A truly bizarre false comparison is being drawn by Democrats who are accusing Rep. Paul Ryan of hypocrisy because of his desire to spend time with his family over performing the duties of speaker of the House, while opposing paid family leave legislation.
On Tuesday night, Ryan told reporters, “I cannot and I will not give up my family time,” adding he “may not be on the road as often as previous speakers.”
“Paul Ryan is rightly concerned about his job’s impact on his spouse and children,” said Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator at the National Employment Law Project. “Yet [he] isn’t willing to guarantee that all workers… have the necessary tools to balance their work and family obligations.”
But Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, defended Ryan’s position on paid leave. “The most important thing is to keep the workplace flexible,” she said. “We often talk about these leave policies as if there’s no cost associated with them. They cost workers in salary and wages. For women, they make employers view you as more risky and … more costly to employ at a time when the economy is sort of just chugging along.”
Like every other member of the House GOP caucus, Ryan declined to sign on to a bill sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) guaranteeing up to seven days of paid sick leave for workers at businesses employing 15 or more workers. The paid sick days may go toward to taking care of a sick child.
Ryan also withheld support from another DeLauro bill, this one co-sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-N.Y.), that would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program through an independent trust fund, funded by employers and employees, within the Social Security Administration. That bill (which would appear to eliminate the disincentive mentioned by Schaeffer) was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, which Ryan chairs. The committee has yet to take up the measure.
“Paul Ryan is talking about family time for fun, which we all want,” Bravo said, “but the bare minimum is to have family time when a family member is in need.”
Ryan is talking about a work-life balance, where he voluntarily gives up time on the job to spend time with his family. Paid family leave is for specific life events like the birth of a baby or caring for a sick child, parent, or spouse. You can’t use it to get home early and play with your kids or make love to your wife. Here’s one specific proposal:
1. What would the Family And Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) do?
The FAMILY Act would create a national family and medical leave insurance program to provide workers with a portion of their wages for a limited period of time (up to 60 workdays, or 12 weeks in a year) to address their own serious health condition, including pregnancy or childbirth; to deal with the serious health condition of a parent, spouse, domestic partner or child; to care for a new child; and/or for specific military caregiving and leave purposes. The FAMILY Act’s wage replacement rate builds on lessons from state paid leave programs in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island to help ensure that caregiving time is affordable for lower-wage workers. FAMILY Act benefits would be portable. As long as a worker has paid in and is engaged in eligible caregiving or has a serious illness, then s/he could receive FAMILY Act benefits, even if s/he earned the benefits while working or living in another state or for another employer.
2. How would FAMILY Act benefits and administrative expenses be paid for?
Under the FAMILY Act, employees and employers would contribute a small amount from each paycheck to an insurance fund. A new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave would be created to administer the fund and make benefit determinations and distributions. Contributions would cover both benefits and administrative costs.
Paid leave to attend to the arrival of a baby, or care for a sick parent or spouse is already offered by many larger companies. But for small businesses, it would be a tremendous burden. Not the cost of the program so much, but rather the extended time a valuable employee might be lost. In some cases, the employee might be indispensable in the operation of the business and is not easily replaced.
But the difference between what Ryan wants and what Democrats calling him a hypocrite want is night and day. The false comparison may be good politics but it’s dishonest to promote it.