Family and Medical Leave Insurance, Not Tax Credits, Will Help Families

It’s quite remarkable to see Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina advocating that employers provide and pay for family and medical leave for their workers. This is like asking homeowners to set up their own personal fund to replace their house if it burns down in a fire. It’s an expensive proposition that only the richest among us could afford – even if the government promised to subsidize 25 percent of the cost of rebuilding. Homeowners’ insurance, spread over millions of home owners, is the low-cost alternative that enables all of us to protect our homes in the event of a disaster.

For most private-sector employers, the cost of providing paid family and medical leave to their own employees is prohibitive. A handful of companies with deep pockets – including, most recently, Vodafone, Netflix and Virgin – have stepped up to provide paid maternity or parental leave. But these companies have capped their costs by limiting access to these programs. Unlimited parental leave at Netflix, for example, is not available to the company’s hourly DVD workers. Vodafone’s leave policy is limited to maternity leave and does not provide for the 65 percent of the company’s global labor force that is male. Virgin’s generous parental leave policy applies to just 140 employees that work for Virgin Management, the unit that handles the company’s financial investments and licensing agreements. Sen. Rubio’s (Fla.) paid family leave proposal would require the federal government to subsidize 25 percent of the cost of such leaves through a tax credit – a windfall to companies that already provide such leaves. Taxpayers will be footing the bill for paid leaves that very few of them will get to take.

Like homeowners’ insurance, a family and medical leave insurance program can drastically reduce the cost of providing income to all workers while they recover after childbirth, get over a serious illness, bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill family member. State paid family and medical leave programs in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island already do this by spreading the cost of their programs over millions of workers. The FAMILY Act, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in the House and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the Senate, would spread the cost of providing some income to workers when they need a family or medical leave over the more than 251 million workers in the United States. And it would guarantee that all workers have access to paid family and medical leave to care for themselves and their families.

In contrast to a family and medical leave insurance program, a tax credit for employers will increase, rather than decrease, unequal access to paid leaves. Employers that can afford to offer paid leaves to workers and want to do the right thing will benefit; but a tax credit will do nothing for workers whose employers either can’t afford or choose not to make such leaves available. Paid leaves provided as a result of tax credits won’t reach lower-paid and part-time workers – disproportionately women and people of color – who need such leaves the most.

Only a small fraction of the nation’s workforce needs a family or medical leave in any given year, but all working families are likely to experience the need for such a leave at some point. A national paid family and medical leave insurance program would cover all workers and would be affordable.

This column originally appeared in The Hill.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South