This Just In: Republican Cares About Paid Family Leave!

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The standard GOP response to parents agitating for a national paid family leave policy is usually some version of “tough.” The government shouldn’t get involved, according to Ted Cruz. Let the market handle it, says “Worst Tech CEO Of All Time” contender Carly Fiorina.

Even their indifference is a step forward from the hostility for which their party used to be famous. According to ThinkProgress:

Republicans used to stand in staunch opposition to the notion of even unpaid leave. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called the Family and Medical Leave Act, which today guarantees unpaid leave, “another example of yuppie empowerment” at the time that it was being debated.

Rubio, however, has suddenly strayed from the pack, presenting the very first Republican answer to the paid-leave problem:

Rubio’s proposal consists of a 25 percent non-refundable tax credit for employers who offer their employees between four and 12 weeks of paid family leave to new parents, those caring for sick family members, and the families of members of the military. Pay would be capped at $4,000 per employee per year, but it would apply to “all employee arrangements,” his plan says, including those working part time.

“Expanding access to paid family leave is part of Marco’s pro-family, pro-growth agenda,” the plan states. “The status quo too often forces workers — especially new mothers — to quit their job permanently when they need time away from it, making it harder to return to work one day.”

Yes! Seriously, well done, Senator Rubio. Buy yourself another speedboat. You deserve it.

I mean, yes, offering a tax credit instead of insisting on a mandate is weak tea, but what can one expect? Republicans don’t like mandates; they bristle at bossy government types telling individuals or businesses what to or not to do. At least this is a plan. Even if it’s not a perfect one, it has plenty of good points: it’s gender non-specific, applying to both parents, and indeed it’s equally respectful to non-parents who have other serious family obligations to which they need to attend; and it would cover even part-time employees.

Rubio’s proposed plan might actually go down better than our current weak tea, the FMLA.

Not everyone is impressed. Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, is like, yawn. 

Senator Rubio’s acknowledgement of the need for improved family and medical leave in this country reflects the growing recognition that our country must take action. However, the tax credit model he puts forth has proven to be ineffective for guaranteeing coverage to many of the Americans already lacking access. Tax credits will likely subsidize companies that have already made investments in paid family leave without any evidence that they will spur large numbers of additional companies to offer new benefits. Programs such as these fail to reach the low-wage and part-time workers who need paid family and medical leave the most, disproportionately impacting women and people of color. They also constitute a cost to taxpayers and don’t offer enough help to small businesses.

What we need instead is a social insurance model, proven successful in three states and in many other countries, an affordable way to make leave accessible to all workers regardless of where they work. This is the solution put forth in the FAMILY Act, a commonsense solution that we urge all 2016 candidates to support in order to protect every family.

Yes, fair. My standards are admittedly pretty low at this point.

It’s also worth underlining that Rubio hasn’t any kind of epiphany. He still envisions a world in which, by 2020, Planned Parenthood won’t “receive a penny from the federal government” because “all life is worth protecting because all life comes from God.” All life except the lives that could be saved from routine check-ups and STI screenings, I guess he means.

Well, at least he’s consistent. If he insists that every sperm is sacred and should result in a living child because that is the will of Our Lord Our God, he also proposes making new parenthood less traumatic for the individuals involved.

Now perhaps some of the other candidates will be shamed into taking paid leave seriously as well.

Happy Friday! Enjoy some Monty Python.

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