Wanted on Family Leave: Clarity of Thought


Herewith, an example of the reason our nation may be in inexorable decline, from the AP’s Jennifer McDermott, under the Providence Journal headline of “In R.I., residents gush about paid family leave“:

Rhode Island last year began allowing workers to take up to four weeks of paid leave. Many workers say they love the program, and employers say it hasn’t hurt business as some had feared. …

About 5,000 people have taken paid family leave in Rhode Island so far. New Jersey and California are the other states that provide it, and several states are considering it. Washington state passed legislation but has put off implementing it.

Those two paragraphs convey a fundamentally un-factual and misleading impression.  Rhode Island didn’t just “begin allowing” workers to take off paid leave last year.  There has never been a ban on paid time off.  I’m sure employers have offered that as a benefit to workers, whether formally or ad hoc, as circumstances have come up, and there’s private insurance that people can purchase (or receive as a benefit) to accomplish the same thing.  Similarly, the state doesn’t “provide it.”  In effect, the state is simply mandating the insurance, whether people want it or not.

This program is actually an excellent example of the illness that the West’s creeping progressive political philosophy has wrought.  The government is forcing us to pay for a program that not everybody needs or wants, and then the government takes credit for “providing” the program.  The state is forcibly taking money away from everybody, causing harm to the economy that is difficult to measure, and then taking credit for the relatively small population that benefits (buying votes and excusing even more government power).

The Associated Press found a couple of extreme examples, but we can be sure that the 5,000 people who’ve received some benefits range from those cases, on one end, to abuse of the system, on the other, probably with a bell curve between them.  And even then, only 1% of people holding Rhode Island-based jobs have benefited.

The fact that “the state’s largest employer” found the 500 of its employees who’ve used the program to be a “nonissue” does not tell us the economic effect.  The state is forcing people to pay real money to mitigate a risk that they’re otherwise willing to accept, perhaps because they have contingency plans (like, you know, savings).  When benefits are paid out, there’s no guarantee that the money isn’t just offsetting something that isn’t as economically productive.

Put differently:  Taking money away from people who are working to pay people for not working is not economically neutral, and it’s politically corrosive.