Letter to the LA Times
There it is again! Every eight months or so you hear it, like the sound of an unloved relatives voice outside your door: the suggestion that the Family Leave program be widened to cover more people, more age groups and that it become a "paid" program (Susan Reimer, "Going Beyond The Family Leave Act" 1/2/01).
Over three columns down to the fold Ms. Reimer trots out the usual stories intended to pull at the usual emotions: the wrestling matches missed; sick kids home alone or unwisely sent to school; learning faltering with no parent on station; emotional development missed because a child needs a parent at home and both are working. Her claim to originality seems to be its not just infants who need parents at home." Following this parade of sad circumstance the proposal -- I will not call it "hint" -- is made straight up that parental leave ought to be paid and ought to be extended to older children.
I am not amused when the flat-headed stumble upon the irreducible exigencies of parenting and, shocked by the stark unfairness of reality, march into print, not to frankly list and honor the personal costs demanded by parenthood, but rather waving a petition of official "need" -- one that government ought to pay for, or force a business to do so. But government cannot "pay" for anything; it can only take wealth from one citizen and give it to another, or force a business to pay directly regardless of property rights, therefore depleting productivity.
Visualize this scenario under an expanded Family Leave Act: a young couple paying its bills on January 1 glances at one another in awful realization: their taxes are burdensome -- approaching 40% overall -- and the company the man works for cannot grant pay raises due to stress from taxes, regulation and the unproductive salary of numerous "parents on leave." Therefore the couple will not be able to conceive their second child this year. The company employing the wife could be forced to pay her salary while she stays home, but that does not sit well with the couple.
This couple is ethical; they will not bring a new child into life with both parents working and they will not ask (let alone force) another person to pay for their kids proper care. Yet they are forced by law to pay for someone else who didnt prepare for parenthood, does not deign to curb lifestyle and will not gainsay their urge to procreate. The honest couples virtue is forced to pay for someone elses whim. And always the grim irony: if one had to speculate, which of the two would most likely be the finest parent?
Ms. Reimer and any who advocate that others pay for them to stay home will never be good parents; in addition to scars caused by the basic dishonestly, they are also depriving themselves and their children of lessons gained by persevering in honor while facing hard choices. I direct the reader to Ms. Reimers sixth paragraph; she admits her husband makes enough by himself and that having two wage-earners is "habit-forming" but then declares the arrangement "necessary" without further rational explication. This is a bald confession that she wont even ante up one ounce of character herself. But she certainly has the gumption to ante up the wealth of the rest of America to forestall her from feeling the slightest discomfort.
Really, I do not extend Ms. Reimer points for good intentions, nor do I in any way excuse her enormous moral lapse in advocating the enslavement of businesses. She would do well to place herself in the position of running a company and meeting a payroll. Until she learns some tough lessons and acquires respect for property, the appropriate response to her sullen childish "demand" is that which a strong parent delivers to any immature child indulging in an orgy of neediness and manipulation: