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Ivanka Trump and Marco Rubio’s Plan Could Hurt Women, Social Security

Ivanka Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio arrive at the Capitol to meet with lawmakers about parental leave in June. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP)

White House adviser Ivanka Trump is working with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to accomplish one of her main priorities, implementing paid family leave. However, many warn that the plan, which proposes six weeks of paid parental leave, could disadvantage women and put families in a precarious financial position by requiring a future cut in Social Security.

Politico reports:

Capitalizing on President Donald Trump’s endorsement of the idea in his State of the Union address, Rubio is trying to marshal Republicans behind a plan that would neither impose a mandate on employers nor raise taxes to pay for it — two hurdles that have long halted the GOP from embracing paid family leave. …

Rubio has barely started drafting a paid leave bill, much less a broader legislative strategy. But he envisions an idea that has recently gained traction in conservative circles: allowing people to draw Social Security benefits when they want to take time off for a new baby or other family-related matters, and then delay their checks when they hit retirement age.

In the current iteration of the plan, parents would get 12 weeks of benefits—estimated to be about 40 percent of average worker pay—in exchange for what the Independent Women’s Forum claims would be six weeks of Social Security retirement benefits down the line.

Trump and Rubio say the plan, which is based on a proposal from that same conservative Independent Women’s Forum, would be pro-worker and pro-parent. But Aparna Mathur, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who has worked with Ivanka Trump on paid leave, told Business Insider that the plan might not ensure job protection for low-wage workers, and it might discourage men—often the higher-earning parent—from taking time off to care for a child.

“Who are you really targeting?” Mathur asked. “If you’re not really doing much for the lowest-wage workers then it’s just another entitlement program for middle-class workers.”

Many liberal critics echo her concerns. Business Insider continues:

Vicki Shabo, vice president at the non-profit National Partnership for Women & Families, said the system would “reinforce caregiving norms” and “jeopardize” Social Security.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who has led the Democrats’ efforts on the issue, shot down the proposal on Wednesday.

“Any plan that robs the Social Security trust fund will hurt low-income workers, seniors and women the most,” she said in a statement. “Women already receive less Social Security benefits than men, and this plan only exacerbates that problem.”

The Huffington Post adds:

Paid leave is generally understood to be a policy that would help women, who typically bear the burden of childbearing and rearing. Mothers who get paid leave are more likely to stay in the labor force and are less likely to rely on social programs like food stamps to get by.

But the Rubanka plan would have parents pay for children with their retirement funds ― essentially stealing from their own future well-being. That’s a particularly painful proposition for women. Though they live longer than men, women have less money saved for retirement. Indeed, women on average get $1,154 a month in retirement from Social Security, according to the agency’s data. Men get $1,466.

The plan also does not account for families with multiple children, meaning each leave taken with each additional child would be funded by another chunk of retirement benefits.

While Trump and Rubio develop their plan, Democrats are pushing their Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY), which Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a year ago. FAMILY is endorsed by 27 Democratic senators. It would allow workers to earn 66 percent of their income for up to 12 weeks in order to care for their medical needs, a new child or a sick family member. The plan would be funded by a small payroll tax (two cents for every $10 a worker earns) and wouldn’t use Social Security funds.

Business Insider continues:

Advocates for the FAMILY Act, which has broad support among policy experts, argue the US already has a battle-tested plan as several states have implemented their own programs over the last decade, which have been largely popular and effective. They say the federal proposal is a more conservative version of what states like California and Washington have put in place.

Heather Boushey, the executive director of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, said that research has shown that Americans are willing to pay a reasonable tax for a benefit they need and want.

“What we’ve learned is that people have been willing to say, ‘this is important to me,'” Boushey told Business Insider. “The benefit far outweighs the small cost.”

Currently, the U.S. is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave.

Emily Wells
​Emily Wells is an Ear to the Ground blogger at Truthdig. As a journalist, she began as a crime reporter at the Pulitzer-winning daily newspaper, The Press-Enterprise...
Emily Wells

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