Ivanka Trump’s Facebook Post Sparks a Paid Family Leave Commenting War

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Ivanka Trump (Photo: Getty Images)

On Monday night Ivanka Trump, first daughter and special adviser to President Donald Trump, posted on her official Facebook page the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)-Brookings report which supports paid family leave in the United States. Along with the link she wrote her own message: “It’s time to make America great for American working families! #PFML.”

This was not the first time that Ivanka has publicly shown her support for the implementation of paid family leave. During the campaign, then-candidate Trump told a crowd of supporters about how his daughter was begging him to champion the issue.

“Daddy, daddy — we have to do this,” Trump said during a campaign stop, allegedly quoting Ivanka urging him to mandate paid family leave. In response, the Trump campaign put out a proposal for six weeks of paid maternity leave for biological mothers only. When President Trump released his proposed federal budget last month, it included an ask for funding to create a program that would give both mothers and fathers six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child — detractors were quick to note that many who need it would be ineligible for this care.

The bipartisan AEI-Brookings report that Ivanka pointed to on her Facebook page, takes things a step further and calls for up to $600 per week for eight weeks of paid family leave for both mothers and fathers. This would ensure that the United States is no longer the only developed country in the world without a national paid leave plan for parents.

Tomorrow AEI-Brookings releases their Paid Family Leave report. It’s time to make America great for American working…

Posted by Ivanka Trump on Monday, June 5, 2017

While the AEI-Brookings report is being lauded as a compromise between public policy leaders on both the left and the right, the comments on Ivanka Trump’s post tell a whole different story — one of sharp division.

“Where does it stop?” Facebook user Kathy Sparks wrote on Ivanka’s Facebook wall. “Why should couples who are childless, either through choice or by infertility have to pay for others to be paid while choosing to stay home with a new baby? I don’t get it.”

Facebook user Jolene M. Post echoed that sentiment writing, “Many places offer paid leave for babies. Demanding all employers provide it is sexist and discriminatory against people who will never have children. Babies are a choice.”

And it didn’t stop there. “I’m a conservative,” wrote Facebook user Jeri L. Gonwa. “But do not believe in paid family leave. Every such regulation comes at a huge cost. It costs the employer who also has to pay someone to replace you. More than likely the employer will also pay less in wages to make up the difference. Perhaps people should learn to live on less so only one parent needs to work.”

“So you steal money from people like me and give it to people who didn’t earn it but managed to make a kid. How do you justify theft?” Commented David Stephens. “It is the job of government to protect private property. Legalizing theft is the antithesis of this very basic mission.”

But it wasn’t only those opposed to the notion of mandated paid family leave who took to Ivanka’s Facebook wall. Many of the other one thousand comments posted were in support of the plan.

“I’m conservative, and I love this!” wrote Facebook user Alaina Lackey Szlavy. “It’s sad that you can’t even adopt puppies and kittens until they are 8 week old, but we push out new moms out the door to work with a 6 week old baby (or younger) at home.”

Facebooker Matt Poland also shared his pro-paid leave opinion writing, “Why should a 60 year old man have to pay for maternity care? Why should I pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read? Why should I pay for a flower I wont [sic] smell, a park I wont [sic] visit, or art I cant [sic] appreciate? Why should I pay the salaries of politicians I didn’t vote for, a tax cut that doesn’t affect me, or a loophole I can’t take advantage of? Its [sic] called democracy, a civil society, the greater good. Thats [sic] what we pay for.”

“We are the only civilized country that does not offer maternity leave,” wrote Facebook user Lisa Beth Gregory. “Look it up before you decide that new moms don’t deserve to heal and children to properly bond with their parents. How cold hearted some people are. Shame on you.”

As the AEI-Brookings report notes, women’s labor force participation in the United States has stalled and nearly a third of the gap can be explained by the lack of family-friendly policies like paid family leave. In other words, economic growth in the U.S. significantly hinges on the ability of women to remain in the workforce. An absence of policies which allow for women to have families and be committed to their work in part prevents this growth.

Almost half of all U.S. labor force participants today are women and the majority of American mothers work outside the home. Yet, almost 80 percent of those who qualify for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) — the 1993 measure signed into law by President Bill Clinton that requires certain employers to provide employees with 12 work-weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons — say they cannot afford to take it. One major side effect of unpaid family leave is that many men who become fathers are unlikely to take the unpaid time off; generally because their wages are needed if the mother of the child is taking unpaid time off too. When paid leave is offered, however, men are much more likely to take it — a practice which has proved to be critically beneficial to children.

To zoom things out even further, a woman earning a median salary for younger, full-time, full-year workers who takes five years off at the age of 26 for caregiving purposes — often as a result of workplace policies that are not family-friendly and because of the high costs of child care — would lose out on $467,000 over her working career, reducing her lifetime earnings by 19 percent. It’s not just women and their families who lose out on these wages, but the economy as a whole — which is exactly why Ivanka Trump, the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, and the left-leaning Brookings Institute are advocating for a paid family leave plan.

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