is the title of this terrific Washington Post op ed by E. J. Dionne.
He begins :
Politicians talk about family values but do almost nothing to help families. They talk about parental responsibility but do almost nothing to help parents. They talk about self-sufficiency but do precious little to make self-sufficiency a reality for those who must struggle hardest to achieve it.And the occasion of his column is the introduction last week by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of NY and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of CT of
the FAMILY Act, the acronym standing for their Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The bill would provide partial income for up to 12 weeks of leave for new parents and for other family demands, such as care for a sick family member, including a domestic partner.He refers to a fellow Post reporter who had cited a study that of 168 countries examined, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave - you will not be surprised to learn that the US in among the 5 that do not, which, according to Post reporter Amy Joyce means
“the U.S. is on par with places like Papua New Guinea and Swaziland when it comes to paid family leave.”Please keep reading.
Dionne notes that the program would be paid for by a separate insurance program, with premiums ranging from $72 to $227 annually, and that the program builds on the already successful Family and Medical Leave Act, and
is modest in comparison with leave policies in other well-off countries.Of course, given the nature of the House of Representatives since the Republican takeover after the election of 2010, Dionne recognizes the difficulties of getting anything like this, which actually truly benefits ordinary folks, passed into law.
He then writes
Our current discussion of what constitutes “freedom” is shaped far too much by a deeply flawed right-wing notion that every action by government is a threat to personal liberty and that the one and only priority of those who care about keeping people free is for government to do less than it does.This is followed by a reminder of our history and the role of big government, including the usual programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with things like schools, civil rights, voting rights, etc, all of which have served to expand the real freedom we have as Americans, and then follows with this parenthetical kicker:
(And we don’t take seriously enough the implications of a most basic fact of our national story: that it took big government in Washington to outlaw slavery.)Dionne praises the work of Gillibrand, whom readers of this site already know has chosen to offer a variety of proposals that would positively impact the lives of many Americans.
It is in his concluding two paragraphs that Dionne really brings it home.
First, his penultimate paragraph:
Yes, we need to protect what the philosophers call “negative liberty.” There are, indeed, many things that government should never be able to do to us. But we need to think more about “positive liberty,” the ability to realize certain goals in our lives. Democratic government can create the framework in which we have more power to reach those ends.Here I feel I must interject an observation that the budget compromise negotiated by Sen. Patty Murray fails to focus on the idea of "positive liberty" - not when it is in part achieved by cuts to the benefits of military veterans, among other things.
To this I add that were some Democrats not so beholden to certain financial interests, and others inexplicably still accepting the notion of some middle or "Third" way as an approach to our problems, in short focusing more on deficits and less on the real needs of this country and its people, our side could be advocating an approach then when presented to the American people draws strong support. It is not only more popular than what we have been seeing, it makes economic sense.
And most of all, such an approach is far more moral than putting the pain on those already suffering while those whose actions created our current difficult situation not only have not paid either a financial nor a criminal price for their actions, but have been bailed out by the taxes of the rest of us and continue to accumulate obscene amounts of wealth while giving little back to the society that has enabled them to garner such wealth and its concomitant power.
Then there are Dionne's final words:
And surely a country that honors the devotion of family members to each other should want to make it at least a little easier for them to do their jobs.I hope Dionne meant that with his tongue at least partly in his cheek, since he knows as well as I do that on the other side of this debate is little concern for the families of ordinary people or their well-being. Their words about family values merely represent an imposition of a particular theological approach, one that defines family so narrowly that if you do not meet their particular social values you and thus your family are illegitimate and not entitled to any benefits much less basic respect and protection.
Family valuyes hypocrisy indeed!
Go read the entire column.