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June 21 2018

Bring debates back to the women’s movement, starting with paid family leave

Washington Examiner
featuring Carrie L. Lukas

Many Americans support some type of paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. The U.S. doesn’t mandate paid family leave. What is the proper role of government? Some on the Left favor direct government subsidies or employer mandates to provide family leave. Some on the Right have offered tax credits to encourage employers to provide this benefit.

One new proposal, offered by the Independent Women’s Forum, is to allow women and men to tap into their Social Security benefits, effectively front-loading a benefit while agreeing to delay their eligibility to receive benefits during their retirement. Supporters of this proposal argue it would give families needed flexibility in a cost-neutral manner. Opponents, including prominent groups on the Right, argue the policy would add pressure to Social Security’s already broken finances.

As the Trump administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill consider ways to appeal to women who care about the family leave debate, this internal debate within the conservative coalition could have significant stakes for the future of public policy.

On Thursday, the Network of enlightened Women, or NeW, which I lead, will host a family leave debate at the Network’s National Conference at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship on Capitol Hill titled, "Careers, Babies, and What Policies Work Best For Women."

Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, will debate Rachel Greszler, research fellow in economics, budget, and entitlements at The Heritage Foundation. Kelsey Harkness, senior news producer at The Daily Signal, will moderate this debate. IWF and the Heritage Foundation are on the same side on more issues than not. On this issue, there is disagreement.

In the era of “gotcha” tweeting where people compete for the best one-liners, it is remarkable that these two women will be debating face-to-face. It is much easier to promote an idea or criticize ideas behind a computer with no accountability. This debate showcases two women who are taking time from their busy days (in addition to jobs, they have 11 children between them) to disagree publicly about ideas.

In particular, we need more debate in the women’s movement. One party or policy doesn’t resonate with all women. While there is much talk of more Democratic women running for office, only 56% of women identify or lean Democratic. No one would expect that all men vote the same, and they shouldn’t expect that of women either. Women are more than our body parts. That women can disagree publicly about policies is what our feminist foremothers fought for and shows just how far women have come.

Or have we? After her presidential election loss, Hillary Clinton has been spinning a narrative that she lost in part because women were pressured by the men in their lives to vote for now-President Trump. At an event in India earlier this year, she said:

“We do not do well with white men and we don’t do well with married, white women. And part of that is an identification with the Republican Party, and a sort of ongoing pressure to vote the way that your husband, your boss, your son, whoever, believes you should.”

Michelle Obama has been promoting an equally harmful narrative about Clinton’s loss, specifically that women weren’t “comfortable with the notion that a woman could be our president.”

Democrats don’t have a monopoly on the women’s vote.

Women are better off when we are treated (and treat others) as the thoughtful human beings we are. That includes recognizing that women disagree on ideas, and encouraging an intellectual exchange of ideas.

The women’s movement needs more debates — both between women in different political parties and among those on the same side.

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Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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