Now that a day has gone by, and every medium under the sun has gone on at length about what they thought of it, I wanted to point out the one item that the president mentioned that I might be taking issue with. Everyone is talking about the great points; but I'll give you the one item I'm concerned with, in context, so we know where we think the president was going with it. Here goes:
"As tax cuts create new jobs, let’s invest in workforce development, and let’s invest in job training, which we need so badly", he said to applause. "Let’s open great vocational schools, so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential ... and let’s support working families by supporting paid family leave."
The underlined phrase is the point of discussion today.
I gave the context, because I am not convinced of a part of exactly what he was saying. Listen again: "Let's invest [in workforce development] ...", he said. "Let's open [voc-tech schools] ..." he said. "Let's support ... paid family leave", he said.
"Let's." "Let us ..." Who, exactly, is "us"?
When I heard the part about paid family leave, I turned to my best girl and said "Well, there's one thing I disagree with." That's because I completely disagree with government interference in the way companies offer benefits to their employees. I disagree with the notion of a minimum wage, I disagree with any law that obliges businesses to offer health or life insurance, and I disagree with any law that obliges business to offer any specific vacation or holiday leave.
I believe, as I have written in these "pages" often, that business should offer all that, but that they should do so from the standpoint of competition -- if they don't offer decent benefits when others do, no one will want to work there and they'll get a bad reputation. It is not for government to mandate benefits that, in some industries, are not affordable. Government mandates are "one size fits all." Business is not like that; all companies are not the same and all industries are definitely not the same.
That is my concern about what President Trump said Tuesday night. I don't know who the "us" was in all the "Let's" phrases. Listen yet again:
"As tax cuts create new jobs, let’s invest in workforce development, and let’s invest in job training, which we need so badly." Workforce development is something that industry typically does, not government.
"Let’s open great vocational schools, so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential." Vocational schools are something built by local city and county governments, and perhaps some states -- but definitely not by the Federal government, which has zero Constitutional role in education.
So the first two points were about (A) something he wanted business to do, we assume, and (B) something for local, county and state government to do, almost assuredly.
The third point was about supporting paid family leave.
To whom was that directed? Given that it came after an encouragement to industry and then an encouragement to local government, well, we don't really know. And I hope that someone will clarify what he was looking for, and whom he was asking to take up that initiative. I further hope that it was not government, at any level whatsoever.
I've heard that the president's daughter Ivanka is a big advocate for paid family leave, but that does not make it right for government to step in and mandate it. I do believe that paid family leave is a very suitable benefit for certain companies in certain industries to offer, and God bless those that can. I also know that if my family's bridal salon had been forced by law to offer paid family leave and to set aside the costs of replacing such workers, we would have closed sooner than we did.
That is why paid family leave needs to be regarded as a competitive attraction for businesses who offer it, not a governmental mandate for businesses, many of whom cannot afford to. And to that, I would add the fact that passing such a law requiring paid family leave would have a chilling effect on the hiring of maternal-age women and young married men. It is the unintended consequence of government meddling in the economy; there always are those.
Donald Trump is a very smart businessman, and he knows all of what I wrote above. So I hope that if there is any subsequent messaging from the White House, it clarifies the fact that the president was encouraging business who can afford to do so, to offer that benefit, but that he is most definitely not in favor of a governmental mandate for this or any other benefit.
I hope that is the case. If that's so, the State of the Union address was a 100% touchdown.
Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
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