It has been just a few weeks since the GOP pushed through a massive tax code revamp that gave the wealthy and big businesses millions of dollars in savings per year. Now, the party claims it will tackle paid parental leave — a key pet policy issue of first daughter Ivanka Trump and an initiative that Republicans hope to embrace in order to improve their support among women.
If this is their plan, however, it probably isn’t going to help.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio has now announced a tentative blueprint for finally bringing paid parental leave to the table, in a form that he believes the GOP can embrace. The catch? It can’t be a burden on businesses, and Republicans don’t believe in federal funding for social programs — unless it’s welfare for the rich.
Instead, Rubio and Ivanka Trump expect parents to take the money out of their Social Security fund — and promise to work longer in order to pay it back. Politico reports:
For instance, a person who would begin receiving full benefits when he or she turns 67 years old but wants to take six weeks of paid leave wouldn’t draw Social Security benefits until six weeks after his or her 67th birthday. “That’s a new idea for Republicans who still identify it as something that comes out of the left,” Rubio said of paid family leave. “Forcing companies to provide it is perhaps an idea that finds its genesis on the left, but the notion that pregnancy should not be a bankruptcy-eliciting event is one that I think all Americans should be supportive of.”
There are a number of “what if” scenarios that remain unclear in this plan, already suggesting that this is a horrible idea. The first is the concept of making anyone work longer before retirement — an issue that many believe is already creating a jobs and earnings crisis. After all, as baby boomers work further into their retirement years, that leaves fewer openings for college graduates and lower pay for everyone.
Then there is the obvious issue with how the plan would affect the solvency of Social Security as a whole. Linda Benesch, spokesperson for Social Security Works told ThinkProgress:
This seems like something [Republicans] are doing to get good headlines. What this really is is a cut to Social Security/ The proposal that Rubio and Ivanka are reportedly considering involves an increase in the retirement age of people who choose to take leave. An increase in the retirement age is always a benefit cut. Either people are getting benefits for a shorter amount of time or if they choose to claim later their bonus for deferring benefits will be smaller.
Plus, as Elizabeth Bruenig explains in the Washington Post, the plan incentivizes having less children — since the more children you have, the longer you will need to work in order to ever collect Social Security as a retiree:
The proposal would penalize bigger families more than smaller ones; couples with more children would face working further into old age before receiving retirement benefits. Moreover, it would likely mean that lower-wage workers would end up putting off retirement longer than wealthier workers with ample company benefits, an especially perverse outcome given that America’s poor suffer significantly reduced life expectancies compared with the country’s rich. If you’re not particularly well-to-do and you want a family, in other words, you’ll need to be prepared to pay for it in your old age: your family, your choice, your problem.
Paid parental leave is a racial, gender and class justice issue — and one that the government must step up to address with real answers, not budgetary tricks. In an analysis of 41 major developed countries by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only the United States lacked any form of paid leave — whereas other countries ranged anywhere from eight to 87 weeks.
Forcing parents to work longer to gain even a limited amount of time at home with their children flies in the face of all that Republicans claim to value. If there are enough government funds for extreme tax cuts, there’s enough money to offer a real paid parental leave package.