STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
President Trump's budget includes a provision championed by his daughter Ivanka, which would require six weeks of parental leave, paid for by state unemployment insurance primarily. One of many views of this comes from Sabrina Schaeffer of the conservative group, the Independent Women's Forum. She's come by our studios.
SABRINA SCHAEFFER: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Unusual to hear this from a Republican administration because it imposes a mandate on states and on businesses. From a conservative perspective, is that OK?
SCHAEFFER: So it's interesting. I think we have to take a step back and realize that the president's budget isn't necessarily a blueprint for how Congress should allocate resources. But it does sort of reconfirm his priorities, and I was pleased to see that paid leave was one of those. Of course, the devil is always in the details. And I think that there will be a lot of hashing out moving forward.
INSKEEP: Well, here's a detail. It costs billions of dollars to pay for paid family leave. And the administration says, let's have state unemployment funds pay for it.
SCHAEFFER: Exactly. And I know that there are a lot of fiscal conservatives who will be uncomfortable with this approach. I do think, though, that this is an important first step in having a discussion about paid leave - just how large the problem is. So often, we hear numbers like 12 or 13 percent tossed around as the number of - the percentage of people who have access to paid family leave.
INSKEEP: Only 12 or 13 percent, (unintelligible) should say.
SCHAEFFER: Yeah. And it's a little misleading because the reality is that about - close to 80 percent of full-time workers have access to some form of paid leave. We have different buckets, as you know.
INSKEEP: Yeah, vacation or whatever it might be.
SCHAEFFER: Exactly - and sick leave. And so we want to make sure that we don't needlessly upend those existing benefit programs and that we're really targeting those in need. And I think that's what this program might do.
INSKEEP: OK. When you talk about targeting people in need, plenty of people have been baffled looking at the president's budget because you have this paid family leave provision, which sounds great. But at the same time, the administration wants to drastically cut programs that support a lot of poor, working families, food stamps, for example. A lot of people who work are on food stamps, and they want to cut $193 billion out. Is there anything philosophically coherent going on here in the president's budget and his approach to families and children?
SCHAEFFER: So I think part of this is about having an effective communication strategy. I think that it sounds nice sometimes when we say that we're expanding programs like food stamps. But the reality is that we know that they're rife with fraud. There's a lot of people who unfortunately are being overlooked and a lot of people who are abusing the system. And so we want to make sure that we're helping people. I think the American public is extremely charitable, extremely concerned about helping those who are most in need. But we want to do that with the taxpayers', you know, bottom line in mind as well.
INSKEEP: That sounds great. But $193 billion?
SCHAEFFER: Well (laughter), we'll have to look at all the different programs. We have - you know, one challenge here in Washington is that sometimes the left hand and the right hand aren't communicating. So when we look at things like job training programs, for instance, you know that we have 48 different programs, so there's a lot...
INSKEEP: Just streamline it a little bit.
SCHAEFFER: ...Of duplicity and a lot of room where we can cut.
INSKEEP: So you pointed out, this is a bunch of ideas the president has thrown out. Congress actually does the budgeting. Do you think that Republicans are in a place where they want to make significant investments in child care and parenting and families?
SCHAEFFER: I think there is going to be a healthy discussion about it. And I do encourage that. I think that for the last eight years, Republicans have been charged with waging a war on women. So the idea that they are saying - no, we're going to take this issue, and we're going to have a conversation about it - is important not only from a policy perspective but also from a political one. I do think that there are a lot of businesses and conservative Republicans who recognize that, at the state and local level, there are a lot of efforts to sort of push through paid leave programs. And so if we don't do this, there may be an effort to do a one-size-fits-all mandate.
INSKEEP: Sabrina Schaeffer of the Independent Women's Forum, thanks for coming by. I really appreciate it.
SCHAEFFER: Thanks for having me.
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