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Champions of Paid Care Leave: More Baby Talk Needed in Prez Debates

PHOTO  The case for publicly funded care leave is made in a new book, "Time Off With Baby"
PHOTO The case for publicly funded care leave is made in a new book, "Time Off With Baby"
October 19, 2012

PHOENIX – Abortion, contraception and equal pay for women have come up so far in the debates between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. Not yet discussed, however, is why America lags behind many other nations in providing paid leave for parents of newborn children.

The case for paid care leave, which is made in a new book co-authored by Susan Muenchow, is not likely to come up in debate number three, she says, nor is legislation pending in Congress likely to advance soon.

"This has really been one of the victims of a very partisan Congress."

She backs a proposal for a three-month, publicly supported paid leave, supplemented by three months of job-protected leave and a two-week "use it or lose it" bonus to encourage fathers to take part in the leave. She says the cost is low, and the projected savings are substantial. She says studies have shown that the long-term benefits of time off with babies include enhancement of children's cognitive, social and emotional development.

Muenchow says it's not surprising that the presidential campaign has not focused on paid care leave.

"In general, there has not been very much discussion in this campaign about any sort of issues related to working families - other than getting them back to work. And clearly that is job number one."

Ellen Bravo, executive director of the group Family Values at Work, thinks the subject should be on the table.

"Instead of telling us how much a candidate loves his mother, we'd much rather hear, 'Okay, what will you do to make sure that mothers and fathers can be good parents when they have a new child?'"

Dana Friedman, president of the Early Years Institute, points to California and New Jersey, which she says have initiated paid care leave plans that defy skeptics who claim it will burden businesses.

"Romney and Obama have not addressed the paid leave issue. As much as they might want women and children to get support, they don't want to put another mandate on business. As it turns out, California and New Jersey - they have found that the cost to employers is very nominal."

The third presidential debate is scheduled to address only foreign policy issues.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ