When Paul Ryan announced this week, “I cannot and will not give up my family time,” the aspiring House speaker became just the latest politician to sing family values while simultaneously fighting them in policy. Here in the land of the free market, home of the busy, work-life balance tends to tilt toward work, and federally-protected family leave tends to tilt toward … bupkis. Given the nation’s abysmal track record on the topic, just having guys like Ryan talk around it counts as some sort of progress.
There may be some help on the horizon, though. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand sponsored the Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY … subtle), which is currently stalled in the House. It proposes a 0.2-percent national payroll tax to provide 12 weeks of 66-percent paid family leave for all U.S. workers with a newborn or a need to care for a family member suffering from serious illness. That’s a nice idea, which will need some strong leadership from the White House to become reality.
So, how do your prospective presidents shake out on the issue? You’re not going to believe this, but it splits pretty cleanly down party lines …
Marco Rubio (R)After hydrating adequately, Rubio said his plan is to avoid a federal mandate but encourage companies by giving a 25-percent tax credit to businesses that volunteer at least 4 weeks of family leave. The plan is limited to 12 weeks or $4,000 per employee per year and claims to be adaptable for part-time employees as well.
Martin O’Malley (D)O’Malley (who inspired the HBO series The Wire and also hates when people say he inspired The Wire) supports the FAMILY Act because paid leave for both genders is essential to closing the gender pay gap. “Part of the reason women are paid less than men for doing the same work is that many are forced to leave the workforce in order to raise their families, or penalized for doing so,” he writes in his economic plan op-ed for The Gazette.
Ted Cruz (R)“I think maternity leave and paternity leave are wonderful things. I support them personally,” the Canadian-born Cruz told family leave activists Make It Work. “But I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of mandating them.” He did not follow by quoting Forrest Gump’s “That’s all I have to say about that,” but …
Bernie Sanders (An ‘I’ Who Wants The D)The Vermont senator is a cosponsor of the FAMILY Act. “Workers in the United States should have at least 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave,” his site says explains. Of course, he would say that. The guy’s a socialist.
Carly Fiorina (R)A former California gubernatorial candidate, Fiorina opposes changing the law federally on the grounds that the government shouldn’t tell the private sector how to run its business. She told CNN that mandated paid leave is “not only ineffective, it’s hypocritical” coming from a government that’s so bad at managing things, its TSA has a 96-percent failure rate. When she was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina’s employees got paid paternity and maternity leave, and she says companies are already “doing the right thing because they know it helps them attract the right talent.” In related news, only 12 percent of U.S. workers get paid family leave.
Hillary Clinton (D)Hillary told CNN (without faking the accent of her audience) in 2014 that she was unsure if paid leave was “politically feasible” but admitted her fondness of a federal mandate. In this month’s Democratic debate, the former secretary of state gave an inspirational defense of why “we can design a system and pay for it that does not put the burden on small businesses.” She wants a mandatory 3 months of family leave. She hasn’t, however, explained the minor detail of how she plans to get it.
Rand Paul (R)Ron’s son wouldn’t even say whether or not he offers paid parental leave to his own congressional staffers. However, he did post an article to Facebook in January about Obama’s endorsement of paid leave, and Paul’s grammatical incredulity was nothing short of vaguely sassy: “This president thinks paid leave is a ‘worker’s right?'” You can probably go ahead and chalk him up for a negative on the issue.
Chris Christie (R)Christie hasn’t formally announced a parental leave policy but it doesn’t take a Hardy Boy to solve this mystery. When Jersey municipalities started mandating paid sick leave, Christie said, “These towns that are doing it just continue to make New Jersey less and less competitive. And then when businesses leave the state, they want to know why.”
Jeb Bush (R)Jeb! famously explained an important part of his 4-percent economic growth plan in July with the words, “People need to work longer hours.” So it should come as no surprise that, when an activist from Make It Work asked about his family leave policy, Jeb! incorporated the same strategy in his response: “That’s a state decision. I don’t think we need more federal rules.”
Donald Trump (R)When Fox News asked the inspiration for Biff from Back To The Future about his thoughts on paid family leave, Trump demurred, “Well it’s something that’s being discussed, I think we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful of it. But certainly there are a lot of people discussing it.” … Just not necessarily Donald Trump.
Ben Carson (R)The GOP’s favorite neurosurgeon has made no comments on the issue of family leave, but reading between the lines isn’t brain surgery. Carson has spoken out against the welfare system fostering dependency, wants to abolish Medicare, and called Obamacare “the worst thing … since slavery.” It seems out of the question for Carson to agree to growing the government with a “new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave” that the FAMILY Act calls for. If you’re a betting man, smart money says he’s against mandating paid family leave.