Study: The Republican Plan for Paid Leave Is Going to Undermine Social Security

marco rubio
Senator Marco Rubio’s plan for paid family leave: borrow against your Social Security | Image: Michael Vandon via Flickr Creative Commons,

In 2016, for the first time in history, both parties’ presidential candidates called for paid parental leave. Recently, in consultation with Ivanka Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio put together a Republican alternative to the Democrats’ long-existing but stalled plan, the FAMILY Act. Sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the FAMILY Act would set up a national insurance fund into which employers and employees would contribute (only about the cost of a cup of coffee per week), which people can access at the birth or adoption of a child or personal or family illness.

The competing Republican plan would, in contrast, allow individuals to borrow from Social Security to replace around half of their usual income while they take leave. A study by the Urban Institute out Thursday analyzes the costs of such a plan. Its finding: The plan isn’t cost-neutral, as Republicans claim, and would cut or withhold Social Security benefits from future generations of parents—from a 3 percent reduction in retirement benefits for parents of one child to a 10 percent for parents of four children.

Urban Institute’s projections suggest that allowing people to borrow from Social Security would delay retirement benefits 20 to 25 weeks and would reduce future benefits by 3 to 10 percent. But more dramatically, borrowing against the future without creating additional revenue streams would fundamentally “undermine social security.”

The Urban Institute finding is not at all surprising, given where the [Republican] plan came from. The idea for using Social Security to fund paid leave originated with the conservative Independent Women’s Forum. IWF President Carrie Lukas has said publicly that she’d like to see Social Security as we know it become more of a personal (and private) insurance program, which she sees as the best thing conservatives can hope for, since “Americans are not going to accept the wholesale elimination of Social Security—at least not any time soon.”

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