In 2018, the The New York Times Discusses a proposed family leave policy authored by Marco Rubio:

The plan supported by Mr. Rubio (and soon to be introduced in the House by Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri) is much more comprehensive. But it still makes parents trade one benefit for another.

It would allow a parent to draw from Social Security benefits at about 40 to 70 percent of current salary to take at least two months of paid time off. But those parents would then have to delay retirement or reduce their Social Security benefits to cover the cost of parental leave.

The Urban Institute found that taking 12 weeks at half-pay means taking 25 weeks off or reducing monthly checks by 3 percent.

I will not discuss the overall merits of this plan. But I believe that both its conservative supporters and its progressive critics are wrong about one aspect of the proposal. Senator Rubio likes the fact that the plan is “paid for” by future cuts to Social Security. Progressive critics find that aspect punitive. I find this completely unconvincing.

I doubt the plan will be very popular with young mothers, as the cost of paying 30 or 40 years into the future doesn’t seem like much of a concern today. More importantly, many people could reasonably conclude that the threat would never be carried out. After all, governments have played this kind of shell game before with expensive new programs “provided” out of future taxes that could prove unpopular and get scrapped before they take effect. Remember the “Cadillac Tax”?

I suspect that by the 2060s, the population of developing countries will decline due to low birth rates. At that point, I suspect that policymakers will want to punish mothers who choose to have children in the 2020s by reducing Social Security benefits relative to families who choose to remain childless. (If cuts to Social Security were made at that time, I doubt they would affect wealthy retirees.)

Politicians care far more about the viability of their pet projects than long-term budget issues. Thus they are willing to employ almost any type of financing strategy or tactic if they think it will help get a bill through Congress.

NYT editorial writer Bryce Covert opposed Rubio’s plan. I suspect that if he realized that threats to cut future Social Security benefits would not be effective, he might be in favor of the plan.

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