When long paid parental leave is too much of a good thing

Obviously, the overwhelming problem in the U.S. is not nearly enough paid parental leave.  And we should absolutely have a national policy providing for it (and it should be socialized out of taxes rather than placing additional burdens on particular businesses).  But it is interesting too learn that there can be too much of a good thing about about 6 months of paid leave is probably about optimal.  The Upshot:

As the United States has debated the issue of paid parental leave, a few employers have stood out by providing very generous terms. One has been the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which in 2015 began offering parents one year of fully paid leave to spend with their babies.

It turns out it was too long to be sustainable. Last week, the foundation told employees it was cutting paid parental leave by half, to six months, because yearlong leaves were impairing the work of the foundation. It will add a $20,000 stipend for new parents to spend on child care costs and family needs when they return to work.

The Gates Foundation’s experience highlights the challenges of devising effective family policies. The United States is the only industrialized country not to offer paid leave, though lawmakers in both parties now support some form of it, as do about 80 percent of Americans. Yet on top of questions about whether it should be mandatory and who should pay for it, there has been little agreement on the right length of time — and whether paid leave alone is enough to help working parents.

International evidence points to some answers. Around six months seems to be the magic number for families to achieve the benefits but to avoid the pitfalls of parental leave. And paid leave is not enough: Financial assistance for child care has a bigger effect on women’s ability to keep working.

Three months or less isn’t necessarily enough time for parents and babies to get the full benefits of physical recovery, bonding and breast-feeding, research has found. Babies often aren’t sleeping through the night by then, and infant child care is most expensive. But leaves of nine months or more can backfire. They’re harder on businesses, and women who take very long leaves are less likely to stay in the labor force, to earn as much or to achieve senior positions, research shows.

This is pretty interesting, but kind of sad that we cannot even get six weeks as a matter of policy right now.

Why didn’t Republicans fund the wall when they had the chance?!

That’s a big important questions that has been far too often ignored in mainstream media coverage.  It’s not like they didn’t have two years of unified control to get it done.  It is, of course, because Republicans themselves are far from unified on the issue.  Political Scientist David Hopkins has a great piece on this at the Post.  Short version: Republicans are all about selling broad slogans that are popular, but when you get down to the matter of actual policy, pretty much everything Republicans want to do is unpopular.  So, of course, they lie, lie, lie.  Hopkins:

If the border wall was as important to Trump as he says, why didn’t Republicans provide the funds while they ruled Capitol Hill?

The answer to this political mystery is that the wall has never been a top priority for most Republicans. And their stance reflects limited enthusiasm for its construction among conservative policy-makers and voters alike. An American public that has serious concerns about immigration in general nevertheless remains unconvinced that a wall would solve the problems it perceives. As a result, Republican politicians apparently calculated that they’d be better off if the electorate continued to express broad anxiety about the border than if lawmakers actually tried to impose an unpopular solution.

This dynamic reflects a larger, enduring attribute of American politics. For more than 50 years, scholars have noted that the public collectively leans to the right in its general predispositions even as it prefers left-of-center positions on most individual policies; voters are philosophically conservative and operationally liberal. For example, 53 percent of Americans agree that the federal government has “too much power,” according to a recent Gallup survey, compared with just 8 percent who believe that it has too little. But the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Americans opposed budget cuts in every one of 14 specific policy areas, including health care, education, environmental protection, and aid to the needy; on 12 of the items, the number of respondents who supported spending increases even outnumbered those who preferred reductions. As a rule, then, Republican politicians benefit strategically by sounding broad rhetorical themes rather than discussing the details of their favored policies…

So Republican leaders are on stronger ground invoking immigration as a symbolic cause that motivates their party base at election time — warning about crime committed by undocumented immigrants and accusing Democrats of supporting “open borders” and a “changing America” — than they are in forcing a legislative showdown over their specific policy aims…

The current standoff is often characterized as the product of this president’s distinctive characterological qualities: stubbornness, combativeness, a fear of backing down. But Trump has become caught in a very familiar bind for Republican politicians. He successfully won his party’s nomination in 2016 by taking an uncompromising position on an issue of great concern to conservative activists, attacking his opponents for being weak or feckless in comparison. Once in office, however, he has scrambled to fulfill the ambitious promises he made en route to gaining power, as public attention focuses on the unpopular specifics. Think of it as an echo of the struggle over repealing Obamacare — except that this time, a functioning government for the rest of us has become a casualty of the partisan warfare.

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