.&nbsp;</p> <p> The idea of a boss penalizing a woman for being&nbsp;pregnant&mdash;trying to force her out of her job, or demoting her&mdash;is abhorrent.</p> <p> First, it seems incredibly short-sighted from a business-perspective:&nbsp;&nbsp;pregnancy&nbsp;and the medical complications related to it are typically very short-lived. Getting rid of a valued worker&mdash;which requires having to identify and train a replacement&mdash;over a condition that will probably last for well short of a year seems unlikely to pay off.&nbsp;</p> <p> Second, it is simple unfair and inhumane.&nbsp; Businesses ought to respect their employees as people.&nbsp; Treating employees fairly, supporting them during times of illness or&nbsp;pregnancies, should be standard operating procedure.&nbsp; Such policies will pay rewards in helping retain valued workers and to increase morale.&nbsp;</p> <p> Finally, discriminating against someone for being&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;is against the law.&nbsp; Employers ought to recognize that our government expects them to make reasonable accommodations to support workers who are&nbsp;pregnant, and do everything they can to live up to that ideal.&nbsp; If they don&rsquo;t, they could end up in court and facing significant legal costs.&nbsp;</p> <p> Clearly not all bosses and companies understand this and instead discriminate against&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;women.&nbsp; &nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">The Supreme Court</a>&nbsp;recently found against United Parcel Service, which means that a court will hear the case of an employee who they failed to accommodate during her&nbsp;pregnancy.&nbsp; Regardless of the finding of that court, reports suggest she was treated terribly and UPS certainly ought to have done much more to support her when she was&nbsp;pregnant. &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> This case and concern that other&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;workers are suffering discrimination is encouraging some to want to increase legal protections for&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;workers.&nbsp; To that end, Democrats recently introduced the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">PregnantWorkers Fairness Act</a>, which would augment protections, spell out more specifically how&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;workers must be accommodated, and increase potential penalties for failing to meet these standards.&nbsp;</p> <p> This sounds great at first read&mdash;who wouldn&rsquo;t want to help&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;women and punish terrible bosses that treat women badly?&mdash;but it&rsquo;s important to consider carefully how such new laws will play out in the real world.&nbsp; Will they really help women by preventing discrimination and compensating those who are treated badly?&nbsp; Or will they do more damage to women&rsquo;s economic prospects by making employers more reticent to hire women of childbearing age in the first place?&nbsp;</p> <p> <a href="" target="_blank">The New York Times</a>&nbsp;recently detailed research that shows how policies meant to help women workers&mdash;by providing them paid time off and requiring other accommodations&mdash;can backfire, reducing women&rsquo;s take home pay and discouraging companies from hiring women.&nbsp; The same dynamic will occur if legislation makes&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;women (or women who may become&nbsp;pregnant) seem like potential liabilities and therefore unattractive hires.&nbsp;</p> <p> Congress could consider how to clarify existing law that renders discrimination against&nbsp;pregnant&nbsp;women unlawful, to better spell out how reasonable accommodations are expected and cannot be avoided because of union contracts or based on other employment systems.&nbsp; Yet women need to recognize that more laws and bigger government often don&rsquo;t make things better for women. They can, in fact, make women&rsquo;s prospect much worse by limiting women&rsquo;s economic opportunities.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasWed, 17 Jun 2015 13:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumYou Have More Time Than You Think<p> Social media and websites dedicated to child-raising and women&rsquo;s issues create a rich virtual community for women.&nbsp; Much of this is helpful:&nbsp; Women get important reassurance from fellow moms about the common challenges of pregnancy, babies and caring for kids; we get ideas for crafts, kid-friendly dinners, and places you can go for family time; we can voice our complaints and share our joys with an empathetic audience.</p> <p> These forums also shape how women view their lives and what&rsquo;s possible, and sometimes it&rsquo;s for the worse. They can feed the narrative that women, particularly working mothers, are chronically over-stressed, sleep-deprived, and overwhelmed.&nbsp; Rather than serving as an outlet for frustrations, this narrative encourages women to accept such a condition as inevitable, achieving a satisfying career and family life as a near impossibility, and ultimately to settle for less.</p> <p> Laura Vanderkam&rsquo;s new book, <a href=""><em>I Know How She Does It</em></a>, rejects this storyline, and encourages working women to take another look at their lives.&nbsp; This isn&rsquo;t just a buck-up, put-your-first-world-problems-in-perspective tome.&nbsp; Rather she encourages readers to actually examine how they spend their time.&nbsp; With 168 hours in each week, Vanderkam explains, even women with relatively heavy work schedules still have time for sleep, family, and even leisure or &ldquo;me&rdquo; time.&nbsp; And, perhaps more surprisingly, many high-achieving women are doing just that.</p> <p> Vanderkam grounds her work in data derived from time logs of 1001 days created by high-earning (over $100,000) working mothers.&nbsp; She acknowledges that these women aren&rsquo;t a representative sample:&nbsp; Women willing to participate in a time-log project are undoubtedly different in some ways than those who won&rsquo;t.&nbsp; Women with lower-incomes undoubtedly have different pressures and challenges than these high-earning women.&nbsp; People don&rsquo;t always record their time accurately, and may change their behaviors because of what they want their time logs to show.</p> <p> Yet Vanderkam&rsquo;s findings reach conclusions supported by other data sets: People tend to sleep more and work less than they think. &nbsp;Very few people regularly work 50 hour weeks, and most get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.&nbsp; That means that we have about 70 hours each week for family, leisure, and other pursuits&mdash;that&rsquo;s more time than you&rsquo;d expect from the headlines about the working mom&rsquo;s time squeeze.</p> <p> Many women who completed their journals told Vanderkam they were surprised by how much time they spent with their children.&nbsp; My own time log provided a similar sense of relief.&nbsp; That nagging guilt that I don&rsquo;t spend enough time with my kids eased when I tallied up the hours that were dedicated to family time and even to each individual child.&nbsp; I found time that could have been used better.&nbsp; Vanderkam urges women to recognize their leisure time, not because there isn&rsquo;t a moment to waste, but so you can consciously enjoy it, rather than pretend it didn&rsquo;t happen. &nbsp;One can indulge in aimless internet surfing and social media, but we should also recognize that that time is there, if we want it for exercise, creativity, and other pursuits.</p> <p> Vanderkam encourages women to prioritize what&rsquo;s most important, warning that email and household chores will fill the time they are allowed. She counsels women to make their workplace meet their needs.&nbsp; Presume flexibility, and demonstrate that flexibility helps your boss too.&nbsp; Flexibility can not only allow for more family time, but also enable greater productivity.&nbsp; People vary in when they work best, so rigid expectations for work hours can backfire on employers as well as employees.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s our worst days and moments, she warns, that tend to linger, and can obscure the bigger picture.&nbsp; Missing a child&rsquo;s performance because of a work obligation is awful, but it doesn&rsquo;t tell the story of your life or who you are as a parent.&nbsp; She writes, &ldquo;Focusing only on the stressful moments ignores the other sweet moments.&rdquo; This applies not just to those worrying about balancing work and family, but to everyone.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s easy for me to focus just on yesterday&rsquo;s 15 minutes where my toddler had a tantrum and I snapped at my 6-year-old&rsquo;s ill-timed, but perfectly reasonable request for milk.&nbsp; That was a low moment, but it&rsquo;s no more emblematic of our day than our pleasant playground trip and cozy bedtime hour.&nbsp; We have to reject our natural tendency to let our failures and stresses make a rather very full glass look half empty.</p> <p> Vanderkam suggests we look at our time logs, broken into 30 minute blocks, as tiles in a mosaic.&nbsp; We have a greater ability to paint the picture we want than we often think</p> L. LukasTue, 16 Jun 2015 09:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumA Copyright Office For The Modern Age<p> The public hears a lot of discussion about what government can do to help our economy grow.&nbsp; Mostly, we hear about tax policy, regulations, trade, infrastructure and human capital issues, like education. &nbsp;And this makes sense:&nbsp; All of these policies tremendously impact our economy and it&rsquo;s critical that we think about the best ways to structure our system to create an environment that encourages greater productivity, innovation, and job creation.</p> <p> We hear much less about issues like property rights.&nbsp; In part, that&rsquo;s because we take for granted that we all agree that a central purpose of government is to prevent theft.&nbsp; This confidence in the basic concept of ownership allows us to make important investments:&nbsp; You wouldn&rsquo;t bother painting your house or stocking a store with goods to sell if you thought someone could come in, kick you out of it, and take if for himself.&nbsp;</p> <p> Yet property right are more complicated that just preventing ordinary theft.&nbsp; Today, intellectual property rights are just as central to our economic system.&nbsp; Entrepreneurs, investors, artists and other creators all need to know that they can own ideas, as well as physical property.</p> <p> Intellectual property issues have become even more important today in the internet age.&nbsp; As <a href="">I&rsquo;ve written before</a>, for all of its benefits, technology has also made it much easier for people to steal ideas and content.&nbsp; In fact, American businesses are estimated to lose <a href="">about $250 billion</a> each year to intellectual property theft, which is more than they have to pay in corporate taxes.&nbsp;</p> <p> But the need to protect intellectual property has been recognized since the founding of our country &ndash; in fact, you can see it right there in Article 1, Section 8 of <a href="">the Constitution</a>, which reads &ldquo;To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.&rdquo;</p> <p> One way the federal government fulfills this charge is through the Copyright Office, which oversees copyright applications and helps administer the law.&nbsp; There have been growing concerns, however, that the Copyright Office has become outdated as the need for copyright protection&mdash;and the potential for abuse&mdash;has exploded.&nbsp; As the <a href="">Motion Picture Association of America</a> explained in a recent letter:</p> <blockquote> <p> &hellip;the core&nbsp;copyright&nbsp;industries&mdash;those primarily engaged in creating, producing, distributing, and exhibiting&nbsp;copyrighted&nbsp;works&mdash;now contribute more than $1 trillion to the country&rsquo;s GDP, represent 6.7 percent of the U.S. economy, and are responsible for 5.5 million jobs, according to a recent study by the International Intellectual Property Alliance. The growth of&nbsp;copyright&nbsp;as a large driver of our nation&rsquo;s cultural and economic prosperity, paired with the rise of the digital economy, means that the demands on the&nbsp;Copyright Office are increasing in both complexity and importance&hellip;</p> </blockquote> <p> Certainly it is worthwhile for Congress to take a look at how the current Copyright Office is structured and to consider what changes need to be made so that it can meet the needs of the modern era.&nbsp; Thankfully, these conversations are going on today, with hearings being held and <a href="">legislation</a> being drafted.&nbsp;</p> <p> All this is unlikely to make the evening news&mdash;or, more appropriately in today&rsquo;s age, Drudge or Yahoo News&mdash;but it&rsquo;s an incredibly important process and ought to be a priority.&nbsp; Americans take for granted that we have a function system for protecting property rights, but we will certainly notice and feel an impact if we allow our systems to deteriorate and become too antiquated to handle the modern era.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasFri, 12 Jun 2015 03:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumOn Capitol Hill, a Push to Make the Pill Over the Counter<p> A debate about women&#39;s access to birth control is once again brewing in Washington.&nbsp;</p> <p> On Tuesday, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., introduced the <a href="">Affordability Is Access Act</a>, which would require <a href="">health insurance companies</a> to cover birth control pills if they are offered in pharmacies without a prescription from a doctor.</p> <p> &quot;I believe strongly that women should be able to get the comprehensive health care they need, when they need it, without being charged extra, without asking permission and without politicians interfering,&quot; Murray said Tuesday in a call with reporters.</p> <p> The proposal comes just weeks after a related bill, the <a href="">Allowing Greater Access to Safe and Effective Contraception Act</a>, was introduced by Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. It would incentivize drug companies to seek approval from the Food and Drug Administration so &quot;routine-use contraceptives&quot; could be sold over the counter.</p> <p> Democrats including Murray &ndash; along with organizations like Planned Parenthood &ndash; came out strongly against the Republican bill, saying it would increase costs for women because they would now have to pay for previously covered forms of contraception out of pocket. Without insurance coverage, birth control pills can cost up to $600 a year, according to Planned Parenthood Action Fund.</p> <p> But even though the Gardner-Ayotte bill doesn&#39;t specifically make provisions for insurance coverage, a Gardner spokesman says the Colorado senator also believes that insurance companies should be able to cover over-the-counter contraception.</p> <p> &quot;It&#39;s unfortunate that they have decided to bring partisanship to an issue that could have broad support on Capitol Hill, but we are pleased they are following our lead,&quot; the senator tells U.S. News in a statement.</p> <p> President Barack Obama&#39;s health care law, the Affordable Care Act, already mandates that health insurance companies cover&nbsp;<a href="">every form of prescribed, FDA-approved birth control for women without a copay</a>. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has supported over-the-counter birth control pills since 2012, and also takes the position that they should be covered by health insurance.</p> <p> The group and Planned Parenthood on Tuesday backed Murray&#39;s bill.&nbsp;</p> <p> &quot;To be truly accessible, birth control must be affordable,&quot; said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.</p> <p> The topic of over-the-counter birth control pills gained momentum during the 2014 midterm elections, particularly among Republicans. Half of all pregnancies are unplanned, and not all women have access to a birth control pill.</p> <p> It isn&#39;t typical for over-the-counter drugs to be covered by health insurance, but some are. For example, Prilosec, a heartburn drug, sometimes can be paid for with insurance. Plan B, the so-called morning-after pill, also is supposed to be available over the counter and can be covered by health insurance under the health care law.</p> <p> When Gardner was running for Senate, he <a href="">wrote in The Denver Post</a> that making birth control available over the counter would make the drugs cheaper and save women time and money by letting them avoid unnecessary doctor&#39;s appointments. Proponents also have argued that it isn&#39;t always convenient to see a doctor for birth control pills, and that a woman should be able to have easier access to them in case she runs out, is traveling or loses them.</p> <p> <a href="">A study published in February</a> in the journal Contraception found that 21 percent of low-income women at risk for unintended pregnancy were very likely to use the pill if it was available over the counter. When covered by insurance, an additional 11 to 21 percent of low-income women would use it. The findings showed that this could decrease unintended pregnancies by as much as 25 percent.</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">Carrie Lukas, managing director of the right-leaning Independent Women&#39;s Forum, says there is no reason for the government to prevent someone from buying a drug unless there are significant safety concerns. &quot;Women are perfectly capable of using this drug without a prescription,&quot; she says. &quot;It makes sense for the government to get out of the way.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">The organization, though, does not support forcing insurance companies to cover the costs. Instead, Lukas says, people should be able to choose whether they want to purchase a health plan that includes coverage for birth control.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;Proponents make it sound like if you oppose it then you are being anti-women or unsympathetic to those who have no incomes, but it&#39;s actually an enormous gift to drugmakers,&quot; she says. &quot;They get to charge whatever they want and there is no incentive to control costs.&quot;</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">Some opponents, however, have concerns about offering the pill over-the-counter at all and without the guidance of a doctor. Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director for the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, says she is worried women would miss out on testing for sexually transmitted diseases if the pill was to be made so easily available.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">She also expressed concern about teens getting access to birth control without a doctor&#39;s counseling and that young victims of trafficking would not be identified if not checked regularly.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;It takes the highest-risk women and separates them from medical care,&quot; she says.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> Some women also have side effects from birth control, which can be mild and include spotting, nausea, weight gain or breast tenderness. These same side effects can be severe enough to make women want to switch prescriptions &ndash; something a doctor could guide them through.</p> <p> But Dr. Mark DeFrancesco, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, doesn&#39;t think women will ignore their routine screenings if oral contraceptives were made more readily available.</p> <p> &quot;So many of our patients come to our offices for their annual exams, not to get contraception,&quot; he says.</p> <p> Women who are uninsured and cannot see a doctor, he says, at least would be able to have access to contraception if it was available at a pharmacy.</p> <p> &quot;I think there are much more pluses involved than minuses,&quot; he says.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasWed, 10 Jun 2015 07:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumKeep the Internet Tax Free<p> <a href="">Charlotte wrote earlier this week</a> about the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, which was about to go before the House of Representatives.&nbsp; Here&rsquo;s the latest update:&nbsp; <a href="">the bill passed the House yesterday</a> so will now head to the Senate.</p> <p> Some Americans might be tempted to ignore an issue like this, assuming that the government wouldn&rsquo;t tax something as important as the internet and therefore there is really no need for Congress to take any action.</p> <p> Yet they&rsquo;d be wrong.</p> <p> First, people should note that wireless services have some of the <a href="">highest tax rates of any product</a>.&nbsp; Policymakers see popular products and services as the ideal vehicle for collecting tax revenue because they know that most of us are going to keep buying a service we see as critical, even if the price rises because they&rsquo;ve tacked on a new tax.</p> <p> That means that the main consequences of taxes like the wireless tax are that they just leave less money in our pockets.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a particular hardship for those with lower incomes since they have less money to begin with. &nbsp;Another wireless surcharge can pack a real punch when you are already having trouble making ends meet.</p> <p> If the ban on internet access taxes were to expire, we could expect to see governments hungry for a new way to raise revenue quickly turning their sights on the internet, just as they have with wireless.</p> <p> The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act is particular necessary <a href="'s-at-Stake-for-Women-in-the-Net-Neutrality-Debate">since the FCC&rsquo;s new net neutrality rules</a> pave the way for governments to start taxing broadband.&nbsp; If this Act becomes law, the FCC could still find a way to levy new fees under net neutrality, but it will at least make it a little harder.</p> <p> There&rsquo;s an old adage that if you want less of something, then tax it.&nbsp; We don&rsquo;t want less access to the internet and less technological innovation overall, so it&rsquo;s good news that the taxman may be held at bay from the internet at least. &nbsp;</p> L. LukasWed, 10 Jun 2015 05:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHow High Will It Go?<p> Summer is here, and that means it is getting hot throughout much of the country.</p> <p> Hot temperatures can do more than make one uncomfortable. As we are witnessing in India, heat can kill.&nbsp; High temperatures can lead to heat stroke, dehydration, and ultimately death.&nbsp; Tragically, already more than <a href="">2,000 people</a> have died in India due to a historic heat wave.&nbsp;</p> <p> Americans are fortunate that we have infrastructure to mitigate the impact of hot weather.&nbsp; We have better housing and shelter to provide relief from the sun and heat, and ways to cope with water shortages.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p> Two-thirds of American houses even have air conditioning.&nbsp; Air conditioning can offer blissful relief during hot summer months.&nbsp; It not only makes summer time more pleasant, but it also can benefit the physical health of vulnerable populations, like the elderly, those who are sick, and children. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> Just having air conditioning, of course, isn&rsquo;t enough.&nbsp; People need to be able to afford the electricity necessary to run their air conditioners to enjoy its benefits.&nbsp; Air conditioners use an estimated 5% of U.S. electricity, according to the <a href="">Department of Energy</a>, costing homeowners $11 billion annually.</p> <p> Americans have been fortunate, in recent years, that electricity prices have been <a href="">relatively stable</a>.&nbsp; Yet that may not last.&nbsp; The <a href="">U.S. Energy Information Administration has warned</a> that electricity prices are expected to go up.&nbsp;</p> <p> And that&rsquo;s before the Administration&#39;s &ldquo;Clean Power Plan&rdquo; kicks in.&nbsp; That costly new regulatory regime could lead to double-digit electricity price increases in a majority (43) states.&nbsp; The EPA&rsquo;s new rules are expected to cost the industry more than $350 billion over 15 years, and those costs will largely be shoulder by consumers.</p> <p> Just how hard one will be hit, by rising energy costs varies by state.&nbsp; You can see the economic impact that&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="">expected in your state by visiting here</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p> Note that rising energy costs don&rsquo;t affect everyone equally.&nbsp; Those with lower incomes are much more likely to suffer as a result of rising energy costs:&nbsp; Energy costs already consume a greater share of their incomes, so they are the most likely to have to cut back on things like their air conditioning when electricity prices climb too high.&nbsp;</p> <p> Take the <a href="">state of Arkansas</a>, for example. Six-in-ten households take home less than $1,900 a month, and an estimated 17 percent of that money goes to pay for energy.&nbsp; As electricity prices tick up, that will be a significant burden for many Arkansans who will have to struggle to make ends meet and could mean some very unpleasant, hot, humid summers for too many residents. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> Americans should keep this in mind when they hear about new rules emanating from the EPA.&nbsp; So often the media just echoes the Administration&rsquo;s platitudes about &ldquo;encouraging green energy use&rdquo; and &ldquo;reducing carbon emissions.&rdquo;&nbsp; The very real costs of these regulations &ndash; higher prices, which particularly harm vulnerable populations and those with low-incomes &ndash; are often unmentioned. &nbsp;</p> L. LukasMon, 8 Jun 2015 07:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumA Warning You Don't Need: Don't Let Your Baby Eat His Car Seat<p> <a href="">The Hill</a> has a headline which seems more appropriate for an Onion spoof:&nbsp; Study finds toxic chemicals in child car seats.&nbsp; Is this real a surprise or a cause for alarm?&nbsp; The leftist environmental organization, the Ecology Center, which released the so-called study certainly wants you to think so.&nbsp; The Hill reports:&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:35.45pt;"> 73 percent of child car seats tested contained hazardous halogenated flame retardants and more than half contained non-halogenated organophosphate flame retardants, some of which are hazardous as well.</p> <p style="margin-left:35.45pt;"> ...The Ecology Center said these substances have been linked to thyroid problems, learning and memory impairment, decreased fertility, behavioral changes and cancer.</p> <p style="margin-left:35.45pt;"> &nbsp;</p> <p> This is alarmism at its worst.&nbsp; The Ecology Center wants parents to make the leap that, because their babies are touching their car seat, and some chemicals used to make that car seat &ldquo;have been linked to&rdquo; health problems, our babies are in danger and we should all get rid of our chemical-containing car seats.&nbsp; Yet there is absolutely no reason to believe that our babies and toddlers are somehow going to ingest or absorb dangerous amounts of chemicals from the cushioning or plastic in their car seats, anymore than we should worry that they will successfully gnaw off splinters from our dining room tables.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> IWF&#39;s Julie Gunlock has <a href="">explained before</a> that when it comes to worrying about chemical exposure, the dose is what is important (and even the <a href="">Ecology Center admits </a>that the presence of chemicals doesn&#39;t mean that people will actually be harmed by them... I guess somehow that didn&#39;t make the press release for this report).&nbsp; Studies that show links between chemicals and health problems aren&#39;t finding that human beings who drink from plastic cups or sit on furniture that contains trace amounts of chemicals are being harmed.&nbsp; Rats injected with large amounts of these chemicals have problems.&nbsp; That&#39;s really no surprise and doesn&#39;t tell us anything about the risks associated with the everyday use of normal consumer products.&nbsp;</p> <p> Moreover, keep in mind that car seat manufacturers aren&#39;t dousing their products with chemicals for fun (or in an evil plot to destroy us, as some of these alarmist environmental group seem to imply).&nbsp; There are reasons they are used:&nbsp; to benefit consumers and, ironically, make the products safes.&nbsp; It sounds like, in this case, most of the chemicals the Ecology Center wants you to worry about in the car seats are flame retardants.&nbsp;</p> <p> Many parents could take this finding from a different perspective.&nbsp; In fact, I&#39;m happy to know that my 7-month-old&#39;s car seat likely has some flame retardants in it.&nbsp;</p> <p> Don&#39;t worry Ecology Center and other nanny staters!&nbsp; Naturally, I don&#39;t smoke and would never allow someone to smoke in my car, particularly if one of my kids was in it.&nbsp; But, like most parents, I&#39;ll occasionally schlep my sleeping baby in his car seat into a restaurant or other setting where some form of fire (candles and even here in Germany, the occasional lit cigarette) may pass by.&nbsp; The <a href="">new alarmism surrounding fire retardants</a> ignores that they are very effective in preventing a real danger &ndash; fires &ndash; and there is essentially no evidence that anyone is actually being harmed from the trace amounts of chemicals that are in our furniture and car seats.</p> <p> So parents, by all means, don&#39;t let your babies eat their car seats!&nbsp; If they do they will ingest dangerous chemicals (though the whole choking-on-chunks-of-fabric-and-plastic problem will likely be your top health concern at that point).&nbsp; Otherwise, relax and ignore headlines and studies like this that prey on your natural tendency to worry. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> L. LukasFri, 5 Jun 2015 08:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum