Child Care Proposals: Be Like Sweden?

 

ivanka-trump-donald-trumpThere may be valid criticisms of the Trump (Ivanka as much as Donald) childcare proposal, but the New York Times and the Huffington Post did not find them. As is always the case with new proposed social spending, the New York Times chides the United States for being so very retrograde:

Within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a consortium of 35 countries, including the world’s wealthiest, the United States stands out as the only nation that does not already guarantee paid maternity leave.

This is the familiar refrain. All other advanced countries do X. It’s embarrassing that the United States is the only country without nationalized healthcare, or paid leave, or universal pre-school, etc., etc. During the Cold War, we were constantly hectored that while the Soviet Union didn’t have political freedom, it sure did provide economic freedom in the form of a guaranteed job, free health care, family leave, and so forth. When the Soviet Union fell, we learned that its actual standard of living was the rough equivalent of Bangladesh’s, that Leningrad’s hospitals had raw sewage in the taps, and that no one except the communist party elite had ever seen a banana. (But for her husband’s connections, Lyudmila Putin would have died from injuries sustained in a car crash because the public hospital was so dreadful. So writes Steven Lee Myers in The New Tsar.)

We are encouraged to emulate the enlightened policies of Sweden, where paid family leave is very generous. Admirers of Scandinavian social democracy never mention the trade offs though. If Sweden were to exit the EU and become a US state, it would rank below 38 other states in wealth based on purchasing power parity.

The Huffington Post reproaches the Trump proposal for something else too – aiming it only at women. “The plan, while ostensibly embracing a progressive stance, rolls back decades of progress in work and in parenting in the U.S., where men have taken on more of the parenting work . . .”

Tell it to Bernie Sanders, who betrayed his own backwardness last year when he proclaimed: “Every other major country on Earth, every one, including some small countries, say that when a mother has a baby, she should stay home with that baby.” Whoops, he used the “m” word – mother.

Surely new parents ought to be free to decide for themselves who is going to care for new babies (or sick grandparents for that matter). But the high dudgeon of the Huffington Post is ridiculous. HP is indignant at the idea that mothers are more likely to care for babies. It is part of the progressive project to make mothers and fathers fully interchangeable.

Sweden again demonstrates progressivism’s limitations. Both mothers and fathers get eight months (yes months) of paid leave in Sweden, for a total of 16 months per child. Paid paternal leave was introduced in Sweden in 1980. Yet mothers and fathers continued to make different choices. In 1993, disappointed in the relatively few fathers who took advantage of the policy, the Swedish government instituted a use-it-or-lose-it policy for paternal leave. Still, mothers and fathers made different choices. In 2008, Swedish mothers were taking 78 percent of leave days, and fathers only 22 percent. Clearly frustrated at the recalcitrant fathers, the Swedish government introduced a “gender equality bonus.” Couples who shared parental leave equally got the equivalent of $1900 from the state.

How did that work out? Here’s how Swedish radio summarized it: “A year and a half after the bonus was introduced, the verdict — according to a review made by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency — is clear. The bonus has not helped at all.”

“Why should the state care?” you may ask. Excellent question. Because good progressives believe that the only reason women do more childcare than men is benighted, pre-feminist thinking. “I believe in carrots,” explained then Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, about the gender equality bonus. Opposition leader Mona Sahlin retorted, “It seems that no one really wants to eat these particular carrots, because hardly any have applied for them.”

The progressive utopias of Scandinavia (or here, as it seems we’re headed in the same direction) can fiddle with subsidies and bonuses all they want, but they will continue to bash their heads against a fundamental reality – women enjoy being with their babies and will choose to spend their time that way if they possibly can. Fathers make irreplaceable contributions to child rearing, but not in the form of nursing infants. There, was that so hard?

Published in Domestic Policy
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  1. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    This is about paid maternity leave? Maybe it can be open for discussion, but it looks like another thumb in your eye title toward Trump – again…….. Hillary is waiting for your vote.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Thank you for pointing out the poor critical attacks on this. That was balanced.

    • #2
  3. Herbert Inactive
    Herbert
    @Herbert

    Ivanka Trump has apparently admitted that a family benefits plan she purportedly helped draw up will exclude male same-sex couples.

    This must be fixed….

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2016/09/15/ivanka-trump-admits-her-plan-for-family-benefits-excludes-male-gay-parents/

    • #3
  4. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Mona points out a greatly under-appreciated truth.  Sweden, along with almost every single Scandinavian and European Country (with the exception of Norway and a couple miniscule countries), has lower per capita incomes and lower standards of living than the United States.  From the several different economic measures, Europe as a whole, is doing roughly only 2/3 as well as we are economically, even with our recent decline.

    Another little known fact about Sweden and Socialist Scandinavia in particular, is that the preponderance of their high taxes are not paid for by the rich.  They don’t have steep sliding scales for rich and poor like we have in America.  Their poor pay much higher taxes than ours.

    • #4
  5. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    But we were told that Donald Trump, despite his life-long adherence to Progressive values, is now a conservative and can even be relied upon to appoint strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court.

    Sorry, we don’t need two left-wing statists running for president. #nevertrump4ever.

    • #5
  6. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Trump’s proposal would cheat couples with a stay at home mom because they will not be getting any paid leave, even though they will be paying for leave for working moms.  Trump clearly believes that government exists solely to help him do whatever he wants to do, whether that is attracting female voters or kicking old ladies out of their house to make room for his development.

    The man is without principle.  He’s not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination nor is he a man of his word.  But keep on hopin’, Trump voters!

    • #6
  7. Viator Inactive
    Viator
    @Viator

    In Canada new mothers can take between 17 and 52 weeks of leave from their jobs.

    http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0512/maternity-leave-basics-canada-vs.-the-u.s..aspx

    In the US it’s a mish mash. But let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist.

    http://employment.findlaw.com/family-medical-leave/family-and-medical-leave-laws-by-state.html

    • #7
  8. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Steven Seward:Mona points out a greatly under-appreciated truth. Sweden, along with almost every single Scandinavian and European Country (with the exception of Norway and a couple miniscule countries), has lower per capita incomes and lower standards of living than the United States. From the several different economic measures, Europe as a whole, is doing roughly only 2/3 as well as we are economically, even with our recent decline.

    Another little known fact about Sweden and Socialist Scandinavia in particular, is that the preponderance of their high taxes are not paid for by the rich. They don’t have steep sliding scales for rich and poor like we have in America. Their poor pay much higher taxes than ours.

    Good points, especially about who bears the tax burden.

    • #8
  9. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    ….there’s no point in discussing the levels of taxes in different countries unless you discuss what you get for your taxes. Americans in many states, certainly, or cities—they might pay less taxes [on] their income or [on] property than Nordics do. But then, on top of that, they pay for their day care, they pay for their health insurance, they pay for college tuition—all these things that Nordics get for their taxes.

    • #9
  10. Bill Nelson Inactive
    Bill Nelson
    @BillNelson

    Mona Charen: the United States stands out as the only nation that does not already guarantee paid maternity leave.

    Well good for us. Because other nations do this is a poor reason for us.  Few nations have a constitutional system that is based on liberties, instead they have government provided “privileges”. So the argument that “others do it” is a weak argument. (If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you? – Mom, 1967).

    I am reminded of Michelle Obama in 2008 talking about the need for government provided child care. Her basis for the position was that her mother lived with them and provided child care, allowing Michelle to go to work. But if the government had provided the child care, then grandma would have been off to the casino.

    • #10
  11. Skarv Inactive
    Skarv
    @Skarv

    Swedishness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8_7yPocGPg

    • #11
  12. Kate Braestrup Member
    Kate Braestrup
    @GrannyDude

    Zafar:

    ….there’s no point in discussing the levels of taxes in different countries unless you discuss what you get for your taxes. Americans in many states, certainly, or cities—they might pay less taxes [on] their income or [on] property than Nordics do. But then, on top of that, they pay for their day care, they pay for their health insurance, they pay for college tuition—all these things that Nordics get for their taxes.

    That’s an interesting piece. I think she undermines her argument a bit by not mentioning that among the things that we—and the Nordic countries whereof she speaks—get for our American taxes is the robust defense of…well, everybody. We’re not providing everyone with a free education and whatnot in part because we’re helping to ensure that Finland doesn’t have to repel Russian troops at the border.

    • #12
  13. The Question Inactive
    The Question
    @TheQuestion

    Mona Charen: Quote from NYT: “the United States stands out as the only nation that does not already guarantee paid maternity leave.”

    That really annoys me.  No one is guaranteed paid maternity leave.  You are only guaranteed paid maternity leave if you have a job in the first place.  I’m not an employer, so I have no obligation to pay for anyone else to raise their children.  But if I started a business, I would suddenly have a moral duty to help pay for a woman to care for her children.  How can that possibly make sense?  It only makes sense in an imaginary world where all business owners are infinitely wealthy Scrooge McDucks swimming in their money bins.

    Why can’t a mother with children struggling to pay the bills just start a business?  According to the progressives’ logic, if she owned a business, she would have unlimited amounts of money to pay for everything she needed.

    Paid maternity leave is a perfectly fine idea.  My impression is most people like it, just like they like cellphones.  But like cellphones, it should be made available within the free market, not mandated.

    • #13
  14. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Kate Braestrup:

    We’re not providing everyone with a free education and whatnot in part because we’re helping to ensure that Finland doesn’t have to repel Russian troops at the border.

    Not so straightforward:

    US taxes are low relative to those in other developed countries. In 2012, US taxes at all levels of government represented 24 percent of GDP, compared with an average of 34 percent of GDP for the 34 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

    • #14
  15. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Franz Drumlin:But we were told that Donald Trump, despite his life-long adherence to Progressive values, is now a conservative and can even be relied upon to appoint strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court.

    Sorry, we don’t need two left-wing statists running for president. #nevertrump4ever.

    Whoa. Dude. Who told you that?

    • #15
  16. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    Frozen Chosen:Trump’s proposal would cheat couples with a stay at home mom because they will not be getting any paid leave, even though they will be paying for leave for working moms. Trump clearly believes that government exists solely to help him do whatever he wants to do, whether that is attracting female voters or kicking old ladies out of their house to make room for his development.

    The man is without principle. He’s not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination nor is he a man of his word. But keep on hopin’, Trump voters!

    Will do VC! And who again said he was conservative?

    • #16
  17. Mark Ledbetter Inactive
    Mark Ledbetter
    @MattyVan

    Steven Seward:Another little known fact about Sweden and Socialist Scandinavia in particular, is that the preponderance of their high taxes are not paid for by the rich. They don’t have steep sliding scales for rich and poor like we have in America. Their poor pay much higher taxes than ours.

    Corporate taxes are also low. Almost as important, corporate regulations are relatively few. Sweden knows it’s own history. It knows that it grew from being one of the poorest countries in Europe (on a level with Congo by some measurements) to one of the richest in the world (before sliding back a bit unders the welfare state) through a century of classical liberal economic policies, roughly 1870-1970. Always practical, it recognizes who the goose is that laid the golden egg, and still allows the goose freedom. If only Hillary, Bernie, Barack, and, yes, Donald, knew what lies behind the Swedish Third Way.

    • #17
  18. Viator Inactive
    Viator
    @Viator

    Oh no, a “conservative” aspect of Trump’s maternity leave plan:

    “One more question, and it’s not one I’d advise Gupta to ask: Won’t this government spending draw women away from the workplace and the leaning-in style of careerism that feminism has promoted? As they have weeks of time alone with the baby, isn’t government easing women into comfort and happiness of the noncommercial life of the home and perhaps even a spiritual awareness that the best life is grounded in love and family and not a career at all?”

    Ann Althouse

    • #18
  19. Matt White Member
    Matt White
    @

    Front Seat Cat:This is about paid maternity leave? Maybe it can be open for discussion, but it looks like another thumb in your eye title toward Trump – again…….. Hillary is waiting for your vote.

    Did you comment without reading?

    This post was a reasonable commentary on maternity leave. It didn’t have the usual gratuitous insults to Trump supporters. We should acknowledge that and encourage Mona to continue in this direction.

    • #19
  20. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    Annefy: Whoa. Dude. Who told you that?

    The man himself (among many others):

    http://www.breitbart.com/video/2016/03/07/trump-im-really-very-conservative-when-you-get-right-down-to-it/

    • #20
  21. Ralphie Inactive
    Ralphie
    @Ralphie

    It is amazing mankind, especially the U.S., has survived and thrived,  without paid maternity leave.     Maternity leave is nothing compared to raising a child, and I suppose that is next.

    Progressives never reach the moment they say it’s all good, their work is done, it’s up to fellow citizens to take advantage of opportunity, and rest.  The whole A and B get together and decide C has a problem X has to pay for scheme.

    • #21
  22. Steven Seward Member
    Steven Seward
    @StevenSeward

    Zafar:

    ….there’s no point in discussing the levels of taxes in different countries unless you discuss what you get for your taxes. Americans in many states, certainly, or cities—they might pay less taxes [on] their income or [on] property than Nordics do. But then, on top of that, they pay for their day care, they pay for their health insurance, they pay for college tuition—all these things that Nordics get for their taxes.

    Whatever Swedes get for their taxes, they sure don’t get much for their Kroners in consumer spending compared to  what Americans get for their dollars.  Here is a detailed breakdown of how much everyday items cost in Sweden vs. the United States.  http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Sweden/United-States/Cost-of-living

    You will find that about the only thing that is on par with the U.S., is housing.  But that is only certain types of housing.  About the only thing cheaper over there is potatoes!

    • #22
  23. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Steven Seward:

    Whatever Swedes get for their taxes, they sure don’t get much for their Kroners in consumer spending compared to what Americans get for their dollars. Here is a detailed breakdown of how much everyday items cost in Sweden vs. the United States. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Sweden/United-States/Cost-of-living

    You will find that about the only thing that is on par with the U.S., is housing. But that is only certain types of housing. About the only thing cheaper over there is potatoes!

    I wonder if how much it bites is a function of how much lower paid workers get.  Here’s a comparison of McDonalds workers in Stockhold and Chicago.

    From personal experience, when I moved from the US to Australia everything here was much more expensive (noticeably food), but the minimum wage was higher so I lived at least as well – even though I had moved from a junior ‘professional’ position in DC to working as a cleaner in Sydney while I found my feet.

    • #23
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