In his April 1 op-ed, “Who’ll pay for paid family leave,” George F. Will argued against a federal paid parental-leave policy. His main critique was that it would add to our unsustainable debt trajectory, a concern that we share. But our $20 trillion in federal debt is being driven by Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security and the interest payments to sustain them, not a paid parental-leave policy.
Paid-leave policies proposed by Republicans cost less than one half of 1 percent of what we spent on entitlements last year. Entitlement reform alone will fix the nation’s debt trajectory.
Mr. Will argued that a paid parental-leave program would truncate state experience. The federal government can learn what has worked from long-running state examples and implement best practices. For example, there has been no evident decrease in employee pay or increase in employer burden from a public paid-leave policy. This is probably because state policies are limited. Costs would grow as the size of the policy increased.
While liberals have understated the costs, conservatives need not ignore the benefits, including higher wages for new mothers, less welfare dependency and improved health. Many families, including the vast majority of low-income families, do not have access to paid-leave policies.
The benefits of a limited paid parental-leave policy outweigh the costs and fill a critical gap in the safety net. The majority of Americans agree. It’s time to consider what types of policies would be most effective instead of swatting down new policies outright.
Abby McCloskey, Dallas
Aparna Mathur, Washington
The writers are members of the
American Enterprise Institute-Brookings
Working Group on Paid Family and Medical Leave.