George Will Opposes Paid Parental Leave

Recently, you might recall, Republicans in Congress passed a tax cut that is causing the deficit to explode. The U.S. federal budget deficit was $587 billion in 2016 and in 2019 is expected to be around $1 trillion, give or take, it says here in a Forbes article.

But today George Will warns us sternly that Americans will rue the day if they get paid family leave.

Evidently it is now retrograde to expect family planning to involve families making plans that fit their resources. Which brings us to the approaching birth of a new entitlement: paid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. This arrival will coincide with gargantuan deficits produced primarily by existing entitlements.

Will may not be responsible for this headline, but it’s what got my attention:

Right-wing media continue to howl that “entitlements,” not the tax cuts, are responsible for the budget deficit. Never mind that the nearly half-trillion increase in the budget deficit projected for 2019 is being caused entirely by the tax cuts. Evan Horowitz wrote at FiveThirtyEight:

There is no wide-reaching entitlement funding crisis, no deep-rooted connection between runaway debts and the broad suite of pension and social welfare programs that usually get called entitlements. The problem is linked to entitlements, but it’s much narrower: If the U.S. budget collapses after hemorrhaging too much red ink, the main culprit will be rising health care costs.

Aside from health care, entitlement spending actually looks relatively manageable. Social Security will get a little more expensive over the next 30 years; welfare and anti-poverty programs will get a little cheaper. But costs for programs like Medicare and Medicaid are expected to climb from the merely unaffordable to truly catastrophic.

What’s needed, then, is something far more focused than entitlement reform: an aggressive effort to slow the growth of per-person health care costs. Or — if that’s not possible — some way to ensure that the economy grows at least as fast as the cost of health care does.

Republicans have been incapable of addressing the root cause of our out-of-control health care costs, because the primary reason our health care costs are out of control has to do with the way we pay for health care. See “Why the U.S. Spends So Much More Than Other Nations on Health Care” at the New York Times. The biggest difference between the U.S. health care system and everybody else’s is that the prices we pay for everything are much, much higher. And that’s because everybody else has gone to some kind of national system that imposes price controls. We allow for whatever prices the market will bear, and it’s threatening to eat our economy.

But you know Republicans — they think the purpose of a health care system is to ensure profits for health care industry executives and stockholders. If anybody actually gets health care along the way that’s a plus, but it’s not the central concern.

All that said — George Will is really, really put off by all these irresponsible people who want to take some time off from their jobs after their babies are born but who can’t afford to do without two paychecks coming in. Who do they think they are? They should just wait until they are more financially secure, even if that’s past the age of menopause. If ever.

(I have known women who went back to work within a week of having babies. I have had babies, so I know that after only a week one is still passing afterbirth. And exhausted, I might add.)

Government-mandated paid family leave clearly is going too far for Will.

Although this will advance the left’s agenda of broadening and destigmatizing dependence on government, many conservatives support it in the name of “family values,” and because free stuff polls well. But it will not be free for someone, so the argument is about who should pay. The debate will concern ways to disguise the benefit’s costs while requiring others to pay for it.

I would argue that healthy babies and stable families (which require mothers who are not collapsing from exhaustion) are a positive good for the nation, so we all benefit from them, directly or indirectly. But like most righties, Will can’t see beyond a transference of wealth argument. If they aren’t his babies, why should he have to pay to care for them?

Of course, Will is also opposed to abortion, and recently wrote a column that said allowing couples to abort a fetus diagnosed with Down syndrome amounts to “genocide.” He also opposes funding Planned Parenthood and is infamous for uncritically repeating whackjob conspiracy theories about it. See, for example, “Planned Parenthood and the barbarity of America.” He was outraged at PP for selling fetus body parts. I can’t find that he ever wrote a retraction after it was determined that Planned Parenthood was not, in fact, selling fetus body parts.

So, Will isn’t terribly interested in helping poor women with family planning, and he’s been against abortion even for medical reasons for years. But he is outraged over paid family leave as an “entitlement” that will somehow break the bank and erode the moral fiber of the nation, or something. I’m waiting for him to propose that anyone making less than median wage be sterilized so that they aren’t irresponsibly making babies that are going to cost him money.