Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News/Commentary, Blog posts and publications(...)IWF RSS Electricity Prices Could Soar<p> Cutting carbon emissions may be the modern version of the old Miss America favorite wish for &ldquo;world peace.&rdquo; &nbsp;It sure would be great if we could costlessly transition to an energy platform that was entirely renewable and had no impact on the environment.&nbsp; Sadly though, just like achieving &ldquo;world peace&rdquo; remains just a tad out of reach today, the green energy dream remains just that:&nbsp; a dream.</p> <p> Today, fossil fuels are the foundation of America&rsquo;s energy supply.&nbsp; The good news is that the energy industry has been finding safer, cleaner ways to access these resources, which is helping bring energy costs down while at the same time reducing the rate at which we release carbon and pollutants.&nbsp; <a href="">IWF&rsquo;s Jillian Melchoir wrote yesterday</a> about a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration that highlights these trends.</p> <p> This report warns however, that electricity prices are expected to go up.&nbsp; And that&rsquo;s even without factoring in the Administration&#39;s &ldquo;Clean Power Plan,&rdquo; which is the name for the new regulatory regime that&#39;s coming from the EPA.&nbsp;</p> <p> A new industry report shows just how costly these new mandates will be, leading to double-digit electricity price increases in a majority (43) states.&nbsp; The costs to industry over 15 years will exceed $350 billion and those costs will be largely passed on to consumers. That means that the price of the groceries and consumer goods we buy will also be going up.&nbsp; You can see the economic impact that&rsquo;s <a href="">expected in your state by visiting here</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p> But what about the environment?&nbsp; These costly mandates would modestly reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere, but&mdash;if you believe in the rationale behind global warming alarmism&mdash;would have a negligible impact on total emissions and the overall climate.</p> <p> We need sensible policies that protect our environment and encourage the use of cleaner energy sources. &nbsp;But we should be trying to move in that direction without needlessly harming the economy and driving energy costs up.&nbsp; An important element of that process ought to be discussing the costs and benefits of different proposals so that people can understand the tradeoffs of different policies. &nbsp;We shouldn&rsquo;t have agencies like the EPA making the equivalent of new laws and entirely new regulatory regimes.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s exactly <a href="">what is happening with the Clean Power Plan</a> and Congress ought to reject this usurpation of its legislative powers.&nbsp;</p> <p> The American people need to hear a robust debate about our environmental and energy policies.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s not what&rsquo;s happening now so each of us needs to get informed and encourage our elected representatives to do more than just offer platitudes about green energy and reducing pollution.&nbsp; They need to reclaim oversight of the policy making process and protect their constituents&rsquo; interests. &nbsp;</p> <p> Some may think these higher energy costs are worth even the small projected benefits. &nbsp;Fine. &nbsp;Lets have that discussion. &nbsp;That&#39;s what democracy is supposed to be about. &nbsp;Right?&nbsp;</p> L. LukasTue, 21 Apr 2015 05:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumChildless Women's Perspective Missing From Work-Family Balance Debate<p> American women often hear how good European women have it, with guaranteed, lengthy, state-provided maternity leave.&nbsp; Having lived in EU countries for six years, I&rsquo;ve seen up close many moms enjoying an idyllic, post-baby time-off.&nbsp; But I&rsquo;ve also heard from women with very different perspectives, ones that rarely make it across the pond.</p> <p> American women don&rsquo;t hear about the married European woman with no desire for children who feels overlooked by bosses who assume that she&rsquo;ll go missing for months, if not years, when she inevitably has a baby. Or the woman who would just as soon have gone back to work earlier, but felt pressured by family and friends who thought it wrong to leave the baby when she could still stay home.</p> <p> You won&rsquo;t hear about my friend with fertility problems who had to work overtime while her coworker disappeared for yet another year-long maternity leave.&nbsp; That coworker had detailed her plans to travel to the beach and binge watch her favorite TV series after the baby was born.&nbsp; My friend didn&rsquo;t begrudge that woman a maternity leave, but was understandably frustrated that she got what sounds an awful lot like an extra-long paid vacation, while she was left to shoulder more work and pay the taxes that make that leave possible.</p> <p> And, of course, my friend didn&rsquo;t get the baby either.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s a fact that often seems overlooked in these discussions.&nbsp; We absolutely want policies that allow parents to work and advance in their careers.&nbsp; We particularly want policies that help those struggling with lower-incomes, who face the biggest challenges in managing family responsibilities.&nbsp; We want employers to judge employees on their merits and not based on stereotypes about the limits of working moms.</p> <p> Yet we also need a system that treats others fairly, including those without children.&nbsp;&nbsp; We shouldn&rsquo;t expect or want companies to ignore differences in the levels of commitment and contributions that flow from workers depending on the other demands on their time. &nbsp;And babies and kids take time.&nbsp; Parents invest time and money in caring for children, but they get to have someone to love and who loves them back.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s a tradeoff one should be willing to make if you are going to have kids.</p> <p> This doesn&rsquo;t mean that a parent can&rsquo;t be a top-notch worker.&nbsp; Undoubtedly there are moms out there working just as hard for their employers as anyone else.&nbsp; They are &ldquo;leaning in&rdquo; to their jobs, checking their kids&rsquo; homework by email, and singing lullabies over Skype. &nbsp;Hats off to them.&nbsp; But they are still making tradeoffs.&nbsp; A mom who is a CEO of a major company can be a great mom, but she probably can&rsquo;t be the class mom and manage the school&rsquo;s homecoming.&nbsp; Another mom gets to do that.&nbsp; And the class mom who is either working less or not at all isn&rsquo;t going to earn as much money and probably won&rsquo;t get into the corner office any time soon.&nbsp; And, really, that&rsquo;s only fair too.</p> <p> Much of the handwringing about the so-called &ldquo;mommy wars&rdquo; boils down to a frustration that we can&rsquo;t all be both super mom and super employee.&nbsp; <em>The New Republic</em>&rsquo;s Rebecca Traister, for example, carefully writes that she knows how fortunate she is as a married woman, with a flexible, well-paying job.&nbsp; But she still wants readers of her article, <a href="">&ldquo;Labor Pains,&rdquo;</a> to take away that something unfair is happening to her.&nbsp; She is a thirty-something woman who is building a family and that&rsquo;s getting in the way of her career aspirations and impacting her finances.&nbsp; She&rsquo;s had to take some unpaid leave and think about how job changes might impact her benefits.</p> <p> It sounds just terrible, doesn&rsquo;t it?</p> <p> If that sounds sarcastic, it is, but only in part. &nbsp;I truly do sympathize with her situation.&nbsp; In fact, I&rsquo;m right there in her boat as a fortunate women with a husband, flexible job, supportive employer, and new baby.&nbsp; Yet I often feel pulled in different directions, envious of those achieving more professionally and also envious of those getting more enjoyment from the raising of their children.</p> <p> Traister seems hopeful that different public policies, such as a European-style government leave program, could move us in that direction. Certainly this would help some parents, though it would also have costs in terms of take-home pay and lost economic opportunities for women that paid leave advocates ignore. &nbsp;I&rsquo;ve written about <a href="">those costs</a>, how they could discourage employers from hiring women into leadership positions (as is the case in Europe), discourage the development of some flexible work arrangements, and price lower-skilled women out of the labor market.&nbsp; Rather than provide sweeping one-size-fits-all policies that would impact everyone (even women like Ms. Traister and I who don&rsquo;t really need public support), policymakers ought to <a href="">target assistance</a> to women with lower incomes who are less likely to be able to save on their own for times when they face leave and have real financial challenges.</p> <p> Yet no leave policy is going to change the real, fundamental problem Ms. Traister hints at:&nbsp; We wish we had two lives or more hours in a day so we could accomplish more. &nbsp;Sadly, that&rsquo;s just not how life works.&nbsp; Our time is finite and we have to try our best to fit everything in, which means much must be sacrificed along the way.</p> <p> Ms. Traister closes her article lamenting that she just can&rsquo;t untangle the many different feelings and consideration in this complex web of issues, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t know the answers to any of these questions. And, in the end, I&rsquo;m not sure I can afford to care. I&rsquo;m a woman who&rsquo;s just had a baby. My choices are limited.&rdquo;</p> <p> Yet this privileged American woman has many, many choices.&nbsp; And that&rsquo;s the real problem:&nbsp; She doesn&rsquo;t want to have to face the tradeoffs that inevitably come with having so many appealing options.&nbsp; &nbsp;I get it&mdash;I even sympathize&mdash;but that&rsquo;s not a problem that any set of government policies is going to solve.</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum.&nbsp; She lives with her husband and five children in Berlin, Germany.</em></p> L. LukasMon, 20 Apr 2015 07:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumEven Higher Taxes for Maryland?<p> If you&rsquo;ve spent much time in the Washington D.C. area, then you&rsquo;ve heard of Maryland&rsquo;s reputation as the <a href="">higher tax state</a>.&nbsp; People debate the strengths of different neighborhoods and locales: the tradeoffs between a long commute and better schools, more traffic but a better variety of restaurants, but you would rarely if ever hear anyone make the argument that one should move to Maryland to lower their tax burden.</p> <p> It appears that parts of Maryland want to double-down on that high-tax reputation and tack on a big tax hike on resident&rsquo;s cell phone bills.&nbsp; <a href="">Industry experts</a> warn that Prince George&rsquo;s County wants to increase the county tax on wireless services by 50 percent, from 8% to 12%, which translates into up to a new $360 annual bill for Maryland families.</p> <p> Cell phone services are already subject to bizarrely high tax rates, <a href="">as I&rsquo;ve written before</a>.&nbsp; Why do Maryland officials want to increase these taxes even more?&nbsp;</p> <p> Most likely, it&rsquo;s just because they think they can.&nbsp; Cell phones have become an integral part of life, so people are going to keep using them, even if government forces the price up.&nbsp; The economic term for this is &ldquo;inelastic demand,&rdquo; and its existence can be an invitation for bureaucrats to tax gleefully.&nbsp;</p> <p> Yet the people of Maryland should say enough is enough.&nbsp; Even good liberals who think that Maryland government just isn&rsquo;t quit big enough and needs more money ought to pause since this higher tax on wireless services (which will also hit traditional phones and cable TV) will be regressive, in that those with lower incomes will be hurt most as they lose a bigger portion of their money to these higher bills.</p> <p> Rather than fulfilling their high tax reputation, Maryland officials should be finding ways to cut waste and make the bureaucracy more efficient, and leave Maryland families alone.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasFri, 17 Apr 2015 10:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumParenting and the State<p> Even those who believe in very limited government powers sometimes struggle with the question of what the state&rsquo;s role ought to be in protecting children.&nbsp; We may thiink government has gone too far and become too involved in family matters, and see benefits in civil society playing a much more active role, but we also understand that there are times when government action may be needed.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s pretty straightforward that children need protection when there is no parent or close relatively able to care for them.&nbsp; Children also need protection when their family fails them.</p> <p> That second category, though, gets tricky.&nbsp; Children should be protected from abusive parents and parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, rendering them incapable of caring for their children.&nbsp; I presume that bureaucrats charged with protecting children have a number of criteria for identifying what constitutes true neglect:&nbsp; from the failure of a child to be properly enrolled and participating in school to poor health outcomes and a record of other problems caused by poor parenting.&nbsp;</p> <p> They have to balance competing priorities.&nbsp; We all want to kids to grow up in a good environment, and we know that there are lots of subpar parents out there.&nbsp; Yet there are few more dramatic, invasive measures that the government can take in someone&rsquo;s life than removing their children from their trust.&nbsp;</p> <p> One would hope that the officials who have the power to make these decisions would be extremely cautious in exercising this power, especially since we know that once the state takes over custody, those kids cannot be assured that they are going to receive stellar care.&nbsp; In fact, while obviously there are some fabulous, dedicated fostering families out there, many kids in foster care end up in another neglectful or even abusive situation.</p> <p> There are many gray areas, and I don&rsquo;t envy those trusted with making those decisions.&nbsp; They may recognize how grave a decision it is to remove a child from her parents&rsquo; home, but likely also lay awake worrying that some child will end up seriously injured or even dead, when they could have intervened.</p> <p> Yet some decisions don&rsquo;t seem gray at all, such as the case in <a href="">Maryland with a set of parents</a> who believe in giving their kids freedom to walk around the neighborhood on their own.&nbsp; As has been widely reported, they have been cited by Maryland government officials, had their kids picked up and taken into custody without their parents&rsquo; knowledge, and threatened with the loss of their children.&nbsp;</p> <p> This is completely crazy, and seems an obvious overreach by government.&nbsp; One may disagree with the Maryland couples&rsquo; decisions and believe that it&rsquo;s a mistake to give a ten and six-year-old such freedom.&nbsp; One can think they are bad parents.&nbsp; But surely this parenting philosophy (which is known as &ldquo;free-range&rdquo;) does not cross the line into being so neglectful that it should be illegal and cause for the state to cease people&rsquo;s kids.</p> <p> Everyone over a certain age has stories of things that they got to do as a child that you wouldn&rsquo;t see done today.&nbsp; Sometimes the new expectations are probably better than they used to be.&nbsp; I remember sitting on friend&rsquo;s bike handle bars, riding (helmetless, naturally) around the neighborhood.&nbsp; I cannot imagine seeing that today, and maybe that&rsquo;s a good thing as we probably could have really gotten hurt.&nbsp; And like most Gen-Xers, I was given some latitude to walk around my neighborhood and even into stores when I was a kid.&nbsp; I don&rsquo;t know recall exactly what the rules were and how old I was at the time, but I bet that it was in-line with what the Maryland couple is doing today.</p> <p> I&rsquo;d need to know a bit more about the specifics of the Maryland families&rsquo; situation before I decide if I think they are making the right decision with their kids.&nbsp; I&rsquo;d want to know what their neighborhood was like and what type of kids they are &ndash; if they are generally responsible or hyper and forgetful.&nbsp; If the kids are mature and the neighborhood is pretty safe, then I&rsquo;d think that their approach is just fine.&nbsp;</p> <p> In fact, it&rsquo;s the approach I use and that is used overwhelmingly where I live.&nbsp; <a href="">This article in Time</a> on parenting in Berlin, Germany is spot on.&nbsp; Parents here let their kids go off on their own all the time. &nbsp;Kids no older than those kids in Maryland take the public transportation system and walk to stores on their own. &nbsp;</p> <p> I live with my husband and five kids in a safe, suburban neighborhood. &nbsp;My 5-year-old son is allowed to walk to 3 different playgrounds in our area, so long as he tells me where he is going first and is with a friend.&nbsp;</p> <p> You can think that makes me a bad parent: &nbsp;I&rsquo;m too lax and one of my kids is liable to get hurt. &nbsp;You can think that the Germany parenting model is a bad one.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s your right, as it&rsquo;s my right to think that another parent is smothering their kids by hovering by them at the playground and that they won&#39;t be as confident and independent than if you gave them more freedom. &nbsp;That&#39;s a discussion we can have and we can agree to disagree. &nbsp;But if I was living in Maryland, somebody may be calling the cops on me.&nbsp; And that&rsquo;s just crazy.&nbsp; Americans shouldn&rsquo;t allow the state to criminalize parenting decisions that are typical in much of the developed world and were standard operating procedure a little more than a generation ago.&nbsp; America is supposed to be &ldquo;home of the free&rdquo; and able to tolerate diversity. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s time to make sure that we restore more of the proper balance and make sure that government respects that people may have different ideas about family and parenting, and that in all but the most extreme cases, it shouldn&rsquo;t be their business.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasWed, 15 Apr 2015 06:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum Clinton throws hat in ring, to run for US president<p> <strong>Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today announced her US presidential bid, emerging as one of the top contenders for the Democratic party nomination as she once again seeks to become America&#39;s first woman president.</strong></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> The one-time first lady enters the race seven years after her bitter nomination defeat to President Barack Obama and the announcement is expected to trigger a donor deluge from a vast network of supporters who have long waited for her to officially enter the 2016 presidential race.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> &quot;I&#39;m running for president. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion,&quot; Clinton made the announcement on Twitter.</p> <p> In an accompanying video, Clinton pledged to be a champion for everyday Americans and their families.</p> <p> She said she believes this campaign is about voters, not her, and urged people to get involved in her campaign saying, &quot;It&#39;s your time.&quot;</p> <p> The announcement came first in a tweet with an accompanying video and then in an email to her supporters. The video features middle class families talking about their lives and planning for what is ahead.</p> <p> In the video, Clinton explained why she is running, saying, &quot;Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times but the deck is still stacked in favour of those at the top.&quot;</p> <p> She argued for an economy where &quot;you can do more than just get by, you can get ahead and stay ahead, because when families are strong, America is strong.&quot;</p> <p> The wife of former president Bill Clinton said she is committed to earning every vote and is starting with a focus on the early Democratic primary states. She will start with stops in Iowa this week to talk with Iowa voters, ramping up to a campaign kickoff in mid-May.</p> <p> The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Ben Ray Lujan welcomed the announcement.</p> <p> &quot;If chosen as our presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton will bring experience and energy to the campaign trail that will turn out hard-working families in New Mexico and across the country, and excite a new generation of Democrats,&quot; Lujan said.</p> <p> The Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz welcomed Clinton as the first official candidate for President of the United States to seek the Democratic Party&#39;s nomination in 2016.</p> <p> &quot;As First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has been a forceful advocate for women, children, and families, and an effective ambassador on the global stage,&quot; Schultz said.</p> <p> A day earlier, Obama had told reporters in Panama that Clinton would be a great president. &quot;She was a formidable candidate in 2008. She was a great supporter of mine in the general election. She was an outstanding Secretary of State. She is my friend. I think she would be an excellent President,&quot; he had said.</p> <p> &quot;And I&#39;m not on the ballot. So I&#39;m not going to step on her lines. When she makes a decision to announce, I&#39;m confident that she will be very clear about her vision for the country moving forward, if she announces,&quot; Obama said.</p> <p> Charles Chamberlain, executive director, Democracy for America, said, &quot;We&#39;re looking forward to hearing more about Secretary Hillary Clinton&#39;s vision for the future of our country and, in particular, how she plans to address our nation&#39;s income inequality crisis and stand up to the wealthy and powerful interests on Wall Street and elsewhere that dominate our political process.&quot;</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">&quot;It&#39;s no surprise that Hillary Clinton has entered the presidential race, and the agenda she hopes to advance won&#39;t be a surprise either. We know from experience that she wants to grow government by increasing taxes, spending, and regulation in every aspect of American life,&quot; said Carrie Lukas, managing director for Independent Women&#39;s Forum.</span></strong></span></span></p> L. LukasTue, 14 Apr 2015 08:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHillary Runs for President… Again<p> I firmly believe that it should be the policies and record of a candidate that should matter when someone is deciding whom to support for higher office.&nbsp; Race, gender, religion, sexual orientation&hellip; these really ought not weigh into the calculation when we are thinking about a job as important as the Presidency.</p> <p> Yet I understand the desire to break down barriers and to show that we are a diverse nation that can elect people with different backgrounds.&nbsp; In fact, I would <em>love</em> to see a woman elected President.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s time.&nbsp; American women have been increasingly taking on prominent roles in all walks of life, including as political leaders, so it would be great to see a woman in the oval office. &nbsp;If there were two candidates with similar platforms and similar records, I&rsquo;d even give the nod to the woman myself, because I&rsquo;d like to see a woman leading the country.</p> <p> The desire for a female president, however, certainly shouldn&rsquo;t be so strong as to overwhelm all other criteria we would normally apply when considering candidates.&nbsp; Yet when one considers Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s candidacy it is hard to come up with a rationale other than that she is a woman and the wife of a former President who Americans have come to feel was a great success.</p> <p> Mrs. Clinton has no record of accomplishments of her own.&nbsp; And, in fact, she has a dubious record of notable failures from her tenure as Secretary of State and from her time as First Lady, and little memorable from her service as Senator.&nbsp; The policy agenda that she pushes could be printed off of just about any mainstream junior Democrats&rsquo; website.&nbsp; She doesn&rsquo;t offer any new ideas, any record of building coalitions and creating progress.&nbsp; Oh, she also has a record of utter disregard for following the rules and the law, sleazy political back-dealing, complete disrespect for the concept of transparency, lying without apology to the public, and blaming others when she is caught in those lies.&nbsp;</p> <p> Is this really the woman we want to &ldquo;shatter the ultimate glass ceiling&rdquo; as it is so often called?&nbsp;</p> <p> I truly hope not.&nbsp; I want our first female President to be someone who gets there based on her record of stellar achievement.&nbsp; Not because she stood by her philandering husband, got elected based on her name, and then did nothing to prove her own effectiveness. Woman deserve a better representative than Mrs. Clinton. &nbsp;</p> L. LukasMon, 13 Apr 2015 06:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWomen Look to Hillary for Leadership<p> It&#39;s official: Hillary Clinton is running for president. She&#39;ll need the enthusiastic support of female voters if she is to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling and become America&#39;s first female president. Expect to hear more from her on Tuesday, the day feminists have dubbed &quot;Equal Pay Day&quot; to mark when American women finally earn enough to make up for last year&#39;s pay gap.</p> <p> Typically, Equal Pay Day is used to call for more government action to protect women from what is characterized as widespread discrimination. But if Clinton wants to reach beyond her base, she should take a different tact.</p> <p> Rather than parroting the tired trope that women receive <a href="">77 cents for every dollar</a> a man earns for the same work, she should talk honestly about the tradeoffs women face, the value of their sacrifices to support family and communities and the need for a culture that truly respects both women and men.</p> <p> First, it&#39;s time to acknowledge once and for all that Equal Pay Day rests on a false premise. The Bureau of Labor Statistic calculation that underlies the feminist holiday simply compares the earnings of full-time working women and men. It doesn&#39;t take into account the many factors &mdash; numbers of hours worked, industry, education, years of experience &mdash; that impact compensation. <a href="">Study </a>after <a href="">study shows</a> that once those factors are controlled for the wage gap shrinks, leaving just a few percentage points unexplained.</p> <p> Wage gaps exist in every developed country and in the most committed, liberal workplaces, including Barack <a href="">Obama&#39;s White House</a> and in <a href="">Hillary Clinton&#39;s own former Senate office</a>. That&#39;s not because Clinton and Obama are secretly virulent sexists, but because women and men tend to make different choices when it comes to work life, which led to women taken on position with lower pay.</p> <p> Discrimination does occur, of course, and women certainly face unfair obstacles in some workplaces. Old-boy networks, such as those in banking and tech industries, can unfairly discount women&#39;s contributions; biases against women, particularly working mothers, may contribute to the stubborn dearth of women at the top of corporate America. Women and men alike should reject discrimination, expose lingering sexist attitudes and strive to create work environments that respect women and fully value their contributions.</p> <p> Female leaders like Hillary Clinton, however, do women no favors by implying that American women are doomed to be consistently and significantly shortchanged throughout their careers. Far better for women to understand that the choices they make &mdash; about what to study, what fields to enter, how much time to take off from their careers &mdash; will primarily determine their earning potential. After all, our goal shouldn&#39;t be for everyone to all work and earn exactly the same, but for men and women to make informed choices about how to use their time and talents.</p> <p> And women&#39;s contributions to society, not just their earnings, deserve our respect. The feminist obsession with eradicating the wage gap ironically embraces what a women&#39;s studies professor might otherwise describe as a male values framework. Women have long understood that there is more to life than the all-mighty dollar.</p> <p> Women aren&#39;t necessarily making a mistake when they decide not to &quot;lean in&quot; in pursuit of the corner office. They may find that their greatest satisfaction comes from personal successes, rather than professional ones. And even as we celebrate women&#39;s increased participation in the economy, we ought to also acknowledge the critical, if often overlooked, role that women outside of the workforce play in our communities. Women are our school volunteers, just-in-time family care for friends and first line of defense in neighborhood security. Too often we only see the importance of these women when we note their growing absence.</p> <p> Men&#39;s contributions should also be properly valued. Equal Pay Day events imply that men are all sitting in boardrooms chewing cigars, but men often take on dangerous, dirty and distasteful jobs. They are paving our roads, guarding our prisons, driving trucks overnight and working on oil rigs and in fishing boats. They suffer over 90% <a href="">of workplace fatalities</a>. Many do so in order to earn more to provide for their families. That deserves our respect.</p> <p> American women have made tremendous progress. More needs to be done. Mrs. Clinton can help us down that path by moving beyond &#39;60s-style, women-as-victim feminism and becoming a strong voice for true equality.</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is the managing director of the Independent Women&#39;s Forum and coauthor of <a href="">Liberty Is No War on Women</a>.</em></p> L. LukasSun, 12 Apr 2015 08:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThe Lefts Middle-Class Problem <p> <em><strong>From the April 6, 2015, issue of NR</strong></em></p> <p> Hillary Clinton isn&rsquo;t saying much of substance at the moment, but we already have a pretty good idea of the domestic agenda on which she will run next year. In January, the Center for American Progress (CAP), the premier left-wing think tank, released a report on &ldquo;inclusive prosperity&rdquo; that synthesizes the best current Democratic thinking about the economy. Co-authored by Lawrence Summers, who held high positions in the last two Democratic administrations, it will probably serve, and was probably designed to serve, as a template for the 2016 campaign.</p> <p> The bad news for conservatives is that, although the progressive agenda outlined in the report is not well suited to the circumstances and challenges of contemporary American life, it is designed for political appeal and may well have some. The good news is that, by applying their principles to the core problems Americans now face, conservatives could readily outline an agenda that would both do more to strengthen economic growth and opportunity in America and be more attractive to the public.</p> <p> Defensiveness suffuses the Summers report. It cannot avoid acknowledging that, at the tail end of a two-term Democratic presidency, the economy is by no means in strong shape. &ldquo;In recent decades and particularly in recent years, developed countries have experienced a toxic combination of too little growth and rising inequality,&rdquo; the report notes. &ldquo;People are no longer confident in the expectation that hard work will be well rewarded or that their children will live better than they did. Most families find it harder to raise their living standards than they did a generation ago, and there are grounds for concern about stagnation in living standards. Those in work are working longer for less, and those out of work experience lengthy, destructive periods of unemployment.&rdquo; This bleak picture is not, to say the least, the way the economy looked in 2000, the last time Democrats were trying to extend a two-term streak in the White House.</p> <p> Democrats have spent much of the Obama presidency trying to channel public concern over economic stagnation toward a familiar agenda of redistribution and regulation. But after the 2014 election, many Democrats suggested that their party had suffered because voters did not believe this approach offered compelling answers to their economic anxieties. The Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, for example, explained that voters did not believe promises &ldquo;that government can be a tool to improve people&rsquo;s economic situation.&rdquo; Celinda Lake, another Democratic pollster, concurred. &ldquo;What is the Democratic economic platform for guaranteeing a chance at prosperity for everyone? Voters can&rsquo;t articulate it.&rdquo; Democratic politicians were generally more circumspect, but Senator Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) argued in public that the party&rsquo;s focus on Obamacare had been a distraction from appealing to the middle class.</p> <p> The CAP report implicitly affirms that criticism, and seeks to articulate such a &ldquo;platform for a chance at prosperity for all.&rdquo; The effort to do this suggests that Hillary Clinton may be at least aware of the problem she faces. But it also suggests she will not find it easy to overcome that problem &mdash; hemmed in as she will be by progressive economic assumptions and by the Democratic coalition.</p> <p> Those assumptions color the way the CAP report sets the historical scene for the challenges we now face. &ldquo;In the decades following World War II,&rdquo; the report begins, &ldquo;the advanced industrial economies experienced rapid growth and brought an increasing share of households into prosperity. With these changes came a revolution in living standards.&rdquo; All was well in mid-century America, we are told. But &ldquo;by the end of the 1970s, inflation and unemployment seemed out of control. In the 1980s, conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher came to power with an anti-government agenda of market fundamentalism and individualism. Measures of inequality, which had been stable or declining, began to increase.&rdquo; And it wasn&rsquo;t until &ldquo;the return of center-left governments in the 1990s, [when] politicians such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sought to marry economic efficiency with social justice through their policies of the &lsquo;third way,&rsquo; &rdquo; that the advanced economies found their bearings again.</p> <p> But now, &ldquo;developed economies face new challenges for new times&rdquo; &mdash; most notably rising inequality and wage stagnation. And these, in turn, are driven by four major causes: globalization, technological advances, the decline of labor unions and other worker protections, and the collapse of corporate responsibility.</p> <p> This is the history of the last several decades seen through the prism of progressivism. It distorts the actual history of the late 20th century. The 1980s, after all, were hardly an extension and intensification of the malaise of the &rsquo;70s, and the 1990s were hardly a sharp break with the previous decade. As economist Robert Shapiro, himself a Clinton-administration official, put it in a recent Brookings Institution paper, &ldquo;through the 1980s and 1990s, households of virtually every type experienced large, steady income gains, whether they were headed by men or women, by blacks, whites, or Hispanics, or by people with high school diplomas or college degrees.&rdquo;</p> <p> These gains came to a halt around the turn of the century, and the Summers report surely gets at some of the reasons for that. But by describing Clintonism as the force behind the last great recovery, it stacks the deck in favor of recycling a Clintonian economic policy into a prescription for what ails us now. This is, to put it mildly, an implausible strategy, as today&rsquo;s economy is hardly similar to the one Bill Clinton inherited in the 1990s. The report acknowledges that differences exist yet still argues for essentially the same ideas, and the assessment of our contemporary predicament that it employs to link the two is unpersuasive.</p> <p> In that assessment, the Clinton economic formula needs only to be supplemented by aggressive government efforts to boost consumption and to strengthen unions. Summers has been prominent among those making the argument that advanced economies face the prospect of &ldquo;secular stagnation,&rdquo; and the report leans heavily on that idea. His fear is that declining real interest rates have left central banks with little room to maneuver. They could frequently find themselves unable to cut those rates further when depressed economies need it, and keeping interest rates so low during recoveries as to fuel asset bubbles. His major solution is increased &ldquo;public investment,&rdquo; whereby government spending would provide the necessary stimulus. Measures to fight inequality will also stimulate the economy, because people with lower incomes spend more money than people with higher incomes.</p> <p> The premises of this argument are dubious. Monetary economist David Beckworth has shown that real interest rates have not declined when you adjust for risk premiums and the effects of the business cycle. Monetary policy has repeatedly been effective at fighting recessions even when interest rates have been very low. The Federal Reserve could do more to keep interest rates from falling too far during downturns. (It could, for example, signal that if the total amount of spending in our economy drops below some targeted rate of growth, it will make up that shortfall in future years; higher expected spending in the future should yield higher interest rates today.) And recent cuts to federal spending, which the report condemns, have coincided with increased economic growth &mdash; which suggests that the report&rsquo;s Keynesian analysis, in which increased federal spending strengthens the economy and spending cuts weaken it, is incorrect.</p> <p> From this dubious diagnosis, the report naturally proceeds to dubious prescriptions. It calls for a resurgence of union power, for massive investments in infrastructure, for higher minimum wages along with pro-work tax credits, for corporate profit-sharing with employees along with tighter regulation of corporate governance, for an assortment of policies to make it easier for women to work, for universal pre-school and much cheaper access to college for all, and for more open trade and economic cooperation.</p> <p> This is a Clintonian mix of some reasonable ideas (like pro-work tax policy, profit-sharing, and trade promotion) and some familiar liberal hobbyhorses, which in many cases contradict one another. A higher minimum wage would undermine employment, for instance, while an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit would reinforce it. More broadly, the bulk of these policies would increase consumption at the expense of investment while others seek to drive greater investment to promote growth. Coherence is not the goal of these proposals, however. They are designed to appeal to voters both by offering a plausible-sounding description of contemporary problems and by offering tangible benefits to wide swathes of the public. But the attempt is ultimately unsuccessful in several ways that highlight the challenges the Democrats will face.</p> <p> The report&rsquo;s nostalgia for a lost world of labor-union strength, for example, does not appear to be shared by the public, judging from opinion surveys. The decline of unions as a share of the work force did not begin under Ronald Reagan but under John F. Kennedy, and a major reason for that decline is that non-unionized companies have proven more capable of creating jobs than unionized ones. The report, like progressivism generally, wants to reverse the decline but fails to grapple with its causes.</p> <p> While the treatment of unions is the most glaring example of the constraints that the Left&rsquo;s (and Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s) political coalition places on addressing Americans&rsquo; present concerns, it is not the only or the most important such constraint. That these constraints could be vulnerabilities for the Left&rsquo;s political project is evident from the report&rsquo;s discussion of two issues in particular: family policy and higher education. In framing the economic challenges facing families, the report argues that &ldquo;increasing the ability of families to earn two full incomes is vital to inclusive prosperity.&rdquo; Indeed, the entire section of the report devoted to family policy is called &ldquo;family-friendly labor-market policies to increase female labor-force participation and income.&rdquo; Wage stagnation has certainly been a problem for women just as for men in recent years, and there are surely many women who would like to work but have been unable to do so. But there are also many families that would like more options than that, and greater flexibility, especially while their children are young.</p> <p> The Summers report, like President Obama&rsquo;s recent budget, makes a show of offering help to struggling families, but in fact proposes only a very narrow range of policies &mdash; such as second-earner benefits and bigger tax credits for child-care fees &mdash; aimed at families with two working adults, and especially at the subset of those families that pays for commercial child care. It cannot offer families the freedom to make their own choices about child care and work, because it can only offer them the resources to make one particular set of choices that liberals approve of.</p> <p> <span style="color:#ffffff;"><span style="font-size:14px;"><strong><span style="background-color:#ea425b;">Parents who make the approved choices may well welcome the new aid. But as Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum has noted, surveys show that most mothers of young children do not wish to work full time, most parents would prefer to avoid day-care centers, and most of them in fact do use other options. These preferences show little sign of fading away. The Pew Research Center found that between 1997 and 2007, mothers&rsquo; aggregate preferences shifted away from full-time paid employment and toward either part-time paid work or full-time caregiving.</span></strong></span></span></p> <p> A similar pattern is evident in the report&rsquo;s discussion of higher education. The report endorses some useful ideas regarding vocational education and apprenticeships, but when it comes to the core of our higher-education sector, it cannot face up to the challenges students and their families encounter, since doing so would require confronting the problems created by highly restricted accreditation practices and an ill-designed student-loan system, and the incumbent higher-education establishment that benefits from both these things is a significant liberal constituency. That the report&rsquo;s comments about alternatives to a traditional college education amount to an afterthought is shown by its repetition of the conventional wisdom that such education is &ldquo;necessary for a prosperous life.&rdquo;</p> <p> Advancing policies that accept that claim as a truism is incompatible with the goal of &ldquo;inclusive prosperity.&rdquo; Almost two-thirds of Americans do not have college degrees. For many decades the percentage of the population with degrees increased rapidly, but the trend has stalled in recent years. In part that is because of our high college-dropout rate, which neither the report nor the Obama administration (which has pursued fairly similar policies) has any promising plans to decrease. Finally, the fact that even before the economic crisis of 2008 a high proportion of college graduates was not getting jobs that required their degrees suggests the limits of a college-for-all strategy. Yet the report proposes to do little more than throw more money at the current system and shove as many people into its front end as possible.</p> <p> The constraints imposed by liberalism are evident as well in a topic that goes mostly unmentioned in the report: health care. Obamacare is described solely as a missing piece of the welfare state that has at last been filled in, to the betterment of Americans&rsquo; economic security. Some Americans have experienced Obamacare this way, but more Americans have experienced it as a burden. Democrats do not appear to have many ideas, judging from this report, about how to change this. Their agenda mostly amounts to defending what liberals, and few others, see as a triumph.</p> <p> For all the constraints under which the report suggests the Democrats are laboring, this agenda could nonetheless trump a particular kind of conservative platform. The last two Republican presidential campaigns were fairly light on policy ideas, and the overall message they conveyed to voters was that all would be well if the federal government restrained spending, liberated entrepreneurs from regulation, and cut taxes, especially on businesses. (In 2012, repealing Obamacare and replacing it with something or other was added to the list.) It appears that even many voters who generally favor a smaller government have found the Democratic message more to their liking than this one. The Democratic agenda of higher minimum wages, community-college subsidies, and the like may not have seemed likely to do much to raise middle-class voters&rsquo; standard of living, but at least the Democrats seemed to take that as a pressing goal.</p> <p> Conservatives could, however, expand their agenda beyond what they offered in 2008 and 2012 in a way that satisfies both the public&rsquo;s desire for smaller government and its interest in a higher middle-class standard of living, rather than let these impulses be set against each other. They could continue to emphasize spending restraint, deregulation, pro-growth tax reform, and friendliness to entrepreneurs &mdash; indeed, they could do more than they have in the past to fill in the details of what those broad categories of action would mean in practice. But they could also add other conservative notes to the chorus.</p> <p> Tax reform could not only reduce marginal tax rates on work, saving, and investment, but also expand the tax credit for children. That way families would get real tax relief &mdash; reductions in their total tax bill &mdash; and be able to use the money as they wished. They could use it to finance paid child care, as under the Democratic policy, if they chose. They could also use it to save for college, to help finance a shift by one parent from full-time to part-time work, or to save toward buying a larger house. That kind of tax relief would help a much broader range of families than the mandatory paid leave, child-care fee subsidies, and other items on the Democratic agenda, and it would give parents the flexibility they seek.</p> <p> Conservatives could also take on the higher-education cartel. They could insist that colleges with high student-loan default rates share the hit with the taxpayers and thus have an incentive to improve their performance. They could push for alternative methods of financing college, such as making it easier for investors to pay tuition in return for a share of future wages. They could liberalize accreditation so that new and different kinds of higher-education institutions could arise. And they could elevate the status of apprenticeship and vocational-education programs in federal law to something closer to parity with college. Instead of telling young people that their choices are to go to a university or be a loser, the idea would be to expand a range of options, no one of which is right for everyone.</p> <p> On health care, too, conservatives could offer market-based policies that would benefit most Americans more than Obamacare does. Years of polling suggest that the public dislikes that law but was not enthusiastic about the health-care system that preceded it and worries about what would come after it. A conservative health-care policy could address these concerns while reducing, and to a large extent by reducing, the federal role in health care.</p> <p> That policy would begin by repealing Obamacare, including its essential-benefits package, its individual and employer mandates, its Medicare-rationing board, its medical-device tax, its support for government-run exchanges, its prohibition on underwriting &mdash; everything. The tax break for employer-provided health coverage would then be scaled back in a way that would affect only the most generous policies, and the resulting revenue would be used to give voters without access to employer-provided coverage a tax credit to buy insurance for themselves. They would be allowed to choose policies that did not comply with Obamacare&rsquo;s many regulations.</p> <p> Over time we could expect a market to develop in which almost everyone had both the incentive and the ability to purchase renewable health insurance, and the problem of &ldquo;preexisting conditions&rdquo; would diminish; in the interim, people with such conditions could be offered help. And people on Medicaid would be allowed to use much of the money now spent on the program to buy insurance in the regular market rather than be left with no choices and an inferior product. For most people, these policies would be a better deal than Obamacare: Premiums would be lower, mandates fewer, and taxes lighter.</p> <p> In each of these cases, conservatives have an opportunity to offer solutions to the problems facing Americans, especially those in the middle class, that are not constrained by liberal shibboleths and are driven instead by a commitment to limited government and market economics. Conservatives can give people more options and more freedom to pursue them, in ways that liberals are simply not able to do. In the process, they could easily show the public just how thin and misguided the liberal agenda really is, and what a far better fit conservatism can be for the aspirations of 21st-century Americans.</p> <p> <em>&mdash; Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor of National Review. Yuval Levin is editor of National Affairs. This article originally appeared in the April 6, 2015, issue of National Review.</em></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> L. LukasWed, 8 Apr 2015 08:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumThe Danger of Low Expectations<p> Last year, while having coffee with a friend from a former Soviet-bloc country, the conversation turned from concerns about Putin&rsquo;s aggression in her region to more general problems with public corruption.&nbsp;</p> <p> At first, I nodded my head in agreement:&nbsp; Yes, back dealing by government officials certainly is a problem that infects just about every government on the planet.&nbsp; Yet I quickly realized that she was talking about corruption on a scale that was, thankfully, foreign to me.&nbsp; This wasn&rsquo;t just powerful people trading government contracts for campaign contributions.&nbsp; Corruption was rooted into the fabric of her society:&nbsp; no one hesitated or thought it wrong to offer the policeman a bribe when receiving a ticket, nor was there any awkwardness in his accepting the bribe.&nbsp; Someone who didn&rsquo;t participate in this process wouldn&rsquo;t be look at as noble, she explained, but as a fool.</p> <p> This meant that those who were really wealthy in her country were assumed to be not the most skilled, hard-working or talented, but politically-adept and connected. &nbsp;They were more feared than admired.</p> <p> This isn&rsquo;t how it is in America, I explained.&nbsp; Sure, we have our share of government corruption, but people are outraged by it.&nbsp; And when Americans read about successfully businesses, we assume that merit was the driving cause for that success:&nbsp; They were smarter, faster, more efficient, innovative&hellip; We know luck, money, family or political connection may play a role, of course, but our first presumption is that success is earned.</p> <p> I hope that what I said was true.&nbsp; It always has been for me at least, though I can see the foundation of that assumption crumbling as I age.&nbsp; I was once shocked to learn that big business doesn&rsquo;t just want a level playing field and for government to get out of the way, but rather they are often standing arm-in-arm with big government to use regulation and tax policy to crush their small competitors.&nbsp; I&rsquo;ve read too many stories of <a href="">government grants</a> being used to reward donors to think that that is just an exception, rather than a regular feature of metastasizing government.</p> <p> Yet we have to fight against allowing the terrible, lazy, cynicism to take root.&nbsp; We can&rsquo;t allow that to become business as usual.&nbsp; The press has a big role to play in this.&nbsp; It has to remain news when government power is abused, whether that&rsquo;s to hand dollars to political cronies or punish enemies through the IRS. &nbsp;</p> <p> Congress should play a role too.&nbsp; As IWF&rsquo;s <a href="">Hadley Heath recently wrote</a>, Oregon&rsquo;s governor recently resigned because he was using government money to reward his friends and family.&nbsp; Among the pots of money that he appears to have misused is funding that was supposed to support Oregon&rsquo;s ObamaCare exchange.&nbsp; What exactly happened with this money?&nbsp; Taxpayers deserve to know.&nbsp;</p> <p> In Oregon, it appears that many of those guilty of corruption and gross mismanagement of taxpayer resources are being punished, but there are similar stories around the country of millions of dollars that were supposed to be used for health care implementation are now unaccounted for.&nbsp;</p> <p> That&rsquo;s an outrage.&nbsp; Or at least it should be.&nbsp; Hardworking American taxpayers deserve to know what happens to the money they send to Washington.&nbsp; Our elected representatives in Congress &ndash; who appropriate all that money after all &ndash; should do their duty and investigate what happened to the missing ObamaCare dollars.&nbsp; They shouldn&rsquo;t shrug off this waste and corruptions as no big deal, because the expectation that the law will be followed and used fairly is the foundation of a functioning government and economy.&nbsp; We won&rsquo;t fully understand how important this is until we allow it to disappear and have to live in the aftermath. &nbsp;</p> L. LukasTue, 7 Apr 2015 09:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumEnergy Exploration Is Saving the Economy, For Now Anyway…<p> Americans who have seen the cost of living creep up, even as wages stagnate and good jobs remain scarce, have had the welcome relief, at least, of declining energy costs.&nbsp; Gasoline and home heating and cooling costs have declined dramatically, which means that American families have a little more money in their pockets to manage their other bills.&nbsp; These lower energy costs are also helping businesses and preventing consumer good prices from climbing even higher.</p> <p> Americans shouldn&rsquo;t take these gains for granted.&nbsp; Energy policy is a priority when gasoline prices approach $5 a gallon, but even today, in good times, Americans should pay attention to what&rsquo;s happening since energy policies enacted today will have a big impact on the economy tomorrow.</p> <p> Often, energy policy changes aren&rsquo;t even being made at the Congressional level, where at least our elected representatives have to publicly debate the issues at stake.&nbsp; Increasingly, major policy changes come from the executive rule making process.&nbsp; And no surprise, the Obama EPA has been aggressively broadening its reach and create massive new regulations that could impact energy producers and ultimately energy consumers&mdash;which means all of us.</p> <p> As IWF&rsquo;s senior fellow for energy policy Jillian Melchior wrote <a href="">in National Review</a>, the Obama administration is creating a &ldquo;Clean Power Plan&rdquo; that seeks to reduce carbon emissions from electric plants by 30 percent between 2005 and 2030. It claims to have this power under the Clean Air Act, nevermind that the authors of the law in no way imagined it would apply to carbon dioxide emissions.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p> The final proposal is supposed to be released in June.&nbsp; Many states have objected to the plan which will include specific targets for specific states.&nbsp; As the Nevada&rsquo;s Division of Environmental Protection, Public Utilities Commission, and the Governor&rsquo;s Office of Energy <a href="">stated in comments</a> on the proposal that, &ldquo;The Clean Power Plan threatens the long-standing authority that states have over energy and resource planning.&rdquo;</p> <p> <a href="">Industry experts</a> warn that these rules could have a huge impact on energy prices, pushing costs up across the board, which will ripple through state economies and leave a trail of higher costs for consumer goods and services as well as higher direct energy costs, and fewer jobs.</p> <p> The Nevada legislature is considering legislation that would at least give the legislature the power to review&mdash;and approve or disapprove&mdash;the state plan to comply with the EPA&rsquo;s dictates.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s a step in the right direction.&nbsp; But Americans everywhere should also object to this latest EPA power grab which threatens a lone bright spot in our economy.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasWed, 1 Apr 2015 04:04:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumCaution: A New Scientific Study Is Released<p> There&#39;s a temptation to grab any headline with the news you want to hear&mdash;<a href="">chocolate</a> is good for you! So is <a href="">coffee</a>! And <a href=",,20410287,00.html">wine</a>!&mdash;and stop reading. That&#39;s certainly a temptation for me when I see a study<a href=""> like this</a> touting how great breastfeeding, especially extended breastfeeding is, for kids. I&#39;ve got a lot at stake in this, having breastfed all of my five kids which, taken together, adds up to nearly <em>eight years</em> and counting.</p> <p> Yet as I read the details of the study, I instantly see that I should be cautious in taking this as a settled issue. It&#39;s an interesting, long-term study, which takes into account and controls for many factors (income, education, family size, other health and socioeconomic factors, etc) that might skew the outcomes. But still, there is a potential selection problem and it is hard to capture all the factor that might differ between women who breastfeed and those who do not. And it could be that it is those other things, not the breastfeeding, that are associated with improved life outcomes.</p> <p> And in fact, it&#39;s because those other, hard to control for factors are more or less taken out of the equation in <a href="!-Breastfeeding-Benefits-Have-Been-Hyped">this study</a>&mdash;a comparison between siblings in the same family, in which one was breastfed and the other not&mdash;that I find it most convincing. And sadly, that&#39;s the one that calls into question all those long-term benefits of breastfeeding.</p> <p> I hope breastfeeding is good for children. But even if it&#39;s not a miracle elixir, there are many reasons to choose to breastfeed: It is cheap, convenient, and a nice way to spend a lot of time snuggling baby. That&#39;s good enough for me.</p> <p> But I don&#39;t want to let my personal stake in the question of breastfeeding&#39;s benefits to lead me to accept hyped headlines, especially since the debate about breastfeeding&#39;s impact is oddly politically charged. That means that I need to keep reading on and carefully consider what the study tells us, and want it might be missing. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> L. LukasTue, 17 Mar 2015 06:03:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumGovernment Should Help Parents, Not Daycare Providers<p> New parents face many new worries, including about finances. Buying the crib, the clothes, and the diapers are the least of it. Today, most parents&rsquo; biggest initial concern is who is going to be there around the clock to care for the baby. For couples who have built their lives based on two-incomes and single parents who have no real option other than to work full-time, this question create more sleepless nights than even the most colicky infant.</p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>Why Is Daycare So Expensive?</strong></span></p> <p> People are often shocked to learn just how expensive daycare is, and the media presents daycare costs as an outrage. Take this from a <a href="">Yahoo news story</a>, &ldquo;<a href="">What To Do When Daycare Costs More Than College</a>&rdquo;:</p> <p> &lsquo;It&rsquo;s the highest single household expense in most regions of the country,&rsquo; says policy advisor Michelle McCready of <a href="">Child Care Aware America</a>, a childcare advocacy group. In a recent report, it found that childcare can cost as much as $14,508 a year for an infant, or $12,280 a year for a 4-year-old in a <a href="">center</a>. More disturbing: It found that in 31 states across the country, it costs more to send your infant to daycare than it does to send your child to a public university.</p> <p> Those are big numbers that naturally cause anxiety for many parents: Just when you are supposed to start saving for junior&rsquo;s college education, you also have to fork over a thousand dollars a month to a daycare center.</p> <p> Yet, approached from a different perspective, these numbers don&rsquo;t seem so shocking or unreasonable. Taking care of a young child, particularly a baby, is a lot of work. Babies need frequent feedings and changings, to be held and talked to when they are awake and engaged, and comforted when they cry.</p> <p> How many babies could you care for at once? I&rsquo;m sure there&rsquo;s a steely mother of septuplets out there who heroically managed to care for her brood on her own, but most people would say three or four babies would be the most they could handle. Daycare centers may have strategies for greater efficiency: Perhaps three caretakers can handle more babies together than they could separately, or a center could group a young baby with a few toddlers who require less hands-on care.</p> <p> But the principle remains: Babies and little kids need lots of someone&rsquo;s attention. All that time is valuable. That means it is also expensive. In fact, it shouldn&rsquo;t be surprising at all that childcare costs more than college since college students don&rsquo;t&mdash;or at least shouldn&rsquo;t&mdash;need such focused attention and pampering.</p> <p> Certainly, government policy makes daycare, like any business, more expensive than it needs to be: In addition to normal business operating costs and obtaining adequate liability insurance, childcare centers must comply with often stringent state regulations. States create rules for the maximum children-per-caregiver ratio, how much space must be available per child, and what daycare center facilities must include, all of which can have a big impact on costs.</p> <p> As Jordan Weissman wrote in <a href=""><em>The Atlantic</em></a>, &ldquo;in Massachusetts, where childcare centers must hire one teacher for every three infants, the price of care averaged more than $16,000 per year. In Mississippi, where centers must hire one teacher for every five infants, the price of care averaged less than $5,000.&rdquo; Streamlining these regulations would help bring down costs and encourage more providers to enter the childcare arena. Yet childcare will never be cheap and, really, it shouldn&rsquo;t be.</p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>Who Should Pay Childcare Costs?</strong></span></p> <p> Alarmism about daycare&rsquo;s high cost isn&rsquo;t really about the actual price tag so much as who has to pay it. After all, if you use Child Care Aware America&rsquo;s highest estimate, then a daycare provider taking in three babies receives $43,500 per year. That has to cover the cost of paying someone to care for those babies plus overhead expenses. That doesn&rsquo;t sound like much of a fleecing.</p> <p> The real issue is that, in the United States, parents are, for the most part, expected to foot the bill for childcare on their own. Americans often hear that high-quality childcare is inexpensive throughout Europe. But the big difference isn&rsquo;t in the actual cost of care in the European Union, it&rsquo;s that most EU governments heavily subsidize daycare, leaving parents to pick up only a small share of the bill.</p> <p> Many Democrats and some Republicans want America to move closer to that model, either by increasing government subsidies for childcare centers or by giving parents tax breaks to reduce their childcare costs. In both cases, the goal is to allow the childcare providers to continue to charge the same amount, but to reduce parents&rsquo; out-of-pocket burden.</p> <p> Yet Americans should be wary of this cost shifting. A strong case can be made that parents deserve tax relief to ease the financial strain associated with raising the next generation. But focusing that support solely on those who use formal daycare programs would be unfair to the millions of parents who have different preferences for their families.</p> <p> <span style="font-size:14px;"><strong>Let Parents Decide Childcare</strong></span></p> <p> Not all parents want to use formal daycare centers. In fact, when parents are surveyed about their ideal options, daycare centers usual rank at the bottom. For example, when the research firm <a href="">Public Agenda</a> asked parents of children under age five about the best childcare arrangement, 70 percent thought it was best for one parent to be at home. Just 6 percent thought a quality daycare center was optimal. More than seven-in-ten parents agreed with the statement, &ldquo;parents should only rely on a daycare center when they have no other option.&rdquo;</p> <p> Parents&rsquo; actual behaviors confirm these preferences. According to the <a href="">Census Bureau</a>, in 2011, less than one-quarter of children under age five were in an organized daycare facility. About 60 percent of children under five spent some time in an alternative childcare arrangement, but most of that care was provided by a relative.</p> <p> Targeting subsidies to paid, licensed daycare providers would change the calculations families make and discourage the use of family and informal care. Today, a grandparent may volunteer to look after a new baby so a parent can go back to work, but would be less likely do so if there were a &ldquo;free&rdquo; daycare alternative. Friends may exchange babysitting to cover different times or days. A stay-at-home mom may take in a couple of friends&rsquo; kids, earning money while also creating a loving, lasting relationship with those children. All these arrangements are less likely to happen if formal daycare becomes more highly subsidized.</p> <p> Parents&mdash;particularly those with lower incomes&mdash;could use help in making ends meet while raising children. Society also has an interest in children receiving reliable, high-quality care and parents remaining financially stable. Daycare can play an important role in that process by enabling parents to continue working while their children are cared for. Certainly we want daycare to be affordable for those who must buy it to make ends meet.</p> <p> Policymakers should therefore consider how regulations and tax policy raise the cost of operating a childcare business. To the extent possible, regulations should be streamlined so that a greater variety of businesses can open and parents can have more&mdash;and more affordable&mdash;options. Government can also help parents without skewing their decision-making by providing across-the-board tax relief to parents. That support can be further targeted to help working families with modest incomes and young children, who are likely to feel the most financial pressure.</p> <p> With more money in their pockets, parents could better follow their preferences, whether that&rsquo;s paying a formal daycare provider or keeping a parent at home. After all, we don&rsquo;t just want to make childcare centers less expensive, we want to make <em>having children</em> and raising a family more affordable for everyone.</p> <p> <em>Carrie Lukas is the Managing Director at the Independent Women&#39;s Forum</em></p> L. LukasMon, 9 Mar 2015 09:03:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIn Honor of International Women's Day, Let's Appreciate What's Fueled Women's Progress<p> International Women&#39;s Day occurred over the weekend. Events were held around the globe to mark the occasion, celebrate women&#39;s achievements and call for more progress.</p> <p> Raising awareness about women&#39;s advancement and the need for further progress is certainly a worthy cause. Sadly, much of the commentary on and surrounding International Women&#39;s Day pushes policy ideas that I see as contrary to women&#39;s interests. That&#39;s too bad, since women truly remain second class citizens in too much of the world and the world leaders ought to do more to speak out on behalf of oppressed women and make the case that women&#39;s rights are human rights.</p> <p> And, in fact, as the Western world struggles to respond to the threat of radical jihadists, it&#39;s crucial to understand that women&#39;s role in society is a root source of conflict. While the developed world remains imperfect, women are legal equals and we&#39;ve come to take for granted our opportunities and freedoms to live life as we wish. Women ought to recognize that those who attacked free speech in Paris might make a symbol of women&#39;s liberation their next target. We cannot take our present circumstances for granted.</p> <p> And it&#39;s worth lingering on how we got here. The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> featured an oped by Anthony Davies and James Harrigan that highlights how it isn&#39;t a more generous welfare state that has fueled women&#39;s advancement, but greater economic liberty and free markets that have boosted women&#39;s outcomes most:</p> <blockquote> <p> According to the U.N.&rsquo;s own numbers, women suffer less inequality in poor, economically free countries than they do in poor, economically unfree countries. Women in poor but economically free countries hold more elected seats in government (relative to men), are better educated (relative to men), and live longer (relative to men) than do women in poor but economically unfree countries.</p> <p align="LEFT"> Since the advent of International Women&rsquo; Day, many, from the common people to presidents and popes, have looked to government control of markets as the solution to the problems of poverty and inequality. A landslide of evidence over the past century shows that, regardless of our good intentions, the more we allow governments to control markets, the more poverty and inequality we experience.</p> </blockquote> <p> Read the whole article <a href="">here</a>. Women&#39;s progress is one of the great triumphs of the West, and particularly of the market economy. So cheers to that and to International Women&#39;s Day.</p> L. LukasMon, 9 Mar 2015 07:03:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumCarrie Lukas Testimony to the Connecticut Legislature Regarding H.B. 3932, an Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave<p style="text-align: center;"> <strong><span style="font-size:16px;">INDEPENDENT WOMEN&#39;S FORUM SUBMITS TESTIMONY TO THE CONNECTICUT LEGISLATURE<br /> REGARDING <a href=";bill_num=HB06932&amp;which_year=2015">H.B. 6932</a>, AN ACT CONCERNING PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE</span></strong></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p align="center"> <strong>Testimony of Carrie L. Lukas</strong></p> <p align="center"> <strong>Managing Director, Independent Women&#39;s Forum</strong></p> <p align="center"> <strong>Vice President for Policy, Independent Women&#39;s Voice</strong></p> <p align="center"> &nbsp;</p> <p align="center"> <strong>Regarding <a href=";bill_num=HB06932&amp;which_year=2015">H.B. 6932, An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave</a></strong></p> <p align="center"> &nbsp;</p> <p align="center"> <strong>March 3, 2015</strong></p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> All Americans want workers to be able to take time off when they are sick, need to care for someone who is sick, or welcome a new child to their family.&nbsp; That, in part, is why the overwhelming majority of businesses provide paid leave benefits to their workers, even though there is no legal requirement that they do so.</p> <p> Of course, there are still Americans who lack adequate paid leave time and struggle to balance the needs of their families with their jobs.&nbsp; Connecticut lawmakers want to ease that burden, and are contemplating legislation that would create a new state-based entitlement program to provide participating workers with up to 12 weeks of leave, paid at 100% of salary, each year.&nbsp;</p> <p> Sadly, however, this new program could backfire, particularly on the most vulnerable workers, by reducing employment opportunities and discouraging the creation of flexible employment arrangements.&nbsp; Women would likely disproportionately suffer from restricted employment opportunities, including a reduced likelihood of being able to negotiate their own personalized employment relationships.&nbsp;</p> <p> Rather than moving toward a standardized, government-created employment regime for Connecticut businesses and workers, Connecticut lawmakers should focus on facilitating job creation so that workers have more and better job opportunities that will meet their unique needs.&nbsp; To better help people in need, government support should be targeted to those who face significant hardship.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <strong>Discouraging Job Creation and Economic Opportunity</strong></p> <p> Most Connecticut businesses already provide paid leave benefits to full-time workers.&nbsp; They do so because this helps them attract and retain valued workers.&nbsp; The costs of providing those benefits are built in to their total cost of employment.&nbsp; The costs of paid leave benefits not only include continuing to pay workers while they are on leave, but administering the program, engaging temporary replacement workers, and suffering disruption in operations.&nbsp;</p> <p> The proposal to create a voluntary, government-funded leave program could relieve businesses of some of the costs of paid leave benefits (continuing to pay the salaries of workers using leave) and in fact, some businesses may feel encouraged to reduce their current benefit programs and push workers into the state system.&nbsp; However, the proposed state system would also create new costs for businesses by increasingly the likelihood that workers would use leave, particularly lengthy periods of leave.&nbsp; Costs would increase particularly for workers who currently lack paid leave benefits.</p> <p> Therefore, under this new program, businesses would have an incentive to consolidate jobs and hire fewer, more highly skilled workers in order to minimize the potential disruption to their operations.&nbsp; That&#39;s bad news for workers with lower skills who could find themselves out of a job altogether.&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <strong>Encouraging Bias Against Women; Threatening Flexibility and Innovative Work Arrangements</strong></p> <p> Generous paid leave proposals are sold as a boon for women because women are more likely to utilize these benefits to care for newborns, sick children, and aging parents.&nbsp; Yet there is a flip-side to this:&nbsp; Employers inevitably know that female employees will be more likely to opt into this program and use the extensive paid leave benefits, and therefore will be more reticent to hire women, particularly for leadership positions.</p> <p> These are not just theoretical risks. European countries offer women extensive paid leave time, but European women appear to pay a price in terms of workplace opportunities. For example, they are far less likely than their American counterparts to be in managerial positions. Fourteen percent of American women workers are managers (compared to 15 percent of American men); just 5.9 percent of European women workers are (compared to 12.2 percent of European men).</p> <p> Encouraging the move toward one-size-fits-all leave programs also ignores that workers have different needs and preferences when they face the need for time off or have increased personal obligations.&nbsp; Some prefer to work from home or utilize reduced or flexible hours, rather than exit their jobs entirely.&nbsp; Employers may be willing to accommodate workers&#39; needs, but also have needs of their own, and would benefit from being able to explore arrangements other than lengthy periods of complete absence.&nbsp;</p> <p> I&#39;ve seen how such considerations and trade-offs work in practice, both as an employer and as a working mother.&nbsp; I&#39;ve worked for the Independent Women&#39;s Forum (IWF) for more than ten years, during which time I&#39;ve had five children.&nbsp; I&#39;ve had different leave packages based on my needs and the organization&#39;s needs, following each of those births.&nbsp; Now as a manager, I help make employment decisions:&nbsp; We&#39;ve hired a woman just months before her due date and multiple young women, knowing that it is highly probable that they will have children and need accommodations.&nbsp; In each case, we&#39;ve been able to find a unique mix of benefits and work expectations based on their preferences and job duties.&nbsp; Some have preferred to move to a part-time status, while some have wanted a leave of absence, and others have just needed additional flexibility.&nbsp; Our organization has worked to accommodate those preferences, but have also occasionally asked that employees be available to answer questions or for emergencies.&nbsp; Honest conversations and negotiations have allowed us to make myriad arrangements work.</p> <p> Rather than encouraging the development of innovative, win-win solutions, a state entitlement program would cut off those conversations and create a more rigid work environment that is less easily tailored to individual needs.&nbsp; The result would be fewer employment opportunities across the board, and particularly for women seeking leadership positions.</p> <p> <strong>Targeting Assistance to Those in Needs</strong></p> <p> Many workers don&#39;t have the luxury of negotiating employment contracts with a conscientious employer.&nbsp; They have few work options and tight budgets, making their situations desperate.</p> <p> That&#39;s why policymakers ought to focus their attention on providing additional financial support to those who truly face hardship: workers with lower incomes who lack adequate paid leave benefits.&nbsp; For example, lawmakers could consider changing the unemployment insurance programs to provide temporary assistance for qualifying workers in need of leave time, or augmenting other financial support programs for those with low incomes.&nbsp; The goal should be to find ways to alleviate hardship by providing income support to those who are economically vulnerable, but without changing long-term work incentives or making them less attractive hires for employers. &nbsp;</p> <p> Importantly, the best way to make sure that all workers have the benefits that they want and need is to create a growing economy with plentiful work opportunities so that workers have a variety of options and a stronger negotiating position so that they can craft the compensation packages they prefer.&nbsp; Therefore, policymakers should consider how to improve the overall business climate&mdash;by lowering taxes, reducing red tape and costly mandates&mdash;so that employers and workers have more resources and the freedom to negotiate the work arrangements that make the most sense for them and their families.&nbsp;</p> L. LukasTue, 3 Mar 2015 11:03:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumActress Patricia Arquette Demands Equal Pay in Oscar Speech • KFAB Good Morning Show L. LukasTue, 24 Feb 2015 08:02:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum