Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News/Commentary, Blog posts and publications(...)IWF RSShttp://iwf.org/images/email-logo.pnghttp://www.iwf.org33968Common Sense Reforms Needed for Our "Justice" System<p> A bit of good news in a rather dry season:&nbsp; As the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/licenses-to-kill-1441063678">Wall Street Journal</a> wrote this week, the Administration has begun acknowledging how occupational licensing regimes are needless barriers to job creation, raise prices, and often do nothing in terms of advancing the public interests.&nbsp;</p> <p> It&rsquo;s about time.&nbsp; IWF has written about <a href="http://www.iwf.org/publications/2794985/Policy-Focus:-Occupational-Licensing">this issue before</a>, and the <a href="https://www.ij.org/">Institute for Justice</a> has been the leader on this issue for years.&nbsp; Let&rsquo;s hope this is the beginning of some actual bipartisan progress in reforming these bureaucratic regimes that make it harder for people (particularly people with less formal education) to get jobs.&nbsp; We could use a little of the American Dream being brought back to life.</p> <p> If anyone on the Left is interested in exploring other common sense ideas that ought to enjoy bipartisan support, they should learn more about the pressing need for litigation reform.&nbsp; Perhaps it is too much to expect the Left to move on broad legal reform, such as reforms to discourage class action suits or embrace loser pays principles.&nbsp; They could get their feet wet, though, by trying to address one relatively unknown, but very impactful, area of the law that could sorely use reform:&nbsp; patent disputes.</p> <p> I&rsquo;ve <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/carrielukas/2015/08/10/its-time-for-legal-reform/">written in Forbes</a> about how patent trolls abuse the legal process by sending threatening letters in an attempt to cajole businesses, large and small, to pay them to go away.&nbsp; Given that fighting any legal battle, even ones of dubious merit, can be expensive, many business make a cost-benefit analysis and end up forgoing any legal process and just paying up.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> Contributing to this problem is that there are some legal jurisdictions that favor patent cases, making it highly profitable for the trolls and problematic for the businesses. As Mytheos Holt wrote on <a href="http://townhall.com/columnists/mytheosholt/2015/09/01/draft-n2046249/page">Townhall</a>: &nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p> &hellip;one specific East Texas district court has become&nbsp;<a href="http://www.realclearpolicy.com/blog/2015/07/10/patent_trolls_secret_star_chamber_1359.html">infamous</a>&nbsp;for its disproportionately favorable treatment of plaintiffs in patent cases, even going so far as to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2015/08/kafkaesque-flourish-eastern-district-texas-penalizes-parties-following-rules">foreclose constitutional protections</a>&nbsp;to defendants with procedural hurdles.</p> <p> The town where all this takes place &ndash; Marshall, TX &ndash; has become quite prosperous as a result of their courtroom&rsquo;s status as a hanging judge for multibillion dollar companies.</p> </blockquote> <p> The story goes on to explain how the people of the town have built a profitable-industry to support patent troll legal cases, making it much more likely that it won&rsquo;t be justice &ndash; but moneyed interests &ndash; that are served.</p> <p> This isn&rsquo;t how things are supposed to work.&nbsp; And it isn&rsquo;t just multibillion dollar companies that are harmed by legal abuses, but small businesses that are the least likely to be able to afford the payments much less a protracted legal battle.&nbsp; In fact, we all end up facing higher prices as a result of this economic drain on legitimate companies.</p> <p> We need legislation to prevent this obvious abuse of the legal system.&nbsp; The good news is that there are proposals out there to make changes, such as requiring that lawsuits are filed in districts with some relationship to the issue at hand.&nbsp; That&mdash;along with other reforms to require that patent trolls are truthful in their communications with businesses and to facilitate the dismissal of frivolous cases&mdash;would be a much needed dose of common sense to our legal system. It would also take pressure off of legitimate companies and entrepreneurs trying to build businesses and create jobs, could bring down prices a bit for the rest of us, and make our system more just.&nbsp;</p> <p> Surely that&rsquo;s a cause that deserves by bipartisan support, right?&nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2798086/Carrie L. LukasThu, 3 Sep 2015 05:09:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy the “War on Women” Rhetoric Never Ends<p> Just as nothing can replace the sounds of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole at Christmastime, for Democrats, it just isn&rsquo;t campaign season without the familiar chorus charging Republicans with threatening to destroy Social Security. The 2016 cover of this classic has a slight twist: Republican calls to reform Social Security aren&rsquo;t just being cast as an attack on the elderly, they&rsquo;re also a part of the &ldquo;War on Women.&rdquo; As Helaine Olen put it in&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_bills/2015/08/gop_candidates_on_social_security_they_re_not_just_gimmes_to_the_rich_they.html">Slate</a></em>:</p> <blockquote> <p> In national politics, the war on women isn&rsquo;t always about denying women the right to choose to end a pregnancy or to have health insurance pay for contraception. It&rsquo;s also about denying women their financial dignity.</p> </blockquote> <p> Such shameless demagoguery needs to be rejected by Americans of all political stripes. If we want a serious discussion about the issues, we need people to talk about them without being labelled sexist. Using women to try to shut down needed conversations about reforming our financially-troubled entitlement programs is insulting and ultimately contrary to women&rsquo;s true interests: Women deserve to hear a factual discussion about our options for preserving important aspects of our nation&rsquo;s safety net.</p> <p> First, let&rsquo;s set a few facts straight: Republican candidates who propose reforming Social Security aren&rsquo;t actually trying to rob Grandma of her daily sustenance. Rather, they&rsquo;re acknowledging what every honest budget analyst knows to be true: Social Security is running a deficit and changes must be made to ensure its long-term financial health. Most conservative plans to reform Social Security focus on slowing the rate of growth of future benefits for future retirees.&nbsp; Moreover, they are designed to make the benefit system more progressive. That means that while some higher-income seniors would see payments reduced, the safety net would be preserved&mdash;and in many cases strengthened&mdash;for low-income seniors who need it most.</p> <p> After all, while many elderly women and men rely on Social Security to make ends meet, millions of others don&rsquo;t.&nbsp; Wealthy seniors certainly deserve Social Security benefits&mdash;after all, they did pay into the system throughout their working lives with the promise that they&rsquo;d receive retirement payments&mdash;but if we have to make changes to keep the system afloat, it makes sense to ask wealthy seniors to take a reduced monthly payment from taxpayers.</p> <p> One would think that liberals would applaud this&mdash;many of these same seniors would be vilified as part of that evil &ldquo;one percent&rdquo; in other conversations&mdash;but somehow, while it is okay to always want to raise taxes on the rich, through the progressive lens, it&rsquo;s the height of cruelty to consider scaling back their government entitlement payments.</p> <p> The actual financial realities of Social Security, however, aren&rsquo;t what&rsquo;s most concerning in discussion about this issue.&nbsp; Social Security&rsquo;s biggest challenge is that it appears nearly impossible for policymakers to have a reasoned conversation about our options given the political climate where name-calling and charges of sexism and racism drowned out boring old facts.</p> <p> Certainly, liberals hold no monopoly on base campaigning and over-wrought rhetoric. Yet when it comes to budget matters, the Left holds an important, destructive advantage that conservatives struggle to overcome. Liberals proposing more government spending can point to people receiving those payments&mdash;the women getting more generous benefit checks, businesses with new government grants&mdash;while ignoring the costs. Capturing the just-as-real costs&ndash;the jobs not created, the money taken from average families&rsquo; paychecks because of higher taxes, the small businesses going under because their politically-connected competitors just got another sweetheart deal from Uncle Sam&ndash;is much harder to put into compelling visuals.</p> <p> Social Security&rsquo;s retirement system will run a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/07/social-security-39-billion-deficit-in-2014-insolvent-by-2035">deficit</a>&nbsp;of about $45 billion this year.&nbsp; That deficit will explode to more than $160 billion in ten years.</p> <p> I can try to tell you why that should concern you&mdash;how it will make it more difficult for us to maintain a safety net that&rsquo;s critical for poor elderly people in the future, as well as make it harder for your children to climb the economic ladder and provide for your future grandchildren&mdash;but that&rsquo;s a conversation that takes a little time. Sadly, chanting about the &ldquo;war on women&rdquo; and plans to &ldquo;push grandma off the cliff&rdquo; make such needed discussion much less likely, and we are all likely to be worse off as a result.</p> http://iwf.org/news/2798025/Carrie L. LukasWed, 26 Aug 2015 15:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy the “War on Women” Rhetoric Never Ends<p> Just as nothing can replace the sounds of Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole at Christmastime, for Democrats, it just isn&rsquo;t campaign season without the familiar chorus charging Republicans with threatening to destroy Social Security. The 2016 cover of this classic has a slight twist: Republican calls to reform Social Security aren&rsquo;t just being cast as an attack on the elderly, they&rsquo;re also a part of the &ldquo;War on Women.&rdquo; As Helaine Olen put it in <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_bills/2015/08/gop_candidates_on_social_security_they_re_not_just_gimmes_to_the_rich_they.html"><em>Slate</em></a>:</p> <blockquote> <p> In national politics, the war on women isn&rsquo;t always about denying women the right to choose to end a pregnancy or to have health insurance pay for contraception. It&rsquo;s also about denying women their financial dignity.</p> </blockquote> <p> Such shameless demagoguery needs to be rejected by Americans of all political stripes. If we want a serious discussion about the issues, we need people to talk about them without being labelled sexist. Using women to try to shut down needed conversations about reforming our financially-troubled entitlement programs is insulting and ultimately contrary to women&rsquo;s true interests: Women deserve to hear a factual discussion about our options for preserving important aspects of our nation&rsquo;s safety net.</p> <p> First, let&rsquo;s set a few facts straight: Republican candidates who propose reforming Social Security aren&rsquo;t actually trying to rob Grandma of her daily sustenance. Rather, they&rsquo;re acknowledging what every honest budget analyst knows to be true: Social Security is running a deficit and changes must be made to ensure its long-term financial health. Most conservative plans to reform Social Security focus on slowing the rate of growth of future benefits for future retirees.&nbsp; Moreover, they are designed to make the benefit system more progressive. That means that while some higher-income seniors would see payments reduced, the safety net would be preserved&mdash;and in many cases strengthened&mdash;for low-income seniors who need it most.</p> <p> After all, while many elderly women and men rely on Social Security to make ends meet, millions of others don&rsquo;t.&nbsp; Wealthy seniors certainly deserve Social Security benefits&mdash;after all, they did pay into the system throughout their working lives with the promise that they&rsquo;d receive retirement payments&mdash;but if we have to make changes to keep the system afloat, it makes sense to ask wealthy seniors to take a reduced monthly payment from taxpayers.</p> <p> One would think that liberals would applaud this&mdash;many of these same seniors would be vilified as part of that evil &ldquo;one percent&rdquo; in other conversations&mdash;but somehow, while it is okay to always want to raise taxes on the rich, through the progressive lens, it&rsquo;s the height of cruelty to consider scaling back their government entitlement payments.</p> <p> The actual financial realities of Social Security, however, aren&rsquo;t what&rsquo;s most concerning in discussion about this issue.&nbsp; Social Security&rsquo;s biggest challenge is that it appears nearly impossible for policymakers to have a reasoned conversation about our options given the political climate where name-calling and charges of sexism and racism drowned out boring old facts.</p> <p> Certainly, liberals hold no monopoly on base campaigning and over-wrought rhetoric. Yet when it comes to budget matters, the Left holds an important, destructive advantage that conservatives struggle to overcome. Liberals proposing more government spending can point to people receiving those payments&mdash;the women getting more generous benefit checks, businesses with new government grants&mdash;while ignoring the costs. Capturing the just-as-real costs&ndash;the jobs not created, the money taken from average families&rsquo; paychecks because of higher taxes, the small businesses going under because their politically-connected competitors just got another sweetheart deal from Uncle Sam&ndash;is much harder to put into compelling visuals.</p> <p> Social Security&rsquo;s retirement system will run a <a href="http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/07/social-security-39-billion-deficit-in-2014-insolvent-by-2035">deficit</a> of about $45 billion this year.&nbsp; That deficit will explode to more than $160 billion in ten years.</p> <p> I can try to tell you why that should concern you&mdash;how it will make it more difficult for us to maintain a safety net that&rsquo;s critical for poor elderly people in the future, as well as make it harder for your children to climb the economic ladder and provide for your future grandchildren&mdash;but that&rsquo;s a conversation that takes a little time. Sadly, chanting about the &ldquo;war on women&rdquo; and plans to &ldquo;push grandma off the cliff&rdquo; make such needed discussion much less likely, and we are all likely to be worse off as a result.</p> http://iwf.org/news/2798029/Carrie L. LukasWed, 26 Aug 2015 08:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumPolicy Focus: Women In The Economy<p> Each Administration argues that their economic policies will benefit Americans, leading to greater economic opportunity and prosperity. While it often takes time for new policies to take effect and influence the economy, after more than six years under President Obama, we can fairly assess how Americans are faring under this Administration&rsquo;s economic policies.</p> <p> Sadly, the evidence suggests that on many important measures, women&rsquo;s economic prospects and financial situation have not meaningfully improved, and indeed have gotten worse in important ways. Although the unemployment rate for women is lower today than it was at the height of the financial crisis, the share of women participating in the labor force has fallen to the lowest level since 1988. For every woman who has gotten a job during this Administration, two women have exited the labor force entirely. This suggests that the economy is simply not producing the kind of job opportunities that American women want and need.</p> <p> Many of those who have jobs are frustrated that it remains difficult to move up the economic ladder. Wages for women workers have stagnated during the last six years, and average household incomes have fallen. Poverty remains a persistent problem, with the poverty rate still well above pre-recession levels.</p> <p> This economic record is particularly concerning given that the Administration has massively increased the size and scope of government in the name of improving our economic condition. Sadly, although federal debt has increased by more than $6 trillion, our economy is still failing to create the opportunities that Americans need. Given this record, we need to reform our economic policies with a focus on facilitating job creation so that more Americans can find work and better pay.</p> <p> <em><a href="http://pdf.iwf.org/PolicyFocus15_Aug_p2.pdf">Click here to continue reading the 6-page policy focus in PDF.&nbsp;</a></em></p> http://iwf.org/publications/2798004/Carrie L. LukasMon, 24 Aug 2015 13:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumAshley Madison hack shows that shameful behavior is always risky<p> Sometimes bad things happen to bad people.</p> <p> That might seem a sufficient postmortem on the leak of millions of AshleyMadison.com users&rsquo; personal information, and indeed many are expressing the same sentiment: Those cheaters got what they deserved.</p> <p> &ldquo;Too bad for those men, they&rsquo;re cheating dirtbags and deserve no such discretion,&rdquo; announced the team that took credit for the hack.</p> <p> Except that the revelations won&rsquo;t just hurt those seeking adulterous relationships, but innocent spouses and children, too.</p> <p> And certainly many of the cheaters are likely otherwise fine people, suffered a momentary lapse in judgment and may even have regretted their actions before being outed.</p> <p> Yet what&rsquo;s going on here is more than schadenfreude, that apt German term meaning taking pleasure from other&rsquo;s misery.</p> <p> Society is supposed to frown on those cheating on their spouses to discourage a behavior that hurts families &mdash; and usually the cheaters themselves.</p> <p> Americans don&rsquo;t want government trying to police morality, which is why we tend to rely on civil society to create standards that advance everyone&rsquo;s interests.</p> <p> Of course, shame can be taken too far, as anyone who has witnessed a Twitter mob or other social-media feeding frenzy can attest.</p> <p> But it&rsquo;s also a useful tool in discouraging heavy drinking, drug use, neglectful parenting, sloth and a host of other bad personal habits that aren&rsquo;t victimless crimes, so to speak.</p> <p> The men and women who used AshleyMadison.com trusted that they wouldn&rsquo;t face public opprobrium because of the Web site&rsquo;s promise of discretion and privacy.</p> <p> Reportedly, a large share of the users being outed &mdash; searchable databases of them have begun popping up online &mdash; had e-mail addresses ending with .gov and .edu, suggesting they were respectable members of professional communities, who likely place a high value on their reputations.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s really no surprise. In fact, the Web site&rsquo;s business model depended on the existence of such a public penalty as much as it depended on people&rsquo;s desire to cheat. The technology was supposed to offer anonymity, allowing people to engage in vice without paying a public cost.</p> <p> And certainly that promise has an appeal. Just as AshleyMadison.com attracted millions of customers &mdash; Americans who never would have set foot into a XXX-rated video store or even the dirty section of the magazine rack surreptitiously visit Internet porn sites, believing that since they are using computers in the privacy of their own home or behind a closed office door, their secret is safe.</p> <p> The recent avalanche of seized &ldquo;private&rdquo; information &mdash; from credit-card breaches to hacked government personnel databases to these leaked AshleyMadison.com files &mdash; shows us that nothing in cyberspace is actually private.</p> <p> In fact, the risks of being outed for misdeeds done online may be far greater than of those that take place in the actual physical world. If you can successfully avoid interested eyes during a physical encounter or trip into an unsavory establishment, you are pretty much safe.</p> <p> But your cyber records can remain available virtually forever.</p> <p> Americans ought to be concerned about the ease with which hackers are infiltrating supposedly secure databases.</p> <p> It creates an enormous national-security and economic vulnerability. Cybercrime and intellectual-property theft already drain billions from legitimate businesses, destroying jobs, wealth and innovation that could make us all better off.</p> <p> But it&rsquo;s tempting to say it&rsquo;s for the best that there are no assurances of privacy when it comes to vice. We need society to continue to discourage people from indulging in their worst impulses. The fear of discovery can and should be a useful deterrent.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s a shame that so many people are hurting because of the leaked AshleyMadison.com information, but there&rsquo;s a lesson here for all of us: When it comes to cyberspace, there&rsquo;s no such thing as privacy, so behave accordingly.</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> http://iwf.org/news/2797981/Carrie L. LukasFri, 21 Aug 2015 08:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumI'm Paying For What?<p> Americans living on a budget&mdash;and that&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/consumer_and_retail/america_the_frugal_us_consumer_sentiment_survey">most people</a> these days&mdash;know the big items that eat up their money.&nbsp; We have to pay for housing, food, gas, clothes, health insurance, electricity, phones, and internet.&nbsp; If you have kids, you likely also have to factor in childcare, school expenses, and the terrifying specter of college costs.</p> <p> Yet here are some line items that don&rsquo;t make it on most families&rsquo; official budgets&mdash;but you pay for them just the same.</p> <p> <strong>Taxes</strong></p> <p> Okay, taxes aren&rsquo;t exactly a surprise:&nbsp; We know we pay taxes to support our federal government that spends trillions on defense and scores of social programs, and to our state and city governments that provide police, schools, and garbage pickup.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s easy to lose sight, however, of just how big our government has become and how much Americans pay to support it.&nbsp; &nbsp;The <a href="http://taxfoundation.org/blog/america-will-pay-more-taxes-2015-it-will-spend-food-clothing-and-housing-combined">Tax Foundation</a> explains that in 2015, Americans together will spend $4.8 trillion on government&mdash;that&rsquo;s more than what we will collectively spend on housing, food, and clothes combined.</p> <p> Even those living modestly, such as families with annual household incomes between $40,000 and $50,000, lose <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-10/how-much-americans-really-pay-in-taxes">thousands of dollars to taxes</a>.&nbsp; This is important to remember:&nbsp; It isn&rsquo;t just our employers, but politicians in Washington and in state capitols who have the power to give us all a raise by cutting taxes and putting more money in our pockets.</p> <p> <strong>Wireless Taxes</strong></p> <p> Most Americans are aware of income taxes, payroll taxes, and the sales taxes that hit consumer goods in many states.&nbsp; Smokers also probably know that a hefty share of their cigarette costs are really a surcharge that goes to the government.&nbsp; But many will be surprised to learn that wireless services are also singled out like cigarettes and alcohol for some of the highest taxes rates. In fact, on average, wireless is taxed at a rate of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.mywireless.org/state-issues/#sthash.xc8HKJCO.dpuf">17.05 percent</a>.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s twice the average state sales tax.</p> <p> The logic behind these special taxes may once have been that wireless services were considered a luxury.&nbsp; But today, the overwhelmingly majority of Americans at all income levels depend on wireless technology, and therefore are being hit with this tax.&nbsp; A growing number of people are forgoing landlines and just relying on their cell phones for communication.&nbsp; And, of course, wireless isn&rsquo;t just for communication, but is a tool used for school, work and entertainment.&nbsp; Like all sales taxes, wireless taxes impact those with lower incomes the most, and they&rsquo;d be a little bit more likely to make ends meet if politicians would eliminate this regressive tax.</p> <p> <strong>Unnecessary Regulations</strong></p> <p> Everyone supporters sensible regulations that protect the environment and keep the public safe.&nbsp; Yet it&rsquo;s clear that the government has gone overboard in terms of regulating every aspect of American life and the minutia of everyday business operations.&nbsp; And all this red tape is costing up big time.</p> <p> The Competitive Enterprise Institute helps put these costs in perspective with their yearly report called &ldquo;Ten Thousand Commandments.&rdquo;&nbsp; The report concludes: &ldquo;federal regulation and intervention cost American consumers and businesses an estimated&nbsp;$1.88 trillion&nbsp;in 2014&nbsp;in lost economic productivity and higher prices.&rdquo;&nbsp; That regulatory cost breaks down to $14,976 per household.&nbsp; As CEI explains, &ldquo;Although not paid directly by individuals, this &ldquo;cost&rdquo; of regulation exceeds the amount an average family spends on health care, food and transportation.&rdquo;</p> <p> Surely some of those regulations are sensible investments, but many aren&rsquo;t.&nbsp; They needlessly add expense to operating businesses and other entities, and those costs trickle down to all of us for little benefit.</p> <p> For example, the FDA will soon require chain restaurants to display calorie information on menus and menu boards. This may&nbsp;sound harmless, but these restaurants&mdash;many of which are already struggling to stay afloat&mdash;will now have to spend money on reprinting their menus and carefully evaluating the content of their meals.&nbsp; Those new costs will have to be passed on to customers.&nbsp; Businesses will then be hamstrung in what they can offer:&nbsp; Restaurant owners won&rsquo;t want to incur the costs of analyzing new dishes to obtain calorie information. This means consumers can say goodbye to seasonal changes and new and creative additions to menus at their favorite restaurants.&nbsp; Ironically this could mean that we get fewer of the fresh, local vegetables we know we are all supposed to try to eat since restaurants will be required to stick to the same script.&nbsp; And frustratingly,&nbsp;studies show that&nbsp;consumers don&rsquo;t pay attention to the&nbsp;calorie information posted on menus. Certainly some restaurants might want&nbsp;to offer calorie estimates as a feature, but this sweeping government&nbsp;regulation simply doesn&rsquo;t make sense.</p> <p> If policymakers and regulators would limit themselves just to regulations and rules that truly advance the public good&mdash;not just appease noisy activist groups&mdash;we&rsquo;d all find that our costs would start going down and we&rsquo;d have a little extra at the end of the month.</p> <p> <strong>Fraud and Theft</strong></p> <p> Technology enriches our lives in many ways, but it has also opened the door to new kinds of crime, which are a drag on our economy and end up costing all of us.&nbsp; For example, while credit cards are wonderfully convenient&mdash;making it easier for us to buy what we need without worrying about carrying around cash and helping us track where our money goes&mdash;they also make it easier for criminals to commit fraud using stolen financial and personal information.&nbsp; In fact, credit card fraud alone drains an estimated $11 billion from the American economy each year.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s easy to think that this doesn&rsquo;t impose a cost on typical consumers&mdash;most of us receive a phone call from our credit card company when a charge looks fishy, and we&rsquo;re held harmless&mdash;but the stores and credit card companies that have to shoulder those losses have to make up for it.&nbsp; That means higher prices and more fees for all of us.</p> <p> In fact, the United States has among the highest rates of credit card fraud in the world.&nbsp; Other developed countries are using newer technologies in the form of chip-and-PIN cards. Chip and PIN cards are embedded with a computer chip that creates a unique code for each transaction and requires consumers to enter a numeric passcode. &nbsp;Chip-and-PIN cards have successfully reduced&nbsp;fraud where they have been implemented.&nbsp; The credit card companies and banks are (slowly) moving to chip-enabled cards but they aren&rsquo;t using PINs.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s too bad since it won&rsquo;t do as much to improve security.&nbsp; &nbsp;Credit card companies charge businesses more in fees because of the risk of fraud and theft. If chip-and PIN was used and the amount of theft declined, those fees&mdash;which consumers end up shouldering in the form of higher costs&mdash;would also go down, and we&rsquo;d all be better off.</p> <p> ngIf: initialized &amp;&amp; !progressive ngIf: initialized &amp;&amp; progressive &amp;&amp; active</p> <p> Just as we need better technologies to protect our credit card purchases, we also need to focus on ways to prevent intellectual property theft.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s the term for everything from hackers stealing communications technologies, the illegal reproduction of patented medical therapies, to the illegal downloading of creative property like movies and music.&nbsp; Altogether, intellectual property theft drains a staggering $250 billion each year from American businesses.&nbsp;&nbsp; Consumers may not see it on their receipts, but we are all paying for it in terms of higher prices, few jobs, and stifled innovation, and have a big interest in policies that combat this kind of crime.</p> <p> <strong>Frivolous Lawsuits</strong></p> <p> We need a legal system that protects all of our property, but we also need one that discourages frivolous lawsuits that do nothing but enrich lawyers and those who take advantage of the system.&nbsp; Americans have all heard outrageous stories about people suing big companies over ridiculous grievances &ndash; such as the infamous &ldquo;too hot&rdquo; coffee from McDonald&rsquo;s &ndash; but sadly the problem isn&rsquo;t limited to a few greedy individuals trying to get rich quick.&nbsp; There are business entities, often referred to as &ldquo;patent trolls,&rdquo; that exist solely to extract money from businesses by misusing the legal system.</p> <p> Patent trolls buy up obscure patents and then file lawsuits alleging that others are violating their patent rights. They send letters threatening to drag a business to court unless they pay a fee. Many businesses fear a protracted, costly legal battle so just pay up, even if the charge is meritless.&nbsp; <a href="https://hbr.org/2014/07/the-evidence-is-in-patent-trolls-do-hurt-innovation">Harvard Business Review</a>&nbsp;recently reported that the costs of just patent litigation was nearly $30 billion each year.&nbsp; Again, those cost end up coming out of consumers&rsquo; pockets in the form of higher prices.</p> <p> Congress is considering legislation to discourage abusive patent litigation by setting standards for what letters asserting patent rights must contain and to make it more likely that frivolous or abusive lawsuits are dismissed. It would also require that a losing party that brought a lawsuit recognized as frivolous pay the other side&rsquo;s attorney fees. This loser pays system could deter people from getting in the business of abusing the legal system.&nbsp; We need this type of legal reform not just when it comes to patent litigation but in other areas, such as class action suits, which too often do nothing to help the supposed class, but enrich trial lawyers at the expense of the rest of us.</p> <p> <strong>Better Policies for a More Affordable Life</strong></p> <p> Life can be expensive, but our public policies are making many items more expensive than they need to be.&nbsp; Americans should be asking government at every level to make common sense changes to our public policies to make it easier for all of us to not just balance our budgets, but do even better.</p> http://iwf.org/news/2797980/Carrie L. LukasFri, 21 Aug 2015 07:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumObama Administration Greenlights Arctic Oil Exploration….For Now<p> The reaction from radical environmentalists suggests that the Obama Administration has broken its habit of blocking energy exploration (i.e. the <a href="http://iwf.org/blog/2793732/Deja-Vu-Alert:-President-Obama-Delays-Keystone-XL-Decision-Again">Keystone Pipeline)</a> and is now allowing energy producers to sensibly seek new energy sources.&nbsp;</p> <p> Here&rsquo;s what <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/obama-administration-oks-shell-oil-drill-arctic-121448.html#ixzz3j9rVjF8z">Politico</a> reported yesterday:</p> <blockquote> <p> President Barack Obama crushed greens&rsquo; hearts Monday by giving Shell the final go-ahead to drill for oil in Alaska&rsquo;s Arctic waters, just two weeks after he thrilled them by issuing his landmark regulations on climate change.</p> <p> In the long run, Obama&rsquo;s successors will determine whether the industry can tap Alaska&rsquo;s prized offshore oil &mdash; and one 2016 contender, Hillary Clinton, has expressed &ldquo;doubts&rdquo; about opening the Arctic to drilling. But it was Obama&rsquo;s Interior Department that gave Shell its nod Monday, in the face of an opposition campaign that has seen activists dangling from a bridge in Oregon and swarming the company&rsquo;s Arctic-bound rig with kayaks to try to block the project.</p> </blockquote> <p> Yet it&rsquo;s not clear just how big a win this is for energy production.&nbsp; This Administration&rsquo;s &quot;greenlight&quot; may include new rules and regulations that effectively thwart the exploration effort, and the limited timeframe may also make exploration unworkable for Shell.</p> <p> We will have to wait and see as the details emerge, but it&rsquo;s a positive sign, at least, that the Administration appears to be ignoring the alarmism from radical environmentalists and acknowledging the <a href="http://www.iwf.org/news/2793056/Fracking-Cuts-Ohio-Heat-Costs">significant economic benefits</a> that come from common sense energy exploration.&nbsp;</p> <p> The President should be keenly aware of the importance of a sufficient energy supply to an economy. After all, his Administration has enjoyed an energy boom that has kept fuel prices low and made everything more affordable.&nbsp; If energy supply hadn&rsquo;t grown and our economy had also faced high fuel prices over the last six years, then the President&rsquo;s less-than-stellar economic record would be a true disaster. More affordable energy is particularly important for those with lower incomes, who get hit the worst when gas prices rise and take a bigger bite out of their budgets.</p> <p> Let&rsquo;s hope this really is the beginning of a new trend and that Left and Right can agree that allowing companies to responsibly pursue new energy sources is a win-win for everyone.&nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2797927/Carrie L. LukasTue, 18 Aug 2015 08:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumDon't Cry Sexism<p> Women deserve every opportunity to run for any office or hold any&nbsp;position that a man can.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s also important, of course, for women to&nbsp;be held to the same standards as men.&nbsp; We object when the media&nbsp;singles women out for additional scrutiny, but it&rsquo;s also frustrating&nbsp;when female public figures cry sexism when they face legitimate&nbsp;questions.<br /> <br /> That appears to be what&rsquo;s happening in Pennsylvania.&nbsp; The state&nbsp;attorney general, Kathleen Kane, who was becoming a Democrat darling,&nbsp;looks to have abused her position, first by shutting down an ongoing&nbsp;investigation of political allies and then of leaking confidential&nbsp;information to a newspaper in an attempt to retaliate against her&nbsp;opponents.&nbsp; The Philadelphia Inquirer reports she is now facing&nbsp;charges of perjury, obstruction, conspiracy, and other offenses.&nbsp; Not&nbsp;good for the state&rsquo;s chief law enforcement officer.<br /> <br /> The news reports imply the evidence of wrongdoing is pretty&nbsp;overwhelming, so Kane is turning to the tactic of crying sexism. &nbsp;As she told<a href="http://articles.philly.com/2015-08-10/news/65383413_1_kathleen-kane-marriage-equality-investigation"> the press</a>:&nbsp; &quot;There are a group of guys who&nbsp;really are angry, who really do not want me there,&quot; she said this&nbsp;year, &quot;and they are doing everything they can to remove me.&quot;<br /> <br /> Sorry, but it seems like you&rsquo;ve done just about everything possible to&nbsp;disqualify yourself for office.&nbsp; Ms. Kane deserves to have her day in&nbsp;court and the citizens of Pennsylvania can assess if they think she&nbsp;really deserves to continue as their AG.&nbsp; Yet let&rsquo;s not pretend that&nbsp;it&rsquo;s her sex that&rsquo;s the issue &ndash; just like everyone else, she ought to&nbsp;be judged on her actions and ethics.</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2797921/Carrie L. LukasMon, 17 Aug 2015 10:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThe Uphill Battle to Improve the Conservative Brand<p> If Donald Trump really wants to win the Republican nomination, and advance the cause of less government and greater freedom, I sure wish he&rsquo;d read Arthur Brooks&rsquo; new book,&nbsp;<a href="http://smile.amazon.com/Conservative-Heart-Happier-Prosperous-America/dp/0062319752/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1439190337&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=arthur+brooks">The Conservative Heart</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp; Brooks explains that conservatives have a brand problem.&nbsp; The only way to solve this is for conservatives ourselves to do a better job presenting our ideas and cause.&nbsp; He lays out the steps that conservatives can take to build a true social movement capable of advancing the conservative agenda&mdash;and thereby creating a better, fairer country.&nbsp;</p> <p> Much of his advice is familiar, but that doesn&rsquo;t make it any less important.&nbsp; Conservatives must realize we have a small window to make an impression with an audience or individual:&nbsp; We must use those precious first moments judiciously.&nbsp;&nbsp; We have to paint a positive vision of why we support the ideas we do, and offer a vision of the country that we all want to live in.&nbsp; We must cheerfully demonstrate that we empathize with the challenges Americans face, sincerely want to help people in need, and have a positive, reality-based plan for making life better.&nbsp; We have to take our message beyond our base to those who currently don&rsquo;t agree with us&mdash;and even to those who vehemently disagree with us.</p> <p> Reading Brooks&rsquo; book is a reinvigorating pep talk for those of us in the conservative movement who have been long been making our case for our ideals.&nbsp; I recognized and accepted how I have often failed to lead with the best arguments, emphasized economics and money when I ought to have been talking about better lives and real opportunity, and been too oppositional rather than aspirational. I can do better, and plan to.</p> <p> Yet a quick look at the headlines and review of the conversations about politics that dominate our culture deflates any sense of optimism.&nbsp; Changing the conservative brand is an uphill battle when so many of our supposed representatives seem to do everything possible to confirm the worst stereotypes about us.&nbsp;</p> <p> Which brings me back to Donald Trump.&nbsp; Those who follow politics and policy closely know that Donald Trump is hardly a conservative standard barrier.&nbsp; Yet he is running for the Republican presidential nomination and leading in the polls.&nbsp; People will take what they hear from, and about, Donald Trump and it will linger as a part of the GOP&rsquo;s reputation long after Trump&rsquo;s campaign fizzles.</p> <p> Perhaps Donald Trump really didn&rsquo;t mean to imply that he thought Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly&mdash;who during the first GOP presidential prime debate had questioned him about his offensive statements about women of all things&mdash;was menstruating when he told&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-megyn-kelly-had-blood-coming-out-of-her-wherever_55c55a97e4b0923c12bd079c">CNN</a>&nbsp;&ldquo;There was blood coming out of her eyes&hellip;&nbsp; Blood coming out of her wherever.&rdquo;&nbsp; Perhaps, but we do know that he also called her a &ldquo;lightweight&rdquo; and &ldquo;highly overrated&rdquo; just as we know that he called Rosie O&rsquo;Donnell a fat pig.&nbsp; Here&rsquo;s something else we know for sure, this is now a discussion that Americans are hearing:&nbsp; Did the GOP front runner repeatedly insult a well-respected female journalist using a jaw-droppingly sexist insult?&nbsp;</p> <p> Even when Republicans aren&rsquo;t actively working to perpetuate the worst stereotypes about them, much of the media seems happy to pick up the slack and seize on any statement that could further ingrain the negative perception of the GOP.&nbsp; Thus when&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/jeb-bush-people-should-work-longer-hours-119884.html">Jeb Bush</a>&nbsp;carelessly includes &ldquo;people need to work longer hours&rdquo; in his response to a question from a New Hampshire newspaper about his economic plans, this is endlessly repeated as evidence that Republicans think Americans are lazy and need to work harder.&nbsp; Sadly, it doesn&rsquo;t matter that everyone following politics and policy knows exactly the real problem he was invoking&mdash;too many people who wish they had full time jobs can only find part-time work or have left the labor force entirely for want of a job&mdash;he&rsquo;d made a misstep and everyone was going to hear about it.</p> <p> Certainly Gov. Bush should take Arthur Brooks new book to heart and make sure he handles the next question better.&nbsp; His entire answer is a perfect example of what conservatives instinctively do wrong, talking about economic growth, workforce participation rates and percentages rather than about people and the kind of society we all want.&nbsp; Yet a brand makeover won&rsquo;t be easy when we aren&rsquo;t just fighting our own bad habits, but cultural institutions that very much want to perpetuate the cartoon-version of our cause.</p> <p> The task is hard, harder than it should have to be, but that doesn&rsquo;t make it any less worthwhile.&nbsp; And conservative can take comfort in this:&nbsp; In spite of the challenges, and all our flaws and failures, about&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/gallup-poll-social-conservatives-social-liberals-118208.html">three in ten</a>&nbsp;Americans still self-identify as conservatives, and typically that&rsquo;s a great share than those who identify as liberal.&nbsp; Imagine if we did a better job representing ourselves?&nbsp; Obviously there must be something to our ideas, and the American people must see past the cartoonish media more often than we might fear.&nbsp; Now it&rsquo;s time for each of us to move forward and take care to make our best case every time.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is managing director of the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.&nbsp;</em></p> http://iwf.org/news/2797896/Carrie L. LukasThu, 13 Aug 2015 15:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIt's Time For Legal Reform<p> When people consider what&rsquo;s good about the American economy&mdash;what works and what we ought to be proud of&mdash;our record of entrepreneurship and inventiveness must near the top of the list. For all of our problems, America&rsquo;s economic system continues to be an engine of new ideas and innovation. Sadly, this traditional strength is threatened by what must surely be one of our economy&rsquo;s most profound weaknesses: our litigation system and the explosion of frivolous lawsuits.</p> <p> I&rsquo;ve <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/carrielukas/2013/03/26/a-policy-area-in-which-europe-has-the-u-s-beat-and-its-not-even-close/">written before</a> how the fear of litigation makes American society lives less free and fun. Living in <a href="http://www.forbes.com/europe-news/">Europe</a>, where there is far less worry about frivolous lawsuits, restaurants often have big playgrounds on the premises. As a result, parents relax and enjoy dinner and drinks, while the kids happily play. Everyone is better off. I suspect that such arrangements are far less likely in the United States because businesses cannot afford the risk that a child would scrap their knee or break an arm during the normal course of play and sue creating potentially ruinous legal cost.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> Appreciating the full costs of America&rsquo;s unhealthy legal system can be hard because one has to note not just examples of wasteful lawsuits, but also what&rsquo;s missing as a result: the playgrounds, businesses, and civic institutions that might exist if our legal system didn&rsquo;t exact such a toll and discourage people from taking action.</p> <p> A similar challenge exists in understanding the harm that is done to businesses and economic growth by the wasteful legal practices that drain money from productive entities and discourage the research and investment that&rsquo;s necessary to create innovation.</p> <p> Consider the situation with patent trolls. That&rsquo;s the term for those who abuse our patent system to force businesses, big and small, to pay them off or undergo a protracted, costly legal battle. Patents and other intellectual property protections were supposed to be a safeguard to encourage inventors and innovators to invest in developing new creations, by enabling them to recoup their investment and be rewarded for their work. Our Constitution specifically charges Congress with administering a system to give &ldquo;for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.&rdquo; Yet now, that system is sadly often used not to protect creators, but to enrich those unrelated to the innovation process.</p> <p> Patent trolls exist to buy up obscure patents and then file lawsuits alleging that others are violating their patent rights. Often the goal isn&rsquo;t even to win a lawsuit, but simply to extract a payment from that <a href="http://www.forbes.com/business/">business</a>. They send letters threatening to drag a business to court unless they pay a licensing fee. Many businesses, particularly the small businesses that are often targeted, can&rsquo;t afford to pay the legal fees that would be necessary to fight a court battle. Instead they cut their losses by just paying up.</p> <p> This practice doesn&rsquo;t just impact cutting-edge technology companies, but common industries, such as grocery stores, restaurant franchises, retailers and hotels. Together this litigation drains billions from employers and would-be investors and innovators<a href="https://hbr.org/2014/07/the-evidence-is-in-patent-trolls-do-hurt-innovation">. Harvard Business Review</a> recently highlighted three studies that confirm that &ldquo;patent litigation is reducing venture capital investment in startups and is reducing R&amp;D spending, especially in small firms.&rdquo; In other words, abusive practices are discouraging the behaviors that are so important to innovation and improving our quality of life.</p> <p> The good news is Congress is considering this issue and legislation to discourage abusive patent litigation. It would require that those sending letters asserting patent rights must be truthful and include key information about the patent and the nature of the alleged violation. It would reform the litigation process to make it more likely that frivolous or abusive lawsuits are dismissed. It would also require that a losing party that brought a lawsuit recognized as frivolous pay the other side&rsquo;s attorney fees. This loser pays system could deter people from getting in the business of abusing the legal system.</p> <p> Such legal reforms would be a step in the right direction in returning our patent system to its intend purpose: protecting those that develop useful innovations and creations. Similar legal reforms are needed in other areas to discourage the frivolous lawsuits that drain resources from productive entities, prevent more research and development from taking place, and leave our society less rich and inclusive than it would otherwise be. Until there is such reform, we won&rsquo;t know all that we are missing.</p> http://iwf.org/news/2797849/Carrie L. LukasMon, 10 Aug 2015 08:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWell-intentioned red tape is still red tape<p> Many Americans are taking a welcome break this summer from the relentless tug-of-war in our political debates.&nbsp; But that&rsquo;s not so in the Massachusetts State House where officials are rehashing one of the most well-worn issues in modern politics: the so-called wage gap between male and female workers.</p> <p> The Department of Labor (DOL) statistic underlying the &ldquo;wage gap&rdquo; claim simply compares a full-time working man&rsquo;s median wages with those of a full-time working woman. The DOL says that women on average are paid only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns.</p> <p> Despite laws prohibiting sex-based wage discrimination (the&nbsp;Equal Pay Act&nbsp;of 1963 and the&nbsp;Civil Rights Act of 1964), activists often rely on the grossly misleading wage gap statistic to perpetuate the myth that all women are victims of pay discrimination and to demand greater government control of the workplace.</p> <p> Last week, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development considered a bill that sponsor claims will shrink this wage gap and help women to earn more. Yet the bill&rsquo;s provisions&mdash;however well intentioned&mdash;are unlikely to do much to change the statistical difference between men and women&rsquo;s earnings. &nbsp; That is because it&rsquo;s the choices men and women make about how much to work and what jobs to take, not discrimination or mistreatment from employers, that are the main cause of the wage gap.</p> <p> Significantly, women on average gravitate to industries that, although less lucrative, possess other desirable characteristics, such as regular hours or pleasant work conditions.&nbsp; In contrast, men often take on jobs with big drawbacks&mdash;they drive trucks overnight; take on physically grueling, even dangerous, work; and spend their time in unpleasant surroundings such as prisons and sewers&mdash;because those jobs allow them to earn more money.</p> <p> Women who are married with children have, on average, longer gaps in employment than their male counterparts.&nbsp; In addition, many women with children prefer to work only part-time, so that they can spend more time at home.&nbsp; Even those women who work full-time, tend to spend less hours on the job on average than men.</p> <p> For these reasons, wage gaps exist in every developed country of the world.&nbsp; And they exist even in the most committed, liberal workplaces, including <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/male-female-pay-gap-remains-entrenched-at-white-house/2014/07/01/dbc6c088-0155-11e4-8fd0-3a663dfa68ac_story.html">Barack&nbsp;Obama&rsquo;s White House</a>&nbsp;and in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/hillary-clinton-spox-responds-to-wage-gap-in-her-senate-office/article/2560949">Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s own former Senate office</a>. That&rsquo;s not because these liberals are virulent sexists, but because women and men tend to make different choices when it comes to their work lives.</p> <p> In fact, <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/14/on-equal-pay-day-everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-gender-pay-gap/">study</a>&nbsp;after&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2014/04/09/president-obamas-persistent-77-cent-claim-on-the-wage-gap-gets-a-new-pinocchio-rating/">study shows</a>&nbsp;that when economists control for factors such as experience and personal choice the wage gap shrinks, leaving just a few percentage points unexplained.</p> <p> Of course, even the small, unexplained wage gap that remains after controlling for these factors is concerning.&nbsp; And although workplace discrimination against women is already illegal, it makes sense to consider if other public policies can help ensure that women&rsquo;s work is being properly valued.</p> <p> Some provisions in the Massachusetts&rsquo; bill may assist some workers in their negotiations, such as requiring employers to list minimum salaries for open positions, providing additional protections so that workers can discuss their pay with colleagues, and preventing businesses from inquiring about previous salary history.</p> <p> But even these measures have drawbacks.&nbsp; Workers with less experience who are willing to except less pay will no longer have a competitive advantage and will therefore be less likely to be considered for jobs with higher minimum salary requirements.&nbsp; While those who are hired will earn more, people with less experience and fewer skills will have a tougher time finding work and getting the experience they need to move up the economic ladder.</p> <p> More fundamentally, this legislation is another step toward greater government micromanagement of compensation practices that will create a less dynamic, less flexible workplace.&nbsp; This legislation specifies the many criteria that businesses must consider if they want to be able to prove to future judges that they are not guilty of discrimination.&nbsp; They have to make sure that they have clearly specified pay and evaluation practices and carefully monitor how the salaries of employees of one sex stack up against the other.</p> <p> Human resource managers will look at these guidelines, consult the company lawyers, and likely change company policies to reduce the amount of discretion managers have in compensating employees.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s bad news for women (or men) who don&rsquo;t want a one-size-fits-all pay package and would prefer to negotiate a reduced or flexible work schedule for reduced pay.&nbsp; Managers may not be so amenable to outside-of-the-box thinking when they have to worry how those decisions might appear during a future lawsuit.&nbsp; It also bad news for companies that recognize that part of employee retention involves the ability to reward performance or to make a significant counter-offer when a valuable employee considers leaving.</p> <p> Government intervention and strict bureaucratic definitions of fairness may sound nice and straight-forward during a committee hearing, but the result is often red tape that ends up a tangled mess when applied to the real world.</p> <p> We all want women to be treated fairly by their employers. And the good news is that women are an extremely important part of the workforce &ndash; and businesses recognize that.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s important for there to be clear laws on the books to prevent discrimination, but ultimately a growing job market that gives workers better employment options is the best way to ensure that all workers, women and men alike, earn more.</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.</em></p> http://iwf.org/news/2797826/Carrie L. LukasThu, 6 Aug 2015 09:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumOvertime Rules Undermine Workers--Especially Women<p> Like most Americans, my first job was as an hourly worker.&nbsp; I helped teach gymnastics at a local YMCA as a high schooler during the summer and after school.&nbsp;&nbsp; I had a punch card that recorded the time I checked in for work and the time I check out; I was paid roughly whatever the minimum wage was at the time for each hour I spent on the job.</p> <p> That certainly was just a job, not the beginning of a career.&nbsp; My career began after I graduated college when I was offered a salaried position at an advertising agency.&nbsp; I was no longer punching a clock, but had a junior role on a professional team.&nbsp; I was expected to accomplish specific tasks and help advance our projects, not log hours to accrue pay.&nbsp; I still wasn&rsquo;t making very much money, but I felt like I was on the path to something bigger.</p> <p> The Department of Labor just proposed <a href="http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/NPRM2015/factsheet.htm">new regulations</a> that would mean that millions of workers will spend more time as hourly employees, rather than on salary.&nbsp; The Fair Labor Standard Act governs the minimum wage and defines which workers must be compensated by the hour and receive overtime pay for time worked in excess of 40 hours per week.&nbsp; Currently, someone who makes a salary of $23,660 can be exempt from the requirement that they receive overtime pay, if they also meet the criteria of having job duties that meet the DOL&rsquo;s definition of being primarily administrative, executive or &ldquo;professional.&rdquo;&nbsp; Under the proposed new rules, the salary threshold for being exempt from overtime would more than double to $47,892.&nbsp; DOL explains that&rsquo;s currently the 40th percentile of earnings for full-time salaried workers.&nbsp; They propose keeping the salary at that level of earnings permanently, so they will adjust the threshold moving forward.</p> <p> The DOL estimates the new rules would impact more than 10 million workers.&nbsp; Presumably the regulators believe that this will be a boon to those workers, who would have to begin tracking hours and therefore might become eligible for overtime pay.&nbsp; However, these new regulations would also do significant harm, especially to those in lower-income areas and with more modest incomes.</p> <p> Most obviously, this new regime would be a big expense for business.&nbsp; Businesses would have to pay more in overtime, but just as significantly, they would face significant new compliance costs in tracking more workers&rsquo; hours and monitoring overtime.&nbsp; Overall, the National Retail Federation estimates it will cost employers more than $9 billion per year.&nbsp; Those costs have to come from somewhere, which means some employees may see their hours cut, or their positions refashioned or eliminated.&nbsp; Consumers may also see prices increase and service worsen.</p> <p> Not all businesses, however, will be impacted equally.&nbsp; The new threshold applies nationwide, which means that areas with lower costs of living will feel by far the most impact.&nbsp; A salary of nearly $50,000 may not sound like much to those in New York City or Washington DC, but that&rsquo;s pretty good for rural and poorer areas of the country.&nbsp; That means that employers in those areas will face the biggest compliance challenges, and more workers there will find their compensation changing and possibly their economic opportunities constricting.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s the same old tale time and again:&nbsp; Poorer and more vulnerable employees always end up the biggest losers from wage regulations advanced in their names.</p> <p> Even some employees who get a few extra buck in their paycheck may not welcome this rules change and their reclassification as hourly workers eligible for overtime.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;While some employees may prefer tracking their time, others want to be on salary and to feel that they are being compensated for their contributions to the business or organization.&nbsp; They don&rsquo;t want to have to tell their managers every time they work late and every time they leave early. This may be particularly true for women:&nbsp; As <a href="http://pdf.iwf.org/IWF-Workplace-C2O-Final.pdf">the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum and Evolving Strategies</a> found in our own research on women&rsquo;s workplace preferences, many women place a high value on a flexible work environment that allows them to better balance work and family responsibilities.&nbsp; Women are often willing to trade higher pay in order to have more flexibility.</p> <p> This loss of autonomy and the potential costs for workers helps explain why many Americans appear skeptical about the new regulations.&nbsp; One survey by <a href="http://protectingopportunity.org/wp-content/themes/ppwo/ppwo_1pager.pdf">WomanTrend</a> found that 58 percent of respondents believe that the new rules may not result in higher pay for workers, and 43 percent won&rsquo;t support the rules knowing that workers will be moved from hourly to salaried employees. &nbsp;Likewise, a survey by the <a href="http://protectingopportunity.org/wp-content/themes/ppwo/ppwo_1pager.pdf">National Restaurant Association</a> found that 85 percent of restaurant and retail managers believe changing employees from salaried to hourly workers will have a negative impact. Nearly half (45 percent) of those managers believe that the change would hurt morale, making people feel they were in a job rather than a career, and 86 percent think their perceptions of their own positions would deteriorate if they were moved to an hourly status.</p> <p> Americans ought to reject the very premise of these bureaucratic regulations.&nbsp; Why should the DOL be in the business of creating a one-size-fits-all compensation regime for the American workforce?&nbsp; They ought to focus their efforts on preventing truly exploitive relations between businesses and workers.&nbsp; But the rest of Americans should be free to negotiate work arrangements that make the most sense for them and meet their needs and aspirations, not some arbitrary definition created by a panel of bureaucrats in Washington DC.</p> <p> The DOL is right on one matter:&nbsp; The antiquated, Depression-era Fair Labor Standards Act needs to be updated.&nbsp; Yet these new proposed regulations would take the law in the wrong direction.&nbsp; Rather than more stringent regulations that will create new costs and administrative red tape for American businesses, and leave workers with fewer options, Congress should take a fresh look at this law and roll back these unnecessary rules and classifications that hardly apply to our modern world.</p> http://iwf.org/news/2797810/Carrie L. LukasWed, 5 Aug 2015 09:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhat 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="http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=Hearings&amp;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> http://iwf.org/blog/2797752/Carrie 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> http://iwf.org/news/2797738/Carrie 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> http://iwf.org/media/2797687/Carrie L. LukasMon, 20 Jul 2015 15:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum