Ivanka Trump is on Capitol Hill today meeting with senators to discuss how to incentivize businesses to offer more paid parental leave, perhaps using tax dollars. As is often the case, government trails behind the private sector on this sort of thing, a point that was driven home for me by a full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times from a founder of Harry's, which is a mail-order shaving supply company:
we're excited to offer a new, progressive policy: 16 weeks of equitable paid parental leave, taken any time within the first year, to every person on our team. That applies to men, women, transgender, birthing parents and non-birthing parents.
Harry's has apparently decided that this policy makes sense from the standpoint of recruiting and retaining the best employees and from the perspective of marketing and branding its company and its products to consumers. If enough other companies make similar decisions, it will become a norm. Sometimes — not always, but sometimes — companies do these things because of competitive pressure, or because it's the right business decision, even without being forced to do it or paid/bribed/incentivized to do it by the government.
That's not to say that Ivanka Trump's plan or whatever Senate Republicans or some state governments come up with on parental leave should necessarily be rejected out of hand. It's just to say that change on this issue may happen even without a push from government. Government intervention might speed things up, but it might also slow things down, have other unintended consequences, and raise issues about justice and redistribution (why should a childless worker or retiree be taxed to pay for someone else's parental leave?)