The United States government is finally crawling towards a slowly dawning realization that parental leave is actually important. That parents are not necessarily able to simply run back to work after what is arguably the single most life-altering event they will experience, and perhaps if we want our children to grown into well-balanced, decent humans we should value the amount of time we spend with them. Hence parental leave. Unfortunately there are some pretty broad definitions about what paid parental leave actually means. For instance, what is the CRADLE Act? It's a parental leave idea brought forth by GOP senators that is... yeah, not exactly what parents might have means when they said they wanted paid parental leave.
Republican senators Joni Ernst (of Iowa) and Mike Lee (of Utah) introduced a new paid parental leave proposal on Tuesday called the CRADLE Act. Considering the United States remains the only economically developed country without a federal paid parental leave system in place, as per The Washington Post, the introduction of draft legislation to finally get the ball rolling should be good news, right? Well, yes and no. Because while the CRADLE Act would allow parents to collect up to three months of paid-leave benefits after welcoming a child into the home (adoption or otherwise), there's a pretty serious catch.
Parents would have to delay receiving funds from their Social Security at their retirement. According to news site WeAreIowa.com, you could take up to three months of paid parental leave and then work additional time corresponding with time taken before retirement benefits would kick in.
During an interview with CBS Morning, Sen. Lee explained that he felt most parents would welcome this opportunity to essentially trade in their Social Security retirement funds for paid parental leave:
I think most people would look at this as an opportunity that they might not otherwise have, an opportunity to benefit from payments that they've been making already for years.
Sen. Ernst also noted during a press conference that she believed the Cradle Act would work for everyone involved, as per The Hill:
I believe the Cradle Act is a policy that not only attracts consensus, but is viable for families, employers, and our economy.
Not everyone is so convinced that taking money out of your own Social Security fund should really be considered "paid" parental leave. Probably because you're the one who is paying yourself.
Countries like Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and France have long since implemented a paid parental leave system that does not involve parents having to choose between their Social Security funds or time with their children, as per NPR. All of these countries have a similar socio-economic profile to the United States. So why would these senators consider asking parents to drain their own funds to pay for their parental leave? As Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (who has put forth her own comprehensive plan for paid family leave, as per The Hill) pointed out in a statement regarding the Cradle Act, also noted by The Hill:
It only covers new parents and it creates a false choice between Social Security and paid leave. We urgently need a national paid leave program that covers all workers for all medical emergencies, and anything less is just not enough.
The Cradle Act is not a solution. It's asking people to make choices they shouldn't be expected to make when it comes to their children. The GOP needs to accept that parenthood is just as important as a person's employment. Some might even say more so.