Policy Debate: Careers, Babies, and What Policies Work Best for Women

Debating the option of running parental leave through Social Security

NeW’s National Conference included a debate entitled Careers, Babies, and What Policies Work Best for Women featuring Carrie Lukas andRachel Greszler, moderated by Kelsey Harkness. The debate focused on the benefits and drawbacks of allowing mothers to access Social Security funds to pay for maternity leave, a proposed solution from IWF. On the pro side, Lukas argued that allowing mothers to run maternity leave through social security is the best live option for meeting the needs of mothers. Greszler argued against this proposed policy and focused on how such an option would cause unwanted consequences for women, and for the economy.

Lukas holds that allowing women to run leave through Social Security will accommodate women who do not already have paid leave agreements with their employer and will be especially helpful to women with low paying, hourly wage jobs. In the US, there is no legal mandate for employers to provide paid maternity leave. Yet, more than 80% of woman have access to some paid leave. Many companies offer paid leave because it is good for business and employee relations. But, the women in the lowest paying jobs are unfortunately also the women whose employers do not offer paid maternity leave. Women who are already struggling to make ends meet must take time off, and as a result, they often end up on the welfare system. Allowing women to access their social security funds prevents them from ending up on government aid. Lukas argued that it is better for women to access their own money when they need it, instead of relying on government aid.

Greszler argued that allowing women to access social security to cover the costs of a parental leave would have undesirable effects. Greszler holds that the solution lies in protecting the freedom for employees to negotiate with their employers. Women make up 47% of the workforce, so their needs and desires cannot be ignored. Greszler argued that social security is for the sake of retirement. Using it to pay for maternity leave will inflate the program, and cause social security to be treated as a “piggy bank”. The expansion of the program could lead to higher taxes, and eventually, the government, in essence, paying for maternity leave. If this occurs, women will take long leaves, and a precedent of long leaves often lead to discrimination against women in the hiring process. Simply put, this policy could evolve into a program that is bad for both the economy and women.

Ultimately, both Lukas and Greszler argued well, leaving many of the conference attendees undecided if they are for or against running parental leave through social security. Harkness, Lukas, and Greszler set a fantastic example of how to debate eloquently and respectfully. This thought-provoking, informative debate demonstrated the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to drafting policy.

Kelsey Harkness is senior news producer at The Daily Signal and is co-host of Problematic Women, a podcast and live Facebook show. Her work has been featured by Drudge Report, The Federalist, Breitbart, Newsweek, and Fox News Channel, among others. 

Carrie Lukas is the President of Independent Women’s Forum. She co-authored  Liberty is No War on Women and wrote The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism. Carrie is a mother of five. 

Rachel Greszler is a research fellow in Economics, Budget, and Entitlements at the Heritage Foundation, where she researches and analyzes taxes, Social Security, etc. Rachel is a mother of six.  

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