On this week’s episode, we dive into our policy year in review. And what a year it has been. With 2020 being anything but predictable, Hadley Manning joins us to discuss what policy wins IWF had over the past 12 months and what can look forward to in 2021. 

Hadley Heath Manning is the director of policy at Independent Women’s Forum. She frequently comments on health care, entitlements, economic policy, and manages IWF’s policy projects and publications. She is the 2017 Tony Blankley Chair for Public Policy and American Exceptionalism at the Steamboat Institute. Finally, Hadley appears frequently in radio and TV outlets across the country and Her work has been featured in publications including the Wall Street JournalForbes, POLITICO, and The Huffington Post.



And welcome to She Thinks, a podcast where you’re allowed to think for yourself. I’m your host, Beverly Hallberg. And on today’s episode, it is our policy year in review. And what a year it has been, with 2020 being anything but predictable. Hadley Manning joins us to discuss what policy wins IWF had over the past 12 months and what we can be looking for in 2021.

But before we bring her on, a little bit more about Hadley. We know you know her well. Hadley Heath Manning is the director of policy at Independent Women’s Forum. She frequently comments on healthcare, entitlements, economic policy, and manages IWF’s policy projects and publications. She is the 2017 Tony Blankley Chair for Public Policy and American Exceptionalism at the Steamboat Institute. Finally, Hadley appears frequently in radio and TV outlets across the country. And her work has been featured in publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Politico, Huffington Post among others, Hadley, always a pleasure to have you on She Thinks.


Yes, it’s my pleasure to be here. Happy New Year.


Yeah, by the time we are releasing this, it is going to officially be 2021. I think a lot of us are looking forward to the new year and want to forget the chaos that 2020 was. But do you say, when we look at the policy wins, do you think 2020 was all a loss or do you think there are good things we can look at?


Oh, man. Well, I think I can totally relate to anybody who is sick of the chaos. I’ve got a four-year-old and a two-year-old and it’s just felt like one big blur in a lot of ways, trying to get through this year. But I will say that anytime there’s this fruit basket turnover of our lives, it is an opportunity to sort of reassessing what are we doing exactly, not just in our households, but in our country.

And so, I think there were some really important pivotal moments in public policy this past year and opportunities to sort of reevaluating. For example, is our healthcare system working? Is it agile enough to respond to a pandemic? How does the US healthcare system stack up to other countries, and what is the influence of public policy on that?

And of course, there were some really big highlights, I would say, in terms of the outcomes. We had a new justice confirmed to the Supreme Court, who I think will be a champion for textualism and originalism, Justice Amy Coney Barrett. That was a big highlight of this year. We did, of course, see a couple of ballot measures turn out, even surprisingly in California. Californians really pushed back on the ballot against AB5, which is a terrible state law that limits independent contracting in the state.

And then I would also say too, I mentioned when you turn everything upside down, it gives us an opportunity to reevaluate IWF. For years, we’ve been a virtual office and we’ve advocated for more workplace freedom for everybody. And it seems like, gosh, I can’t believe it took a pandemic for so many companies to embrace flexible work, but many people got the opportunity to work from home this year. And maybe after doing it for months on end, people didn’t enjoy telecommuting as much as at first, but there’s, I think, going to be more options for workers to do that in the future. And I think that’s a big win. So there are some silver linings from what was otherwise a pretty rough year.


I absolutely think so. Yes, it’s been tough. There’ve been a lot of changes. But it does give everyone the ability to look at life and how they do live in a new way. And one of those areas that I think has been so interesting, I want to start with healthcare, has been in the healthcare industry, because one area that IWF had been talking about, you specifically had been talking about, this as the importance of telehealth, telemedicine, the ability to use technology to meet with your doctor. And a global pandemic just opens up the flood gates for the ability to do this, for regulations to be eased up in states, for doctors to be more open to visiting with their patients via phone.

When you look at the medical industry, do you see that there has been this adaptation that’s happened not just in telehealth, but also in other areas that you think is going to stick long-term, that this is going to be the future of healthcare?


Yeah, I think healthcare in a lot of ways needs to be disrupted. And I know that word is kind of a buzz word, disruption. But there needs to be more room for innovation in our healthcare system. And part of the reason I feel like our healthcare system tends to lag behind maybe other sectors is that it is so bureaucratic. It has become so systematized. And this is a really hard thing because my husband happens to be a doctor. And I love all the doctors that I know personally. You can’t blame a systemic problem on any one individual person.

But there have been, I think, because of the pandemic, opportunities for us to reevaluate some of the bureaucratic nature of our healthcare system and some of the rules, some of the rules and regulations that govern healthcare, and were really put in place because when you systematize something, that makes it easier for you to move people along through the system.

But here comes this huge change. We have a new infectious disease on our hands, and all of a sudden we want to ramp up the capacity of our healthcare system. We want to have more providers, more doctors, and nurses, more mid-level professionals, anybody who can treat patients, anybody who can treat patients who have COVID in the hospital. My husband’s been working to sort of retraining people who have had careers in other fields of medicine to work as doctors on hospital wards.

And so, getting rid of some of the bureaucratic rules and regulations in healthcare has allowed our healthcare system to respond with more agility, and I think more effectiveness than I really expected from what I saw as an industry that was ripe for reform.

And so, kudos to all of the governors and leaders in our federal government who made that happen, who suspended some rules and regulations that weren’t really working for patient care, and weren’t really working to give doctors the flexibility they needed. And telehealth is a big part of that, of course. And we are able to use technology in other industries for other services, for all kinds of things. And there’s a lot that can be done in healthcare over a computer, over a phone that wasn’t working that way before, basically because of reimbursement. Because if you have a Medicare patient, for example, who wants to talk to you over Zoom, instead of coming into your office, you have to be able to bill for that visit.

And so, changing the way that doctors and hospitals can bill for telehealth, for the use of their expertise and services was a really big, important step. And I hope it’s something that’s going to last, outlast the pandemic even, because gosh, it does have so many benefits. When you look at the use of telehealth just like any kind of telecommuting, you have fewer cars on the road, less pollution, fewer accidents, and you save people the money associated with commuting. Especially in rural areas, telehealth is making a huge difference.

So, there’s been some deregulation in not just healthcare, which is a big name that typically means the whole world of policy around how we pay for healthcare and health insurance. But specifically in the providence of medical care, there have been some changes this year that I think is really exciting.


I even think about for seniors, older population, just this ability to be able to use their phone and not have to find someone to take them to the doctor, not worry about catching some illness when they go to the doctor. I just think it opens up so many opportunities. And I agree with you. I think that’s going to be the fight in 2021, is trying to keep those regulations that were rolled back, that we don’t see politicians continue to put those regulations back on.

And so, I know IWF is going to be leading the charge in that area. And talking about the pandemic once again, I think the pandemic and the silver linings opened up a lot of opportunity in the educational sphere, K-12 education. I mean, what a shocking turn of events that this pandemic had with how children are educated. And even to this day, so many states are fighting over whether or not kids can go back to school.

But it really did open up this mindset that parents are the ones who are ultimately in charge of their child’s education. And we’ve seen a mass exodus from public education, parents homeschooling, or putting their children what are known as the pods, homeschooling pods.

But yet I would say there have been so many disastrous effects of this as well. I’ve been thinking specifically of just the inequality when it comes to low-income children and what this has meant for them to not have in-person learning when their parents can’t afford to pull them out of traditional public schools and put them in homeschooling or a private school or a charter school. We’re going to see a lot of children lagging behind.

So, when you look at just the grand scheme of K-12 education this year, what wins has IWF been able to have when there has been, and the buzzword is true, so much disruption within this policy area?


Yeah. Gosh, it’s a tough one. And just the personal experience of parents and students across the country has been so different depending on how their district has weathered the challenges of a pandemic. And you’re right Beverly, that there is a big gap in terms of what people have access to, depending on their personal resources.

I will say the theme is true in education, just like healthcare and the other issue area, that the pandemic really caused us, I think, to step back. Before we even talk about specific policy solutions, it caused us to step back and ask really big questions. Like what is an education? Is education going on a hike and learning about wildflowers in my state of Colorado? Or is it being in the kitchen and doing a chemistry lesson while you’re baking with your kids?

So, education is all kinds of learning. It doesn’t have to take place in the classroom. And so that’s been something I think, encouraging maybe, if I can encourage the parents who have felt like their children are slipping behind. They’re probably learning more than we realize, even if it doesn’t improve their standardized test scores to be out of school.

But it has been so challenging in another regard for families because many parents work. Many parents have two-income homes and they depend on both those incomes. And they depend on the school system to be a place where their children can go during the day. And to have to juggle your own work with overseeing the distance learning of your child or multiple children in different grades has been a huge source of stress for so many families.

And so, it’s an important question. Why do we have schools? Are schools there to educate, or are they there to provide childcare for families? And I think the answer to that will vary depending on who you talk to. But I think the primary goal of our K through 12 education system should be learning. And so, it’s been a really tough year in terms of those decisions that districts have had to make, to decide how to balance public health with the needs of children.

But it has been frustrating I think, for us at IWF, to see sometimes leaders in public office seemingly prioritizing other industries or other forms of social and economic interaction over schools. Schools should really be our number one priority in terms of if we’re going to keep anything open, schools are so important because we’re talking about our children. And the gap that you mentioned Beverly, is not just important in terms of the achievement gap in school, but because there are risks for certain vulnerable populations of children who might live with parents who are addicted to drugs, or who are neglectful, or who are abusive. And schools provide a safe place for those children to be.

And so of course, I think anyone who works in education recognizes that it’s critical for schools to be open. It’s just been a matter of sort of navigating the public health risk.

And I will say, as far as our position at IWF, we’ve got an excellent series of policy focuses that we have written in 2020. And there is one on the impact of COVID-19 on the education system by Inez Stepman, where she really examines the importance of school choice in the midst of this crazy year. Because if you are a student who has a choice in which school to attend, well some schools, a lot of private schools were able to keep their doors open with relatively few problems associated with the spread of the disease.

And so that’s an important lesson, I hope that we learned from the pandemic, that students who have access to school choice have, it’s not just a matter of getting the best education, but it’s truly a choice in terms of everything that the school does from top to bottom; the culture of the school, the values of the school, the ability of the school to respond flexibly to changing circumstances. If you have a choice in school, then it becomes a real competition for those schools to provide the best services to students and their families. And that’s something I hope that we expand upon in the future, that more families will have access to choice programs.


And I think that word choice applies to so many different areas. And I want to turn now to just celebrating choice in work. And so you mentioned earlier how IWF was ahead of the curve, already teleworking. My small business district media group, my whole team teleworks as well. So we were already set up to be able to handle what ended up happening in this pandemic.

But for so many people, their work lives were completely turned over; working from home when they never had. But I think we’re going to enter this new phase of even when we get to the point where enough people have been vaccinated, where life can resume to whatever our new normal is, there’s going to be the challenge of whether or not offices fully open back up, or if we have now a workforce that’s going to expect more flexibility of working from home.

Now, that’s more of the traditional nine to five job, there’s that side. But there’s also just what IWF has been doing to help independent contractors. You mentioned AB5, the law that’s very destructive in California. How have you seen the pandemic really change just our choice at work? What do you expect in 2021? Where’s the fight going as our lives return to semi-normal once people, more people get vaccinated?


Yeah. And people listening to this podcast, especially those outside the state of California might be like, why are they talking about the state law so much? Well, one reason Beverly, is because as you probably know, there is legislation proposed at the federal level, which would expand the restrictions on independent contracting that AB5 put into place in California, to the rest of the nation.

And so, if you’re anyone who does work in the gig economy or has worked as an independent contractor, then you realize that’s an important option for so many people who maybe don’t want to work in a traditional nine to five job. You get to be your own boss when you’re an independent contractor, and limiting the scope of those opportunities is going to have a host of consequences that I don’t think the well-intended, pro-union crowd who simply wants to force everyone into full-time W9 employment, or I’m sorry, W2 employment recognizes that when you simply hope to add health insurance benefits and the slate of things that come with having a traditional job, you’re taking away things that people value about independent contracting, specifically the flexibility to work for yourself.

And so, that’s something that we will continue to push back against at IWF. And as far as working from home and workplace flexibility more broadly, we like to say at IWF, that all issues are women’s issues. But I’ll say some issues are really women’s issues, even more. The way they impact people of the two different sexes is distinct. And the ability to work from home is something that I think certainly, especially for working moms, is just so highly valued. And this is true whether we’re in a pandemic or not.

And so, I’m hopeful that a lot of working people, women and men will continue to have access to those options depending on the policies that their employers decide. Sometimes it’s something we can change about public policy, but often it’s a decision for employers to make. And it’s something that I think employers are learning this year. Maybe if they were skeptics before about virtual office places, that they will, I hope to learn in 2020 that having really happy workers and giving them the flexibility to simply get their work done rather than report to a specific place for a specific time, is a good way to get productive workers. That’s something that we’ve argued for at IVF for a long time. And I hope to see more of it in the future.


One of the things that have been fascinating to me about so many people working from home is I think so many traditional employers were fearful that workers wouldn’t be as productive. But you and I both know since we telework that, no, actually you get more done because you’re not having to commute. You’re working from home. Probably don’t get ready to the extent that you would have to if you were going in and meeting in an office. And that there’s so much time saved by working from home, and people actually are more productive.

And I’m hoping that that is one of the outcomes of this, are employers realizing that so many employees do thrive in this environment. Not all, but many do. And I think it brings a better life balance to especially a lot of working moms, to not spend that time on the road. So I’m really hopeful for what that means.

But I want to turn our attention to the last area I want to focus on today, and that is the Independent Women’s Law Center that’s done a lot of wonderful work this year. We’ve seen so many lawsuits this year. There’s a lot of legal battles, even related to COVID, whether that is governors of different states trying to say they have these emergency powers to shut down their cities. And so there’s a lot of battles even on the state level.


But I want to point out, just have you focus just some of the work that the Law Center has done, and also highlight what you mentioned earlier, which is a great year when it comes to the Supreme Court with our new Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, now being a Supreme Court justice, which is wonderful and was a big fight. So what would you say are some of the wins this year with the Law Center?


Man, the Law Center is just doing such incredible and important work. Of course, the Justice Barrett confirmation is probably the biggest legal headline of the year, if you’re someone who follows the Supreme Court or sort of the federal bench. The Law Center has intervened in so many cases with so many different issue areas. I think people would be surprised to find out how small the team is on the IW Law Center. It seems like there’s a whole army working. It’s really a few women.

But we’ve intervened in cases with respect to Title IX, and specifically, the way Title IX has been, we believe, misused in the past. It was of course a well-intended piece of legislation that required equality in education. But over the years with different administrations in place, unfortunately, Title IX has been twisted in a way that it doesn’t really respect the rights of due process for college students, typically college men, who are accused of sexual harassment or assault.

And so, we at IWF have always argued that this is a sort of misuse of Title IX. And we want Title IX to be used for the reason that it was intended, and that is to protect women’s educational opportunities. And that also, interestingly enough, it includes now this push to change women’s sports. And that’s another interesting topic. But representative Tulsi Gabbard has introduced legislation that would protect women’s sports and limit women’s sports to people who are only biologically female. And so, that’s an issue that’s related a lot to the work of our Law Center this year.

But there are so many highlights. I mean, they’ve defended the electoral college. They’ve defended the whole process of the integrity of our elections. And they’ll continue to do that in 2021. And I couldn’t be more proud of our Law Center and how influential it is.


Well, I know that when we were entering into 2020, a lot of people talked about it being the new roaring twenties. I don’t think we expected 2020 to end up as it did. Nobody could have predicted that. But I would say just from my perspective of working with IWF, all of you who work in the policy realm have worked so hard and have adapted to this ever-changing world that we are in. And I think there’s so much that we can look to and be proud of. And so my final question to you is just looking ahead to 2021, what are you most excited about from a potential policy victory standpoint as we head into the new year? What can people expect from IWF this year?


Well, that’s an interesting question. I guess before I say what I’m most excited about, I do want to say something that I’m maybe most concerned about. And that is, we have a new policy focus out for the month of December, and this is not my issue area. I’m more focused on domestic policy. But we have a policy focus out on the impact of the change in administrations on foreign policy. And it sort of looks back at 2020. And you want to talk about highlights. I mean, certainly one of the highlights from 2020 has been our foreign policy victories. Thinking of Abraham Accords, peace in the Middle East. These are really important changes for the world and they sort of re-establish, I think, American dominance.

So I’m concerned that we may lose some ground in terms of foreign policy because unlike other areas of domestic policy, where typically you have to pass a statute or get some buy-in from Congress when it comes to foreign policy, the administration has really a lot of control and they can make unilateral decisions about our relationships with other countries. And so, I encourage everybody to go to IWF’s website and read our most recent policy focus. It’s called From America First to America Last, and it’s by Claudia Rosett. So if you’re interested in foreign policy, that’s a huge subject. And of course, the impact of the pandemic on our relationship with China is a big open question.

But in terms of your question, I don’t want to ignore the excitement about things that might actually happen now. It’s always hard to live through an election year. I think it’s so polarizing to our politics and to our legislative process. But something to celebrate that just happened at the end of 2020 was federal legislation passing to make female genital mutilation a federal crime. And that’s something that’s long overdue. And I’m so happy to see lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pass bipartisan legislation to outlaw, prohibit FGM. Many states have already done this, but it should be something that at the federal level we recognize we do not want to live in a country where that’s acceptable.

And I think moving forward, we’re going to see, I hope, some opportunities for bipartisanship. IWF has worked on the issue of paid family leave, for example, for a long time. And this is an issue area where I’m hopeful that when there is compromise and when there is bipartisanship, that really has to be a two-way street. I don’t want to see paid family leave turned into something where more conservative lawmakers simply get railroaded by the incoming administration or some legislation that has been introduced over and over and over again, that’s just never gone anywhere.

I want to see new ideas. And I want to see lawmakers coming together. So I think paid family leave is one potential avenue where lawmakers could do something that would significantly help many families, but wouldn’t simply resort to the worst possible policy outcome, creating a new tax and spend federal government entitlement for paid family leave. That’s the wrong solution. But I think this is an issue area that has been percolating for a while now. And certainly, the Trump administration via Ivanka Trump showed interest in it. So I don’t know, maybe there’ll be a fresh leaf to a turnover on some of these issue areas where there could be some bipartisan agreement in the next couple of years.


I think it’s always good to be hopeful, especially after 2020. But I just, again, want to thank you for all the work that you’ve done in adapting and focusing on policies that make sense in our current time with a global pandemic. And I think we have a lot of work ahead in 2021 to try to keep the good things that happen, the regulations that were rolled back, keeping them rolled back and focusing on new policies to help women in the new year. So for now, Hadley, thank you so much for joining us. It’s always a pleasure having you on, and Happy New Year.


Happy New Year to you, Beverly. Thank you.


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