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Stevenson talks American jobs, federal bills, and the tampon tax

November 11, 2021

Betsy Stevenson weighed in on labor market recovery, the job market, the tampon tax, and more. 

On labor market recovery

While most of the United States seems to be recovering from the worst parts of the pandemic, the job crisis it caused is still a very real concern. Speaking to Yahoo News, she said, “To solve the (labor) crisis, companies need to recognize that workers are people and they want you to treat them kindly. I think that's the real secret sauce." 

While Stevenson stresses that that doesn’t necessarily mean higher wages. “The job has undeniably gotten worse if you work in any kind of customer service role. People are rude. They are mean. You have to deal with telling them to put their masks on. They could actually physically assault you. If you want to put people in those conditions, they're going to demand higher wages.” 

At the CNBC Workforce Summit on Wednesday, she pointed out that while job movement can ultimately be a good thing, “it certainly is a lot of chaos while it's happening.” “There are a lot of different things to think about besides the wage, but I do think this is a time where there is some pretty serious upward pressure on wages,” Stevenson said. 

In an extensive interview with The Institute for New Economic Thinking, Stevenson reflected on the effects of child care on the job market and a shift in gender roles. “I think what’s really going to be the driver of change over the next couple of years is that fathers don’t want to completely go back to the way things were when they had very little time with their children. That movement by dads will shape what’s available for moms. The problem in the labor market was the idea that this was a mom thing,” Stevenson said.

On Michigan's repeal of the tampon tax:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently signed bipartisan legislation that will no longer apply the 6% sales tax on tampons and other menstrual products in the state of Michigan. “This is the kind of tax where the consumer bears all the burden, because there’s no choice but to buy menstrual products,”  Stevenson told Channel 4. “Because there’s no choice, the people who sell it pass that tax straight onto the women who buy it.”

On federal investments

The economics of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill continues to be a topic of debate. Stevenson counters arguments that the bill is too expensive. “This is about doing what’s right for our economic future in terms of climate change and in terms of investing in our children,” Stevenson told The Washington Post. “This is a historic investment in child care.”

Stevenson told the Stateside Podcast at Michigan Radio, “We’re too rich of a nation to leave our children in poverty. The time has come to do something about it. And providing cash is the most impactful way to ensure that children get out of poverty.” Stevenson also spoke about the benefit it has on the labor market by underlining that “ensuring that childcare is affordable to all families and that it is high quality for all children is really about trying to get people back into the labor force, but also still allowing that choice for what parents want to do and at the same time ensuring that every single child has access to adequate investments in them.”

On key economic indicators

This week the U.S Census Bureau announced plans to make new business formation an official government statistic––prompted by the record number of business startups formed after Americans lost or quit their jobs during the pandemic. Stevenson noted how the United States didn’t measure employment during the Depression. “We still don’t know with any precision exactly how many people were unemployed,” she told Marketplace. “The Depression taught us that unemployment is a problem that we need to know about, that we need to measure and address directly.”

Read and listen to the items featuring Stevenson