Daniel Payne is concerned that allowing people to access a share of their Social Security benefits after the birth or adoption of a child, in return for delaying their retirement benefits to fully offset those costs, would open the door to an expansion of the federal welfare state.
That's a legitimate consideration. Yet there is also reason for optimism that the approach outlined in this Independent Women's Forum policy brief could encourage people to consider how to more efficiently and effectively use the government programs that we already have, rather than creating or expanding new ones.
The principle behind the Social Security parental-leave approach is that people ought to have the option of accessing Social Security benefits during their working lives, rather than being stuck with the one-size-fits-all payment schedule that begins at the government-designated retirement age of 67. Just as Social Security allows both early and deferred retirement benefits, which are compensated for with an adjustment in the size of benefits, policymakers should recognize that some people have a far greater need for support at other times — such as after giving birth.
This would help people (particularly cash-strapped millennials) who really need it, prevent them from taking other forms of public assistance, but also require that people make a trade-off to receive this support, encouraging a sense of responsibility. This approach could slow the drive at the state and local level to create paid leave entitlement programs and encourage people to recognize that we don't need more public assistance programs, but rather to use the ones we have more wisely. Instead of growing the welfare state, this could be a step toward consolidating and rationalizing our social safety net.
Carrie Lukas is president of Independent Women’s Forum. The new, budget-neutralSocial Security Paid Leave policy is authored by Kristin Shapiro in conjunction with IWF.