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.org33968Playing the Sexism Card Where It Doesn’t Belong<p> With so much attention on Ebola and the need for more treatments and cures, we are getting into aspects of health care policy that are rarely in the public sphere.&nbsp;</p> <p> Most political debates center on health care payment and delivery issues: How can we make sure that people have access to the care they need at an affordable price?&nbsp; Those are the discussions that interest me most, mostly because I know the direction that I think is best:&nbsp; A market-based system that encourages providers to compete for customers will deliver the best value, and government aid should focus on helping people access that system by providing financial support for those who need it due to poverty or circumstances that make them expensive to insure or treat.</p> <p> But there are a lot of other policy issues involved in the health care arena, many of which are far less black-and-white.&nbsp;</p> <p> Patent policy, for example, can be tricky:&nbsp; Those who develop treatments and cures need to have patent protection so that they can recoup the tremendous investments that must be made in order to develop and test such innovations.&nbsp; More than that, we want there to be a big financial incentive for companies and entrepreneurs to dedicate the resources needed for medical advancement. I&rsquo;m sure that those working on an Ebola cure and vaccine now are very motivated by the desire to end the humanitarian crisis in Africa and the pandemic threat &ndash; but I also want them to be financially rewarded if they succeed.&nbsp; Some people are uncomfortable with the profit motive, but it is surely the best way to encourage advancement and innovation across the board.</p> <p> Yet patent protections also ought not last forever &ndash; at some point, companies should be able to build on others&rsquo; research and produce similar drugs and treatments, which is critical to bringing down prices and making new medical advancements widely available to the public.&nbsp; How long, exactly, then should those patents last?&nbsp; That&rsquo;s a matter of legitimate debate:&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a balancing act of competing interests, and not entirely a matter of principle.&nbsp;</p> <p> That&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s strange to see groups that jump in with such force and attempt to demonize those who disagree with them on these grey issues.</p> <p> Take this <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/health-advocates-submit-letter-to-fda-regarding-biosimilars-policy-and-womens-health-260273501.html">bizarre press release</a> from the Society for Women&#39;s Health Research.&nbsp;</p> <p> The issue at stake is the use of &ldquo;biosimilars&rdquo; &ndash; which is the name for the generic versions of a certain kind of drugs which are made from living cells taken from patients and transformed to fight some of our worst and most stubborn diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer&rsquo;s.&nbsp; The Affordable Care Act was supposed to facilitate the entrance of these new drugs into the US market.&nbsp; This is a version of the patent question discussed above:&nbsp; The drug makers who developed these elaborate new drugs understandably don&rsquo;t want generics to enter the market and bring down their price, but without that competition, these drugs will remain staggeringly expensive, and therefore not reach all the people who need them.</p> <p> Again, there are legitimate arguments on both sides, including the need to ensure the safety of biosimilars, as well as to make sure that patent protections remain adequate so that companies will continue to invest in new research.</p> <p> But the Society for Women&rsquo;s Health Research wants to turn this into a gender thing as they weigh in on trying to slow down the FDA&rsquo;s approval of a pathway for the use of biosimilars.&nbsp; The press release laments how women are under-represented in clinical trials even though women often have different manifestations of illnesses and react differently to treatments.&nbsp;</p> <p> I&rsquo;m not sure of the data on women&rsquo;s representation in clinical trials, but that&rsquo;s certainly a fine point to make and to encourage the FDA to make sure that women are properly represented and studied when approving new drugs and treatments.</p> <p> Yet it seems to have essentially nothing to do with the issue at hand, and whether or not the FDA ought to make it more difficult for biosimilars to be put into use by creating a complex new, separate naming system for those products. I live in Germany, and biosimilars have been on the market here in Europe since 2006 using the same scientific names as the biologic components they mimic. At this point, 8 years of data on the naming issue exists, and the EU has had no safety or efficacy problems.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s strange that these women&rsquo;s groups would adopt such a stance, especially since it seems to be counter to the interest of the people they say they represent.&nbsp; In delaying a path forward on bringing biosimilars to market, they&rsquo;re preventing women from having access to more affordable drugs, which are currently extremely expensive and highly specialized.</p> <p> The Society for Women&rsquo;s Health Research seems to think that throwing up a charge of sexism will help tilt the debate, even if there is nothing substantive, sexist, or even really pertinent in the charge.&nbsp; Let&rsquo;s hope the FDA ignores the interference of charges like this, and instead focuses on making the important, difficult determinations of how to make new treatments and cures more accessible, without discouraging the creation of the next round of much needed innovation. &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2795378/Carrie L. LukasWed, 22 Oct 2014 08:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumFast Food Automation Is Already a Reality in Parts of the World<p> The <a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/minimum-wage-backfire-1413934569">Wall Street Journal</a> warns today that McDonald&rsquo;s--faced with lower profits and the specter of an increased minimum wage which would dramatically increase employment costs--may increasingly turn to automation.&nbsp; Using touch screen ordering systems can allow franchises to reduce their labor force without increasing lines or reducing customer satisfaction.</p> <p> I don&rsquo;t know the breakdown of McDonald&rsquo;s company data, but from my experience living for many years now in Europe, it seems that McDonald&rsquo;s has already taken this path here.&nbsp; One can order from the counter, but there is almost always a touch-screen option available.&nbsp; It works really well:&nbsp; You can linger a little more as you choose what you want and without having to face any potential language issues.&nbsp; You can pay with a credit or debit card and only have to interact with an employee for a few moments, when they give you your food.</p> <p> Perhaps this innovation would be coming regardless of whether or not the minimum wage was going up.&nbsp; Businesses likely find that consumers have different preferences for how to order:&nbsp; Some may prefer to talk face-to-face with an employee, while others may prefer a screen.&nbsp; Yet surely the push to increase wages will contribute to this process.&nbsp; As employees get more expensive, it will make sense for businesses, whenever possible, to have fewer, more highly skilled employees. &nbsp;</p> <p> How, exactly, this will help the teenagers and other low-skilled workers looking for their first job, which will give them much needed employment experience in addition to a paycheck, I can&rsquo;t say.&nbsp; It seems that those truly interested in improving the economic opportunity for these populations ought to focus on lowering&mdash;not raising&mdash;the cost of employment. &nbsp;A higher minimum wage mandate may sound compassionate, but only if you ignore how such <a href="http://iwvoice.org/pdf/MinimumWage_DiscussionGuides.pdf">mandates will work in the real world</a>. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2795380/Carrie L. LukasWed, 22 Oct 2014 07:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWireless Usage Is No Sin<p> Gasoline, tobacco, alcohol&hellip; These are the types of products that we tend to assume are singled out by the government for special taxes.&nbsp; This isn&rsquo;t just a way for government to raise revenue (though it is certainly that), these products are singled out for special taxes because government believes that smoking and drinking alcohol are bad for people&rsquo;s health, and that gasoline usage harms the environment.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s why these are often referred to as &ldquo;sin&rdquo; taxes:&nbsp; And government taxes them to try to encourage people to &quot;sin&quot; less.&nbsp;</p> <p> There&rsquo;s reason to be suspicious of &ldquo;sin&rdquo; taxes:&nbsp; They don&rsquo;t always work to discourage the behavior they&rsquo;re intended to and can encourage people to substitute toward equally unappealing options (or encourage participation in a black market).&nbsp; They weigh most heavily on those who can least afford them (eating up a larger share of lower-income household&rsquo;s budgets) and fail to differentiate between truly harmful behaviors (nightly swilling of large quantities of vodka) and totally innocuous, even healthful, behavior (having a glass or two of wine with dinner).&nbsp;</p> <p> At least, though, there is <em>some </em>rationale behind them. &nbsp;</p> <p> Why, then, are wireless services also singled out for huge taxes and government fees?&nbsp;</p> <p> As the <a href="http://taxfoundation.org/article/wireless-taxation-united-states-2014">Tax Foundation reports</a>, Americans pay an average of 17.05 percent in combined federal, state, and local tax and fees on wireless service. That&rsquo;s more than twice the average sales tax rates for other goods.</p> <p> Surely using wireless services is no sin.&nbsp; In fact, as <a href="http://www.iwf.org/blog/2793441/Let's-Simplify-Taxes,-and-Not-Tax-Technological-Development">I&rsquo;ve written before</a>, while politicians may have once placed wireless technology in the &ldquo;luxury&rdquo; category, and therefore ripe for an extra tax, wireless users now use these services for critical aspects of their everyday lives:</p> <blockquote> <p> Wireless technologies are not just about accessing entertainment, but are often critical work and learning tools, as well as communications devises.&nbsp; In an <a href="http://www.mywireless.org/media-center/data-center/2013-national-tax-survey/">industry survey</a>, most wireless consumers reported seeing access to wireless technologies not only as critical to their everyday life (more than 80 percent consider it an essential service), but as important for increasingly their productivity at work (44 percent) and in school (17 percent).</p> </blockquote> <p> Women typically may not fit the tech-junkie stereotype, but as I explained in <a href="http://lean-together.com/detail.php?c=2794873&amp;t=Chapter%20Nine%20-%20Carrie%20Lukas">a chapter in <em>Lean Together</em></a>, women are actually among the biggest winners from the spread of technology, since it has created new paradigms for blending work, home, and education.</p> <p> Americans should take note of the big chunk taken by government when they next go to pay their wireless bill.&nbsp; There is no reason politicians should be using wireless to squeeze more money out of people.&nbsp; The federal and state governments ought to eliminate this onerous, unnecessary tax. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2795270/Carrie L. LukasSat, 11 Oct 2014 10:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumCaution Needed When Interpreting Polls for Public’s Policy Preferences <p> Polls and public opinion research can be interesting, but it&rsquo;s important to also understand the limits to what survey questions tells us.&nbsp;</p> <p> <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2014/09/public_religion_research_institute_study_paid_sick_and_maternity_leave_popular.html">Slate&rsquo;s Boer Deng </a>&nbsp;would have readers believe that data from a new survey proves support for a government paid leave mandate is overwhelming, making it a slam-dunk for any politician willing to champion it:</p> <blockquote> <p> &hellip;there is one issue where an overwhelming consensus between both parties can be found. A staggering 81 percent of Americans are in favor of requiring companies to offer paid sick leave, and 78 percent favor offering leave for the arrival of a child. &nbsp;For sick leave, especially, support is universal, with 90 percent of Democrats, 82 percent of Independents, and 76 percent of Republicans in favor. Men and women both think we ought to require that employers offer paid leave for parents.</p> </blockquote> <p> Yet proponents of these mandates ought to be a little more cautious.&nbsp; Surveys often get very contradictory results because of the way questions are phrased, especially when the questions feature only the benefits, while avoiding mentioning the tradeoffs and downsides, of policy proposals.</p> <p> Surveys tend to find much more support for increased education spending when the survey question is phrased &ldquo;Do you believe that government should invest more in our children&rsquo;s education?&rdquo; than when the question is instead &ldquo;Do you support tax increases to fund more education spending?&rdquo; or even when just a little more context is given to the issue, such as &ldquo;Per pupil spending for public school exceeds $10,000.&nbsp; Do you think spending should be increased more?&rdquo;</p> <p> Yes, four out of five people responded affirmatively when asked if companies ought to be required to offer paid sick and maternity leave.&nbsp; But if respondents were given more context (such as that most companies already offer full-time employees paid time off) or were encouraged to consider the tradeoffs&mdash;such as that more generous benefits tend to lead to lower take-home pay&mdash;support would likely drop.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> A real discussion about a paid leave policy would give the public a better understanding of how mandates affect business decisions and therefore would ultimately impact workers.&nbsp; People should know that most companies offer leave benefits because it helps them attract and retain valued workers.&nbsp; But those companies that don&rsquo;t offer such benefits usually have a reason why they aren&rsquo;t including those benefits in those compensation packages.&nbsp; If one forces all companies to offer paid leave benefits, companies will take that into account as they make their staffing plans:&nbsp; They may seek to employ fewer, more highly-skilled workers to minimize workplace disruptions; they may lower take-home pay to compensate for the higher costs associated with the need for more temp workers; if the mandates apply only to full-time workers (as was posed in this survey questions) they may follow the ObamaCare path and cut workers&rsquo; hours so that more qualify as part-time.</p> <p> People want workers to be treated fairly. &nbsp;&nbsp;They sympathize with the need for people to take leave time.&nbsp; &nbsp;And in general, people like proposals that claim to help people and give them some new: <em>Do you think Joe Smith deserves a raise? Sure I do! Why not? &nbsp;</em></p> <p> But policy matters are more complicated than that.&nbsp; The American people should have a heightened awareness of that, because of their recent experience with government&rsquo;s over-promises and half-truths. &nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="http://www.iwf.org/news/2792908/Why-Obama's-Promise-That-Americans-Could-Keep-Their-Insurance-Was-So-Important">ObamaCare</a> was sold as a magical solution to our health care system&rsquo;s problems:&nbsp; We can give all the uninsured comprehensive insurance without any extra costs!&nbsp; And of course you&rsquo;ll be able to keep the plan you like!&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> That was always absurd:&nbsp; Policies come with tradeoffs.&nbsp; As we&rsquo;ve seen with <a href="http://lean-together.com/detail.php?c=2794866&amp;t=Chapter%20Three%20%E2%80%93%20Hadley%20Heath%20Manning">ObamaCare</a>, millions of Americans lost their previous coverage, are paying more for more narrow coverage, have insurance but can&rsquo;t get medical appointments, and even with all this and with trillions of dollars of new spending scheduled, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that even after full ObamaCare implementation 30 million Americans will still lack insurance.</p> <p> Recognizing the costs of proposed paid leave benefits doesn&rsquo;t mean that we have to opt to do nothing to help those who face true hardship from a lack of employer-provided leave.&nbsp; But we should carefully consider how such interventions will impact other factors, like their economic opportunities.&nbsp; It doesn&rsquo;t do the working poor any good to offer generous new benefits if that means that many will find themselves out of work or with pay cuts.</p> <p> As I&rsquo;ve <a href="http://ygnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Chapter-11-The-Agenda-Work-Life-Balance.pdf">written before</a>, rather than one-size-fits-all employer mandates or government leave programs that change the employment contracts of all working Americans, policymakers should consider focusing their efforts on helping those who really need it, such as through a targeted financial support program modeled on the Earned Income Tax Credit that can help people taking leave.&nbsp;</p> <p> Identifying better policy solutions won&rsquo;t come from relying on misleading polling information, but from a real discussion and debate of the tradeoffs that necessarily come with reform. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2795201/Carrie L. LukasFri, 3 Oct 2014 08:10:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThe Sloppiest Fact Check Ever?<p> While doing some research this morning, I stumbled upon this &ldquo;<a href="http://www.dol.gov/minwage/mythbuster.htm">Minimum Wage Mythbusters</a>&rdquo; page on the Department of Labor, which deserves consideration for the worst-ever fact sheet by any institution that claims to be non-partisan or fact-based.</p> <p> Among the jarring features of this list of &ldquo;busted myths&rdquo; is the total absence of any sourcing or links to actual data.&nbsp; Here is just one exampl on a page full of them.&nbsp; The webpage confidently states:</p> <blockquote> <p> <strong>Myth:</strong>&nbsp;Increasing the minimum wage will cause people to lose their jobs.</p> <p> <strong>Not true:</strong>&nbsp;A review of 64 studies on minimum wage increases found no discernable effect on employment. Additionally, more than 600 economists, seven of them Nobel Prize winners in economics, have signed onto a letter in support of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016.</p> </blockquote> <p> So what&rsquo;s the name of the study? Who wrote it? When? Where&rsquo;s the link?</p> <p> It&rsquo;s hardly impressive that the federal government&mdash;loaded to the gills with people on the payroll with economics degrees who can therefore claim to be &ldquo;economists&rdquo;&mdash;was able to scrape up 600 economists to sign something in support of their preferred policy.&nbsp; But please, let&rsquo;s see their names! Where&rsquo;s the link to the list?</p> <p> By the way, in case you are wondering, naturally this illuminating webpage ignores the recent <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44995-MinimumWage.pdf">Congressional Budget Office</a>&rsquo;s analysis of the Obama Administration&rsquo;s proposed wage hike.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s because the <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/44995-MinimumWage.pdf">CBO</a> didn&rsquo;t jive with the DOL&rsquo;s line that there would be no impact on employment.&nbsp; In fact, CBO found that the likely effect of the hike to $10.10 would be 500,000 fewer jobs.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s a half million Americans more out of work.</p> <p> If you are going to argue that the law of supply and demand somehow doesn&rsquo;t apply to the minimum wage, that somehow raising the price of labor won&rsquo;t mean that businesses can afford less of it (as we would recognize is the obvious effect if we were talking about a higher price for any other good or service), then you should really find at least one source to point to.&nbsp; And in case you want more evidence than CBO of the opposite&mdash;that when workers cost more businesses can afford to hire fewer of them&mdash;here&rsquo;s a link to a metastudy on the impact of minimum wage increases that found overwhelming evidence that higher minimum wages do lead to fewer jobs, particularly for low-skilled and low-wage workers: <a href="http://ftp.iza.org/dp2570.pdf">Minimum Wages and Employment</a><u>, by David Neumark and William Wascher</u>.&nbsp;</p> <p> The hacks at the Department of Labor&nbsp;who put this &quot;mythbusters&quot; website together should be ashamed of their complete sloppiness and failure to even pretend that they are offering a balanced factual look at the data related to the minimum wage.&nbsp; This is politics pure and simple, and it&rsquo;s grotesque that taxpayer dollars were used to create this propaganda. &nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2795148/Carrie L. LukasMon, 29 Sep 2014 04:09:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy Pretend that a Career in Porn Is as Good a Career Choice as Any Other?<p> I&rsquo;m confused by some libertarians&rsquo; attempts to argue that working in the sex trade is no different than working in entertainment generally or in any other occupation.&nbsp;</p> <p> When the story of Miriam Weeks&mdash;the Duke University student who also appears in porn films&mdash;broke, some seemed eager to promote a young women who described working in the porn industry in glowing terms, as a road to empowerment. Now, a new <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-l6HSYnHA4w">documentary series</a> on Ms. Weeks (unsurprisingly) paints a more complicated picture of her experience as a porn star.&nbsp; This clearly disappoints those who want to make a political point with her tale.&nbsp;</p> <p> For example, <a href="http://reason.com/blog/2014/09/24/belle-knox-docu-series-sex-work-is-labor">Reason&rsquo;s Elizabeth Nolan Brown</a> writes:</p> <blockquote> <p> Watching the series progress, it&#39;s clear Weeks herself is struggling&mdash;as anyone who plays a public role must&mdash;with how much to give and how much to withold. &quot;If you start becoming Belle,&quot; a colleague told her, &quot;you need to leave the industry.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p> By the final segment, Weeks has been traveling a lot and is homesick, feeling alienated from family and old friends and frustrated with some of the working conditions in the porn industry. She&#39;s tired. Her early, unadulterated enthusiasm for getting paid to have sex has worn off (&quot;the experience has aged me,&quot; she says). Some will undoubtedly use this as evidence of the unconscionably negative toll porn takes on women.&nbsp;</p> <p> But I thought of that inevitable scene in tour documentaries where the lead singer is sleeping fitfully on a bus seat or talking forlornly with someone back home.&nbsp;<em>Life as a musician on tour&mdash;it&#39;s not all peachy! Life as a rising porn starlet&mdash;sometimes it sucks!</em>&nbsp;&quot;Porn is like any other job, it&#39;s labor, and I think that liking it is irrelevant,&quot; Weeks says in segment five.</p> </blockquote> <p> Brown doesn&rsquo;t mention other aspects of Miriam Week&rsquo;s personal story revealed in the documentary, but we also learn that she is survivor of rape and a former cutter who left a scar that reads &ldquo;FAT&rdquo; carved into her thigh.&nbsp; One doesn&rsquo;t have to be an anti-porn absolutist to be concerned that perhaps the 18-year-old didn&rsquo;t know what she was getting into when she entered the porn industry and was emotionally vulnerable when she made that decision. &nbsp;From the beginning, Weeks always has seemed a bit conflicted about why, exactly, she decided to appear in porn:&nbsp; Was it her only option to cover too high tuition bills or a dream come true of feminist empowerment?</p> <p> Admitting that the sex trade isn&rsquo;t the happiest, best work environment for women doesn&rsquo;t mean that one then has to believe the solution is to outlaw pornography.&nbsp; One can believe that the porn industry is generally bad for women, that the proliferation of porn is damaging to society, and still also recognize that a government prohibition would lead to far worse outcomes, pushing the practice completely underground and leaving young women like Weeks with fewer protections.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> If the decriminalization of prostitution and the like is the libertarians&rsquo; goal, then it would seem far more effective to use the best lessons from the drug legalization movement.&nbsp;</p> <p> Rather than trying to convince the public that drugs are harmless, and that we should be indifferent to whether someone chooses to eat crackers and use cocaine, the best drug legalization efforts focus on the unintended consequences of the drug war.&nbsp; Making drugs illegal hasn&rsquo;t discouraged drug use in America, but has made it a (very profitable) criminal industry and encouraged the creation of our gang infrastructure.&nbsp; De-criminalizing drugs would make the drug trade less profitable and could lead to a major reduction in crime. There is much evidence to draw from in Europe, where drugs are essentially de-criminalized and crime rates are far lower.&nbsp; When presented with these facts one can easily be convinced that while drugs may be bad, the drug war is worse.</p> <p> A similar argument about the sex trade would be far more effective:&nbsp; Let&rsquo;s focus on rates of sexual trafficking in places where prostitution is criminalized versus those where it is legal; let&rsquo;s consider how easily a young woman (or man) can leave the sex industry and rates of slavery, violence and disease.&nbsp; Let&rsquo;s further promote the core libertarian concept that America is supposed to be a country of free people, and free people must be allowed to make bad decisions, whether that&rsquo;s using addictive drugs or appearing in degrading porn.</p> <p> Trying to convince people that porn is incredibly empowering to women&mdash;and that we should be just as pleased if our daughters and sisters pursue a job in the sex trade as we are if they choose to pursue medicine or journalism&mdash;simply isn&rsquo;t going to work. &nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2795142/Carrie L. LukasFri, 26 Sep 2014 08:09:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumPolicy Focus: The Gainful Employment Rule<p> America needs a higher education system that provides a wide variety of learning opportunities for women and men of all ages and from all backgrounds, and that efficiently delivers real value to students, preparing them to participate in the modern economy.</p> <p> Many are concerned that our higher education system is failing on that last measure: Higher education costs have been rapidly increasing for decades, and today many students accrue large loan debts without gaining the skills necessary to secure jobs that pay enough to make ends meet.</p> <p> The Administration has proposed a &ldquo;gainful employment rule,&rdquo; which they claim would address this problem, by rendering educational programs that fail to meet specific criteria for post-employment outcomes and student debt loads ineligible for student loans. However, this rule unfairly targets only a subset of schools that serve non-traditional, lower-income student populations. It would result in fewer educational opportunities for this group, and do little to encourage greater efficiency in the higher education arena across the board.</p> <p> There are better ways to improve the higher education system, such as requiring greater transparency, encouraging the development of a wider variety of lower-cost education and degree-granting options, and reforming the student loan system.</p> <p> In the meantime, the gainful employment rule should be rejected once again as an unfair mechanism that would destroy educational opportunities for those who need it most.</p> <p> <a href="http://c1355372.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/4073fc25-96a9-4d2c-b861-bb142283255c/PolicyFocus14_Oct_p1.pdf"><em>Click here to continue reading the 6-page policy focus in PDF.&nbsp;</em></a></p> http://iwf.org/publications/2795136/Carrie L. LukasThu, 25 Sep 2014 13:09:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWho Is Going to Make Your Next Favorite Show?<p> My kids have completely different expectations for how the television works than I did when I was a child.&nbsp;</p> <p> I recall racing down the stairs just before 5pm so I could park myself in front of our small television in time for the Brady Bunch song to begin.&nbsp; There were no second chances, no way to pause while someone used the bathroom or grabbed a snack, and no ability to watch another episode if one didn&rsquo;t seem like enough.&nbsp;</p> <p> Today, my kids know their favorite shows and movies are available anytime they are given the greenlight to turn on the television or any of the many other devices they know can be used for such entertainment.&nbsp;</p> <p> But one doesn&rsquo;t have to go all the way back to the 70s to see how much entertainment has evolved.&nbsp; The sitcoms of the 90s seem equally antiquated with their laugh-tracks and storylines that last precisely twenty-two minutes, knowing that the audience need closure and only a small part of plot can withstand a week-long wait. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> Today, it&rsquo;s entirely different.&nbsp; Our nightly entertainment can have the depth and quality that used to be reserved only for the biggest Hollywood production.&nbsp; One can watch back-to-back episodes of intricately-produced programming that, while still segmented for us into show-sized chunks, are truly epic, high-quality stories that often last for dozens of hours.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s easy to take our access to this kind of quality entertainment for granted, but it&rsquo;s really an amazing tribute to technological development and innovation.</p> <p> Ironically, technology can also impede the investment in high quality entertainment.&nbsp; Technologies that make it possible for such programming to exist and be so readily accessible at any time or place of our choosing also make it easy for consumers to avoid paying anything for access to this entertainment by accessing it illegally.&nbsp;</p> <p> As the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/orange-is-the-new-black-is-now-the-second-most-pirated-tv-show-in-the-world/2014/08/24/4b9a4bf2-2977-11e4-8593-da634b334390_story.html">Washington Post</a> recently reported, new-media innovator Netflix has been hard hit by online-piracy: &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p> But the fact that Netflix shows are also being voraciously downloaded illegally renews industry worries that there are no clear solutions to piracy.</p> <blockquote> <p> Entertainment industry executives had hoped Internet-based services such as Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime would persuade those watching pirated videos online to begin paying or subscribing legally &mdash; much the way music lovers embraced iTunes, even if they had grown up illegally downloading files on Napster. But even Netflix, which at $8 to $9 per month for a streaming-only plan costs a fraction of a typical cable bill, may not be able to curb online theft&hellip;.</p> <p> Analysts say hundreds of millions of dollars are being stolen with these unauthorized downloads of video, music and book files through pirate sites such as the Pirate Bay.</p> <p> In fact, as <a href="https://media.gractions.com/314A5A5A9ABBBBC5E3BD824CF47C46EF4B9D3A76/7843c97d-fd81-4597-a5d9-b1f5866b0833.pdf">this report details</a>, facilitating the illegal downloading of programming itself has become a multi-million dollar business.&nbsp;</p> </blockquote> <p> Americans may be tempted to shrug off this phenomenon:&nbsp; It is only entertainment after all, and famous actors and entertainment executives hardly make for the most sympathetic characters in this economic drama.</p> <p> But draining millions of dollars from a legitimate industry does have serious economic impacts, and reduces the number of jobs that are created in the media industry not just for big-name actors and executives, but for many average Joes.&nbsp;</p> <p> Moreover, at its core, this phenomenon of intellectual property theft is a close-cousin to the problems that plague many industries and impact everything from the development of drugs and medical treatments to new communication technologies. &nbsp;&nbsp;As <a href="http://www.iwf.org/news/2791435/It's-Time-for-the-U.S.-to-Deal-with-Cyber-Espionage">I&rsquo;ve written before</a>, there may not be an easy way to prevent intellectual property theft, but an important first step is recognizing that it&rsquo;s a real problem with serious economic consequences.&nbsp;</p> <p> We want innovation to continue to give us more and better options for entertainment as well as in other areas of life.&nbsp; That requires a system that gives investors the confidence that their property is just that&mdash;their property&mdash;and that their products and programming will be free to compete and be recognized and rewarded through a safe, competitive market.&nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2795130/Carrie L. LukasThu, 25 Sep 2014 04:09:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumObama Rule Unfairly Targets Disadvantaged Students<p> Back to school season isn&#39;t just for elementary schoolers or 18-year-olds excitedly heading off for college life. Millions of adults will also enroll in school this fall to continue their education. While their precise reasons for pursuing higher education are as unique as their DNA, a common hope underlies the vast majority&#39;s intentions &ndash; acquiring knowledge and skills that will open up future opportunities in life and the workforce.</p> <p> Unfortunately, if the Obama administration has its way, non-traditional students will have fewer options for continuing their education moving forward. The administration has proposed a &quot;<a href="http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/final-gainful-employment-rule-is-expected-in-october/79777" title="Link: http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/final-gainful-employment-rule-is-expected-in-october/79777">gainful employment rule</a>&quot; that threatens to render students in many for-profit colleges ineligible to access student loans. Analysts estimate that this rule could impact nearly 3.4 million students, more than half of which come from low-income households and are the least likely to find suitable opportunities at traditional colleges and universities.</p> <p> The administration justifies these new rules as necessary to discourage student loan default and prevent students from racking up unpayable debts while pursuing degrees that won&#39;t immediately lead to higher earnings. Certainly, there is reason for concern that many students overpay for higher education programs that provide scant value. The U.S. should have a robust debate about how to reform higher education policies and infrastructure to encourage greater efficiency.</p> <p> Yet that&#39;s not what the administration has done by advancing this gainful employment rule. Rather, it singles out for-profit higher education programs geared to non-traditional students and adult learners for assessment under arbitrary standards that don&#39;t necessarily reflect the schools&#39; value. The gainful employment rule zeroes in on the percentage of graduates who default on student loans and graduates&#39; loan-debt-to-earnings ratio when making determinations on which programs deserve support. So if graduates aren&#39;t earning enough in the years immediately following completion of their degrees then that program is cut off from federal student loans.</p> <p> These metrics leave out much important information that should go into a fair assessment of the value provided by a school, including the type of students that are being served. Private sector, higher education institutions disproportionately serve the at-risk student population &ndash; students who are more likely to be older, members of minority groups and from lower-income backgrounds than their peers at public and nonprofit, private colleges. It&#39;s not surprising that such students also tend to borrow more money and earn less immediately after obtaining their degrees. Yet that shouldn&#39;t be an excuse to cut off access to educational opportunities for these students.</p> <p> And for-profit colleges fill important educational gaps by providing career-oriented training programs in disciplines such as automotive repair, electrical and aeronautical engineering, computer networking and graphics, web and software design, accounting and a vast area of health care professions such as anesthesiology, veterinary medicine and nursing. While high pay may not come immediately, many of these fields are growing employment areas with the potential for lasting, solid earnings.</p> <p> Parents paying $30,000-a-year tuition for their offspring to pursue dance and art history degrees at elite liberal arts colleges may envy those who have something more solid to show for their years in school. And indeed, a certain snobbishness seems to underlie the administration&#39;s instinct to crack down on for-profit colleges that provide more technical and job-oriented training, while ignoring jaw-dropping examples of waste at traditional nonprofit colleges. Who is to say that there is more value in a degree in anthropology or women&#39;s studies obtained from a taxpayer-supported college or university than a medical technician certification from an associate program at a for-profit school?</p> <p> And in fact, as the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/tightening-rules-on-for-profit-colleges/2014/04/27/2b80630e-cca4-11e3-95f7-7ecdde72d2ea_story.html" title="Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/tightening-rules-on-for-profit-colleges/2014/04/27/2b80630e-cca4-11e3-95f7-7ecdde72d2ea_story.html">Washington Post</a>&nbsp;noted in an editorial, many supposedly prestigious programs from traditional, elite nonprofit institutions, such as Northwestern University&#39;s journalism program and George Washington University&#39;s law program, would fail the gainful rule test if it were imposed on them. Indeed, the Washington Post concluded, &quot;The likeliest effect of the rule would be to make it more difficult for poor Americans to earn a secondary degree.&quot;</p> <p> All students should look closely at the results produced by higher education institutions before they begin borrowing money and paying tuition. The administration also ought to consider reforming the student loan program to make sure all students, regardless of the type of school they enroll in, take on only reasonable debts in order to discourage default. Indeed policymakers at all levels of government should try to make higher education more efficient, so taxpayers aren&#39;t supporting bloated campus administrations and ever-higher tuition. All universities should transparently report the true costs of obtaining degrees and recent graduates&#39; results so that students can make informed decisions about education.</p> <p> Yet the Department of Education shouldn&#39;t create one set of rules for one kind of school and rob the at-risk students they serve from educational opportunities they sorely need.&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is the managing director at the Independent Women&#39;s Forum and editor of &quot;Lean Together.&quot;</em></p> http://iwf.org/news/2794990/Carrie L. LukasTue, 9 Sep 2014 08:09:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHow To Slow The Pace Of Medial Progress<p> The Americans infected with the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/ebola/">Ebola</a>&nbsp;virus appear to be improving &mdash; very welcome news, especially given the virus&rsquo;s death rate, which is estimated to be as high 90 percent.</p> <p> Currently, no cure exists for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/ebola/">Ebola</a>, though one company has developed a vaccine that is being prepared for human testing. All the world prays that its efforts will prove successful, a treatment for the infected will emerge, and this threat will be eliminated permanently.</p> <p> What can our national leaders do to ensure that we are better prepared for the next deadly threat that&rsquo;s sure to emerge? Here&rsquo;s an idea: How about a special, dedicated tax on the companies researching and developing treatments and cures for infectious diseases such as&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/ebola/">Ebola</a>&nbsp;to drain billions of dollars from their vital work and further bloat the federal Treasury?</p> <p> Sounds crazy, right? No one would ever propose such an obviously counterproductive policy that would impede urgently needed research. No one would seek to punish efforts to develop lifesaving treatments, alleviate suffering and use the critical nature of such work as a government revenue-raiser.</p> <p> Yet, this is pretty much our current tax law. Drugmakers are currently spared, but under Obamacare, medical-device manufacturers must pay a special 2.3 percent tax on the sale of medical devices, which is draining billions from the industry. Typically, such sales taxes are reserved for items such as cigarettes and alcohol, with the explicit purpose of discouraging these products&rsquo; use and distribution. Why are medical devices being treated this way? After all, while the companies affected by this tax aren&rsquo;t researching cures for infectious diseases like&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/ebola/">Ebola</a>, medical-device manufacturers are responsible for developing life-enhancing technologies that help alleviate the effects of heart disease and paralysis, to help those in need of artificial limbs and hip replacements, and to make all manner of surgeries less invasive.</p> <p> Obamacare proponents had suggested that this tax would be harmless and the increased costs would be passed easily from manufacturers to patients to insurance companies, who would be flush with cash from higher enrollment owing to Obamacare. It hasn&rsquo;t worked out that way, though. Numerous medical-device manufacturers have been slashing U.S. jobs in part as a result of the increased costs associated with this tax: In June, Arrow International, which specializes in producing disposable catheters, announced it would close its plant in Charlotte, N.C., and move operations to Mexico. DePuy Synthes, a medical-device arm of Johnson &amp; Johnson, reported it would eliminate about 2 percent of its jobs, which means layoffs for about 400. Medtronic, Boston Scientific and Abbott Laboratories have also all slashed jobs since this new tax took effect.</p> <p> Those of us whose chief concern is that innovation continues can be thankful that rather than just contracting operations, some of these companies are shifting activities to lower-tax countries so they can continue their work. Yet it&rsquo;s a sad situation for America: Our country has become so inhospitable to innovators that we are chasing away these businesses and the good-paying jobs they provide.</p> <p> There is an old policy adage that if you want less of something, you should tax it. Why, then, are we singling out companies that are delivering hope, greater health and a higher quality of life for the rest of us with this special tax? Do we want less of these things? Of course not. That&rsquo;s why policymakers should eliminate such punitive taxes, and instead focus on making it easier for such innovators to operate, by lowering corporate taxes across the board, simplifying tax laws, and reducing onerous regulations that drain away resources. Better yet, policymakers should start anew on health care reform to prevent government from being a roadblock to progress. Rather than Obamacare&rsquo;s top-down, government-centered approach, Congress should focus on returning resources and giving more control and flexibility to patients and doctors, in order to create a highly competitive, dynamic health marketplace that</p> <p> Fortunately, a major&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/topics/ebola/">Ebola</a>&nbsp;outbreak is unlikely to occur, particularly in the United States, given that transmitting the disease requires significant contact. Proper precautions can limit the virus&rsquo;s reach. What about the next disease that may emerge, though?</p> <p> Once an outbreak occurs, politicians can be counted on to make speeches about the vital cause of medical research. Yet rather than waiting for a crisis, Americans should be urging action now to rescind counterproductive policies, and instead create a health care system conducive to continued medical progress.</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is managing director of the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.</em></p> http://iwf.org/news/2794825/Carrie L. LukasThu, 21 Aug 2014 07:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumBringing Access to Technology to People Who Need It<p> IWF has written before about how <a href="http://iwf.org/women-at-work/technology.php">technology</a> has opened up a world of possibilities, particularly for women, by creating new paradigms for communication, working from home and educating oneself and one&rsquo;s children.&nbsp;</p> <p> That&rsquo;s why I was happy to see <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461995,00.asp">this announcement</a> about how Comcast is facilitating access to internet services for low-income families.&nbsp; In addition to offering free access to qualifying families, they are also forgiving the debts of other low income family of limited means.</p> <p> So often, when we think of how to solve problems in society we think first about government&mdash;what new government program can provide aid to those in need so that the rest of us don&rsquo;t have to think about it? But really, solving society&rsquo;s problems is a job for all of us as free individuals, whether we are organized as corporations, community groups, or just neighbors and families.&nbsp; Encouraging a healthier and more active civil society is a theme of IWF&#39;s new book, <a href="http://iwf.org/blog/2794414/COMING-THIS-SEPTEMBER:-Lean-Together:-An-Agenda-for-Smarter-Government,-Stronger-Communities,-And-More-Opportunity-for-Women">Lean Together</a>, and it&rsquo;s nice to see an example of a company stepping up to that challenge.</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2794802/Carrie L. LukasTue, 19 Aug 2014 02:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumBringing Technology to People Who Need Access<p> IWF has written before about how <a href="http://iwf.org/women-at-work/technology.php">technology</a> has opened up a world of possibilities, particularly for women, by creating new paradigms for communication, working from home and educating oneself and one&rsquo;s children.&nbsp;</p> <p> That&rsquo;s why I was happy to see <a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461995,00.asp">this announcement</a> about how Comcast is facilitating access to internet services for low-income families.&nbsp; In addition to offering free access to qualifying families, they are also forgiving the debts of other low income family of limited means.</p> <p> So often, when we think of how to solve problems in society we think first about government&mdash;what new government program can provide aid to those in need so that the rest of us don&rsquo;t have to think about it? But really, solving society&rsquo;s problems is a job for all of us as free individuals, whether we are organized as corporations, community groups, or just neighbors and families.&nbsp; Encouraging a healthier and more active civil society is a theme of IWF&#39;s new book, <a href="http://iwf.org/blog/2794414/COMING-THIS-SEPTEMBER:-Lean-Together:-An-Agenda-for-Smarter-Government,-Stronger-Communities,-And-More-Opportunity-for-Women">Lean Together</a>, and it&rsquo;s nice to see an example of a company stepping up to that challenge.</p> http://iwf.org/blog/2794801/Carrie L. LukasTue, 19 Aug 2014 01:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHow Paid-Leave Law Threatens Women<p> There&rsquo;s a new fairy-tale front in the &ldquo;War on Women&rdquo;: a paid family- and medical-leave entitlement.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s supposed to be the magic cure-all for expectant mothers and workers with sick loved ones suffering in evil corporate America.</p> <p> In fact, it&rsquo;s another &ldquo;one size fits all&rdquo; mandate that would hurt more folks than it helps &mdash; and means particular trouble for women in the workforce.</p> <p> In the wake of ObamaCare&rsquo;s graveyard of broken promises &mdash; from the &ldquo;if you like your plan, you can keep it&rdquo; whopper to the way the laughably named &ldquo;Affordable Care Act&rdquo; hiked most Americans&rsquo; insurance costs &mdash; people may be more skeptical about the Democrats&rsquo; latest plan.</p> <p> The leading paid-leave proposal comes from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Her Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act would upend the current compensation packages of 146 million American workers to create a massive, new, federal paid-leave entitlement.</p> <p> It hits all workers with a new payroll tax so they can be eligible for paid time off at a set percentage of normal salary.</p> <p> A guaranteed benefit sounds nice, but many will find they are worse off than before, with less take-home pay and less generous overall leave time.</p> <p> Mandating a single system will also discourage companies from considering work-from-home and part-time arrangements, which are often the best solution for both worker and employer when people need leave.</p> <p> Women should especially be warned: Proposals like the Family Act create the expectation that women will disappear for three months at a time, making them seem less suitable for leadership positions.</p> <p> Liberal champions of generous leave programs ignore it, but that&rsquo;s exactly what&rsquo;s happened in Europe, where paid-leave mandates have left women much less likely than Americans to be managers and private-sector executives.</p> <p> Gillibrand&rsquo;s bill is the opposite of helping women &ldquo;lean in.&rdquo;</p> <p> Let&rsquo;s also consider the facts now about the state of leave benefits in US workplaces. Liberals paint a bleak picture of a hypersexist &ldquo;Mad Men&rdquo; world, but that simply isn&rsquo;t reality: Most companies already recognize that commonsense leave policies are important for holding on to valued employees.</p> <p> For example, the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/p70-128.pdf">Census Bureau has studied what actually happens</a>&nbsp;to working women after the birth of a child: 56 percent of full-time working women used paid leave, 42 percent used unpaid leave, 10 percent used disability leave, 19 percent quit their job and nearly 5 percent reported being let go.</p> <p> (The percentages add up to more than 100 because many women used more than one category of leave.)</p> <p> The Census data don&rsquo;t suggest that all Americans have adequate benefits &mdash; for example, part-time workers were more likely to quit and had fewer leave options.</p> <p> But these facts should caution against a one-size-fits-all government leave program that would disrupt all existing arrangements.</p> <p> And if we decide the government should do something, far better it offer direct relief targetted at the biggest hardships created by a lack of paid leave.</p> <p> A program modeled on the Earned Income Tax Credit, for example, could provide financial help for low-income workers following the birth of a child or who face significant illnesses that require extended leave time.</p> <p> This could help people facing tough times without changing economic incentives for hiring them and without discouraging a flexible, dynamic work world.</p> <p> Of course, the best way to ensure people have the compensation packages they need is a growing economy with plentiful jobs, so that employers have to compete for workers.</p> <p> Sadly, that seems a distant dream today. But we&rsquo;d only make it even more distant if we fall for the fantasy that Washington can sweep in and shower workers with generous benefits without real costs for workers.</p> <p> We&rsquo;ve heard that story before; it doesn&rsquo;t have a happy ending.</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas, the managing director of the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum, is expecting her fifth child in nine years this fall. During this time, she has worked continuously for IWF using flexible, at-home arrangements.</em></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/news/2794780/Carrie L. LukasFri, 15 Aug 2014 06:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumSeattle's Minimum-Wage Hike Is Sure to End in Disaster<p> August 8, 2014&nbsp;The announcement sounded like the premise of a feel-good summer movie. High schoolers in Seattle set to start working in ice cream shops and summer camps are given a raise by their City Council. Employees and employers alike will enjoy the summer of their lives, since all those youngsters will have more money in their pockets to spend at local businesses, as well as make memories on warm, starry nights.</p> <p> That may be a good trailer, but it hardly captures the reality of how Seattle&#39;s new minimum-wage law will play out for real-life teens and the others seeking work in that city&#39;s lower-paying industries.</p> <p> Reality check No. 1 is that there are already far too few minimum-wage jobs for high schoolers and those with few skills or limited education. As the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.minimumwage.com/2014/06/summer-bummer-for-teens-in-countrys-largest-metro-areas/">Employment Policy Institute</a>&nbsp;recently reported, in the Seattle area the unemployment rate for 16- 19-year-olds with less than a high school diploma sits at a shocking 31.4 percent. That means that almost one in three teens looking for work&mdash;note that they are seeking positions that pay the current minimum wage, not $15 an hour&mdash;can&#39;t find an opening. Their inability to find a job today doesn&#39;t just mean less money for movies and going to the beach this summer. It means they won&#39;t start a work history and gain the valuable skills and experience that are necessary for future jobs, ones that pay more and start them toward long-term careers.</p> <p> Seattle is far from the worst job market for youth in the country:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.minimumwage.com/2014/06/summer-bummer-for-teens-in-countrys-largest-metro-areas/">Riverside, Calif., and Portland, Ore.,</a>&nbsp;have youth unemployment rates in excess of<em>&nbsp;50 percent</em>. That means that for every high schooler lucky enough to have a job, there&#39;s another scouring want ads.</p> <p> At least, Seattle isn&#39;t the worst youth job market yet. The city could earn that dubious distinction once the minimum-wage hike begins to kick in. Certainly some current workers will be better off under the new law and will enjoy a boost in take-home pay. Yet others will find themselves joining the ranks of the unemployed as business owners try to make due with fewer workers because they can&#39;t afford higher employment costs.</p> <p> Supporters of the minimum-wage increase may sincerely hope that this policy will stimulate the economy or at least&nbsp;<a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/02/18/congressional-budget-office-report-finds-minimum-wage-lifts-wages-165-million-worker">do no harm</a>&nbsp;in terms of job creation. Yet&nbsp;<a href="http://www.iwf.org/publications/2791929/Policy-Focus:-Minimum-Wage">common sense</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://ftp.iza.org/dp2570.pdf">sound economic analysis</a>&nbsp;warn otherwise. The&nbsp;<u><a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/18/minimum-wage-hike-would-kill-half-million-jobs-cbo/">Congressional Budget Office</a></u>&mdash;a nonpartisan research entity&mdash;estimated that the Democrats&#39; proposed federal rate hike to $10.10 per hour would result in 500,000 fewer jobs nationwide.&nbsp;Seattle youth be warned: The city&#39;s minimum-wage hike will inevitably push employment in the same direction, leaving fewer job opportunities for those starting out.</p> <p> Nearly half of those working minimum wage are 24 or younger, according to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2013.pdf">federal data</a>. These young workers typically are not the only breadwinners in their households, and the vast majority live in homes with an annual income of $42,000 or more, according to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/02/who-earns-the-minimum-wage-suburban-teenagers-not-single-parents">2013 report by the Heritage Foundation</a>.</p> <p> But, this law will also shape the lives of many adults who are responsible for families. Proponents of the higher minimum wage have argued that the new mandate will particularly help women, who account for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012tbls.htm#7">two-thirds</a>&nbsp;of minimum-wage workers.&nbsp;This statistic also suggests that women will also be far more vulnerable to the potential job losses created by the new minimum wage. Nationally, women also account for nearly&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bls.gov/cps/minwage2012tbls.htm#7">two-thirds</a>&nbsp;of part-time workers, positions that are also are more likely to pay the legal minimum. As employment costs rise, businesses will be tempted to cut and consolidate part-time positions in favor of fewer, more highly skilled workers. That&#39;s bad news for those who need or prefer part-time schedules to balance their work and family responsibilities.</p> <p> It&#39;s also bad news for minority youth, who tend to have fewer education and fewer job opportunities. A higher minimum wage makes it less likely a business owner will take a chance on them. The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/unemployment-rates-higher-young-people-minorities/">national unemployment rate in March 2014 for African-American teenagers&nbsp;</a>was almost double the rate for whites, a jaw-dropping 38 percent. That&#39;s unlikely to reverse if the country follows Seattle&#39;s lead and makes hiring young workers more and more expensive.</p> <p> Proponents of minimum-wage hikes want to cast themselves as champions of the rights of the little guy, people and organizations fighting against greedy corporate America. Yet it&#39;s important to keep in mind what minimum-wage regulations are at their core: laws that prevent free people from entering into contracts to trade work for wages below what government says is best. Making it illegal for people to find work and experience hardly seems compassionate. Many families recognize that skill-building positions are often worth more than what they pay, which is why unpaid internships remain a staple for middle-class youth&mdash;including, quite likely, the children of Seattle City Council members. Don&#39;t younger Americans from less fortunate circumstance also deserve skill-building opportunities? Boosting the minimum wage will only further restrict it.</p> <p> Lack of employment, not low wages, is the biggest factor creating poverty today. In 2012, just under one in 10 working-age adults living in poverty had full-time, year-round work, while two-thirds had no work at all, according to the most recent census data available (<a href="https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/historical/people.html">see Table 18</a>). Raising the minimum wage will do nothing to help those who lack employment and can make their problems worse.</p> <p> If Seattle&#39;s City Council wants to help people in need, then this new minimum-wage law should end up on the cutting-room floor instead of part of the city&#39;s story. It should be repealed immediately.</p> <div> <p align="center"> &nbsp;</p> </div> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women&#39;s Forum.</em></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/news/2794728/Carrie L. LukasFri, 8 Aug 2014 11:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumAdministration Pushes for a Less Flexible Work Environment<p> It&#39;s a small, but important step toward a less flexible work environment.</p> <p> As&nbsp;<a href="http://thehill.com/regulation/214485-feds-unveil-pay-equality-proposal"><em>TheHill</em></a>&nbsp;reported yesterday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is promulgating <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2014-18557.pdf">regulations</a> to require federal contractors to provide data on employee compensation broken down by sex, race, job categories, and other categories. The purported purpose is to encourage transparency and root out wage discrimination, but its effect will be to make all companies more conscious of how their compensation data &mdash; even if entirely legal and justified based on employees&rsquo; merits and duties &mdash; will be viewed through a politically correct lens, and one with the power of the state behind it.</p> <p> One would think after reports of the yawning wage gap at the&nbsp;<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">White House</a>&nbsp;and in prominent&nbsp;<a href="http://freebeacon.com/politics/senate-dems-betray-lilly/">Democratic congressional offices</a>, the Left would be aware that statistical wage gaps aren&rsquo;t necessarily evidence of discrimination. The EEOC does ask companies to provide the number of hours worked and other relevant factors in addition to demographic data, which can be useful in explaining wage differences (for example, even women considered full-time workers spend less time each day in the office than full-time men, which contributes to differences in pay). But many of these factors that impact pay are hard to capture for a government report: differences in educational backgrounds and areas of expertise, specific job responsibilities, including the level of travel, willingness to engage in overtime work, to name but a few (see more about the main causes of the wage gap&nbsp;<a href="http://iwf.org/women-at-work/wage-gap.php">here</a>).</p> <p> Under these new rules, companies that have business with the federal government (or hope to) will have reason to make their compensation practices more standardized. Yes, this may mean that they try to boost women&rsquo;s and other protected groups&rsquo; wages to try to reduce statistical gaps that might give bureaucrats an opening for investigation. But it also encourages companies to move toward more rigid pay structures which provide less flexibility for workers and managers.&nbsp; Why offer a valued female employee a reduced work-schedule or less rigorous job duties (such as less travel or flexible hours) in return for lower take-home pay, even if that&rsquo;s what she prefers, if that opens the company to accusations of discriminating against women? After all, such a tradeoff is tough to explain in a report for the Department of Labor, so better to require all workers to work the same hours for the same pay.</p> <p> Less flexibility and more red tape for American employers &mdash; which will be the outcome of these new rules &mdash; aren&rsquo;t good news for employees, regardless of one&rsquo;s gender or other demographic characteristics. &nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women&#39;s Forum and editor and contributor of &quot;Lean Together.&quot;&nbsp;</em></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> http://iwf.org/news/2794715/Carrie L. LukasThu, 7 Aug 2014 11:08:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum