Earlier this week I was on Tell Me More in their parents roundtable. We were talking about the idea of paternal leave. Before Michele Martin conducted that roundtable, she had an interview with “Money Coach” Alvin Hall about how corporations are changing 401 K programs in drastic ways. It’s worth a listen, not only because you might be affected, but because of the bottom line.
Check out the last line. For me, the natural conclusion to this story SHOULD be a call for organizing of some sort. This is a deeply political issue (rather than the cultural issue Hall believes it to be) and it requires a political solution of some sort. But for Hall the bottom line is individual knowledge. Great story, but it reproduces rather than contests the status quo–note the focus on risk for example and who has to bear it. There’s no way we’re going to change conditions for retirees and potential retirees in the future without political action of some sort. Financial literacy alone won’t cut it.
Our conversation on parental leave was a natural followup. The United States is one of the few countries that does not guarantee paid parental leave for ANYONE much less for fathers. But some corporations are beginning to rethink this issue. Here’s our take:
This is yet another issue that is primary a political issue, one that can only be taken care of through pressure on government to change. As stated on the clip, some people–people valued by their corporation–already get this benefit. Why shouldn’t everyone? Johns Hopkins has a parental leave policy for faculty. I think they stop the tenure clock and give mothers and fathers a semester off if not more. Why shouldn’t everyone be able to take advantage of this policy? (As an aside I really did learn how to braid my daughter’s hair through the 3-man weave practice drill we used to run in basketball practice…)
Finally…there’s the My Brother’s Keeper program rolled out by Obama this week. I’ve been interviewed on NPR as well as on NBC about the issue. Here’s my clip from The Takeaway:
I basically spent most of today dealing with this issue on Facebook. The image of the President with those wonderful black boys was powerful. But he consistently substitutes images and role modeling for governance. And then shunts off any government responsibility…in fact by saying again and again “this is not a big government program” he makes it harder not easier to mobilize resources for them. I know folk who were at that meeting, folk who are doing incredible work in Detroit and other cities. This isn’t a knock on their activity at all. But at a moment when we routinely spent $70 billion on home mortgage deductions you’d think that the President would at the very least use the bully pulpit to argue for more government intervention in the future, rather than to argue for a new intervention that has absolutely no government money attached to it.