Friday Roundup: Pension policy, blue-collar tech, trends in family leave, cumulative business costs, global trade

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

Associated Press: Michigan leads effort to shift workers away from pensions

The proposals could serve as a national blueprint, and they will provoke a pitched battle with public unions that are desperate to preserve traditional benefits….

After ending pensions for new state workers in the late 1990s, Republican legislators are now considering moving all newly hired teachers and local government workers to 401(k)-type plans and cutting municipal retiree health benefits. Just one other state, Alaska, has ended teacher pensions.

Wired: The Next Big Blue-Collar Job is Coding

Politicians routinely bemoan the loss of good blue-collar jobs. Work like that is correctly seen as a pillar of civil middle-class society. And it may yet be again. What if the next big blue-collar job category is already here—and it’s programming? What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant?

Among other things, it would change training for programming jobs—and who gets encouraged to pursue them. As my friend Anil Dash, a technology thinker and entrepreneur, notes, teachers and businesses would spend less time urging kids to do expensive four-year computer-­science degrees and instead introduce more code at the vocational level in high school. You could learn how to do it at a community college; midcareer folks would attend intense months-long programs like Dev Bootcamp. There’d be less focus on the wunderkinds and more on the proletariat.

American Enterprise Institute: Paid family leave: Developing a national policy

There is widespread public support for paid parental leave, including majorities in both major political parties, and both major party Presidential candidates in 2016 advocated for some type of leave policy. The available evidenceindicates that leaves that are not overly generous provide substantial benefits, with relatively few costs. For all these reasons, this brief considers important issues relevant for developing a national paid leave program in the US.

At present, we simply do not know what the ideal leave program for the US would look like. International evidence suggests that leave programs with generous wage replacement and durations of six to nine months impose few costs while offering substantial labor market and health benefits. However, we cannot be confident how transferable these experiences are to the United States, with our very different political, social and economic institutions. For this reason, I favor starting with a relatively modest (in international terms) program, with re-evaluation and possible changes a few years after implementation being desirable.

The Lens: Washington’s Global Trade Future Without the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Although the United States is advancing without a stake in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Washington state’s global trade future is far from over. How the Trump administration approaches the topic, and what Congressmen and U.S. Senators promote in any new trade deal, has implications for trade-dependent states such as Washington. Washington would also be the state most negatively impactedshould a trade tariff war break out between U.S. and China or Mexico.

On the horizon for the United States is expanding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and focusing more on bilateral trade deals between another country, rather than the more-lengthy multilateral negotiations. Washington’s trade sector leaders are recommending the state maintains relationships with Asian markets to prevent losing opportunities to China.

Wenatchee World (Kris Johnson op-ed): Cumulative effect of taxes, regulations hurt small business

Employers understand the difficult balancing act the Legislature must play — pay for schools and critical services and maintain the state’s competitiveness. We wholeheartedly support those efforts.

But, we also believe that higher taxes that impact small business and rural communities that are still waiting for economic recovery should not be the starting point of budget negotiations.

And we know that it’s important to make sure that lawmakers understand how higher taxes and labor costs cause small businesses to pause expansion or even consider shutting their doors. That’s why AWB has completed a detailed report for lawmakers that outlines several policies that would support small employers and the communities they serve.

Healthy small businesses make for healthy communities. 

Hechinger Report: Is a two-year college sometimes the best path to a four-year degree?

California State University, Northridge is one of most diverse schools in the nationBut roughly half of its students don’t graduate in six years, and many never receive a degree. To remedy this problem, California State University, which consists of 23 schools and is the largest university system in the country, has launched an initiative to double its four-year graduation ratein 10 years. Working with The Hechinger Report for this seriesthree students from a Northridge journalism class write about what has held them back, and what they think needs to change.

Community college is especially important for students who need an affordable college option that will also give them extra time to focus on their studies. At many of the high schools I visit to recruit students, just graduating is an accomplishment.