The Corner

Economy & Business

Rubio Takes Up Conservative Paid-Leave Plan

Last month, Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum wrote in this space about a new idea for providing paid family leave:

The challenge has always been how to create a program that doesn’t discourage employers from providing their own leave benefits, require new taxes (which would lower people’s take home pay), or reduce job opportunities. These are all problems with the typical approach to the issue, which is to create a new entitlement program or mandate on employers.

Kristin Shapiro has developed an innovative alternative approach: Reform the Social Security program so that people have the option of taking benefits for qualifying time off from work in exchange for delaying their retirement benefits to compensate for the benefits they receive while working.

It almost goes without saying that this is a brilliant idea. It provides paid leave to everyone who needs it while addressing the good reasons conservatives have for being skeptical of such programs.

Now Marco Rubio and Ivanka Trump are working to bring it to life. Reports Politico:

Capitalizing on President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the idea in his State of the Union address, Rubio is trying to marshal Republicans behind a plan that would neither impose a mandate on employers nor raise taxes to pay for it — two hurdles that have long halted the GOP from embracing paid family leave.

. . .

Rubio has barely started drafting a paid leave bill, much less a broader legislative strategy. But he envisions an idea that has recently gained traction in conservative circles: allowing people to draw Social Security benefits when they want to take time off for a new baby or other family-related matters, and then delay their checks when they hit retirement age.

The question is whether Democrats will get on board.

As you may remember, during the tax-reform fight, Senate Democrats shot down an amendment from Rubio and Mike Lee that would have given more of the bill’s benefits to low-income working parents and less of the benefits to corporations — the kind of policy that has traditionally needed support from both pro-family conservatives and anti-poverty liberals to pass. The Left’s resistance in this case was purely a political move, notwithstanding some Democrats’ preposterous claims to have voted against the amendment because it didn’t go far enough. One does not turn down a little of a good thing because a lot would be better . . . but one might turn down a good thing to keep the other side from getting credit for it.

It’s easy to imagine a repeat performance with paid leave. ThinkProgress is already on the case with a piece saying the idea is “actually just cutting Social Security,” an odd way to describe a system in which people can choose to receive some of their Social Security benefits early.

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