Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the pursuant school closures, working moms are exhausted and overworked.
As many as 1.5 million working moms have dropped out of the workforce, some of them for good. Trying to be a parent, a teacher and a reliable employee all at once proved too much, especially in areas where unions still refuse to fully reopen schools. Add in the supplemental unemployment benefits passed by Congress that incentivized workers to stay home, and a lack of meaningful, quality jobs, and the statistics start to make sense.
So when President Joe Biden promised to come to the rescue with a shiny new $1.8 trillion package called the American Families Plan, it sounded nice. Among other benefits, the proposal offers the prospect of lower child care costs, more paid family and medical leave, “free” preschool, and “free” community college.
Besides the fact that none of these benefits are ever free, we must ask: Are they really what women want and need?
Above all, working parents need flexibility and choice. The ability to work flexible hours, the ability to negotiate with their employer to manage time off, the ability to choose their own child care provider, and the ability to choose their own schools.
While the status quo could and should be improved, the American Families Plan would move women backwards by funding one-size-fits-few government programs at the expense of flexibility and choice.
We don’t have to look far to see what drives women to excel. Under the Trump administration, women made historic gains. In 2018, after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act became law, the share of women in the workforce exploded. In 2019, for the first time in nearly a decade, women held more U.S. jobs than men, making up 50.04 percent of payroll in the month of December. Female unemployment rates plummeted to 3.1 percent, its lowest since 1953. Women’s wages rose at a faster percentage rate than men, and women of color were winning the jobs race. Dozens of businesses expanded their benefits for employees and their families to attract quality employees.
Women benefited from a tight labor market that was fueled by a pro-growth agenda of tax cuts, reduced government waste and regulatory reform. They also benefited from an explosion in the gig economy, which allows women to better balance the competing priorities of parenthood and career by offering independent work. They got to decide when, with whom, and how much they work, and could supplement their regular income or earn a livelihood from independent contracting. The federal Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, strongly endorsed by Biden, threatens to take all these gains away, requiring that almost everyone answer to a boss instead of having the option to work for themselves.
Women also benefit from an education system that serves their children—not the adults in charge of it. Women have disproportionately been affected by lockdowns and public school closures, and the increased politicization of our public schools will only make things worse. Thanks to remote learning, many parents woke up to the realities of politicized curriculums. And now, the Biden administration appears determined to bring these divisive and racist curriculums to schools nationwide.
As fewer parents can trust the public schools to teach their kids basic reading, writing and math, more women are likely to step back from the workforce to homeschool or pursue other education options.
This means the ability of parents to send their children to a school of their choice is more important than ever. But instead of funding students, the Biden administration is doubling down on more government-run schools.
Child care, education and careers are all amongst the most personal decisions parents and families can make. Instead of one-size-fits-few government programs that push both parents into full-time jobs while subsidizing government-run child care and schools, the Biden administration should pursue family-friendly policies that maximize flexibility and choice.
Parents deserve more support. In addition to a pro-growth agenda of tax cuts and regulatory reform, a far better solution for improving women’s lives is to give them tax credits that allow them to keep more of their own money so they have greater capacity and the flexibility to make choices that work for their unique situations.
We know what drives women back into the workforce. It’s less government—not more.