The Corner

Paid Leave: The Left’s Critique of Rubio’s Plan

Senator Marco Rubio arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing evaluating the Intelligence Community Assessment on “Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” on Capitol Hill, May 16, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senator Marco Rubio has introduced legislation that allows people to finance leave from their jobs when they have new children by accepting reduced Social Security benefits when they retire. In the New York Times, Bryce Covert writes in opposition to the bill. She makes four arguments. I’ll comment on them in order.

First: The plan entails a projected three percent decrease in Social Security benefits per leave taken; Covert argues that reduction would hurt the poor the most. That’s not a good reason to deny low-income workers this option, especially since the Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security will replace a higher and higher proportion of low-income workers’ incomes.

Second: “The plan also penalizes parents for each child by putting retirement further out of reach each time they take leave.” That’s a screwy way of characterizing the plan, since a) no parent would be forced to participate and b) no parent would see their total Social Security benefits decline because of participation.

Third: The plan “perpetuates the idea that child rearing is an individual, not a collective, responsibility.” Nearly everything about parenthood perpetuates the idea that child rearing is mainly a familial responsibility, since it is one. If we want families to have more economic support from taxpayers as a whole, or think that existing economic policies leave them worse off than they should be, we are free to try to change that without denying families the option of taking some Social Security benefits early. One person who has worked to make those policies more beneficial to parents, by the way, is Senator Rubio.

Fourth: The Rubio plan does not help people who are trying to take time off because of their illness or a family member’s. Perhaps this is a reason to favor Covert’s preferred plan over Rubio’s plan, or to amend Rubio’s plan; it’s not a reason to oppose Rubio’s plan.

Neither separately nor together, then, do the arguments in Covert’s op-ed justify a vote against the bill.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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