Monday, September 28, 2015

The Tesla Subsidy

Tesla Model S

Behold the Tesla Model S.  It is a very cool car.  It runs on electricity and can travel 250 miles or more before its battery needs recharging.  

The founder of the company that manufactures the Tesla is Elon Musk, who became a billionaire after the sale of PayPal, which he also founded.  Musk's net worth is estimated at more than $10 billion.

Tesla's development was funded at least in part by a 2010 federal loan of $465 million, which the company repaid in 2013, the first year it declared a profit.

Tesla's stock valuation ranges from obscenely high to well into the stratosphere.  The company has ready access to capital and plans to introduce a less expensive Tesla model later this year. 

The current car, the Model S, costs $90,000 or more, but it comes with a sweet deal from the federal government.  If you buy a Tesla, you get a $7,500 income tax credit.  (Not a deduction, an outright reduction of your tax bill by $7,500.)  This is available only to people whose income tax bills are higher than $7,500 in the year they purchase their car.

The Los Angeles Times reported this summer that Tesla buyers had collected $284 million in federal tax credits.  The tax credit will begin to run out after Tesla sells 200,000 electric vehicles.  By that point, Tesla owners will have saved $1.5 billion in federal income tax.

Tesla owners have an average household income of about $320,000, according to Strategic Visions, an auto industry research firm.

If I wanted to buy a really expensive car, I'd definitely consider a Tesla.  But even then, I think I'd consider the tax credit was a bit over the top.  People who can afford $90,000 cars do not need an extra $7,500 from the federal government.   

To be fair, Tesla is not the only one.  Other, less expensive electric cars get $7,500 tax credits.  Here's a list:  BMW i3, BYD e6, Fiat 500e, Ford Focus EV, Chevrolet Spark EV, Mitsubishi I-MiEV, Nissan Leaf and Smart Fortwo.

Plug-in hybrids also are eligible for tax credits. Another list:  BMW i3 REX, ($7,500); Ford C-Max Energi, ($4,007); Ford Fusion Energi, ($4,007); Cadillac ELR, ($7,500); Chevrolet Volt, ($7,500); Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid, ($3,626); Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, ($4,751.80); Porsche 918 Spyder, ($3,667), and Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid, ($2,500).


      -- In a perverse way, Tesla also makes non-electric cars more expensive in at least one state. California requires zero-emission vehicles to account for four percent of car manufacturers' sales this year, an amount that will rise to more than 15 percent in 2018. 
     Tesla cars don't have emissions, and the company is allowed to sell credits to manufacturers whose fleets don't meet the four percent standard.  Paying for these credits raises the cost of regular cars.

     -- Cars like Tesla do not reduce carbon emissions to zero.  As of last year, two-thirds of U.S. electrical generation came from burning coal, natural gas and oil.  Some of that carbon-emitting production was used to power electric cars. If we're really serious about reducing carbon emissions, we need to find new energy sources for our electricity.  

     -- Because Teslas do not use gasoline, their owners do not pay gas taxes, which fund much of the country's road maintenance and mass transit.  This is good for Tesla owners, but not so much for other drivers. Over time, government will have to collect the money from other sources.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Paperwhite Project

Nobody ever has compared me to Martha Stewart, but I want to share an easy and rewarding project that has worked even for me.  If you start within the next few weeks, you will have a pleasant display to brighten your home during the holiday season. 

You need only three elements:

     -- A tall vase or vases.  The ones here are 13 inches tall and 4.5 inches wide.
     -- Small rocks of any sort.  (I got these and the vases at Target.)
     -- Four paperwhite bulbs for each vase.  (Do not buy packaged bulbs at 
         Home Depot; go to a real nursery that sets out large baskets of these
         and pick good-sized, healthy bulbs.)

Here is the procedure:

1.  Fill the vases with three to four inches of the small rocks.

2.  Set the paperwhite bulbs, stringy sides down, on top of the rocks.

3.  Fill the vases with water to the bottom of the bulbs.  The idea is not
     to drown the bulbs but rather to keep their feet wet.

4.  Set the vases and bulbs in a sunny spot in your house.

5.  Add water as needed.

I am starting my paperwhites next week.  I'll post a few update photos as they grow.

(Hint:  Below is a picture of where this is going.)

Friday, September 25, 2015


Below is a 2012 White House rap performance of what became the first number of the hottest Broadway ticket in town today:  "Hamilton."

It's worth a watch.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the performer and writer, plays here the part of Aaron Burr, who shot Hamilton dead in a duel.  On Broadway now, Miranda plays Hamilton and Burr is cast fabulously by Leslie Odom Jr., whose name we will hear again and again.

The play/musical/opera uses current vernacular but captures the essence of our founders' intentions and arguments, specifically through Alexander Hamilton, who in retrospect may have been the best of the group.  (If anyone wants to put forward a better candidate, I dare him to find one.)

I saw the play this week, and it is really, really, really great. It reminds us why the American Revolution succeeded while the French and Russian revolutions failed.  It appropriates our founding documents to include all of us, which, over time, they did. It shows us Alexander Hamilton, a flawed man like all men, but one who left his mark on history.

When I got home, I looked to find tickets for friends.  Alas, the entire New York run is sold out.  In a way, this is good.  It signals that "Hamilton" and its themes will be reverberating in performances for many years to come.

There are several other youtube videos of this piece, but they aren't that good.  If "Hamilton" comes to your city, buy tickets and go.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Pope and Politics

Pope Francis arrived yesterday on his trip to the United States.  The American press is covering his visit like white on rice -- or on a papal cassock.  

What newspeople most want to know is this:  Is the pope more like a Republican or more like a Democrat? 

The developing consensus seems to be that Francis leans Democrat.

Some snippets from newspapers:

     In one paper we read this:  "The big question for Obama and his advisors is 
     whether the pope's soaring popularity can ever-so-slightly shift the ground on 
     some issues crucial to the White House. . . ."

     In another paper, the U.N. ambassador describes "a nice convergence of 
     the timing" with current administration concerns and says "we hope his moral
     authority will help us advance many of the items that we take to be very high on
     our policy agenda."

     A third paper speculates that, depending on the political issue, the pope "could 
     benefit both the left and the right" but concludes he is more likely to aid Obama's 
     "quest to bend the arc of history."

A Bloomberg commenter explains why he thinks the papal visit is a net plus for Obama in the piece below.  (Not that you have to watch to it.)

Our commentariat is always eager to handicap political horse races, and its members understandably are tired of discussing Donald Trump.  (Who can blame them?)   They're jumping on this new guy, the pope, and sizing him by the standards of American politics, which is nothing like the politics of Argentina, where Francis spent his life before moving to Rome. 

Francis isn't planning to run for the U.S. presidency next year. He almost certainly will not endorse a candidate either.  

What seems to get missed is this: Francis is a RELIGIOUS leader.  If he has to make time for politics, he most likely will spend it on a church issue.

Vatican Politics

Francis supported the election of the previous pope, Benedict XVI, an intellectual man whose personal mien was not as warm and fuzzy as Francis' own but who was very serious about his mission.

What Francis and the college of cardinals saw in Benedict was someone ready to crack heads in the Curia, the Vatican's overlarded, self-dealing administrative wing.

Benedict might have been the right man for the job, but he probably came to it too late in his life.  In a humble and very unpapal move, Benedict resigned so that someone else could take up the task. 

Francis replaced Benedict and shares his agenda.  That is his business job, but his bigger concern is the spiritual lives of his 1.2 billion-member flock.  Happily for Catholics, he appears to have the energy for both.   

So, yes, Francis will do photo ops with Fidel Castro but refer only obliquely to the uncounted numbers of dissidents in Cuban prisons.  He will not go into his views about economic inequality or raise a ruckus in Havana about Castro's $100 million net worth.  

In our country, he will smile with a twinkle in his eye at our politicians and keep his thoughts about Planned Parenthood to himself.  He will talk about taking care of the environment, which to him is not a partisan goal even if our politicians enjoy posturing and sparring over the means to this end.

And if either political party seeks his blessing, it will be frustrated. Francis is in it for souls, not polls.


On the same day that Pope Francis' jet touched down on the East Coast, another world leader arrived in Seattle, not that you would have learned this by following the news. 

That leader is Xi Jinping, the president of China.  In the real world, our dealings with China are far more consequential than those with the Vatican.  Xi is a highly disciplined and careful man moving with deliberate force on many fronts.  China has the world's largest population and perhaps the largest economy as well.

There are many sources of friction in the U.S.-China relationship:  China's widespread hacking of our government records, its military buildup in the Pacific, its dumping of steel at below-market prices, its environmental mess, its monetary policy, its growing alliances with other countries whose leaders we do not admire, and on and on and on.

The pope's trip will include a speech before a joint session of Congress.  Xi will speak at a gala state dinner.  

Let's hope our leaders' infatuation with the Francis will not keep them from meeting with Xi and trying to understand what is going on in his head.   His politics and strategies are important, too.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Swastikas on Campus

July 2014

University of Oregon -- Swastikas were discovered on mailboxes facing a Jewish fraternity house.
University of Oregon

October 2014

Emory University -- The morning after Yom Kippur, a Jewish fraternity was tagged with swastikas, among other graffiti on a street nearby.  Two additional swastikas were discovered on the campus a few days later. 

Emory University
Yale University -- Three swastikas were drawn in chalk outside a freshman dormitory.

Emerson College -- A rash of swastikas were posted on bulletin boards and every laundry room doorway in a campus residence hall. The word "heil" also was posted.  A student was said later to be responsible for at least some of acts.

January 2015

University of California, Davis -- Between 3 a.m and 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, a Jewish fraternity house entry and back wall were defaced with swastikas. Around the same time, a janitor found the words, "grout out the Jews" etched into a wall in a campus restroom.

University of California, Davis

February 2015

University of California, Berkeley -- A graffiti swastika was found on a campus building.  
     Less than a month later a restroom was tagged with this message:  "Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber."
     Later, a Jewish member of the student government told an interviewer, “A lot of students find swastikas and come to me.  On dorms, on bathroom stalls, just random places on campus.”

Cleveland State University – Two swastikas were found on the fourth floor of the university’s Main Classroom building. 

March 2015

Vanderbilt University  -- Two swastikas were spray-painted in the elevator of the Jewish fraternity.

John Jay College, CUNY, Manhattan -- Swastikas were scrawled in bathrooms and in a classroom.

State University of New York, Purchase -- Multiple swastikas were painted in a dorm room and also on doors and a stairwell.  

Brooklyn College -- The message, "Jews -- root of all evil," was found scratched on the wall of a men’s bathroom stall in the campus library.
Tufts University -- Swastikas were found painted on several cars parked near a fraternity house on campus. 
        The previous April, nearly two dozen swastikas were painted on sites around campus and nearby Medford on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
        Last December police were investigating “several” swastikas painted on the south side of a campus building.

Fairleigh Dickinson University -- A Jewish flag was found torn on campus. A faculty member wrote, “Just to add to the overall picture of bias crimes on campus, last week, I found a swastika drawn on the bulletin board outside my office in Bancroft Hall—yet again.”

April 2015

Framingham State University – A swastika was keyed into a student's car in a campus parking lot. Earlier, in December 2014, a swastika was carved into the door of a student's dorm room.  

University of Missouri – Two consecutive incidents were reported.  A swastika, the Illuminati symbol, and the word “heil” were drawn in ash on a wall.  The next day, another swastika and the words “You’ve been warned” were discovered in the same area.  Ten days later, a freshman student (who lived in the Mark Twain residence hall, of all places) was arrested and charged.

Northwestern University  – A swastika was found in the men’s fourth-floor restroom at University Library. The graffito was written in pencil and the police were able to remove it. University police also found a swastika drawn in pencil in a third-floor study room.and a Star of David drawn in ink pen on the walls of a different third-floor study room. Police said the last image might have previously been a swastika.

Stanford University –  Spray-painted swastikas and anarchy symbols were found at a house for students transitioning out of dorm life, at the Jewish fraternity house and at an Italian-language and culture-focused academic house, according to the university.
     Several months later, a 19-year-old man was arrested for the acts.  He lived nearby but did not attend the university.  
     "We are unable to speculate on a motive," said a police spokesman.

Stanford University

June 2015

Northwestern University -- Construction workers found anti-Semitic and racist graffiti at the construction site of the new Kellogg School of Management building. 
     Ten days later, on the day of commencement ceremonies, a security team found a swastika and another Nazi symbol drawn in mud on a campus window.  

I'm pretty sure these are not the only instances of swastikas on campus.  Self-preserving college administrations have no incentive to broadcast these things widely.  My guess is many more such outbreaks are cleaned up quietly and as fast as possible.

University of California

The school's board of regents has been considering a new policy rejecting all manner of "intolerance" on all campuses.  At a recent meeting, a number of commenters showed up not to protest the speech code -- which is ill-considered and counter to the First Amendment -- but to emphasize that it was important to make sure it applied to anti-Semitic speech.

One of the regents, Richard Blum, said he and his wife, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, believe that students who behave in racist, anti-Semitic or other biased ways should face penalties such as suspension or expulsion. If the university did not adopt strong enough rules, he said, Feinstein would publicly criticize UC.  Maybe neither Blum nor Feinstein has read the First Amendment either.

An activist said later that SJP members have faced discrimination for speaking their minds about Israel's treatment of Palestinians.  She fretted that such a policy might "silence one side of an important discussion.”  I'm happy to defend Palestinian activists against discrimination, but if her complaint is that they are confronted by people who want to argue with their ideas, then she too is wrong.

Free Speech

For 15 years now, several campus groups have agitated against Zionism.  They go by names like the Society for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Boycott-Divest-Sanction (of Israel, only Israel).  After thousands of student government votes, these groups have convinced many to demand that university foundations stop investing not just in Israeli securities but in the stocks of companies that do business in Israel.  The American Studies Association voted against participating in academic conferences in Israel.  A national Hispanic studies group voted unanimously a couple months ago for the same thing. 

There have been many Palestinian initiatives.  Several years ago, SJP members armed with fake rifles stood at Berkeley's Sather Gate, inquired whether entering students were Jews and tried to prevent those who were Jews from going onto the campus.  The point was to show Jews how Palestinians felt in Israel.  It was crude and smelled like anti-Semitism, but it was speech. 

Earlier this year, Jewish candidates for student government positions were challenged based on their religion at two good universities, Stanford and UCLA.  The students raising objections had to be reminded by faculty members that, in fact, freedom of religion is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the American Constitution.   You would think that students at such schools would know better, but, again, it was speech and the First Amendment reigned.

In my college years, before SJP developed its broad influence, a number of anti-Semitic protesters heckled students from the porch of the student union -- again, free speech -- but I never saw a swastika spray-painted on a campus facility.


I'm pretty sure the SJP and BDS groups would say they oppose Israel's policies but not Jews per se, and I imagine they think they mean it. 

But the flowering of swastikas etched and spray-painted at campuses across the country makes me suspicious.

A swastika is not associated with Zionism or Palestinian rights.  It is associated with the systematic extermination of 6 million Jews.  

An anonymously drawn swastika is not exactly free speech.  It is cowardly speech, low speech.  It is anti-Semitism that is not brave enough to speak its name or to face the scorn it merits.  Unfortunately, it seems to be on the rise.

If college leaders think that shutting down "intolerant" discussions will reduce anti-Semitism on campus, they are wrong.  It will drive anti-Semitism further underground.  There will be more and more swastikas and, eventually, attacks on Jewish students.


College students are often idealistic and want to act on high-minded goals.  The last few years have been hard ones for many groups, especially religious groups, around the world.  

The Chinese government has suppressed Uighurs and Tibetans.  Hong Kong students' protest last year of Chinese abrogation of free election standards went on for weeks with little support from other countries. 

ISIS has broadcast public executions of Christians and aid workers; it has thrown gay men off the tops of tall buildings; it flagrantly operates a market in which captured women are sold as sex slaves.  Yazidis have been targeted for death.  Chemical weapons have been used against various Syrian resistance fighters and their families.

Boko Haram (whose name means opposition to western education) has ravaged communities in northeastern Nigeria, killing many people and torching entire towns.

Where are the campus critiques of these issues?  Where are the calls for action?   

Friday, September 18, 2015

Chunky Heels

I paged through several fashion magazines the other day and learned what I need to look for in shoes this season:  Chunky heels.

Let me start with Chanel and some popular shoes from its fall 2015 line:


                                                                     MARC JACOBS

Here are a couple chunkies from the well-loved American designer.  Like Karl Lagerfeld of Chanel and many other famous trend-setters, he is showing high-heeled, chunky lace-ups.

He also includes a variation on ankle boots, which I describe as "high-top ankle boots."  These are very popular in the fashion magazines this year.


As you can see, this fashion line is all in on the chunky heel.  Notice velvet versions of the previously referenced high-top ankle boot as well as velvet sandals for fall and winter wear.  If rainy or snowy weather arrives and you have an UberBLACK account, definitely go ahead and buy some of these. 


This chunky-heeled shoe is a variation on the Mary Jane, which is instantly recognizable to every woman who once was a child.

    (Let me digress.  Below is a classic Mary Jane.  These shoes are still staples of 
    young girls' wardrobes.  

     (The pair I remember from my childhood also were of black patent leather, but the 
     cross straps had hinges, or something similar, that could pivot them behind the 
     ankle, turning the shoes into what we now would call flats, or possibly ballet flats.  
     How I loved those shoes!)

Anyway, back to Prada.  Its Mary Janes are also available in a neutral color (below) and a two-toned pink patent-leather version that has been featured often in magazine layouts.

Other shoe manufacturers are piling on to this trend.  Suffice it to say, if you crave a pair of chunky-heeled Mary Janes, you will no trouble finding a pair this season.


These shoes may not be daring, but they are attractive and of the moment.  They look comfortable for occasions when you must walk more than a block to your restaurant or when you must stand for an hour or so at a cocktail reception. You can't go wrong with Calvin.


These are the chunkiest chunky heels I have seen.  They make me imagine a sleek jet parked on the back of a truck.  I also wonder, now that we all are supposed to wear tights or -- dare it be said -- pantyhose again, what injury or snags might result if you raised your leg to scratch an itch on your ankle.


Some women -- the really disciplined ones -- favor tall thin-heeled shoes, and good for them.  Below are a few of the newest ones for this fall and winter.  There are, as always, many others.

If this is your look, worry not.  These shoes will be available always, especially on the markdown racks at the end of the season.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parental Leave as a Policy

Yesterday I detailed what appears to be rising demand -- or at least agitation to generate rising demand -- for paid parental leave.   The idea is for mothers and fathers of newborns and adopted children to stay home with them in their early infancy.  

Promoters of these policies seem to assume that parental leave is an essential and unmixed blessing.  

I honestly don't see it.

1.  Most of the employers offering paid family leave do so only to high-earning workers.  (At Netflix, for instance, paid parental leave is available to IT experts but not lower-paid warehouse workers.) And when you think about it, high-income families are the ones best able to save money for and take unpaid leaves.  

2.  Most low-paid workers are now part-time employees, ineligible for company-paid health insurance.  If a new policy were adopted by a company or a government agency, it probably would not cover part-time employees.  

If a new policy DID require paid parental leave for part-time employees, the cost to employers would increase.  So would the incentive to replace low-wage workers wherever possible.  

     (The New York Times reporter who seems to be on the parental leave beat
     visited a new kind of food service company in San Francisco recently. Her
     report reflects puzzlement about the loss of restaurant jobs:

     ("The restaurant, Eatsa, the first outlet in a company with national ambitions, is 
     almost fully automated. There are no waiters or even an order taker behind a 
     counter. There is no counter. There are unseen people helping to prepare the 
     food, but there are plans to fully automate that process, too, if it can be done 
     less expensively than employing people."

     (Eatsa is the first such company to attract national attention, but it is by no 
     means unique.  I encountered a similar concept in San Diego last month.  It is 
     called idessert, and I imagine its investors also plan to expand by selling pricey 
     products in stores with very few workers.)

Like it or not, this is the future.  As the number of low-wage jobs declines, there is some hazard to raising the cost of such employment.

3.  Families are different.  A top-down, one-size-fits-all idea will not work for everyone.  
Many families -- including Hispanic, African American and Asian ones -- are more tightly knit than Anglo upper-class two-income families.  Child rearing in these families more often is shared. Given the option, such parents almost certainly would prefer savings for education to time for infant bonding.  

Other workers have their own reasons for doing things differently. Ambitious people who want to provide a good family income might agree that the parent with primary child-raising responsibility should take the day shift for a baby's first few months. Now such parents are sometimes castigated rather being respected for their own private decisions. 

4.  I have one thing to say to new parents who assume that full-time bonding with a newborn is essential to good parenthood:  Come and talk to me in 15 or 20 years.  Here's why:

Children's needs come up at different moments and rarely are clustered in early infancy.  Think about a child who is diagnosed as autistic.  Or is bullied by mean girls in middle school.  Or is assigned to an incompetent teacher.  Or contracts leukemia.  Or develops substance-abuse problems.

Unanticipated challenges are more common than not. These are times when parents need to clear the decks and support their children.  I believe these are the most important bonding situations.
If an employment policy allowed flexibility -- letting parents take leaves when their children need them most -- I could sort of see it.  But demanding universal leaves only for parents of infants just seems short-sighted. 

4.  This is not the biggest issue we have with children.  Two years ago it was revealed that Medicaid pays for 45 percent of infant deliveries in the U.S.  Improving family incomes may provide bigger payoffs long-term than a parental leave policy.

5.  The constant refrain that all other developed countries provide parental leave sounds convincing until you consider the circumstances of those countries.  Europe's unemployment rate is twice that of the U.S., and much higher for young adults of childbearing age.  Even with lavish leave policies, European families are having far fewer children than American ones.  

In Japan, another country with that provides parental leave, families are having so few children that that sales of adult diapers are now greater than sales of baby diapers.  

If the goal is to support family formation -- and it should be -- paid parental leave doesn't seem to be having much of an effect.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Parental Leave

Every few years or so, the New York Times gets a bee in its bonnet about a particular issue.

      -- In 2002, it ran more than 40 articles encouraging Augusta National Golf Club, 
      home of the Masters Tournament, to begin admitting women.  And it worked. 
      Ten years later, the club admitted two women.  (Perhaps one day the Times will 
      take an interest in the many, many golf clubs in its main circulation area that do 
      not admit Jews, Asians or African Americans.)

     -- In late 2013, it took out after New Jersey's Chris Christie for Bridgegate, a 
     four-day traffic blockage on the state's end of the George Washington Bridge.  
     The presumption is that lanes were shut down to send a lesson to the mayor of 
     the city next to the bridge, who failed to endorse Christie's re-election. (There 
     are two possible reasons for this:  Either the Times wants to run Christie out 
     of the 2016 presidential race, or one of paper's senior staff members is an 
     enraged GWB commuter.)  Who knows?  The paper's intense interest in the
     matter continues to this day.

Recently -- and particularly this  summer -- the Times has been obsessed with parental leave, that is, paid leaves of four weeks to six months for both parents after the birth of a child.  When it comes to this issue, the paper is wearing its heart on its sleeve.

The coverage contends that 1) paid leaves should be provided by all employers or perhaps the federal government, 2) fathers and mothers should have equal access to parental leave, and 3) this is an inevitable battle that is beginning to be won.  The Times also is hinting strongly that the only good fathers are ones who take parental leave.

Here are the paper's recent articles, along with a few sentences from each.


Paternity Leave: The Rewards and the Remaining Stigma

If more women play the breadwinner role and more men ask for family-friendly policies, it could become hard for employers to treat them differently on the basis of gender roles.

The challenge, however, is not just persuading employers to offer paternity leave but also persuading men to take it.
by Claire Cain Miller
November 7, 2014


How Does an Uber Driver Take Family Leave?

Some of these people will be entrepreneurs, but a lot more of them will be Airbnb hosts or Instacart shoppers or freelance code writers or baristas. What do they do when they or their partner has a baby?

Whatever policy or free market solutions we devise in the coming years, they’ll be only part of the answer. The other part requires a cultural shift in how we prioritize and value parenting.
by Seth Isaacs
June 21, 2015


New Momentum on Paid Leave, in Business and Politics

Long a pet Democratic cause that seemed hopelessly far-fetched, paid leave suddenly seems less so. With pay for most workers still growing sluggishly — as it has been for most of the last 15 years — political leaders are searching for policies that can lift middle-class living standards. Companies, for their part, are becoming more aggressive in trying to retain workers as the unemployment rate has fallen below 6 percent.

Perhaps most important, researchers say, is designing policies so that both men and women use them.
by Claire Cain Miller
June 26, 2015

Netflix's Year-Long Parental Leave Raises Bar for U.S. Employers

While it could push some companies to follow in its footsteps, for others it will not be possible. Top tech firms are among the leaders in offering greater benefits to attract new talent. Facebook offers four months of paid leave for parents, while Google Inc offers at least 18 weeks of paid maternity leave.
by Reuters
August 5, 2015

Following Netflix, Microsoft Sweetens Parental Leave Benefits

Microsoft will allow new mothers and fathers to take parental leave in one continuous 12-week period or split it into two periods. Employees will be allowed to resume their jobs at Microsoft on a part-time basis after parental leave.

“For these parents to bring their best every day, they need time to take care of themselves and their family,” Kathleen Hogan, executive vice president for human resources at Microsoft, wrote in the blog post.

While Microsoft’s changes are not as generous as those announced by Netflix, they still compare well with those of other tech companies. 
by Nick Wingfield
August 5, 2015

Bringing Paternity Leave into the Mainstream

 And while some employers believe that generous maternity leave more than pays for itself in retention, there is little proof that male employees won’t experience a career stall immediately afterward if they dare to step out for a while.

This evidence cannot emerge without employers offering paid paternity leave in the first place, and most of the people (generally older, often men) who sign off on these policy changes generally haven’t seen fit to do so. Only 17 percent of the employers that the Society for Human Resource Management surveys provide fathers with the benefit.
by Ron Lieber
August 7, 2015

Farhad and Mike's Week in Review: Netflix's Not So 'Unlimited Benefits'

Perhaps the biggest news came from Netflix. On Tuesday, the streaming video company announced that it would offer “unlimited” maternity and paternity leave to its employees. While it was obviously good news for Netflix workers, the announcement generated more controversy than I would have guessed. This was partly because of the gimmicky way Netflix announced the move — it’s not “unlimited” leave, it’s unlimited during your first year after having a kid. And later on in the week, we learned that workers in Netflix’s DVD warehouse won’t be covered by the new policy.

by Farhad Manjoo
and Mike Isaacs
August 8, 2015


Adobe Is Latest to Extend Parental Leave Benefits

The move was seen as a game changer in the United States, which lags other developed countries in the amount of parental leave offered to employees. Paid maternity leave in the United States is usually about 30 days, according to Mary Tavarozzi, a senior consultant with benefit consultant group Towers Watson.
by Reuters
August 10, 2015 

Adobe to Double Leave It Offers to New Mothers

 New mothers at the California-based company will receive 26 weeks of paid leave, up from 12 weeks, and primary caregivers and new parents will get 16 weeks of paid parental leave. “We join an industry movement to better support our employees while striving towards increased work force diversity,” said Donna Morris, an Adobe senior vice president. 
by Reuters
August 10, 2015


After Netflix, Adobe Extends Parental Leave Policy

"Caring for yourself and your family at home helps you be your best at work. But in the U.S., government mandates for paid leave are currently slim to nonexistent," Donna Morris, senior vice president of people and places at Adobe, wrote in a blog post Monday. "That means companies must navigate the tough balance between supporting employees during major life events and meeting business goals. Too often, employees have not had the support they need."

The U.S. and Papua New Guinea are the only countries among 185 nations and territories that don't have government-mandated laws requiring employers to pay mothers while on leave with their babies, according to a study released last year by the United Nations' International Labor Organization.
by The Associated Press
August 10, 2015


The Best Paternity Leave Policies

Here’s our working list of the United States employers who offer at least 10 weeks of paid parental leave to new fathers. If we missed your employer, please let us know, and we will follow up.

Company         Weeks of Paid Paternity Leave
Netflix          Unlimited in the first year (not all employees are eligible) 18 weeks
Facebook           4 months
Adobe         16 weeks
Goldman Sachs 16 weeks (for adoption or surrogacy only)
Morgan Stanley 16 weeks
Bank of America 12 weeks
Dow Jones  12 weeks
Google          12 weeks
Microsoft          12 weeks
Twitter          10 weeks

At some companies, employees must declare themselves to be the primary caregiver for the child.
August 12, 2015

Leaps in Leave, if Only Parents Would Take It

These companies are in the vanguard of a movement, some experts believe. “We’re in the midst of revolutionary changes in the workplace,” said Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project at the University of Pennsylvania. “It will be a 15- to 20-year project, but the competitive pressures in the labor market are pushing toward greater freedom and flexibility.”

by Claire Cain Miller
and David Streitfeld
September 1, 2015

Family-Leave Policies Can Enforce Old Gender Roles

 Social science research has shown that parents who use formal benefits and are seen as performing a primary parenting role, regardless of gender, are penalized with lower pay and fewer promotions. Other research has shown that when fathers play a hands-on role early in a baby’s life, they are more involved for years to come, and mothers earn more.

Some researchers say one way to decrease these penalties is to make family-oriented policies gender-neutral and apply them to all parents.
by Claire Cain Miller
September 3, 2015


The Myth of Quality Time

That’s reflected in a development that Claire Cain Miller and David Streitfeld wrote about in The Times last week. They noted that “a workplace culture that urges new mothers and fathers to hurry back to their cubicles is beginning to shift,” and they cited “more family-friendly policies” at Microsoft and Netflix, which have extended the leave that parents can take.

How many parents will step off the fast track and avail themselves of this remains to be seen. But those who do will be deciding that the quantity of time with their brood matters as much as the intensity of it.
by Frank Bruni
September 6, 2015


Attitudes Shift on Paid Leave:  Dads Sue, Too

Now, as men shoulder more responsibilities at home, they are increasingly taking legal action against employers that they say refuse to accommodate their roles as fathers.

The cases come against the backdrop of a societal shift in which many fathers are working  less and spending more time with their children. A recent Pew Research Center analysis reported that from 1965 to 2011, fathers reduced the number of hours they devoted to paid work to about 37 from 42 each week on average and increased the number of hours they devoted to child care each week to about seven from 2.5.
by Noam Scheiber
September 16, 2015


Let's discuss this a little bit tomorrow.