Thursday, October 23, 2008

Economists Grade Candidates on Issues Vital to Women

Following up on moxiemomma's inaugural post about the new report put out by the Economists' Policy Group on Women's Issues:

The full report provides a very valuable and concise summary of the candidates' positions on the 10 issues. I imagine the McCain's campaign will try to argue that these economists are just another socialist front group, but it's hard to imagine how McCain could come out ahead in a rating on women's issues, under any criteria.

The contrast on domestic violence is the most extreme. On the one hand, you have Obama, who sponsored legislation both as a State Senator and as a U.S. Senator to protect victims of domestic violence, and Biden, whose signature legislative achievement is the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). On the other hand, McCain "has consistently opposed efforts to curb domestic violence" and voted against VAWA twice, including in 2007, when it was signed by President Bush.

Below I've copied excerpts from the sections on two issues that have not been discussed much during the campaign: paid leave and early childhood education.

I am a particularly big fan of Obama's early childhood education plans, which were written in consultation with Nobel laureate economist James Heckman and are motivated in part by research showing that each $1 spent on early childhood education has a payoff of $3 or more down the line due to higher wages, lower crime and delinquency, and lower rates of welfare participation. Here is a 2004 book by the Economic Policy Institute which summarizes that research. Given the tremendous consensus around the social value of early childhood education, it's stunning that McCain doesn't make even a nod towards expanding such programs. I guess he thinks that would be "socialism." Here are the excerpts:

Paid Time Off
The United States is one of a few nations without a national program of paid family leave...

McCain: Grade D
The McCain campaign does not support any expansion of the unpaid provisions of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers at firms with 50 or more employees). Nor has the Senator supported proposed federal legislation to require paid sick days for most workers or paid parental leave for federal employees. However, the proposed Family Friendly Workplace Act, which the Senator supports, would provide compensatory time, where employees can bank unpaid overtime and use it later for time off, including for illness. Some analysts are concerned that this type of law, which would negate portions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, could lead to employer abuse and avoidance of overtime pay, while others believe it would respond to the felt needs of workers for more flexibility at work.

Obama: Grade B+
The Obama campaign supports the extension of the Family and Medical Leave Act from employers with at least 50 employees to those with at least 25, as well as extensions to cover care for elders, care for any ill individual residing in the household for at least six months, leave for purposes of dealing with domestic violence, and 24 hours leave per year for parents to be involved in their children’s academic activities. The Senator is also a co-sponsor of proposed federal legislation that would require most employers to provide up to 7 days of paid sick and family care leave for employees. He also is a co-sponsor on a bill to provide paid parental leave to federal employees. The Senator does not support a central insurance fund to provide paid family leave, instead proposing to seed funding mechanisms at the state level.

Child Care and Early Education

McCain: Grade D
McCain has proposed no new initiatives to expand child care or early childhood education. Instead he proposes increasing the child exemption on the personal income tax. The Senator has not supported any expansion of Head Start, child care funding for parents transitioning from welfare, nor after-school programs under NCLB. His campaign instead suggests that states use existing Head Start funding more wisely.

Obama: Grade B
Obama has supported an expansion of Head Start funding and the creation of challenge grants for states to support care for ages 0-5 including universal, voluntary pre-school. The Senator also supports an expansion of child care funding under CCDF, the creation of a Presidential Early Learning Council to promote collaborations around child care and early child hood education, and an expansion of after-school programs under NCLB. The latter proposed expansion would, however, cover only 1 million additional children.

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