It’s embarrassing and shameful that the U.S. remains the only industrialized nation that does not guarantee paid leave for new parents. It’s also counterproductive. Study after study show widespread benefits for families and society when new parents have adequate time to bond with their babies.
Federal law guarantees the time off for those who choose to take it, but not replacement pay — and many workers simply can’t afford the loss of income. Democrats have been pushing to change that in recent years, but with little progress in the Republican-controlled Congress despite bipartisan support for paid family leave among voters. So it’s encouraging, at first glance, to finally see interest from the other side of the aisle. It’s disappointing, however, that it has taken the form of Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s Economic Security for New Parents Act, a gimmicky proposal that gives with one hand and takes away with the other.
Rubio’s bill, based on a proposal by the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, would allow working parents around the country to take partly paid parental leave when they have or adopt a child. But to do so, they would agree to stick their future selves with the bill by tapping their Social Security benefits. Under the plan, a parent would receive two months of paid parental leave in return for a three- to six-month delay in receiving Social Security benefits.
What parent wouldn’t agree to such a Faustian bargain if it would ensure their children a strong start in life? Experts say that parental bonding is crucial for the healthy development of a baby’s body and mind during the first six months of life. And it would be perfectly understandable if new parents happily traded the economic security of their hypothetical older selves (who knows what could happen in the next 20 or 30 years?) for the certainty of adequate baby bonding time.
We get that Republicans are reluctant to enhance entitlements, add to the federal deficit or ask workers to shell out more money for retirement, but even if we’re talking about just a few months of retirement income, it is a dangerous idea to tap the buy-now, pay-later model that has trapped so many Americans in financial holes they can’t escape.
Most Americans are already shockingly ill-prepared for retirement and many face impoverishment in their later years even with Social Security benefits.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES