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Teaming up on paid family leave

Posted on February 14, 2019

The United States is the world’s only major industrialized country without a national policy for paid family leave. Without this benefit, workers often face impossible choices between caring for family members and keeping the lights on at home. This Wednesday, Ivanka Trump met with lawmakers on Capitol HIll, including Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, to discuss the issue. The Associated Press outlines the hurdles a paid leave plan would face in Congress:

Ivanka Trump called it a “productive” session, according to Cassidy’s office. She has said paid leave is an administration priority, and President Donald Trump mentioned it in his State of the Union address. But advancing a bipartisan policy will be a challenge in the divided Congress. The Family and Medical Leave Act gives employees at larger businesses as much as 12 weeks of unpaid time after the birth or adoption of a child or for caregiving. Four states currently offer paid leave.

The idea of paid family leave my have bipartisan support, but as always, there are disagreements on how to pay for it.

Four states (not including Louisiana) have already established state-run paid family leave programs. Last year, former LBP Intern & DukeEngage Fellow Jessica Marlow outlined how far Louisiana has to go to ensure that low-wage workers can take time off to care for their families:

Workers in Louisiana have especially low access to paid family leave. A statewide survey found that only 35 percent of new moms in Louisiana were able to take any length of paid leave (including paid sick, vacation, or family leave) following childbirth, compared to the national average of 55 percent. That’s because Louisiana doesn’t have a statewide paid family leave policy and is home to a disproportionate share of low-wage workers. Louisiana has the highest percentage of workers earning the minimum wage in the nation, and the median weekly wage is 9 percent below the national average.

 

Ethics Board should reverse sexist ruling
Meals at fancy restaurants, tickets to athletic events and Mardi Gras trinkets; these are all things that political candidates can use their campaign accounts to pay for. But as Louisiana House candidate Morgan Lamandre found out from the state Ethics Board in November, child care costs are not a permitted expense — in fact, she could be fined if she uses campaign funds to pay for campaign-related child care costs. The Nola.com/Times-Picayune editorial board urges the Ethics Board to reverse its “arbitrary and clueless” decision, which it calls out as hypocritical and sexist:

The Ethics Board’s ruling overturned a decision made 18 years ago by previous board members allowing child care expenses for a male member of the Baton Rouge Metro Council. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy also claimed child care as an expense during a trip to Los Angeles when he was state treasurer. The board’s ruling against Ms. Lemandre also was out of step with the federal rules for campaign spending and rules in other states, including Arkansas. The decision was bad enough, but some board members also made sexist remarks to Ms. Lamandre during the meeting in November. Ethics Board member Peppi Bruneau lectured her on her priorities as a parent.

 

Income inequality is costing Social Security
A staggering number of Democrats (95 percent) and Republicans (86 percent) support maintaining or expanding Social Security. Unfortunately, lawmakers’ actions have not reflected their constituents’ desires. President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget would have cut Social Security by $72 billion, and Sen. Mitch McConnell and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that cuts to the popular program were necessary to pay for the massive tax giveaway in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed in 2017. As Rachel West of from the Center for American Progress explains, income inequality — worsened by the TCJA — is also becoming a huge cost to Social Security.

We estimate that if Social Security’s taxable wage base had remained at 90 percent of earnings since 1983, the assets in the combined trust funds would have been $1.4 trillion greater at the end of 2017. This alone would close nearly 11 percent of Social Security’s anticipated 75-year funding shortfall. Furthermore, we estimate that if the average worker’s wages had kept pace with their productivity since 1983, the assets in the combined trust funds would have been $570 billion greater at the end of 2017. … At the same time, the policy solutions that would help achieve these goals—such as raising or eliminating the payroll tax cap—are the same ones that address the growing public demands for higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans so that they pay their fair share.

 

Medicare and Medicaid are thrifty health care options
Health care spending in the United States continues to grow faster than the overall economy. But Medicare and Medicaid are not driving this trend, according to a new study by John Holahan and Stacey McMorrow of the Urban Institute. While the cost of these popular programs is growing, that’s because enrollment is up. On a cost-per-enrollee basis, federal and state governments are doing a better job than the private sector in controlling growth since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Medicare and Medicaid spending per enrollee grew 2.4 percent per year and 1.6 percent per year, respectively, compared to 4.4 percent per year for private insurance. While overall spending growth for Medicare (5.2% per year) and Medicaid (6.0% per year) exceeded growth in private spending (4.4% per year), the authors attribute this to much faster enrollment growth in public programs compared to private coverage. Average annual enrollment increased 2.8 percent for Medicare and 4.3 percent for Medicaid while private coverage enrollment stayed relatively flat.

 

Number of the Day
14 percent  – Proportion of civilian employees who have access to paid family leave through their job. (Source: U.S. Department of Labor Statistics)

 

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