As if an overhaul of the United States healthcare system was not enough, now President Barack Obama is eyeing an idea to nationalize maternity leave, with the state ultimately picking up the tab for a soon-to-be-mothers’ absence.
Branding the policy as “family-friendly,” Obama said that the US is the only industrialized nation that does not mandate that employers pay for maternity leave for their employees.
“Only three countries in the world report that they don’t offer paid maternity leave — three — and the United States is one of them,” Obama said in his weekly address. “It’s time to change that. A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need.”
Only three states (California, Rhode Island and New Jersey) have a state system where paid leave is mandated. But, Obama and Chief-of-Staff Valerie Jarrett admit they really have no clue how the federal government would pay for the federal program.
Obama has not endorsed legislation that would create one funded by a payroll tax, and he pledged in his 2008 presidential campaign not to raise taxes on families making under $250,000 a year.
Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett said in a conference call with reporters Sunday that the president is trying to start a national conversation to explore the issue.
“Cost is an issue for any federal program and we need to make sure we do this in a way where we are not raising taxes on middle-class families,” she said. “But we also know what a good investment in our workforce it would be if they had paid leave, and that investment will pay great returns.”
Large companies do, though, offer paid leave to their employers as a way to compete for employees versus companies that do not. Right now, the only federal law in place is the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act, which mandates that employers give employees unpaid leave for medical and family reasons.
The nationalized liberal initiative by Obama is just one of many that have risen from his presidency.
Since being re-elected to his second term in 2012, the President has been pushing for universal pre-school. In his proposed $3.9 trillion budget just months ago, Obama set-aside $750 million to help lay the groundwork for a federal program that would nationalize pre-school programs.
“Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education,” Obama wrote in his introductory budget message about his desire to expand preschool to all four-year olds. “I am again calling on the Congress to make high-quality preschool available to every four-year-old child.”
Questions have been raised, though, about how those taxpayer funds would be spent and what type of nationalized curriculum would be implemented for universal Pre-K programs, which many children may not even attend.
In last year’s State Of The Union Address, Obama launched the initiative “Pre-school For All,” which liberals like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have been avid supporters of.