The United States of America, currently the richest country in the world, has a unique way of undermining the greater good for the sake of maintaining market competitiveness. Under the current Trump administration and a GOP-ruled Senate, new legislation would present working families with a false choice between receiving paid time-off through delays to retirement and cuts to their social security savings or being forced to return to work post-childbirth.
Earlier this week, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced The Cradle Act, a new law which would allow new parents to raid their own Social Security savings in advance for over three months as a form of “paid” parental leave. The reason for having “paid” in quotations is the law doesn’t actually pay the parents, but instead acts as a high-interest loan where parents end up paying double. In exchange for this safety-net access, parents would have their eventual retirement delayed by twice the amount of time used for paid-leave, meaning the law could result in around six months on average of delays to their Social Security entitlements per child.
The bill echoes the same proposal of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who introduced The Economic Security Act for New Parents Act, a law which drew support from White House advisor Ivanka Trump, though was never brought forth for a vote due to rumblings of bipartisan disdain for the scheme. This new law is basically the same as the old one minus Rubio, seeking to quell the overwhelming support for any kind of paid-leave system. Lee and Ernst’s bill seeks no such changes to the status quo, instead choosing to give families the added choice of further destabilizing the social safety-net for the elderly.
As it stands, America is the only industrialized nation which doesn’t mandate a form of paid-leave for developing families. No other country pays their populating workers via raids to their own retirement savings — a safety benefit afforded to all elderly citizens. Instead, it’s usually conducted through mandated payments from employers or through a benefits programs paid by taxes.
Current federal laws in the U.S. dictate that employers with 50 or more employees need only guarantee unpaid family leave, meaning any company offering actual benefits are doing so because of their empathetic nature, the slight PR bump or other laws created by local and state representatives, such as in California, New York, and the District of Columbia.
This landscape arguably contributes to the nation’s declining birthrates, often used as a talking point among the far-right, where child-bearing becomes an economic risk the working poor simply cannot afford to take, as well as a growing earnings disparity by gender. When you next see an SJW cringe compilation debunking the dreaded wage gap, which has been often misinterpreted by the feminist public, don’t forget that coercive economics plays a role in the decline of female workers in the market.
Some mothers don’t just choose to leave work to be supported by their spouse or the state — they’re forced to in order to actually raise their own children without the help of childcare. The benefits of a parental subsidies system go beyond just individual cases, of course. As reported by Vox’s Alexia Campbell, there is a significant amount of economic research which suggests these paid leave programs not only improve child health, which is a universal value we should all share, but helps workforces remain competitive through retaining their female workers.
She cites a study of California’s paid-leave law, passed in 2004, which led to an increase in participating work hours and income for mothers with young children, allowing them the liberty to keep their jobs and raise their newborn children without having to decide to make either their sole full-time career. Other studies indicate paid-leave helped alleviate poverty rates across 18 other industrialized countries. If we’re to believe additional research from economists like Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn at Cornell University, supporting this form of gender equality is an investment that’ll only raise the 58.9% figure of working women over 20.
It all depends whether the government wants to make this investment, or simply wants to create the appearance that they do. Considering the bill has around 34 co-sponsors in the Senate and 177 in the House, despite no major Republican support, it looks to be the latter. At least we have an answer to the partisan cries of “who’s going to pay for it?” — it’ll be you, your wife, your grandparents and then some.
The GOP’s plan could be better than nothing, considering the voters are desperate for any solution, though could further destabilize the Social Security system as we know it due to continued borrowing every year. The lawmakers note these payments would only cover 75% of their normal wages, though forces the burden on a 30+ year deficit running safety-net instead of employers.
This bent towards management could result in more deficit increases as the bill states the General Fund would replenish any borrowed parental money from the Social Security fund for the time being. It’s likely the reason behind the decision of shared costs between employees and business, which is the policy norm across the world.
“It only covers new parents and it creates a false choice between Social Security and paid leave,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a 2020 presidential candidate who has proposed her own FAMILY Act this year, providing a statement to The Hill. Her policy creates a 0.2% payroll tax for over 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, without touching the Social Security fund working on borrowed time and money. “We urgently need a national paid leave program that covers all workers for all medical emergencies, and anything less is just not enough.”