When Donald Trump's eldest daughter, Ivanka Trump, took the stage at the Republican National Convention tonight, she began by admitting that she doesn't see herself as "categorically" either Republican or Democrat. A few minutes later, she proved she wasn't kidding by trotting out one of the latter party's favorite talking points: that women are paid substantially less than men are.
She proceeded to explain that a President Trump would change labor laws to address the "penalty" faced especially by moms. Though she didn't come right out and say that he favors imposing mandatory paid family leave on employers and offering government-subsidized child care, it wasn't hard to hear a call for just those policies in the subtext of her comments. Here's a transcript of the relevant section:
In 2014, women made 84 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Single women without children earned 94 cents for each dollar earned by a man, whereas married mothers made only 77 cents. As researchers have noted, gender is no longer the factor creating the greatest wage discrepancy. Motherhood is.
As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place during a time in which women were not a significant portion of the workforce, and he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all.
As the mother of three young children myself, I know how hard it is to work while raising a family, and I also know that I am far more fortunate than most. American families need relief. Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties. They should be the norm.
There's nothing wrong, even from a radical free market perspective, with voluntary policies that help people be good parents and good employees at the same time. Many companies already offer paid maternity leave (and sometimes paternity leave too), provide or help pay for child care, allow flexible schedules and teleworking, and otherwise find ways to support work-life balance for their staffs. Companies do those things because they're run by humans who care about the people they spend upwards of eight hours every day with, or because it gives them a competitive advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent, or both.
What is a problem is the suggestion that these policies ought to be forced on everyone across the board—even employers who can't afford them, or whose business models aren't compatible with them. Not all jobs can be done from home, and not all companies enjoy profit margins thick enough to support paying people for weeks or months during which they're not producing value.
Politicians' tendency to think of legislation as a magic wand is surpassed only by aspiring politicians' tendency to do the same. But enacting a law that forces someone to run her business in a way that doesn't make financial sense is a recipe for ending up with less entrepreneurship, fewer jobs, and lower base pay (or stingier fringe benefits) for those who are lucky enough to remain employed.
Well-compensated white-collar workers aren't the ones who suffer from that kind of short-sightedness—low-skilled workers are, for all the same reasons that high minimum wages push immigrants out of jobs and strict zoning regulations push poor families out of desirable neighborhoods. Sometimes the best thing the government can do for people is to stop trying to help them.