About a year ago, I was invited to the White House along with dozens of other conservative activists to listen to President Trump and members of his administration discuss various policy initiatives.
One of the speakers was Ivanka Trump, who attempted to make the case for paid family leave to a room full of fiscal conservatives. The room was so silent you could hear a pin drop.
Like most conservatives, I am wary of new or expanded entitlement programs. So when the Trump administration released its proposed 2020 budget and included paid family leave again, I was quite concerned.
Ivanka has been the driver of this initiative since the 2016 campaign, where she stood by Trump’s side as he announced his support for six weeks of government-sponsored paid leave for new mothers. Trump emphasized that he believed the policy could be accomplished without dunning taxpayers by using funds created through eliminating fraud in the unemployment insurance program.
But this is not exactly what was unveiled in the President’s budget proposal released this week. Instead, the proposal expands paid family leave to both new mothers and fathers and gives the authority to the states to create the programs.
When Trump first included paid family leave in his 2019 budget proposal, he was the first president to ever do so. Piggybacking on Trump’s support, prominent Republicans have introduced legislation to make paid family leave a reality. Last Congress, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the “Economic Security for New Parents Act,” which would allow new parents to borrow funds from their future Social Security benefits.
Additionally, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) unveiled a proposal for paid family leave on Tuesday, called the Child Rearing and Development Leave Employment (CRADLE) Act. Ernst said it was “time to catch up with other countries” as the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world without paid family leave.
And while I had initial skepticism after hearing the word entitlement, if structured properly, paid family leave could be a conservative cause.
As conservatives, it is part of our fundamental values to emphasize the importance of the family and the care of children. Guaranteeing women pay for six weeks after having a child strengthens the family unit by allowing women to keep their careers and livelihood while bonding with their children for the first weeks of their lives. Furthermore, such a policy relieves the stress of a new working mother and has the potential to make such a woman considering an abortion think twice.
This method of achieving paid family leave doesn’t change existing laws that require employers to allow for 12 weeks of unpaid family leave or even affect employers at all. Instead, it provides for paid family leave funds to come from entitlement programs that already exist by allowing taxpayers to have more access to their own (coerced) investments. This is a win for conservatives.
In a perfectly conservative society, the government would have very limited (and efficiently run) entitlement programs and instead allow more Americans to keep their taxes. But in reality, millions of Americans depend on entitlements and so the programs are not going anywhere any time soon.
Ivanka Trump refuses to call the initiative an entitlement and instead refers to it as “an investment in America’s working families,” and perhaps she’s right.