President Donald Trump delivered a toned-down speech to Congress Tuesday night in an attempt to bring together a divided nation. One of the bipartisan measures Trump suggested was mandatory paid family leave.
Several conservatives and libertarians were outraged by the suggestion — revealing another divide between Trump’s brand of populist-nationalism and the orthodoxy of the conservative movement.
Paid family leave. Infrastructure spending. Lower drug prices. Man, the Republicans must be fuming that they lost this election
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) March 1, 2017
Oh yes, imposing paid family leave costs on business ought to create a lot of jobs. #CatoReacts
— Michael Tanner (@MTannerCato) March 1, 2017
BAD: “paid family leave” as a federal policy. No, no, no. This is a quintessential issue for the states to deal with.
— Josh Hammer (@josh_hammer) March 1, 2017
Why the hell is Paul Ryan clapping for paid family leave pushed by the feds? https://t.co/ylMS0FXwcO
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) March 1, 2017
Governmment-mandated paid family leave is seen as an example of state infringement on individual liberty by conservatives and a burden imposed on businesses. To Trump and his supporters, it’s a great idea to support stronger American families.
An overwhelming majority of Americans seem to disagree with the conservative consensus and agree with Trump, with 72 percent of the population supporting the idea of requiring employers to give employees time off to take care of their newborn babies or sick spouses.
Like entitlement reform, this is another issue that doctrinaire conservatives find themselves on the opposite side of the majority of Americans. And it’s likely for similar reasons that Americans have a positive opinion of mandatory family leave, in spite of conservative hand-wringing over the subject.
Knowing that you’re taken care of when you have a child or have to take care of a loved one makes for a happy employee — and, more importantly, for a pro-family culture. It’s vital for our nation to encourage people to have children and promote strong families. Without those two very important things, a nation dies. Having laws to do just that are promoting a common good, and not some nefarious big government intrusion into private enterprise.
The conservatives and libertarians upset about Trump’s call for paid family leave would disagree with the above statement and probably make a whole lot of appeals to abstract principles and economic calculation for why America should not have this policy. But it would lose the debate since the pro-paid leave side has the greater moral and emotional argument.
Sounding like an anti-natalist Ebeneezer Scrooge in a debate over helping new mothers and families is sure to do poorly in the public square. Few want to side with the person saying employees should have kids on their own time.
Of course, many conservatives support paid family leave — as long as it is not enforced by the state. But like many things, the state sometimes has to intervene to ensure that a common good is enacted rather than left to the whims of cold financial calculation. That way of thinking seems to be embraced by Trump and the nationalist ideology he’s ushering in.
The argument over family leave is not the only recent sign of the divide between Trump and movement conservatives. In the wake of last week’s CPAC, a flood of articles streamed out detailing how the event was more of a Trumpist affair than a traditional conservative one.
“Nationalism has taken over CPAC, libertarianism vanquished, conservatism in retreat” was the gist of nearly every dispatch from the D.C. area conference. However terrible it may be to conservatives that their own conference has been conquered by Trumpism, it was inevitable this occurred.
The entire Republican primary was…
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