Politics & Policy

Government Already Pays Some Paid-Leave Costs

(Pixabay)
Parents of newborns often use public assistance to finance time off from work.

The United States currently does not have a national policy to provide workers with paid time off from work following the birth or adoption of a child. But taxpayers are nonetheless paying to support new parents who need time off. Pew Research Center surveyed employed adults who wanted or needed time off from work but lacked paid-leave benefits. Seventeen percent of respondents — and 48 percent of those with incomes under $30,000 — reported going on public assistance to finance their parental leave.

This is important to keep in mind as people debate the idea (recently introduced as legislation by Senator Marco Rubio) of reforming Social Security to allow new parents to access a small share of their retirement benefits to help finance paid time off from work after having a new child. This proposal is designed not to increase anyone’s benefits from government: Those who opt to take the parental-leave benefit would delay their eligibility for Social Security retirement benefits to offset the cost. Some of Social Security’s benefits would be paid out early, but taxpayers’ liabilities wouldn’t increase overall.

While the proposal is designed to be revenue-neutral for the Social Security program, the public should be aware that it has the potential to reduce government spending elsewhere. If some people who would otherwise have gone on public assistance opt instead to take — and ultimately pay back through reduced future retirement benefits — Social Security parental leave, then taxpayers are better off, having saved money in reduced welfare payments.

When studying the Rubio proposal, the Urban Institute estimated that 1.4 million parents would opt to take advantage of the parental-leave option. Presumably most of these parents would otherwise lack access to paid parental leave, because if they didn’t, they would have little incentive to participate in the program. If 17 percent of these people (as estimated by Pew) would otherwise end up using public assistance during that time period, that’s more than 200,000 fewer workers relying on government for assistance.

Other research supports the idea that access to paid leave decreases dependency on government assistance. An April 2012 Rutgers study concluded that “women, particularly low-income women, who take paid leave and then return to work report a lower likelihood of receiving any public assistance, fewer dollars in public assistance, and a lower likelihood of receiving food stamp . . . income than do women who continue working and take no leave whatsoever in the year following the birth of their child.” They have numbers around this finding: Low-income women who took paid leave after giving birth reported receiving $505 less in public assistance than women who took unpaid leave.

If the Social Security option encouraged even half of 17 percent of its participants to take $500 less in public assistance, that could be a saving of about $60 million each year. That may not sound like much in the scope of our trillion-dollar government, but it is meaningful, especially since the program is already designed to be neutral for taxpayers. Additionally, estimates ignore that women with access to paid leave are more likely to return to work after giving birth and to be employed for years in the future. This means that increased access to paid leave has the potential to reduce demands for public assistance, as well as to increase household income and tax receipts.

One argument made against the proposed Social Security paid-leave option is that, for the first time, government would be explicitly offering a benefit to give workers paid time off from work. This is a compelling and important point. Yet it’s also important to recognize that in many ways government already is effectively financing paid time off from work through other safety-net programs. Reforming Social Security to give people the option to access benefits early, but requiring them to make a trade-off and take responsibility for that additional leave, may be a better — and more conservative — way to structure the safety net.

Carrie Lukas — Carrie Lukas is the president of the Independent Women’s Forum.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More
U.S.

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More
World

Ilhan Omar’s Big Lie

In a viral exchange at a congressional hearing last week, the new congresswoman from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who is quickly establishing herself as the most reprehensible member of the House Democratic freshman class despite stiff competition, launched into Elliott Abrams. She accused the former Reagan official ... Read More
Elections

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
PC Culture

Merciless Sympathy

Jussie Smollett’s phony hate-crime story could have been taken apart in 24 hours, except for one thing: Nobody wanted to be the first to call bullsh**. Who will bell the cat? Not the police, and I don’t blame them. Smollett is a vocal critic of President Donald Trump who checks two protected-category ... Read More