Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell search for good legislative ideas (illustrated)

Republicans now wield almost absolute power in Congress and in the White House. But it looks like they’re so used to being the opposition, they can’t form and agree on coherent ideas.

GOP governors fight their own party on Obamacare.” “GOP Divisions Emerge Over Repeal Effort.” “Ryan struggles to sell tax reform plan to fellow Republicans.” “Republicans Agree on Cutting Taxes, but Not on How to Do It.”

Only one of those recent headlines is from a “left-leaning” publication, The New York Times. And that’s just on two issues that affect consumers. If Republicans don’t have a plan after years of obstructing everything Obama did, and genuinely want to help Americans, here are some bipartisan starting points I see elsewhere in the country…

Paid family leave

Last year, New York passed legislation that will eventually guarantee 12 weeks of paid time off to employees trying to raise a new child, care for close ill relatives, or juggle new responsibilities from a family member called to active-duty military service. While a few other states — California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey — already have paid leave laws, this will be the biggest to date.

The rules will kick in gradually, starting next year with eight weeks at up to 50 percent of normal salary and working up to 12 weeks at two-thirds of normal salary. All private employees, part-time or full-time, are eligible if they’ve held the job for six months. You can choose whether to use any available company paid time off (for full pay) or to take the paid leave benefit instead — employers can’t force you to use PTO or other leave time first.

I hear the Republican skepticism, but it’s not employers picking up the tab. And it’s not a burdensome tax, either. Employees themselves will keep a state fund for paid leave topped up with a weekly payroll tax of $1. No employer contribution is required.

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During the campaign, Donald Trump himself supported at least 6 weeks of paid leave for new mothers, while Clinton wanted the New York model. And as I wrote just over a year ago, paid family leave is one of the financial issues that already have bipartisan support, even if there is disagreement about the scope. That’s fine” Republicans get to dictate the scope for now. Anything’s better than nothing.

Financial literacy in college (or sooner)

Washington state is looking at a law that would require “live financial literacy seminars” in college, preferably as part of orientation. (Just handing them written information doesn’t work, as evidenced by the majority of people with student loans who don’t remember ever getting the student loan entrance counseling they had to receive before getting any money.)

The bill is sponsored by four Republicans and one Democrat.

The seminars would cover scholarship and work-study opportunities, student loan repayment options and penalties for not paying, salary information for a wide range of jobs, perspectives from real students who are already paying student loans, and — most importantly — basic money management skills like budgeting and handling credit.

While the language of the bill is a mess and the ideas need to be a lot more specific, the aim is good. We absolutely need to teach financial literacy and personal fiscal responsibility to a country with $1.3 billion in student loan debt and almost no conception of an emergency fund. Republicans might be leery of dictating national standards a la Common Core, but could pass something requiring each state to come up with standards.

And fortunately, Washington isn’t the only state currently looking at fin lit. A bill in Florida and one in Arkansas would mandate financial literacy classes in high school. One in New Jersey would start in kindergarten.

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Article last modified on August 30, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC .