Democratic work family proposals compared

Since I highlighted Hillary Clinton’s proposals on work-family issues last month, I feel like it’s only fair to point out that John Edwards has released his set of work-family proposals
Obama also touched on these issues in his Reclaiming the American Dream speech last week, but hasn’t gotten into the details as much (at least as far as I’ve been able to find).

Clinton and Edward’s proposals got a lot in common, and both would be a vast improvement over the current policy.  Here’s some of the similarities and differences that jump out at me:

  • Both Clinton and Edwards would make the Family and Medical Leave Act apply to employers with 25 or more employees, down from the 50 employee cut-off that currently applies.  (Obama has said he’d expand it, but I haven’t seen a specific cut-off cited.)
  • All three would provide a minimum guarantee of 7 paid sick days a year.
  • All of them would try to expand paid family leave by providing incentive funds to states that develop state paid leave programs (e.g. like California does now).  Clinton offers $1 billion a year, and sets a goal of having all states adopt a program by 2016.  Edwards offers $2 billion (presumably each year, although that’s not entirely clear from his website) and sets a goal of having everyone covered by 2014.  He also says that tax incentives to businesses wouldn’t count — it would have to be a statewide plan.  Advantage Edwards, I think.
  • Both Clinton and Edwards talk about the need for improved child care and expanded subsidies.  Clinton says she’d increase the Child Care and Development Block Grant (which provides subsidies) and "work with Congress to reform the Dependent Care Tax Credit to address its shortcomings."  Edwards has specific proposals for increasing the amount of the tax credit and making it partially refundable, but doesn’t say anything about CCDBG.  Advantage Clinton.  I just wrote a paper on the subject, and child care credits just don’t work very well for low-income families, even if refundable.  The problem is that you have to be able to afford to lay out the full cost of care up front, and not get paid back until you do your taxes the next year.
  • Both suggest that families with stay-at-home parents should also benefit from child care subsidies. Again, Clinton says this would apply to subsidies under CCDBG, while Edwards talks about the tax credit.  I’m a lot more comfortable applying it to the low-income families who qualify for subsidies than for the full income range.  Also, at that point, I don’t see why you don’t just expand the child tax credit and not force people to document their child care expenses.
  • Obama says he’d double spending on after-school programs.
  • Clinton and Obama both talk about prohibiting discrimination based on parental status, and encouraging flexible scheduling.
  • Edwards talks about benefits for non-traditional workers — contractors, part-time workers, temps — and cracking down on misclassification.

Update:  here are some good comparisons of the proposals from elsewhere:

4 Responses to “Democratic work family proposals compared”

  1. Jackie Says:

    I love that Edwards is talking about non-traditional workers as well because I think that often gets neglected and a lot of service workers fall into that category. On the other hand, I completely agree with you on preferring subsidies over tax credits. I feel that way about health savings accounts too– they only help people who can afford to be saving that $$ in the first place.

  2. Jackie Says:

    I also emailed my congresspeople today about the Healthy Families Act, which I think includes the 7 days paid sick leave.

  3. dave.s. Says:

    You expand FMLA to 25-person restaurants, you are going to have a lot of restaurant owners keep the payroll down to 24. Any bright line you draw, of course, is going to have that kind of perverse effect – but this one seems likely to be pretty big.
    On Obama, I want to share – economist smackdown! Krugman has been after Obama for suggesting that Social Security should get urgent attention, and Greg Mankiw has busted him: http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2007/11/in-search-of-ideologues.html “…either a faulty memory or an especially inclusive definition of what constitutes a conservative ideologue…”

  4. dave.s. Says:

    last nail in Edwards’ coffin: http://www.spectator.org/dsp_article.asp?art_id=12607

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