KNOWLES: The CRADLE Act Is Not Conservative

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On Wednesday’s episode of “The Michael Knowles Show,” host Michael Knowles critiques a proposed bill that would affect paid family leave. Transcript and video below.


The bill is called the Cradle Act, the Child Rearing and Development Leave Empowerment Act.

The purpose of the law is to encourage people to have children. Will this law achieve that? No. Now how do you achieve that then? I guess you could go in the really socialist direction and say we are going to give you one or two years paid family leave? Why stop at one year, we will go all the way to two years. We will pay women, although in this day and age you will have to pay men to do it too. Actually, in this day and age, single mothers and gay couples can adopt children. Basically, anybody can adopt children. Now you're looking at an entire population. Say we will offer you two years paid leave if you have a kid or adopt a kid. That creates a pretty weird incentive, doesn't it?

If you include adoption in this, as the bill does, then that doesn't increase the birthrate, does it? Maybe it does, maybe it has a secondary connection with abortions, but that connection is very dubious. I mean, this is the trouble with big government programs. You have all of these secondary questions that come up. All of these weird incentives that crop up. Very often, what's happened is that the program doesn't achieve what it sets out to achieve. Sometimes it hurts the very goal that it sets out to achieve. This is a big mistake, a very big mistake.


The way to achieve a higher birthrate, which is a noble goal and I am glad conservatives are serious about addressing it, is to radically change the culture. That's the reason. Why do we have a low birthrate now? Well, because it's expected that both parents are working all the time. Because people have gotten accustomed to a very high quality of life. People don't want to give that up. Why is that? The culture is a bit decadent. What is required to have a lot of kids and have them quickly and start having them young? That requires that something has got to give. Traditionally, that means that the mother has to take care of the children. Not all the time, sometimes the father stays home to take care of the children, either way, it works. You might have to adjust to a lower income. A lower net disposable income, a lower family wealth. You might need to prioritize having children. You cannot have it all. This bill doesn't let you have it all. It just taxes you in the future, or borrows money from China — or prints money or raises debt or whatever, you cannot have every single thing you want in a finite world. So you have to change the culture from a culture of selfishness, pure professional ambition.

We talked yesterday about how in the educational system the reason that college admissions scam happened is because a democratic and egalitarian society cannot tolerate difference and diversity. Everybody has to be exactly the same. That is the leveling impulse of democratic egalitarian society. So what happened?

In the old days, if you were a young person, you had a lot of paths before you. You could join the military after high school, you could go get a job, you could become an entrepreneur, you could go to a 4-year college, you could go to a 2-year college you could go to a trade school, you could get an apprenticeship — all of these different things. Now, we are told everybody has to go to a 4-year college. It's the same thing in the "professional life." We are told every single person has to have a career, it has to be a professional career, you can't just have a job. You've got to have a really yuppy professional career. You have to start working at 22, you can't stop working until you are 65. You've got to delay having kids. You've got to send your kids off to daycare, you need double income. That's the only way to live! But that isn't true.


The effect of that — one effect that we are seeing that this bill is trying to address is that we aren't having babies anymore. Because everybody is off working at the widget factory. Okay - good for some people, not good for other people. Broadly, not good for the culture. That's how you change it. You're not going to change it by some overweening radical social engineering federal law. You're not going to change that by conservatives suddenly becoming the party or the political movement of big federal government. It's just not gonna do it. It's a noble purpose but a bad law.

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