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August 22 2018

Has Rubio found a key to family leave gridlock?

The St. Augustine Record
featuring Kristin A. Shapiro

Recent newspaper headlines from around the county express the good, the bad and the possible perspectives on Sen. Marco Rubio’s paid family leave plan.

The good: The Washington Post Examiner — “Marco Rubio’s family leave plan promising.”

The bad: New York Times — “The wrong way to do paid family leave.”

The possible: “A paid family leave plan that Congress might actually pass.”

Keep that one in mind.

It might be unfair to say that paid family leave has been on the back burner for a decade. That’s because, on this issue, there has been no front burner.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans have been on either side of the fence for years. The more recent uber-polarization of the parties, with President Trump as the fulcrum of the partisan seesaw, has made the rift only deeper.

Democrats see paid family leave as a social imperative. It’s something all Americans need and deserve.

Republicans counter such a plan would bankrupt the federal government, and more to the point, employers. Or extract higher prices and lower wages.

It all comes down to how to pay for 12 weeks of downtime by workers across the country.

As of 2016, 87 percent of American workers had no access to paid family leave through their jobs. Those who did tended to have higher-paying, more professional careers.

The think tanks are of no help. You have to wonder how two would peg cost estimates between $160 and $997 billion annually. That’s a bigger rift than the philosophical one brewing. And either way, neither side has come up with a funding source acceptable to the other.

It’s a stalemate, and one that gets rehashed year after year.

Rubio has a bill, reviled by the left and condemned by the right.

But we can’t see any movement on the issue unless there’s some common ground. Rubio’s bill qualifies.

All the parts aren’t yet in place. And, we understand the devil’s stubbornly in the details. But it’s a starting place.

In simplest terms, what Rubio’s “Economic Security for New Parents Act” boils down to is parents taking Social Security benefits early in exchange for delaying eligibility dates down the road — or possibly taking lower initial payments at that time.

Currently, under federal law, a parent (or parents) can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Many suffer through it, eat up savings or take out a loan.

The Rubio bill is, in essence, a loan from the participant to the participant at a zero interest rate and with no possibility of default. And whether or not participants put off taking Social Security for a while or accept lower payments, they’d have decades to spread out the payments.

Rubio is getting both credit and crap for the bill. But the playbook is not his own. The author is Kristin Shapiro, a fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Crunching the numbers, she estimates that taking the money for one 12-week leave, it will take just a six-week deferral down the road.

That, she says, is because, while Social Security benefits are calculated averaging the last 35 years of employment, the majority of Americans make more money the longer they work. Because most Americans also have children at a younger age, their benefits from the program would be less than a future retirement benefit.

Democrats bash the idea because it allows for only maternity payments. They demand disability, bereavement and more. Republicans seem equally recalcitrant.

There’s no demanding in politics anymore — only gridlock.

It was Zig Zeigler who said: “Be careful not to compromise what you want most, for what you want now.”

Congress might give that a thought.

 

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Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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