Providing Paid Family Leave Through Social Security

I’ve done a couple of posts recently on the United States’ anomalous lack of a national system of paid parental leave. And as it happens, today CAP senior economist Heather Boushey has released a paper about creating a national system of paid family and medical leave, a slightly broader concept than parental leave. Of course you could try to do this by simply mandating that employers offer paid leave to their employees. But a proposal along those lines would generate substantial opposition and almost certainly get watered down with various kinds of exemptions for small employers and would likely do little for part timers, contract employees, the self-employed, etc. Boushey’s idea is to mandate the “leave” (as with the current Family and Medical Leave Act) but to finance the “paid” part through the Social Security system which already makes structurally similar payments via its disability provisions.

Watch her discuss the idea:

This is good stuff. Right now the health and energy debates are sucking up the oxygen on the Hill, but it’s necessary for folks to start talking about and building support for and understanding of further social policy innovations. The hope, after all, is to keep progressive policy flowing in 2010, 2011, and beyond.