Paid leave in the event of a new baby or a serious illness or injury remains an extremely popular policy with most Americans.
However, Senate Republicans’ version of the policy takes liberties with what most would consider paid leave, in that the person paying for paid leave is not the government — as is the case in most developed countries — but your future self.
CBS This Morning recently interviewed Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) about their new bill, the Cradle Act. While the policy is expected to be laid out in more detail when the interview airs Wednesday morning, CBS revealed that the key component of the Cradle Act is that new parents would be given the option to borrow from their future selves in the form of withdrawing from their Social Security savings, requiring them to delay their own retirement.
The "Cradle Act" would allow new parents to use Social Security savings to pay for time off after birth/adoption. Users would then delay their retirement to pay the money back.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) March 12, 2019
This is similar to legislation that Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) previously introduced in August of 2018, although that bill failed to pass even when Republicans held the majority in both chambers. A Democratic paid leave proposal dubbed the Family Act would have established a national paid leave program funded by a small increase in the payroll tax, though that bill also stalled, according to The Washington Post.
The Cradle Act isn’t something Sens. Ernst, Lee, and Rubio will ever have to consider using. As senators, they make $174,000/year. And in 2018, Congress was only in session for 145 days out of 261 total work days (not including weekends and holidays). This means that for more than 200 days out of the year, Sens. Ernst, Lee, and Rubio were feasibly able to be with their families while being handsomely paid.
Critics pointed out that the bill, if passed, could be used as later justification to make cuts to Social Security if enough Americans desperate for paid leave lean on the New Deal-era social insurance program. Others pointed out that it isn’t technically a paid leave since the people receiving it will be the ones paying for it.
Can't wait til they use to say "See! Social Security is going bankrupt, so we'd better just eliminate it."
— Risotto voce (@Krundelmann) March 12, 2019
That’s called unpaid leave
— MB (@babyitsmb) March 12, 2019
So, we punish them and force them to work longer because they have children?
Paid family leave doesn’t need to come out of anybody’s retirement.https://t.co/VxXQkemiqu
— Steve Cox (@RealSteveCox) March 12, 2019
Terrible idea. It’s basically punishing people for having kids.
— Jeremy Simmons (@jmartinsimmons) March 12, 2019
According to a July 2018 survey conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families, 84 percent of Americans — including 74 percent of Republicans — support a national paid leave policy that would cover all working Americans in the event of a new birth, a major illness or injury, or the deployment or injury of a family member serving in the military. Currently, the Family Medical Leave Act provides 12 weeks of leave in the event of a new baby or an illness, though Americans taking leave under the FMLA are not compensated.
Countries around the world already provide generous paid leave programs for families celebrating a new baby or recovering from illness or injury. According to a 2016 report from NPR, the only member countries in the United Nations that don’t offer paid leave are New Guinea, Suriname, a few island countries in the Pacific, and the United States — out of 193 members. 103 countries provide at least 14 weeks of paid maternal leave, and 48 countries extend at least three weeks of paid leave to new fathers.
Many Americans have to forgo pay in order to care for new babies or sick/injured family members already. Paid Leave advocacy group paidleave.us estimates that one in six Americans currently provides unpaid care for a sick or elderly family member. And 60 percent of those caregivers report having to either reduce their own work hours, take a leave of absence, or stop work entirely to do so. According to Paidleave.us, this results in $470 billion in estimated economic value for all of those unworked hours each year.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.