Independent Women's Forum RSS feedhttp://www.iwf.orgThe RSS feed for the IWF. News, Commentary and Blog posts from the Independent Women's Foundation.(...)IWF RSS How would the GOP health care plan affect women?<p> My colleague Amanda Marcotte and I sat down for Salon Talks with Carrie Lukas, president of the &nbsp;<a href="">Independent Women&rsquo;s Forum</a>&nbsp;(IWF), to discuss how the unresolved debate over health care policies in the Republican-dominated Congress impact women&rsquo;s health issues.</p> <p> IWF is a conservative and libertarian organization that creates&nbsp;messages about how women and families can be empowered by the free market rather than big government. With headlines like, &ldquo;<a href=",-Another-Small-Business-Falls-Victim-to-Unnecessary-Licensing">In the Poconos, Another Small Business Falls Victim to Unnecessary Licensing</a>&rdquo; and &ldquo;<a href="">Who Cares for the Caregivers?</a>&rdquo; and &ldquo;<a href="'s-Likely-Changes-in-Campus-Sexual-Assault-Policy-Causes-Angst-Among-Activists">Trump Education Department&rsquo;s Likely Changes in Campus Sexual-Assault Policy Causes Angst Among Activists</a>,&rdquo; IWF writes about health care, women at work, education, women in politics and more.</p> <p> <strong>When it comes to women&rsquo;s health, is there an imbalance in health care costs?</strong></p> <p> <strong>Carrie Lukas:</strong> If you&rsquo;re an infertile woman, let&rsquo;s say &mdash; or a woman who doesn&rsquo;t want to have kids &mdash; I can imagine saying, &ldquo;You know what, my insurance has gone up the same as a woman who&rsquo;s had five kids.&rdquo; I don&rsquo;t know why everybody should have to be subsidizing maternity expenses.</p> <p> <a href=""><strong><span style="font-size:14px;">WATCH HERE</span></strong></a></p> L. LukasMon, 24 Jul 2017 07:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumEnough palace intrigue, Americans want real solutions to real problems • Happening Now L. LukasThu, 20 Jul 2017 12:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIn Defense of High-Tech Parenting<p> Summer presents a lot of challenges for parents. Finding (and paying for!) childcare, keeping kids at least a little engaged in academics, and helping kids learn to grapple with boredom and entertain themselves are all on the list. Many people would also add controlling their kids&rsquo; access to technology: We don&rsquo;t want our kids wasting the summer months inside playing mindless video games or watching YouTube clips of other kids opening Shopkins packages.</p> <p> I&rsquo;ve written about this challenge and the discipline of maintaining a healthy relationship with <a href="">technology</a> and not letting it rule your life. But this summer, I&rsquo;m also appreciating anew all the ways that technology makes parenting&mdash;and just about everything else&mdash;much easier.</p> <p> Take shopping, which is one of my least favorite chores to do with the kids. I dread dragging everyone in and out of the over-heated car, buckling up car seats, and then repeatedly saying no to all the requests for toys and treats that they don&rsquo;t need and I don&rsquo;t want to pay for. Obligatory shopping trips are now less and less frequent since I can go online for most of what our family needs. I no longer put together a long shopping list so I can remember scotch tape, laundry detergent, and a present for my son&rsquo;s friend&rsquo;s birthday party. Those are purchased in real time, without having to drive anywhere, with a couple clicks on my phone.</p> <p> I&rsquo;m still in the habit of regular grocery runs to replenish fruit, bread and meats. But I know others who are turning online to take care of that too, with services like <a href="">AmazonFresh</a> and <a href="">FreshDirect</a> that deliver groceries to your door. WalMart, Kroger, and others are also making it easier for moms by giving them the option to pick out their groceries and pay for them online before coming to the store. Someone then just loads the bags right into your trunk so the shopper never even has to leave the car.</p> <p> This kind of convenience means a lot for busy parents, especially those juggling work responsibilities. People often complain about how the availability of technology can make it feel like you are never fully away from the job&mdash;we find ourselves returning work emails on Sunday or just before we go to sleep at night&mdash;but they also create flexibility that can be a big help, particularly when you are trying to make the most of the summer. If your work revolves around a computer, you can spend more time visiting family and at new destinations while still keeping the ball rolling at work. With a phone doubling as a hotspot and a laptop, the travel day on a road trip can also serve as a productive work day, reserving vacation time for the fun stuff.</p> <p> And technology also provides a lot of fun stuff, particularly for kids. My knee-jerk response to my son&rsquo;s request to play a game on the computer is a groan. But when I looked at what he was actually asking to play, it turned out it was a program that they introduced at school. It was a typical video game platform, with a character trying to break through to a higher level, but the core challenge was a series of math drills. I&rsquo;d been bothering him to complete worksheets to keep those skills fresh over the summer, so it seemed like an easy call to say yes to a video game that he wanted to play but that also checked off a bit of summer homework.</p> <p> I try my best to limit the time my almost twelve-year-old daughter spends talking with her friends on one of the (too many) interactive platforms that are available, but recently she&rsquo;s been asking to go online and work on a long story that she and a friend are writing together using Google docs. She&rsquo;s also rallied her younger brothers and sisters to create plays and other videos that they record on a phone. Sure, much of the time is spent trying out all of the different effects and they end up clustered around another screen. But at its core, it&rsquo;s creative and I&rsquo;ll take it as a harmless way to fill the summer hours.</p> <p> I still like the idea of low-tech kids who rely on their imaginations and can enjoy nature without the distraction of a smart phone, and work to make sure that phones and computers don&rsquo;t become the centerpiece of our lives. But done right, technological innovation really is progress, solving real problems and making our lives easier and richer.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s something for parents to appreciate this summer.</p> L. LukasTue, 18 Jul 2017 10:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHow Technology Can Solve Workplace Challenges<p> Technology has long been helping people&mdash;particularly women&mdash;in their quest to balance work and family responsibilities. The ability to work from home, tele- and video-conference into work meetings, has created new work paradigms; the internet has created new ways for part-time workers and entrepreneurs to make money from their homes.</p> <p> Here&rsquo;s another way that technology can help improve work life for women: By giving women access to information about how companies treat their female employees. USA Today explains how one online service is doing just that:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> Even with the rise of sites like Glassdoor and Monster, many women are still left wondering exactly how prospective employers handle gender-specific issues in the workplace like&nbsp;family leave and pay equity.&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> To find out, female job seekers are turning to Fairygodboss, a job review site exclusively&nbsp;for women. The site provides crowdsourced intel on how female-friendly company policy is at thousands of businesses.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> The 2-year-old start-up just released their&nbsp;2017 rankings of the best companies where women are happiest&hellip;.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> The rankings were based on the responses from almost 15,000 women about overall job satisfaction, gender equity&nbsp;and likelihood of recommending&nbsp;their company to another woman.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"> The data is pulled from the anonymous job reviews that Fairygodboss uses&nbsp;to create company profiles.</p> <p> This is great information for employees to have: women who want a company that is dedicated to supporting their advancement, and that will offer flexibility if and when they have children, have a new tool for identifying what companies might be the right fit for them. And it&rsquo;s also important for employers to learn directly from employees and prospects what workers want most from their employers. Sites like this will give employers an incentive to try to do right by their workers so that they can earn a reputation as a place where quality employees want to work.</p> <p> Unsurprisingly, most of the companies that top the list as the best places to work are large and primarily employ higher-skilled workers. But this kind of information could help women and workers at all income scales. Employers that rely more or hourly or lower-skilled workers also have an incentive to attract and retain the best, most reliable workforce possible. They will have to compete against other employers for such workers and will benefit from having a reputation of treating employees well.</p> <p> Finding solutions to help people balance work and family responsibilities isn&rsquo;t easy, especially because not all workers&mdash;not even all women&mdash;want the same type of support from their employers. But more information, and true flexibility, is a key to helping people find employment situations that suit them and to encourage businesses to meet the needs of workers.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> L. LukasMon, 17 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumLibertarians' Lost Voice in the Paid Leave Debate<p> Policy leaders are pressing the government to ensure workers have paid time off. Whether government has any businesses dictating what benefits must be included in the employment packages of Americans is rarely considered. The libertarian perspective is all but entirely absent in the discussion. That needs to change.</p> <p> Our federal government has limited responsibilities, and micromanaging leave practices isn&#39;t one of them. Even the best-intentioned policies have unintended consequences that backfire on those they are supposed to help. We need to call out policymakers who use the excuse of a safety net to justify any new rules and regulations that needlessly restrict options for all Americans.</p> <p> That&#39;s the predictable tactic employed by the Left, which is pushing extensive paid leave programs with increasing success. San Francisco&#39;s city council created a city-wide paid leave mandate on top of California&#39;s state paid leave program. Washington, DC just created an even more generous program.</p> <p> Liberal women&#39;s groups and progressive activists regularly promote social media memes charging the United States is alone in the world in failing to guarantee paid time off for workers. They imply this deficiency is latent sexism or a lack of compassion for workers, women, and children.</p> <p> But some on the Right are also embracing this logic. The American Enterprise Institute&mdash;considered a free-market organization&mdash;just released a joint report with the more liberal Brookings Institution, entitled &quot;Paid Family and Medical Leave: An Issue Whose Time Has Come.&quot; The authors noted they&#39;d disagreed about the particulars of the best policy solution, but &quot;unanimously agreed that some form of paid parental leave should be offered to help workers at the time of birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.&quot;</p> <p> They outline a &quot;compromise plan&quot; to provide eligible workers with 70 percent of their wages for eight weeks of gender-neutral paid parental leave. This new federal entitlement program would be funded by a dedicated payroll tax and cuts to other spending.</p> <p> AEI&#39;s report came just after the release of the President&#39;s budget outline, which included funding to expand the state-based Unemployment Insurance system with the goal of providing workers with a similar benefit.</p> <p> There is pushback against sweeping new government entitlements. The Independent Women&#39;s Forum (where I work) argues that policymakers should instead seek policy reforms that help workers while minimizing economic disruption. Allowing workers to save tax-free for when they need time off for work is one such idea.</p> <p> The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) could also serve as a model to provide a financial boost to lower-income workers who lack paid leave benefits. The IWF argues that any government intervention ought to be need-based, rather than a mandated entitlement program that would effectively do to our compensation system what ObamaCare did to health insurance.</p> <p> The public likes the idea of government doing something to make sure new parents have a benefit that lets them spend more time at home with their children. But often overlooked is that the money has to come from somewhere. Businesses forced to pay more for benefits have less for increased wages.</p> <p> Mandates that make employees more expensive offer less incentive for businesses to hire more and more highly skilled employees (that&#39;s bad news for lower-wage workers). Employers may avoid hiring those most likely to use benefits, particularly women. A government one-size-fits-all paid leave program would also discourage voluntary alternative work arrangements like job-sharing and telecommuting that benefit employers and employees.</p> <p> Allowing the government to dictate what must be in our employment contracts is another chip off the block of basic liberty and self-determination. It becomes illegal for an employer to offer a job that doesn&#39;t fit the government rule. As an employee, you can&#39;t choose to take a greater share of your compensation as take-home pay; you can&#39;t decide to save on your own for time away from work in the future; government has decided how this must be handled.</p> <p> There is also the matter of fairness. A paid leave mandate creates winners and losers. People with families and children will receive the benefits, while those who cannot or choose not to have children will pay for benefits they are far less likely to use.</p> <p> That doesn&#39;t mean that companies shouldn&#39;t offer leave benefits. Rather we should allow employers to create a variety of work relationships that appeal to their employees&#39; unique needs. Some workers will gravitate to businesses offering more robust benefits. Others may prefer companies that compensate with higher pay. Enabling people to act on their preferences is what the marketplace is all about.</p> <p> The United States is a Constitutional Republic with a federal government that is supposed to have limited powers used for very specific purposes. Micromanaging employment contracts or taxing some citizens to give money to others shouldn&#39;t be among those powers.</p> L. LukasThu, 13 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumTax reform: Why conservatives needs to compromise • Coast To Coast L. LukasWed, 12 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumMaybe Our Public Officials Are Working ‘Too’ Hard<p> It doesn&rsquo;t take much to start a tweet war, which is something that UN Ambassador <a href="">Nikki Haley</a> found out over the July Fourth holiday. Her tweet&mdash;Spending my 4th in meetings all day. #ThanksNorthKorea&mdash;set off a parade of angry rejoinders, pointing out how many other Americans, including soldiers, police officers and other emergency personnel, are working in far more difficult circumstances and make greater sacrifices for their country than she is in giving up her day off.</p> <p> Yes, Ambassador Haley&rsquo;s tweet was a little ill-considered: On the list of our concerns about North Korea&rsquo;s nuclear aggressions&mdash;like the potential for an actual nuclear strike or all-out war against an unhinged tyrant&mdash;the inconveniences caused to public officials ranks rather low. Yet public officials are people too. Just as any of us would be unhappy if told at the last minute that we must cancel a planned vacation day for a workplace crisis, I&rsquo;m sure Haley was disappointed to have her holiday plans upended.</p> <p> The response to her tweet suggests that people aren&rsquo;t just frustrated by unattractive complaining; many have a sense that our public leaders aren&rsquo;t working very hard. Whether talking about elected leaders or corporate CEOs, the assumption often seems to be that the real work is done by the rank-and-file, who toil without breaks for low-pay, while bosses attend fancy events, play golf, and enjoy other perks of their positions, without having to do much real work.</p> <p> But survey research suggests that stereotype isn&rsquo;t accurate. In fact, those with higher earnings tend to work longer hours than those with lower earnings. That&rsquo;s a big change from the past when those with more wealth also enjoyed more leisure time. But in fact, as explained in <a href="">this National Bureau of Economic Research paper</a>, while total hours worked declined for men during the 1900s, the share of those working greater than fifty hours a week started to rise in the 1970s, particularly among the highly educated and highly paid. Of course, these higher-earners are generally working in physically pleasant environments&mdash;they aren&rsquo;t involved in backbreaking labor or braving the elements outdoors&mdash;but it does contradict the stereotype of the lazy executive sipping martinis and enjoying months-long vacations.</p> <p> The public has more reason to be bitter when it comes to the pay packages received by public sector workers as compared to private sector workers. Especially when benefits are taken into account, people working for government tend to be much more <a href="">highly compensated</a> than similarly qualified workers employed by private companies, and this includes much more paid time off and shorter work weeks.</p> <p> In fact, the generous benefits promised to state government workers, which taxpayers pay for, are a big driver of many state&rsquo;s financial problems. People living in Illinois are facing a financial crisis that threatens to disrupt basic services, and have plenty of reasons to be frustrated by the unfairness of this system. For too long, government-worker unions have negotiated with elected officials who promise more and more generous compensation in return for their support. Taxpayers seldom have anyone representing their interests at the table. That needs to change and balance ought to be restored.</p> <p> Yet the problem of the overpaid government worker doesn&rsquo;t mean that most top officials are failing their constituents by not working hard enough. Taxpayers do have an interest in making sure that elected officials aren&rsquo;t abusing their positions and taking needlessly lavish vacations on the taxpayer dime, but we should also recognize that we want elected officials to step away from work for their mental health and ultimately our own good.</p> <p> In fact, we could use a lot more laziness in Washington. Certainly, we want Congress to get back to the business of repealing the Affordable Care Act and reforming our indecipherable tax code; and we want the White House working full-steam to roll back all the red tape that Washington has generated. But as for the red tape creators&mdash;the bureaucrats that populate our alphabet soup of agencies and lawmakers hungry to pass another counterproductive law just to show they are &ldquo;doing something&rdquo;&mdash;we&rsquo;d all be better off if they spent more of their time at the beach, rather than working overtime to micromanage our lives.</p> L. LukasMon, 10 Jul 2017 10:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumIs cutting back minimum wage a good move by Missouri? • Fox & Friends L. LukasFri, 7 Jul 2017 09:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhat America’s Craft Beer Culture Teaches Us About Freedom from Bureaucratic Red Tape<p> When I moved to Austria in 2008, the woman trying to teach me German would often poke fun at America. Among her dated stereotypes was the notion that we unfortunate Americans were condemned to choose among Bud, Miller, or Coors, swilled out of cans or kegs and fueling an unhealthy&mdash;and dreadfully unsophisticated&mdash;beer drinking culture.</p> <p> Of course, that wasn&rsquo;t reality in 2008, and is even less so now. Yet there was a grain of historical truth in what my teacher said: For decades, after government prohibition initially killed beer brewing in America, the market was indeed dominated by a few large companies. In the late 1970s, the Carter Administration rolled back regulations to allow people to <a href="">brew beer for their personal use</a> (though not for sale). As home brewing became more popular in the early 1980s, states such as California and Washington changed the rules to allow for brewpubs, which could brew and sell beer on the premises. This launched a new trend, leading more lawmakers to roll back regulations, with an ensuing explosion in the number of breweries. There were fewer than 100 American breweries in <a href="">1984</a>, but just a decade later, there were more than 600. Today, according to the <a href="">Brewers Association</a>, there are more than 5,300.</p> <p> This robust beer marketplace means Americans can now choose from a wide variety of styles that suit their preferences. There are heavier Belgian-style ales, hoppier IPAs, chocolate-y stouts, lighter pilsners, fruit infused brews, and everything in between. This isn&rsquo;t just good in the same way that having access to different kinds of bread is better than being limited to white and wheat. The craft brewery phenomenon has created its own culture and connoisseurs, creating more pleasure than merely that which comes from consumption.</p> <p> When my husband and I last visited his parents in Arkansas, we discovered local favorites&mdash;Lost Forty and Stone&rsquo;s Throw&mdash;available at many of the area restaurants and bars, along with many other nationally-distributed labels. Family there shared their favorites and the history of the breweries. It seems that, just as professional sports teams give men an always available, safe topic of discussion, trading notes about the best local craft brews is another easy topic, particularly for guys who sometimes struggle to start a conversation.</p> <p> From what I&rsquo;ve seen, men who wouldn&rsquo;t dare share photos on Facebook are increasingly employing apps like Untappd, which allows them to post what beer they&rsquo;re sampling, along with a review. There are now some five million Untappd users&mdash;I couldn&rsquo;t find a demographic breakdown, but I&rsquo;ll bet it skews heavily male&mdash;who are toasting each other&rsquo;s drink selections and discovering beers they should try next.</p> <p> There&rsquo;s an obvious economic benefit to the craft beer boom as well: The industry sustains about 424,000 jobs and adds an estimated $55 billion to the U.S. economy. While perhaps less visible, the cultural benefits are also no small thing. Europeans can no longer look down their noses at American beers. In fact, Europeans are now taking cues from America on craft brewing. Even Germany&mdash;which clung to its prized beer &ldquo;purity&rdquo; law for centuries&mdash;now hosts vibrant craft beer festivals, with &ldquo;American style&rdquo; IPAs featuring prominently. Berlin, where I lived, hosts an enormously popular Beer Week&mdash;a ten-day celebration of craft beer. Just about every brewer I spoke with mentioned America as the pioneer in the field.</p> <p> It&rsquo;s no surprise, really, that America&mdash;once the butt of beer jokes&mdash;would become the world leader in brewing innovation and creativity once the government got out of the picture. That&rsquo;s what happens when a creative culture with strong property rights frees its markets. Passionate, ambitious people find ways to offer others quality products in nearly infinite varieties. I doubt the Carter Administration could have predicted that a little deregulation would help create today&rsquo;s vibrant craft beer world. But that&rsquo;s the point: Just like a large economy a small culture will thrive if it&rsquo;s allowed to.</p> <p> It makes me wonder: What other great cultural and economic developments are being suppressed by nonsensical government regulations? This Independence Day, maybe we should cut the red tape and find out.</p> L. LukasTue, 4 Jul 2017 08:07:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumHow Oregon Is Making Workplaces Less Flexible<p> Just about everyone supports the idea of &ldquo;workplace flexibility.&rdquo;&nbsp; Of course, we want businesses to have enough people on hand to meet the needs of their customers&mdash;you don&rsquo;t want a hospital to have such flexible schedules that there aren&rsquo;t enough medical professionals on hand when you rush to the emergency room&mdash;but we also like the idea of workers being able to arrange schedules that meet their needs and allow them to take care of their families and other outside-of-work life pursuits.</p> <p> Yet some lawmakers are pushing in the opposite direction to make our workplaces less flexible and make it harder for employers to accommodate the needs of employees.</p> <p> As Christina Britschgi writing in Reason explains, that&rsquo;s exactly what&rsquo;s happening in Oregon, where lawmakers are pushing legislation calling for a &ldquo;Fair Work Week,&rdquo; which would require businesses to pay workers extra anytime their work schedules are changed with less than one week&rsquo;s notice. &nbsp;</p> <p> Undoubtedly, lawmakers believe that restricting employers&rsquo; ability to change schedules will help workers:&nbsp; They don&rsquo;t like the idea of workers having to deal with shifting schedules, having to find child care at the last minute or, just as bad, having arranged for child care and then finding that their shift has been eliminated.</p> <p> Yet they are overlooking that flexible scheduling is often a two-way street, with employers making changes to schedules not just because of business demands, but also because of employee&rsquo; requests.&nbsp; Britschgi writes:</p> <p> Creating &rsquo;stability&rsquo; through regulation, however, comes at a cost. Employers&rsquo; workplace needs change suddenly, sometimes shift to shift, for all sorts of reasons. Denbrow would like to penalize them for responding to those changes.</p> <p> The penalty might be triggered by the request of an employee, according to a University of Washington (UW) study commissioned to measure the impact of Seattle&rsquo;s &ldquo;secure scheduling&rdquo; ordinance. The study found 80 percent of managers had within the previous two weeks of being surveyed changed schedules at the request of employees.</p> <p> The reasons were as simple as illness (28 percent), recreation time (18.6 percent), or caring for a sick child (18 percent).</p> <p> &ldquo;Flexibility is a benefit all our employees enjoy,&rdquo; one West Seattle manager told survey takers. &ldquo;Employees&rsquo; needs dictate our schedule.&rdquo; Penalties for changing schedules on short notice, the manager said, would &ldquo;take control of schedules away from the workers.&rdquo;</p> <p> Be sure to read this <a href="">whole article here</a>.&nbsp; It also describes what&rsquo;s happened in San Francisco where a similar law is in effect, with businesses reducing flexibility, cutting back on hiring part-time workers and doing with fewer workers overall.&nbsp; That&rsquo;s an important warning for the rest of the country and for anyone who values workplace flexibility.&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> L. LukasThu, 29 Jun 2017 12:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy Today’s Kids Are Over-Celebrated<p> This year, I&rsquo;m as happy as my children are to have passed the last day of school and welcomed summer. I&rsquo;m not alone: Even though summer brings new challenges, like finding childcare and paying for camps and extracurricular activities, most parents I talk to are as relieved as I am to put the rigors of the school year behind them. It&rsquo;s not just a break from packing lunches, monitoring homework, and getting everyone out the door to the bus. Lately, the school-related end-of-year celebrations and parties are tough to keep up with.</p> <p> When I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s, small things were done to mark the end of the year and send kids off with a smile. Sometimes we had a field day, which was the equivalent of an extra-long recess. A class mom may have brought in cupcakes one year, but it wouldn&rsquo;t have been much more elaborate than that. Similarly, while high school sports seasons concluded with a team dinner or other get-together, that didn&rsquo;t happen for younger teams. Most activities ended with a thank you, a handshake, and that was about it.</p> <p> Today, just about every activity kids are involved in memorializes the end of the year (or season) not only with obligatory certificates of participation, but also with parties that require long, online signup systems so parents can keep straight who is buying the juices and chips and who is baking the cookies and who is handling decorations. There is an upside to all of this&mdash;my youngest child&rsquo;s preschool graduation was adorable to watch, even if it was also a little ridiculous to watch five-year-olds in cap-and-gown lauded for completing their coloring work. But there are also big down sides.</p> <p> My oldest daughter just finished elementary school, which is certainly an event worth commemorating. Yet sixth grade graduation wasn&rsquo;t just a promotion ceremony, yearbook, and pizza party. There were days of celebrations: a reception after the commemoration ceremony; a larger, elaborately decorated party with a DJ, bouncy houses, and a photo booth; a separate swimming party; an all-class kickball game&hellip; and each of these events included rounds of refreshments.</p> <p> And then for all grades there were parties for the end of specific activities: a pizza party for the kids doing safety patrol for the school buses, cupcakes for the end of each sports team and dance program. It seemed to go on and on.</p> <p> I&rsquo;m a big believer in letting kids enjoy their desserts on special occasions. Yet I can see how this becomes a problem when nearly every day is treated as a special occasion and rounds of cupcakes just keep coming.</p> <p> Beyond the dietary implications, all these &ldquo;special&rdquo; occasions must change kids&rsquo; expectations. If sixth grade graduation is a week-long affair, what is supposed to happen for high school graduation? How are parents going to top that? If every week or so kids have a party with cupcakes and helium balloons, how are we supposed to make birthdays and holidays feel special?</p> <p> Of course, it makes sense for parents to acknowledge their kids&rsquo; good work in completing a school year and moving on to the next grade&mdash;particularly if the child has worked hard and done his or her best&mdash;but it seems over-the-top to give speeches heaping praise on eleven-year-olds just for progressing through the expected curriculum at the expected pace. It would be far better to save such accolades for when our kids really deserve it, so they actually feel the meaning of the praise, knowing that they really have accomplished something to be proud of, rather than hearing those words as the same old platitudes that are rolled out at the end of every school year or sports season.</p> <p> All this over-celebrating also creates an awful lot of work for parents. I want to be involved in my kids&rsquo; school lives and consider it a duty to sign up whenever a new sign up list is sent around. Yet keeping up with the scavenger hunt of tracking down whatever refreshments, decorations, or special art supplies I need to purchase and then dole out became practically a second job in recent months. Clearly something went wrong.</p> <p> Now that school is done, my kids have a lot of questions about how we are going to spend our summer. Most of those questions boil down to what special things are we going to do. Of course, I want us to have some special, memorable times together as a family this summer. Yet I also plan to make sure we have plenty of un-special days, so we can get back to remembering how to appreciate simple pleasures, as well as the rare occasions that really do warrant cupcakes and balloons.</p> L. LukasTue, 27 Jun 2017 10:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumAre average Americans concerned more about Russia or healthcare and tax Reform? • Coast to Coast L. LukasFri, 16 Jun 2017 12:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy Emotionally Abusive Women Are Given a Pass in Pop Culture<p> Cultural commentary is usually interesting because it&rsquo;s easy to relate to. Even if you don&rsquo;t agree with the author&rsquo;s conclusion or any soft political message, you recognize the scenes and situations that the writer describes. Yet as I read <a href="">Karen Rinaldi&rsquo;s article</a> in Motto (an online project of Time), I thought she must live on another planet. Here is how she sets the stage:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> A few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend about another friend&rsquo;s husband who had called his wife a &ldquo;stupid bitch&rdquo; in front of their daughters in a moment of anger. He later apologized to the family. He&rsquo;d had a hard day at the office. He didn&rsquo;t really mean what he&rsquo;d said, and he&rsquo;d humbled himself in front of his wife and kids. We knew that he was basically a good guy.&nbsp;Basically a good guy&hellip;.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> What is the female equivalent to that catch phrase? There isn&rsquo;t one. Men are forgiven for behaving badly because the assumption is that underneath it all they are basically well intentioned. They can&rsquo;t help themselves from being belligerent or abusive, because, well, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s what men do.&rdquo; This generalization is entirely unfair: unfair to men who do not behave badly and unfair to men who do &mdash; and need help &mdash; and unfair to women.</p> <p> I don&rsquo;t know where she lives or who her friends are, but I cannot imagine anyone I know shrugging off a husband calling his wife &ldquo;stupid bitch&rdquo;&mdash;particularly in front of children, but even if they were alone&mdash;as the forgivable transgression of a good guy having a bad day. It&rsquo;s not that my friends wouldn&rsquo;t be able to forgive him, but they&rsquo;d see it as a symptom, at least, of larger anger issues that overshadow any other &ldquo;good guy&rdquo; traits. The verdict would be that he needs help since his behavior was completely out of bounds.</p> <p> Rinaldi&rsquo;s other examples&mdash;a man who makes a sexist remark at a meeting or a man who insults his date in front of his friends&mdash;might be shrugged off as anomalies, depending on their specifics. Did the man perhaps think the &ldquo;insult&rdquo; of his date was a teasing jest? Could the sexist remark have been careless phrasing? Those more shades-of-gray incidents might earn someone the &ldquo;good guy&rdquo; pass.</p> <p> But Rinaldi insists that women are far less likely to have their own bad behavior excused, writing:</p> <p> When has anyone ever heard, as a pardon for a woman&rsquo;s bad behavior, &ldquo;She is basically a good woman?&rdquo; Never. Because as frequently as we hear, &ldquo;He&rsquo;s basically a good guy,&rdquo; we also hear, &ldquo;She&rsquo;s such a bitch.&rdquo; Women are not so readily forgiven for their transgressions, no matter how small.</p> <p> But this doesn&rsquo;t ring true with my experience either. She&rsquo;s right that I&rsquo;ve never heard the phrase, &ldquo;She&rsquo;s basically a good woman,&rdquo; but I&rsquo;ve heard plenty of excuses like &ldquo;she&rsquo;s under so much stress&rdquo; or &ldquo;she&rsquo;s juggling so much&rdquo; to explain why a woman yelled harshly at her kids, over-reacted to a perceived slight at work, or was rude to a colleague or friend.</p> <p> In fact, when it comes to relations between the sexes or within couples, I&rsquo;ve seen far more women treat their husbands badly in public than the reverse. Certainly there is deplorable treatment of women showcased in rap music and violent video games, but in most of society, women seem to have far greater license to mistreat and belittle men. Men in commercials and sitcoms are routinely characterized as bumbling Homer Simpson-style morons; intellectuals routinely ponder if it&rsquo;s <a href="">The End of Men</a> and ask <a href="">Are Men Necessary?</a> and appear not to feel at all uncomfortable with effectively devaluing half of our population.</p> <p> This double standard is everywhere. The day after I read Rinaldi&rsquo;s article, I saw a sign outside of a bar that read:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> HUSBAND DAYCARE CENTRE</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Need time to relax?</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Need time for yourself?</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Want to do shopping?</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Leave your husband with us!</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Standard package: 1 Glass of wine</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Delux [sic] package: 1 bottle of wine &amp; carbonara</p> <p> Granted, I was in Malta, but this kind of marketing gimmick is common in the U.S. as well. Everyone I was with chuckled when we saw it, but we all agreed that one would never see the same sign offering daycare for a wife. It would be considered entirely inappropriate to suggest, even jokingly, that an adult woman is in need of &ldquo;daycare&rdquo; and that it&rsquo;s the husband&rsquo;s duty to find a place to park her for the day so he can have some fun.</p> <p> Rinaldi&rsquo;s perspective seems driven by her frustration with Donald Trump&rsquo;s election, in spite of the infamous Billy Bush tape, in which he made graphic, vulgar remarks about women. But this overlooks that Trump survived that scandal in spite of Americans&rsquo; disgust with that tape and his behavior. Voters had to weigh all of the personal failings of both candidates and their different visions for the country when deciding whom to support. That doesn&rsquo;t mean they endorsed what he did or would accept such behavior in other circumstances.</p> <p> Rinaldi also suggests that women, particularly in the wake of Trump&rsquo;s election, have little power or voice in influencing society or how these debates unfold. That belittles the tremendously important role that women play in setting the boundaries of what&rsquo;s acceptable&mdash;as teachers, mothers, community and business leaders. She&rsquo;s right that we shouldn&rsquo;t excuse men&rsquo;s truly bad behavior, but we also shouldn&rsquo;t overlook our own responsibility to create an environment that judges both sexes fairly and treats everyone with respect.</p> L. LukasThu, 1 Jun 2017 10:06:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumWhy we can't run budget deficits forever • Coast To Coast L. LukasTue, 23 May 2017 13:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's ForumTime for the Much-Needed Discussion about How to Help Parents Who Need Leave<p> The President&#39;s budget isn&#39;t so much a blue print of how the chief executive believes Congress should appropriate tax dollars as much as a document reconfirming his priorities. &nbsp;And this budget reassures voters that the President remains committed to reforming our health care system, strengthening border security and national defense, improving our infrastructure system, and enacting comprehensive tax reform.&nbsp; That&#39;s good news to Trump&#39;s supporters who elected him based on this platform.&nbsp;</p> <p> Yet this budget also shows that he also remains committed to doing something to ensure that more women and men have access to paid time off.&nbsp; He campaigned on this promise, and first daughter Ivanka has made it one of her signature issues.&nbsp; The initial budget documents that have been released so far reiterate the approach to paid leave that was outlined during the campaign, but with important clarifications, including that fathers and adoptive parents, as well as new mothers, would be eligible for this new benefit: &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:35.45pt;"> <strong>Support Families and Children. </strong>The <em>Budget</em> proposes a fully paid-for proposal to provide six weeks of paid family leave to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents, so all families can afford to take time to recover from childbirth and bond with a new child without worrying about paying their bills. &nbsp;Building on the Unemployment Insurance System as a base, the <em>Budget</em> proposes to allow States to establish paid parental leave programs that are most appropriate for their workforce and economy.</p> <p> Many conservatives will recoil from the idea of expanding an entitlement program, when our country is already sinking under the unfunded liabilities of Social Security, Medicare, Disability, and others. To a fiscal conservative, adding tens of billion more to this tab seems a big step in the wrong direction.&nbsp; Yet conservatives should wait for more details about how exactly this new benefit would work and consider the bigger picture of this issue before rejecting it.&nbsp;</p> <p> Public discussions about paid leave benefits greatly exaggerate the extent of the problem, overlooking that&mdash;in spite of their being no legal requirement for business to provide workers with paid time off&mdash;<a href="">the majority of full-time workers</a> do have paid leave time, including time that can be used following the birth or adoption of a child.&nbsp;</p> <p> Rhetoric about the United States being a worse labor environment for women than Zimbabwe is clearly absurd, but that doesn&#39;t mean there aren&#39;t people&mdash;particularly women&mdash;who struggle because they lack paid leave benefits from their jobs.&nbsp; Finding a mechanism to help people with incomes too low to save on their own for periods when they will be unable to work and who lack employer-provided paid leave benefits seems like a legitimate role for a social safety net.&nbsp; In fact, supporting those workers seems like a far better use of public assistance than plenty of our other entitlement systems&rsquo; beneficiaries, from the consistently growing Social Security benefits going to wealthy seniors to the routinely-abused disability system.&nbsp;</p> <p> Conservatives should also note the danger of embracing a &ldquo;just-say-no&rdquo; strategy on any proposal related to paid leave. Increasingly, states and cities are pursuing their own mandates and programs.&nbsp; If those efforts continue to be successful, they could create enormous administrative and human resource headaches for national businesses forced to comply with a patchwork of requirements.&nbsp; Those businesses and industries that have opposed government mandates could ultimately start advocating for a one-size-fits-all system that would at least be less complicated.&nbsp; This could build momentum for a far more sweeping entitlement or employer-mandate. &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> Rather conservatives ought to work to ensure that this effort is targeted to those who really need it&mdash;workers with lower incomes and who lack paid leave benefits&mdash;but doesn&#39;t needlessly up-end the employment contracts of the majority of full-time workers who like their current benefit arrangements or who have the resources to make provisions on their own.&nbsp; We don&#39;t want a new paid leave entitlement program to do to our compensation system what Obamacare did to health insurance. Conservatives need to focus on preserving true flexibility and choice.&nbsp; After all, some workers don&#39;t want or need paid leave benefits, would rather have higher take-home pay and make their own provisions, and that ought to be their right.&nbsp;</p> <p> Americans understand that there is a trade-off between more generous benefits and take home pay.&nbsp; They also intuitively understand how these efforts &ndash; which are sold as a boon to women &ndash; run the risk of backfiring on women by making them less attractive potential hires.&nbsp; Research from <a href="">Europe</a> shows that this isn&#39;t just a theoretical possibility.&nbsp; Generous family leave programs are associated with lower pay and reduced opportunities for women, which should give anyone who cares about women&#39;s advancement pause.</p> <p> This should be the beginning of a rigorous discussion on the pros and cons of different approaches to helping workers who could use more support when they need time-off from work.&nbsp; Conservatives should be ready to explain the pitfalls and downsides of these proposals, but shouldn&#39;t shy away from having this discussion. &nbsp;</p> L. LukasTue, 23 May 2017 10:05:00 CSTen-usIndependent Women's Forum