Feminist Economics and Policymaking
I am thrilled to start contributing to the International Association for Feminist Economics blog, Feminist economics posts. I signed up to contribute because I’d like to engage in a discussion with you about feminist economics within the context of today’s public policy debates.
Every day, I get up and—with my amazing team at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth—engage in the most important economic issues of the day. We think about questions such as: Are we in a period of secular stagnation? What is the role of technological change in growing inequality? But, too often, I’m frustrated that the kinds of issues that feminist economics encourages us to consider are not at the forefront of the topline economic issues in the United States.
At least until now. One of the exciting things about the 2016 American presidential campaign season is that, for the first time in my 15-year tenure in Washington, DC, a set of serious issues front and center to feminist economics are also at the forefront of our political debates.
Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, for example, are having a debate not over whether the United States should implement twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave, available to all workers. Instead, they are debating how we should pay for it. While Clinton wants to tax the wealthy, Sanders wants to add this as another benefit to our longstanding social insurance infrastructure, signing onto the FAMILY Act as introduced by Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman DeLauro. Republicans on Capitol Hill have introduced their own set of family leave policies, too, but with very different methods for paying for them.
This is a major accomplishment. In 2008, many candidates said they supported paid family leave, but the issue wasn’t debated in the televised debates or put forth by Congress in a bid to influence the 2016 elections. Today, the question isn’t whether but how.
The reason for this debate is multi-faceted, but one key reason is the considerable traction this policy—and other policies that address work-life conflicts—have had in recent years. Over the past decade, more than two dozen states and localities in the United States have passed laws giving workers the right to earn paid sick days. Four states have passed laws for paid parental leave. One state, Vermont, and one city, San Francisco, have passed laws that give workers the right to ask their employer for a schedule that works for them and their family. Many communities have put in place new programs to address the need for care for children and the elderly. And one state and many localities have made it illegal to discriminate against those with care responsibilities.
This is an exciting time to follow feminist economic issues from theory into practice. I hope that this blog helps us engage each other in these debates.
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