IT ISN'T the job of the federal government to provide, mandate, or encourage paid leave for new parents, and there was a time when Republican politicians would have said so. That was long ago, when the GOP was still the party of fiscal sobriety and limited government. Alas, Republicans today are as wedded as Democrats to the belief that anything desirable must come from Washington, even if it would be better left to state and local discretion, or kept in private hands altogether.
Expanding the welfare state to encompass paid parental leave is the latest example of this phenomenon. President Trump has endorsed the idea in his State of the Union addresses, and his proposed 2020 budget calls for providing "at least" six weeks of paid leave for new mothers and fathers. On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, several Republican senators are pushing a scheme to fund paid leave for working parents through the Social Security Administration, at an estimated cost of $10 billion or more each year.
The legislation, versions of which have been sponsored by Marco Rubio of Florida, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Mitt Romney of Utah, is offered as a response to complaints that the United States is the only industrialized nation without a law mandating paid parental leave. Exactly why that should trouble Republicans who ordinarily regard American exceptionalism as an admirable quality isn't clear. Nor is it clear that the absence of a federal policy should be seen as evidence of a national problem. . . .