A Trump administration-approved paid family leave plan is actually an attack on Social Security, argues a new study by the Urban Institute—and one that is intent on promoting the falsehood that the U.S. can’t afford to provide paid leave to new parents while also ensuring that retirees are provided for financially.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) Economic Security For New Parents Act (pdf) would give employees who need time off to take care of their families eight to 12 weeks of so-called “paid leave,” but the workers themselves would actually be forced to pay for those weeks themselves by dipping into their Social Security accounts—threatening their own stability decades down the road, during retirement.
The Urban Institute offers the first in-depth analysis on the effects of the plan, which was first proposed last winter and which contrasts sharply with Democratic plans to fund paid family leave through payroll taxes that all businesses and employees would pay.
Rubio’s plan, the study found, would cut retirees’ Social Security by three to 10 percent over the course of their later years—not just because they would not be able to collect benefits until eight to 12 weeks after they reach retirement age, but also because anyone who takes advantage of family leave would have to pay the money back, with interest, upon retirement.
“There’s already a concern about retirement security and income. And people are increasingly entering retirement with mortgages and other kinds of debt. The idea we would reduce those retirement incomes further is scary.” —Richard W. Johnson, the Urban Institute
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“There’s already a concern about retirement security and income. And people are increasingly entering retirement with mortgages and other kinds of debt,” Richard W. Johnson, a co-author of the report, told the Huffington Post. “The idea we would reduce those retirement incomes further is scary.”
The plan is endorsed by White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump—who entered the administration promising to make paid family leave and other issues affecting American women a top priority—but critics have denounced the plan as part of the mounting evidence that the president’s daughter has no intent on pushing for legislation that helps women and families.
“It’s a highly individualized way of dealing with the facts of family life—which by their nature are communal issues: Babies and children need caregivers, mothers and fathers need time and money to give care, elderly grandparents and great-grandparents need companionship and assistance,” wrote Elizabeth Bruenig in the Washington Post earlier this year. “There is a place for every stage of the life cycle in the grand order of things, and a just state would ideally defer to that natural rhythm.”
The plan, based on a proposal by the right-wing Independent Women’s Forum, is aimed at re-framing how Americans view Social Security—turning it from an earned benefit that all taxpayers pay into and will receive when they need it for retirement or in case of injury, into a savings account that American families will be penalized for using if they begin to raise a family.
“Conservatives’ plan would penalize the elderly for their decision to have raised families, all in the interest of making parental leave a self-contained option, no burden to anyone but the parents themselves,” wrote Bruenig.
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