DC, part three

I had not originally planned to write a third and final recap of my visit to Washington DC, probably because Michelle Obama’s speech was the climax for me, and everything else following that in the forum itself left me feeling a bit restless. I guess I should explain.

First, there were the twitters and the emails and the blog posts decrying the fact that I had been chosen to attend this forum in the first place, and I think these opinions were based on the assumption that I had been invited to represent working moms. And my god, how could I, AN INTERNET WEBSITE BLOGGER, possibly know what a real working mom lives through every day? I never said that I do know, only that my reality has its own chaos and complications, and I don’t think the game of determining whose war wounds are the deepest and most meaningful is very productive for any of us.

The fact is, I was invited to represent small business owners. And after Mrs. Obama spoke the gathering was divided up into several different break-out sessions. Mine was concerned solely with small businesses and ideas to make these types of working situations more flexible for employees. My business employs two people, whereas some of the other people in the room employed anywhere from twenty to two hundred.

So the ideas and the discussions were wide and varied, and a few of these companies talked about how they managed to take really great care of their employees in terms of health benefits and parental leave. Some of us can’t afford to, and when I tried to speak up about this, when I pointed out that the Canadian government allows for 50 weeks of parental leave, half of the room gasped. I guess maybe I knew this statistic and they didn’t because I’ve interacted with several Canadian parents through this website. And that’s when the working mother in me wanted to roar. The working mother, owner of a small business who can’t afford to pay anyone 50 weeks of parental leave, decided she had to stand up for the working parents in the room and across the country.

America is so uncivilized in this respect. We claim that a focus on family values is a fundamental part of patriotism to this country, but if you look at this chart of maternity leave in the Americas, WE COME IN LAST:

(source Wikipedia)

Even communist Cuba kicks our ass.

But this forum wasn’t about policy change. It was about IDEAS! And look at this company in Michigan that allows its employees to earn extra sick days through successive good reviews. How great for those who work for that company in Michigan! What about the people who work for a small business in Idaho that can’t afford to give anyone a paid sick day? Don’t they envy Michigan! Let’s send them some ideas, shall we!

I know, I know, this is how capitalism works, right? Don’t go work for that company in Idaho, DUH. If you come from nothing it’s your responsibility to work your way out of it, damn any unpredictable circumstances that might pop up and crush various parts of your life in the process. Like, I don’t know, medical bankruptcy because of your mother’s cancer that insurance refuses to pay for.

Oh, why can’t I just stick to that mommyblogging thing I do?

Anyway, I got the feeling that they wanted the woman talking about better working conditions for parents to please go away, there’s nothing they could do about it. And I was just trying to point out that parents don’t just work for large corporations that can give them benefits like affordable insurance. Many parents work for the smaller ones who are holding on by a thread.

And then we all reconvened in the big room and got to listen to President Obama speak for about seven minutes. He was awesome. Period. The end. I can check off “distract President for just a very brief moment by being the only person in the front row wearing neon purple tights” off of my life list.

Cut to last week when I got five minutes on the phone with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to ask him about some of this. I told him I had attended the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility and that while there were all these fantastic ideas passed around, was the government planning to take a role or lead the way in implementing some changes?

Here’s what he had to say:

We have more than 300 pieces of legislation in the House and Senate that the Republicans will not let us move through. So that’s been difficult. Workplace flexibility is extremely important, and we have a couple things that are legislatively extremely exciting.

The Telework Enhancement Act led by Senator Akaka that requires each executive agency to establish a telework policy. This bill was reported out of committee without any objections, passed by unanimous consent on May 24th, and that’s a good piece of legislation out. Now we have to make sure it gets to the House.

Representative Maloney has something called the Working Families Flexibility Act which authorizes an employee to request from an employer a change in the terms or conditions of an employee’s employment if the request relates to number of hours, times when the employee is required to work, and where the employee is required to work.

So both of these pieces of legislation are in keeping with what you I think are interested in.

In the Defense Bill two years ago, actually, it allowed eligible employees to take up to twelve work weeks of job protected leave and then twelve months free for any qualifying contingency rising out of an active duty call, active duty status of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent. So we haven’t made it all the way, but we do have some things that I think are helpful.

No, I didn’t get my golden platter of free healthcare for everyone or even a guaranteed twelve weeks paid parental leave, but it’s always baby steps in Washington. Baby steps that may lead to nothing, but hey! At least we’ve got ideas!

Also, did you think Harry was going to be able to make it two sentences without taking a dig at the Republicans?

  • jalla

    This is what you get in socialist Norway:

    46 weeks with 100% of your regular pay, limited upwards to 432036 NOK = 66467 USD, or 56 weeks with 80 % pay. Of these 10 weeks is reserved for the father. To get this you must have been working at least 6 months prior to giving birth. (Freelancers and self-employers get an equivalent to their average earnings over the last three years.)

    If you are not qualified for this (ie. if you’re a stay at home mom) you’ll get a total of 35263 NOK = 5425 USD.

    Both the mother and father are entitled to one year of unpaid leave each on top of this.

    Employers don’t suffer from this as the state pays all of it.

    What does this cost? A shitload of taxes, up to 50 % of your income, but it comes with a complimentary free healthcare. Most people are happy with it though.

  • Penelope

    Heather, thanks for this awesome and informative post. I’ve already seen it spark other posts on your readers’s blogs and I’m really glad you’re calling attention to it. Well done!

  • dixie

    It makes me laugh to think that even “poor, third-world Mexico” (where I currently live and had my first child) does a better job supporting mothers than its Northern counterpart. They are even very supportive of breastfeeding mothers; I am entitled to two, thirty-mintue periods per work day for breastfeeding (I pump).

    On the flip-side, as a Canadian, I was shocked that a country who claims to worship mothers would only provide about 12 weeks of mat leave. Thankfully, my work hours and a stay-at-home dad made my return to work not only manageable, but enjoyable.

    Ahhh…sometimes I SO miss ‘my home and native land’.

  • UW Girl

    Before we’re able to change the laws in the US, we have to change the culture. Many places in the US put a lot of emphasis on working long hours. I live in DC, and can say from first hand experience that 70 hour weeks are worn as a badge of honor. Working only 40 hours is viewed as laziness and incompetence.

    Congrats Heather! Getting an invite is an honor and you should be very proud of your work! I will point out, though, that the employees at that same White House are putting in 60+ hours a week, and if they get pregnant, it’s quit, or come back after 3 weeks. If you don’t, your job is gone. So really…how committed is this administration to change? I have a girlfriend who works for a Democrat member of Congress from California. When she had her baby last spring, she had her Blackberry in the hospital with her, and was expected to answer emails and phone calls. She was out of the office for six weeks, but during that whole time, she was working. And the member she works for is a woman who publically supports more family leave. Just not for those who work for her.

    Until those in power promoting the ideas of change in family friendly work places actually provide family friendly work places themselves, it’s just more hypocritical political posturing.

    When Obama and Reid announce that those who work for them will be getting more family leave and vacation time, and then actually follow through, I’ll believe that change is coming. Until then, it’s just white noise.

  • agarf

    Dooce-
    I actually work for the Federal Government, out here in the land of wonks, commonly referred to as D.C. Not many people are aware of this, but the Federal Government, yes YOUR Federal Government, does not provide maternity leave. Tis true. What we all have to do, as women, is save up as many sick days as possible, and then we use those for our maternity leave. And if we run out of sick days, we then go on disability, per FMLA. So the Federal Government, which demands so much of small, medium, and large businesses, is itself completely and totally backwards when it comes to women in the workplace and benefits.
    -Agarf

  • Ena Murphy

    Companies that have over 50 employees can take advantage of FMLA. I am going to have my baby in August and I get only 8 weeks of paid leave. After that I can use an extra 4 weeks FMLA BUT it is unpaid. There are a lot of people that cannot afford to take unpaid leave.

  • moops

    Another Canadian chiming in :) You will love this Heather as it goes full-circle to public healthcare. When my prenatal instructor was teaching the breastfeeding basics she mentioned the Bill that was passed in 2000/2001 (the extended maternity leave) was in part to allow mothers a decent chance of breastfeeding their babes for that first year, which in turn lowers healthcare costs further down the line. I tried searching for information on this and the closest I got (granted only searched for a few minutes) was that the Canadian Employment Insurance Act went into effect in recognition of “success in a child’s early years is the key to long term healthy development”.

    Another tidbit of info is that any woman claiming Employment Insurance for her 12-month paid leave must have worked a minimum of 600 (“insurable”) hrs in the past 52 weeks, meaning she has had EI benefits deducted from her paycheck for those 600 hours (75 work days).

    Like the reader from Norway earlier in the comments, we obviously pay a boatload of taxes compared to the US, but when you believe in what it is providing you – it’s just a way of life. Having 2 little (rambunctious) boys, I’m in & out of the Urgent Care clinic, our doctor’s office, even the Children’s Hospital frequently. There is a wait sometimes but never am I anxious of “what is the going to cost me? how will we pay for this?” while I am waiting.

    Sorry to railroad the conversation over into healthcare, but I think the 12-month leave policy definitely ties into the healthcare equation too. I don’t know if any long-term studies have begun or if anything research is available to support this claim, but it has been nearly 10 years so something should be around in the near future. Good for you for bringing this issue to the spotlight, and your enthusiasm and passion has an influence on people. Numbers, right? That’s what is needed for change.

  • moops

    OMG — based on UW Girl’s comment that 70-hr work weeks in DC are the norm (and ‘honorable’, eek!)… you would only need to work (read: pay into EI) for TEN weeks before being granted a 12-month “paid” maternity leave in Canada. (you’d be paid at 55% of your income up to a maximum of $43,200)

  • JanetP

    Heather, you, Jon Stewart, and Steven Colbert can always be counted on to call ‘bullshit’ when politicians try to put one over on ‘the American people’. Please, don’t ever stop making your personal observations on the status quo and the positive changes that are needed! I am glad you championed the cause of the ‘working mothers’ who work for companies that can’t afford the benefits you mentioned. Oh, and loved your purple tights. And I am so proud of both of the Obamas I wish I was related.

  • UW Girl

    Moops –

    Without getting into too much detail – to protect those I love – my spouse and I have a friend who works in the White House. This person works, on average, 12 hours a day, and usually 6 days a week. Those hours do not take into account that the person is expected to be on her/his Blackberry all the time and answer the phone at 3 am if need be.

    How’s THAT for a family friendly work place?

  • TexasKatie

    Yeah, FMLA only covers you for up to 3 months and it is NOT paid. I took FMLA once and I only got paid because I had short-term disability payments. And you have to be at your job a year to qualify for FMLA. It is asinine.

    My question is, though – if the government in Canada is paying for a year of maternity leave, where is that money coming from? We have a huge deficit as it is, and the taxpayers are now to be expected to pay every woman who has a baby? It is one thing to make the employers pay all or part of someone’s salary, but to expect the gov (i.e. the taxpayers) to pay for each and every baby born, it just seems a bit much. And what if a woman decides to have a baby every single year? Does that mean she will literally get paid year after year after year for having a baby?

    I am ALL for longer maternity leaves, but to expect the U.S. government to foot the bill for a year of maternity leave… um, I just don’t see where that money is going to be coming from. Especially when we don’t even have enough funds to back up the new healthcare plan that Obama passed. It all looks good on paper, and I would LOVE to get a year paid to stay at home with my child – but at what cost does this come at?

    To end this – I must say I am horrified that the U.S. has NO paid leave at all. There should be at least 8 weeks paid by the gov, or half by the gov, half by the employer, followed by FMLA coverage for ANYONE regardless of how long they’ve been at their job.

  • OrangeLily

    “The working mother, owner of a small business who can’t afford to pay anyone 50 weeks of parental leave, decided she had to stand up for the working parents in the room and across the country.”

    This is an incorrect assumption of how parental leave works in Canada.

    In Canada, the employer doesn’t pay the 50 weeks of maternity/parental leave, it’s the Canadian government through the Employment Insurance program, that employed persons pay into. If you haven’t worked a minimum amount of hours, and contributed to the EI program during employment, you don’t get any benefits. For example, if you’re a stay at home housewife in a traditional household, you don’t get any EI benefits when you give birth to your baby. Your working husband, however, would be eligible for some, assuming he’s contributed into the program.

    For moms who were otherwise employed, you get 60% of your pay, currently at a maximum of $457 per week, before taxes. Some employers, however, do offer a top-up to the EI benefits, it varies amongst employers. That is is a benefit offered by the employer, there is no law that requires it, rather, it’s a way of retaining your good employees.

    So if Heather was in Canada and her employee takes a year off, Heather doesn’t pay for that year, she just doesn’t have her employee for that year.

    Also, to be technically accurate, parental leave is 35 weeks, which can be split between the father and mother in any way they choose. Maternity leave is 15 weeks, which only the mother gets. Altogether 50 weeks.

    Here’s a link to the page:

    http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/ei/types/special.shtml#Maternity3

    This is the sort of thing that makes me thank God that my parents chose to emigrate to Canada instead of the U.S.

  • hadtodoit

    Heather, I enjoy your ‘life posts’ and your writing style immensely, but I really had to leap into this echo chamber.

    It’s all about more liberty vs. less liberty. Every time the government mandates a policy granting privileges to a certain group, it can only do so by taking away from others who don’t belong to that group. If the government mandates 20, 40, 50 weeks maternity leave, then someone has to pay for it. If the employer is forced to provide that, that means less benefits and/or salary to all the other employees. If the government is the one providing subsidy to pay for those weeks of maternity leave, that means more tax money out of the pockets of everyone else.

    Just because such a policy sounds peachy, doesn’t mean there are no down sides to it. The government could mandate that the airlines sprinkle gumdrops over schoolyards while they fly across the country; the kids would be thrilled, but that doesn’t make it a wise or cost-effective policy.

    The fact that the welfare-heavy states in Europe are failing economically should serve as a wake-up call to us. We are headed for economic disaster as well, just at a slower pace. Check out the documentary movie I.O.U.S.A. (streaming free on Netflix). It charts out the rocky economic course ahead, taking to task both Republicans and Democrats who have spent us into a hole, and the film was made before all the recent stimulus packages and bailouts that have only worsened the situation.

    Between Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other welfare programs, the United States is already in way over its head with regard to our fiscal future. The last thing we need now is more mandated welfare programs.
    Read this article from Newsweek to get an idea just how bad things are (and could become).

    Besides, why does any of this need to be a government mandate? If people want to retire early, they can work hard, save their money, and retire early. If people want to spend their money now and work to age 85, they should do it. If someone wants to take time off for maternity leave, they are free to do it (just not free to make someone else pay for it).

    My (formerly professional) wife has taken the last 487 weeks off for maternity leave. We just don’t want to make anybody else pay for that option that she decided to take. And don’t try and tell her that because we don’t want to make other people pay for her time off, that she’s somehow not pro-family values. Making somebody else pay for your lifestyle choices ≠ family values!

    And just in case you were wondering, I’m not pulling in anything close to 6 figures in my job. We just make it work.

  • HeatherTOO

    As @UW girl and @EReed noted, DC is about the least family-friendly place to work in the US. I work for a non-profit ad I still work 60 hour weeks, weekends and am permanently attached to my blackberry. One nice thing, DC-based businesses (but not the federal government) have to offer up to 16 weeks of unpaid time off under FMLA for 50 or more employees. So I did get that. But oh yeah, I worked part-time in order to continue to get paid and because I felt I had to.

    And I’m sorry. I’m sick of everyone jumping on the Republicans for DC being a mess. They are ALL POLITICIANS. They are all unethical narcissists who only care about power and getting reelected. Even Obama. And yes, I voted for him. People need to be prepared to accept that he doesn’t walk on water. He’s not going to be able to bring the sweeping change he promised. The vast majority of the health care bill has no teeth. It will make some very valuable changes to insurance regulations but it does not overhaul our system. Costs are going to continue to rise and millions are still going to be left without coverage.

  • Greygirl

    First, let me say that politically I stand just to the left of Eugene Debs. I will happily pay higher taxes for health care, day care and education for all, even though – as a childless-by-choice woman with employee-paid insurance – I will never use any of those services…just because it is the right thing for a civilized society to do!!
    But when we talk about 6 or 12 months maternity leave (which I also support), can we also talk about the impact that has on the employees who cover for the new moms, and make sure that those people are also entitled to the same “personal leave” options, should they choose?
    I know, I know – this is not the right forum. But I had to vent – thanks.

    Having said that, Heather, you rock!

  • crazycatladyinthemaking

    “It’s all about more liberty vs. less liberty. Every time the government mandates a policy granting privileges to a certain group, it can only do so by taking away from others who don’t belong to that group.” Would that be like granting the right to marry to heterosexuals and denying that right to homosexuals?

    Up here in Canada, gay people are free to marry one another anywhere in the entire country. From what I understand, that’s not so much in the case US. Really want to talk about liberty?

  • jalla

    hadtodoit: Not all welfare-heavy countries in Europe are failing economically. (But some are, true that.)

    I’d like to offer you a different perspective on welfare also: Today I am a student, in not too many years I will be buying a house. Then I’ll become a mother (I hope) and leave the work-force for a while. This is however, the major financial investments of my life (available to planning ahead), and as they are all clustered early in my life, I couldn’t afford it all by myself. Therefore I am glad that the state gives me scholarships and paid paternal leave. Later in life I will pay my taxes (which I will regard as paying off my scholarships and paternal leaves and the hospitalization I had at age 6). So although I will be at no net cost for the state I still rely heavily on it. So although welfare also is about helping those less fortunate (thus depriving ourselves of some freedom) it can also be viewed as a help in helping ourselves.

  • MN Sukie

    First — Wikipedia is not a valid source of information. I knew that before I took a writing class and was told not to use it. You should have used the original source — it gives the data more validation.

    Second — I agree with hadtodoit. You can’t look at just the “good” side of these types of benefits. You need to look at everything as a whole. As I stated when this topic was addressed in the Dooce community — Europe is not some prefect shining example of how to do things. They have other problems the US has already over come. The governments of these countries don’t have a profound understanding of family — the population of the countries are most likely shrinking or stagnant. The only growth comes from immigration, and most of Europe doesn’t integrate immigrates well. France anyone?

  • seriously

    I haven’t read all of the comments, so I don’t know if this has been addressed yet — The 12 weeks job protected leave available under FMLA is a bit deceiving. My husband and I work for the same company, so we have to share the 12 weeks of family leave.

    Parents that work for different employers could take 12 weeks each — in theory — following the birth of a child. This is not an option for those working for the same employer. Time my husband takes off subtracts from the job-protected leave I have available.

  • peacegirl

    Dear hadtodoit –
    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that not all people can afford their own maternity leave – and it’s not for lack of hard work.

    Also, I would like to point out some of the costs of not supporting maternity leave:
    - Babies may have a restricted amount of breastfeeding. Babies fail to receive the full immune system benefits that their mothers can provide and may acquire nutritional habits biased toward convenience foods from parents who are too busy to hear or accommodate sound nutritional advice. Some babies become adults with impaired health due to being overweight, sedentary, having precursor conditions to many debilitating illnesses.
    -The costs of maintaining health in later life are enormous as well as uncomfortable for the sufferer.
    -Where lack of time and closeness with the primary caregiver effects babies, the consequences can affect mental health, ability to form relationships, diminished resilience in all areas (study, work, relationships). Risk factors (smoking, alcohol and drug abuse), the potential for delinquency and crime rates are all raised. The costs of remediation are huge and increase with age, and the effect never as good as prevention.
    -Where parents have not been able to provide adequate cognitive engagement with their babies (often because of time and lack of access to situations from which they can learn), the babies grow into school-age children at least a year or two behind their peers in cognitive and language development.
    -Evidence from neuroscientific research increasingly supports the need for adequate stimulation of the young child and that requires prolonged, attentive and caring interaction with the young child.
    -The costs of trying to overcome disadvantage in children’s learning are very large, increase with age, and almost never allow the child to ‘catch up’.
    -Without parents with time to learn and to practise sound skills in helping babies in their social development, babies have difficulty in managing their aggression, developing gentle and responsive interactions with others, and learning the language of social interaction. Because these skills are so pervasive, babies need parents who can apply them in all the situations life provides. Anti-social behaviour can lead to ostracism, being bullied and bullying, anger, violent behaviour. Juvenile justice and crime are possible consequences.
    -The costs are very large in terms of providing interventions, they increase with age, and their effectiveness is never as complete as prevention of such patterns of behaviour.
    http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/5065.html

    I would argue that these costs are large and possibly nullify the economic freedom for which you argue.

    I pulled this information off of google after a five-minute search. I work at an academic library and would be happy to supply you with more research data and results to back up most aspects of the points Heather is putting forth, especially in the economic realm.

  • doobrah

    Thanks for the Part 3 and enlightening at least a roomful of people on how lacking the U.S. is in investing in its human capital.

    WRT the Telework Act: That sounds great on paper and they’re all patting theirselves on the back in DC for being so forward thinking. However, telework doesn’t work for everyone, not even an appreciable everyone. Telemarketing/sale, billing, transcriptionists, sure. Even bloggers! But the rest of us, no. Executive agencies (mine is one) don’t like change, and prefer to see their employees in person, even if there’s no place for them to park (their cars or their butts).

    Now the Defense Bill, the key is “eligible employees.” It’s a start, and it preserves your job, IF you’re eligible. But how many people can afford to take a year off unpaid and you probably have to pay the entire premium to keep your insurance.

  • Amelia_Bedelia

    Many small businesses run on such low margins (my own business, for that matter, which I own with my brother) that it is nigh impossible for us to pay for long-term leave. We try very hard to be flexible, we pay for healthcare, we pay vacation, we give raises when we can and when it’s justified. I like to think we are “good” to our employees, on whom we depend to run the business every day.

    The tough parts are these: who pays for “free” national healthcare? Who pays for extended maternity leave? Who pays? Because somebody has to, and if people making under a certain amount of money ($200k per household? Less? More?) don’t pay taxes to support healthcare, national security, oil spill and natural disaster cleanup, and so many of the other things we NEED in America, then who does? The “rich”? At what point do the taxes become so onerous that there are no more rich, or those rich people start their businesses elsewhere and then use international tax laws to keep from sending all of their hard-earned money to the government? Where is the incentive in burdensome taxes to keep innovating and building businesses that make money and create drugs that cure cancer or even to become a doctor to treat the sick who aren’t going to pay, but the government apparently will (and then doesn’t, at this point)?

    I have a really hard time with all of this because there is no good answer that I have seen. Should we all have healthcare and access to the best medical help out there? Yes. Should we, as mothers, get some compensation for leaving work for awhile to do the most difficult, amazing job of all time? Yes. How will we pay for it in a sustainable and responsible manner? I don’t know. But I do know that it is foolish to initiate something that could potentially bankrupt our fine country without a plan in place.

  • sherylwx4

    I agree with this post, and I’m a Republican GASP ! We need to something. We do…
    What I don’t understand is prgrams like these have to be paid for some how. How do we do that ? We cannot continually raise taxes. Especially because only about one third of this country actually pays taxes. If we continue to raise taxes to pay for government programs- we will eventually bankrupt the country even more than it already is…
    Yes our country sadly lags behind others on family support issues but other than China, Japan and India we have MUUUUCH higher population rates than any of the other countries that are able to run these kinds of programs and even they are raising taxes and thier taxes are double what ours are. How many people are willing to give half their gross earnings to pay for programs like this ? I know many will SAY they are willing, but when everything else starts getting more expensive due to hyperinflation and the debt ratios in this country then these same people are going to be the ones feeling the serious financial crunch.
    I WANT programs like this but I don’t know how we can pull it off without costing the middle class more…as much as I’d like to “gouge the rich for this” I know that the rich keep the companies running in this country and too much taxes and “rules” are going to discourage them from staying here or starting here in the first place. Where is that going to get us?

  • slisano

    did you really just ask that about cuba?

    seriously??

    of course they have crazy long parental leave…they’re communist!

    eesh.

    you should go try to start your own business there.

  • mothership

    I love your blog, been reading for a while. Just one thing: McDonald’s is evil. I wish you didn’t have Shrek McNuggets banners flying all over your blog. Other than that, I love your dogs, and you have beautiful kids, and yadda yadda. I’m Canadian, but am facinated with American Politics. We do have great social policies. Health Care, Maternity Leave etc. etc.
    Good luck. You are on the right track.

  • sherylwx4

    Peacegirl, I think it is VERY VERY important not to assume people will be devoting time to their kids social development and breastfeeding just because they want the paid leave time… An act of congress isn’t going to make people take an active roll in their kids lives- a legislation isn’t going to magically change someones values. It will just means they will be able to take the time off. I’d LOVE to think they would take that opportunity to engage and bond but that isn’t what many are going to be doing. With this “entitled mentality” people are becoming more and more selfish to and are not thining of the chance to bond with thier kids, they are going to use it as regualr ol ” paid time off”.

  • JennyL

    Every state “benefit” has a price. EVERY benefit has a price. In Germany you pay through the nose for these cushy benefits, whether you ever try to use them or not. 19% sales tax. Up to 44 or it might even be 46% income tax, that’s not including social security, social taxes, health benefits payments, unemployment taxes and the list goes on. You pay about $7.00 a gallon for gas, etc, etc.

    And those benefits don’t come for free. There are hundreds of forms to be filled out- each at its own little bureaucratic office– and there are many, MANY bureaucratic offices attached to those fancy little benefits, with office hours between about 9-12… convenient for those of us who actually do work…. it can be an extremely frustrating system.

    The only way to beat the system is to either be unemployed and on state benefits or to be rich enough to evade them. Anyone in the middle is f*cked.

    And Cuba…. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I cannot even believe Cuba got brought into the mix…. that’s just embarrassing.

    I’m sad that my fellow Americans are blindly following the ways of other countries without any real experience or understanding of the reprecussions.

  • Ray1987

    That chart regarding the United States on maternity leave is hilarious at best. How ashamed America should be (the politicians that is, not us). And Canada definitely kicks ALL of our asses! As for free healthcare: I doubt that will ever happen. America is too greedy for that to ever occur.

    You wrote: “…Baby steps that may lead to nothing.” Call me a cynic, but I agree.

    Here’s hoping I am wrong.

  • peacegirl

    sherylwX4,
    I’d love to see your supporting data along with citations. I am happy to supply you with data that can give you, based on research, an idea of what parents do with their maternity leave. My guess is they take care of their children to their best ability – but color me naive and let me get back to you on some studies.

  • Tori_OR

    Netflix doesn’t offer sick time, vacation time or any other “luxury items” you’d expect from a big company. All hourly employee’s are paid an additional 80 cents per hour as “paid time off”. Employees are expected to bank that money privately to be held over for vacation or sick time. Though sick days are not allowed; calling in sick is akin to quitting your job.

    They offer insurance but only options with high copay. They do this because they feel they pay the employees at a high enough rate to where they can afford it. This is true until you try to insure someone else in the household. Where an employee may be responsible for 70 dollars a month in insurance to have an additional person the amount quadruples in price and the copay never changes. Dependent insurance premiums are taken after taxes dropping a paycheck by nearly half. Who can afford copays when gross pay was $700.00 and take home was $390.00?

  • Peasnips

    The wishes for extended parental leave and paid health care are wonderful. I just wonder how much we are all willing to pay for these free benefits. Unfortunately the only way governments (except those in oil rich countries, like Saudia Arabia) make the money to provide free health care and a million weeks of parental leave is by getting it from us in taxes. I wonder if the President or First Lady shared the Canadian and Sweedish tax rates in their remarks. If not here they are from http://www.taxrates.cc/html/tax-rates.html:

    Canada Income Tax Rate 48.25%
    Federal and Provential combined
    Canada Corporate Tax Rate 35%
    Canada Sales Tax / VAT Rate 5-13%
    Provential sales tax are in addition to VAT

    Sweden Income Tax Rate 59.17%
    Sweden Corporate Tax Rate 26.3%
    Sweden Sales Tax / VAT Rate 25%

    US Income Tax Rate 35%
    US Corporate Tax Rate 35%
    US Sales Tax / VAT Rate %

    Sorry to be the one to have to tell you about these awful facts of life. By the way, does Dooce give free health care and extended parental leave to its two employees?

  • JennyL

    Tori_OR- if you lived in Germany, you could just quit your jobs, get unemployment benefits, get your apartment paid for (IF the state deemed you weren’t living beyond your means, obviously- otherwise they’d force you to move or deny you any support), get your basic health care covered and you’d be set. Plus you get roughly 150 Euros per month per kid, so that helps! You also get benefits to help take care of any pets you have. Obviously only pets you have registered and paid tax on.

  • fiestagirl

    Peasnips.. hate to break it to you but that link you gave gives completely false information. Canada’s tax rate is not 48.5%. The tax rate depends on your income and is similar to the U.S.’s in how it increases based on your gross income. There are 2 tax rates -federal and provincial. The provincial vary, with Alberta at a steady 10%. Federal starts at about 15.5%. It looks like you got tax rates for the so-rich-they-don’t-care-what-they-pay – if that is even a valid link.

    I am now living in the U.S. and am so disappointed at the 12 weeks unpaid leave I get. I so wish I could go back to Canada to get all the benefits offered there… I loved living there and miss is a lot. (I married an American)

  • TheNardDog

    After reading all the comments, it seems most people are essentially saying that some of these government programs would be good, but we have to pay for it SOMEHOW (It’s not “free”). We should expect in increase in taxes to pay for these programs. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

    There is a HUGE issue here though. Heather is the perfect person to bring it up and get people talking about it! We DO need ideas! I am 30 and my husband and I want to have a baby soon, but I still want to continue working… I have a good job at a profitable regional bank and would need to put my baby in daycare at 8 weeks old if I want to keep my particular job (with no pay during the leave). For me, it’s a serious dilemma.

    Is government the answer? In the past, the people of our country have come up with great solutions that don’t involve the crooked Republicans and Democrats! I’ve been thinking lately about this genius story I heard a while back – where two women went to medical school together and formed a medical practice together. They both had kids and worked one at a time, on and off, at the practice while the other stayed home. They only got paid half as much as normal, but worked half as less, still had a good career, and raised their kids, and didn’t rely on anyone else to pay for it!

    Our culture is changing, why aren’t our solutions?!?

  • peppylady

    I’m recently new to your blog. Plus I’m from Idaho. Yes your right to work in Idaho isn’t a good thing “Duh”
    I don’t like to say this about my home state but it true. “Idaho is so affrid of anything that even closely represent socialism and unregulated capitalism will cure all ills of our society”
    I currentlytly did post called Price to sell which I posted on how Idaho market there items towards the Californian.
    Not everyone who lives in Idaho is in favor of unregulated capitalism. I know there most be hard to find. Well I’m one of those Idaho that leans towards in best words “Liberalness”

  • designsbyjenean

    It’s obvious this type of change is going to take some time. Many people want it but most people don’t want to pay for it. It takes many raindrops to change the shape of a stone, let’s keep pounding away at this problem.

  • JennyL

    @TheNardDog-Ask Dooce. Apparently socialism is the way forward. I was very surprised to read her blog considering she runs a small business. Socialism is not typically small-business friendly. But I welcome like-minded people like Dooce into the German system, for their profits will become my benefits package. I guess one learns for themselves one way or the other.

    Or maybe I’m wrong. I would very much welcome a reply from a company owner in Germany- or the rest of Europe on a small-scale staff.

    And please leave detailed notes for me- as the manager of human resources in Germany of a small company, I’d love to hear how to make things work for us.

  • wordsupmixed

    I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Not many people know that Wikipedia is more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7070/full/438900a.html

    I also shouldn’t be surprised that people don’t know the definition of socialism (@jennyl, I’m looking at you), an economic system (not political) in which the workers own the means of production. Socialism puts the power structure/issues in the hands of the employees. so is it safe to say that anyone who opposes socialism wants to be the slave of corporate boss?

    with regards to the cost of health insurance, our per capita basis, we spend twice as much on health insurance than Canadians. Why not take all of our premiums, put them into one big pool and provide coverage for everybody? At the very least, it would cost the same as beforebut more likely,cost less due to increased pool size.

    The larger the pool, the smaller an yone traumatic event costs the pool. For example, I had a stent put in yesterday (yes, 36 hours ago). One night in the hospital and I was out by 10 o’clock this morning. If I was part of a small insurance pool, i.e. a small company, my many tens of thousands of dollars of medical care would destroy that insurance pool. But if I’m part of a 450 million person insurance pool, my blockage and stent wouldn’t be a ripple on the premiums because The cost of my event would be spread among all the policyholders.

    The only reason I come to explaining why this logic isn’t understood (as well as a lot of other environmental logic) is that people are fundamentally bad at math.

    We should stop being so mathematically illiterate when it comes to political proposals. The next time you hear something, take a piece of paper and a pencil. Like all the factors and how they relate and then do simple arithmetic model seeing if the numbers that fill in the numbers that come out. If you can’t even get close, you know the proposal is being buggered somewhere with some political magic grease.

    once you’re done, show your work. We all make mistakes and if you’re going to express an opinion, to me, that is saying you are willing to accept criticism, correction, and additional information. Not talking about abuse like so many haters out there, I’m talking actual conversation were two adults can disagree based on facts and not talking points.

    maybe I’m being too optimistic here. Remember I still have some of the good drugs in my system but let me suggest we, take out a clean sheet of paper, sharpen your pencils and let’s see the math behind the ideas.

  • JennyL

    Yes, how silly of me. Apologies. I should have called it “evolutionary reformist socialism” or “social democracy”, which IS indeed a political ideology. Wikipedia told me so, so it must be true.

  • BecTO

    Employers in Canada do not pay the maternity leave – the government does. Some employers offer a “top up” but it is not required.

  • mahonegal

    Just a few points of interest Heather:
    Our government pays, not the employer, but many employers (the Canadian independents) top up so that the new parent doesn’t have to live on less. I don’t believe that we’d get that if our government didn’t pay, in fact, our government would never take that away from us.

    Also, with the whole debate of fewer doctors and wait times, bologna! I will call my family doctor tomorrow to make an appointment for my son who got sick tonight, and I will have an appointment by 10:30 tomorrow, and if not, I have 3 hospitals within a hours dive that I can take him to emerg and get seen within an hour if I had to which I won’t. I feel so lucky to be Canadian, and so sad that our Americans friends can’t seem to figure it out?

    My friend lost her house and her breasts from cancer, what the fuck! Seriously people. If the rest of the world can do it, why the hell can you?

  • Lucy mom

    I have never commented twice on one of your posts but I just can’t resist this time. How great is it that you have so many divergent opinions coming from lots of folks who clearly like to read your blog?
    First, thanks to the Canadian readers for sharing your experiences – I feel much smarter now about your health care/ family leave systems. Second, I understand people’s concern about how we pay for policies that support families. I think it gets to priorities, what we define as a society that matters most. I’m past the point where I’ll be having any more children but I know that my community will be better served if parents of children being born now have the ability to spend time with them and keep them healthy and safe. I am fine with my tax contribution going to programs that support others. Currently my taxes go to a number of things I don’t support personally (e.g. war) but I recognize it’s on me to change that. I think what Heather did was to step up and speak for many people like me who want a different emphasis on how we continue to evolve as a better society, a better world and move to spending our tax base for laws/programs that help us get there.

  • larakiwi

    Hey, in Austria we get 2 and a half years paid maternity leave which is also awesome. Try that one out ! That’s uh 130 weeks or something silly ! Can’t complain really !