Broadly, the tax bill before Congress (in both its House and Senate versions) proposes to cut the standard corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, reduce personal income tax rates, reduce a range of tax preferences, including the deductibility of state and local income taxes, and increase the child tax credit and the standard deduction. The “sunsetting provisions” of many of the changes in the personal income tax suggest that the most important long-run effect would be the reduction in the corporate tax rate, and experts agree that the bill will bring disproportionate benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthiest Americans. It’s difficult, though, to see how the tax bill will perform in terms of gender equity. All we can say for sure is that it represents a missed opportunity to move toward a more gender-neutral individual tax system or to use the personal income tax to better support working women.
On October 5, 2017, the New York Times revealed that Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, paid eight settlements in response to allegations of sexual harassment, dating back to 1990. The article detailed a behavioral pattern in which Weinstein lured women into meeting with him on the pretense of work and then appeared in various states of undress, demanded a massage, touched women without consent, or asked them to watch him shower. Weinstein’s conduct was condemned, but contextual questions soon emerged: who helped him create opportunities to harass and assault women, and who refused to see the harassment and hear victims’ complaints? Many people privately knew about Weinstein’s behavior. His sexual violence did not become public, however, due to the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in settlements with victims. Purportedly part of the solution to harassment (i.e., legal settlement), NDAs can facilitate harassment by keeping sexual violence secret and victims silent.
The Democratic Party released its Better Deal platform in June that included a call for a higher minimum wage, better jobs, and worker training. Conspicuously absent, however, was any mention of unions. This was quite a stunning departure from the original New Deal that had unions and labor organizing at its very core. Last week the Democrats finally released a new plank that focuses on labor law reform, under the banner of “Give Workers the Freedom to Negotiate a Better Deal.” While no one expects the proposals to pass anytime soon, their inclusion signals that the Democrats may wrap workers’ freedom to organize into the 2019 platform. Will the Democrats stick with labor law reform this time around? For women workers’ sake, let’s hope so. After all, workers’ right to freely form unions and bargain collectively is a gender justice issue; unions help women close the wage gap, rise out of poverty, and address power issues on the job.
Even without attacks from the White House, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has already been restricted in many ways. This becomes immediately apparent when we consider how—and which—immigrant youth have been represented in relation to it. Amidst, or perhaps because of, limited engagement with Asian youth directly, immigrant advocacy on behalf of Chinese youth in particular has largely relied on presumptions of gendered and racialized vulnerability. Though not often considered, these (mis)representations matter, impacting youths’ trust in policy and further underscoring the contingent nature of DACA’s duration and success.
Fran Vavrus is a professor for the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where she serves in the Comparative and International Education Development (CIDE) program. With her background in comparative and international education, Vavrus will bring a global comparative perspective to the Gender Policy Report’s Education page.
Vavrus also has plenty of international education policy experience to bring to bear on ongoing discussions of the gender dimensions of education policy. Vavrus serves as the North American representative on the Joint ILO/UNESCO Committee of Experts on the Application of the Recommendations Concerning Teaching Personnel (CEART). This role has led to her participation in major international conferences, such as the 2015 World Education Forum in Incheon, South Korea, where the UN Sustainable Development Goal for education was finalized.
Much of Vavrus’s research focuses on the Kilimanjaro Region of Northern Tanzania, where she has intermittently lived, taught, and studied since 1992. As with her research, in her contributions to the Gender Policy Report, she hopes to advance an understanding of the transformative potential of education as well as understand its limitations – especially as this relates to gender equity.
— Photo of Fran Vavrus at the World Education Forum
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