Why ‘most liberal’ Hillary is most wrong on paid leave

Yes we can (be France)!

Yes we can (be France)!

Within this piece arguing that Hillary Clinton would be the most liberal Democratic nominee since perhaps Michael Dukakis — more liberal than Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore or Bill Clinton, a degree of liberalness that might please Elizabeth Warren’s supporters but which will surely be a turnoff to a great many Americans — Michael Tomasky quotes Hillary’s recent remarks in Iowa on paid family and medical leave:

“(L)ook, we are the last developed country in the world that has no national paid leave for parenting, for illness. And what we know from the few states that have done it — California being most notable here — is it builds loyalty. If you really analyzed turnover in a lot of businesses where you have to retrain somebody — well, first you have to find them and then you have to retrain them — making your employees feel that you care about these milestones in their lives and you give them the chance to have a child, adopt a child, recover from a serious illness, take care of a really sick parent and get a period of time that’s paid just cements that relationship.”

This is a decent argument for private companies to voluntarily offer paid leave. While somewhat obvious, it might be the kind of advice companies pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispense in speeches. (It couldn’t possibly be their attempt to get cozy with a potential president. No way.)

But it is rather … odd as an argument for some sort of nationally mandated and/or subsidized family and medical leave. (It’s not clear to me if Clinton advocates a mandate or a subsidy; I’m going to write as if it’s a mandate, but what follows would hold more or less true either way.)

The “builds loyalty” argument makes sense as a way for companies to try to distinguish themselves from their competitors in the race for talent. Not so much if everyone has to offer it. In fact, you could argue the opposite is true: If every company has to offer paid leave as a benefit, that’s one less reason for an employee to be loyal to his employer. After all, he can move on to another job and receive the same benefit. The cost of training a replacement is the company’s problem, not his.

Along with raising the minimum wage, this is an example of the left’s belief that we can legislate our way to Lake Woebegone. In reality, there are jobs that simply can’t — and, importantly, won’t — exist if the price of filling those jobs is too high. Europe’s rigid labor laws (which cover much more than paid leave) are one reason why its employees are less mobile, and its economics less dynamic, than ours. Employees may be more likely to stay in their jobs, but it’s not out of loyalty. Rather, it’s because they know they would have a hard time finding new work. If you already have a job, that’s good. If not — and this group includes a lot of younger Europeans seeking work — it isn’t so good.

In the aggregate, that means many companies and workers alike are failing to reach their full potential, and over time that leads to less prosperity. All of this is a big reason why countries like Germany have experienced faster growth after loosening their labor laws (at least, relative to other European nations).

If Hillary Clinton wants to take us to something approximating the French or Italian labor markets, that would indeed make her the most left-wing nominee the Democrats have had in decades. But that’s nothing to celebrate.

Reader Comments 0

44 comments
MarkVV
MarkVV

A national paid leave for parenting, for illness is one of the employees benefits the people in those other developed countries have fought for, want and enjoy. It is a question about what is more important, business profit or quality of life of the employees. Those arguing that many companies offer it voluntarily ignore the plight of the employees of a company that does not offer it and who do not have a reasonable option to change jobs and find a company that does.

RichardKPE
RichardKPE

@MarkVV Your entire premise is based on a fallacy.  The business is NEVER going to sacrifice profit.  They just lower salaries to compensate (and this is not to say that the employee isn't ok with that).

MarkVV
MarkVV

@RichardKPE @MarkVV 

If you are trying to make any point that makes sense, it escapes me.What is my premise you refer to? If you want to claim that a business, after being forced to provide the benefit we are discussing, will simply just lower salaries, it does not deserve a serious thought.


n8diggidy
n8diggidy

The labor market is a competitive space where employers offer packages to entice the strongest candidates their revenues can profitably support. So of course central planning democrats won't to minimize their abilities to compete, they are economic fascists.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

So, Kyle, if Hillary is wrong about days off, does that mean a company that has absolutely no vacation days, no sick day benefits, no health benefits, No Overtime, no minimum wage, no retirement benefits, (etc etc) and you only get paid for the hours that you are there are the epitome of right-wing perfect company ideology? 


Just checking to see what the "opposite end" of the spectrum looks like. 


Because I'd rather have those benefits, whether company driven or driven by law. We as a country have worked hard to get to where companies pay benefits and have a regular work-week. I'd rather not go back to the days of pure capitalist sovereignty because the perfect capitalist would prefer slaves. 



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude Way to take things to an absurd extreme. I might as well ask if jobs that pay $1 million a year and offer 52 weeks of vacation is the "epitome of left-wing perfect company ideology" (whatever those last two words even mean; in my experience, the ideology of most companies is to make a profit).

The fact that many companies already offer what she's talking about is proof private industry will do things workers want without a government mandate. The fact that some don't in no way justifies a government mandate. The faulty logic she employed to make her point is, as I noted, indicative of how weak an idea she has.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude Then tell me what a far-right wing company would look like.  If Clinton is asking for leave for parents, and that's "liberal", then what would "conservative" look like? 


Yes, I went to the extreme, but do you have a better answer as to what "the most conservative extreme" would look like? 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude I don't deal in extremes because they're silly -- that was the whole point I was trying to make.

Well, that and the point that companies exist to make profits, and generally put that above any other ideology (if they want to stay in business).

AWA1
AWA1

Mandate would have to cover government employees. More taxes. Great.

steveatl
steveatl

Heaven forbid we should take care of the actual workers when CEOs walk away with golden parachutes and ever lowering taxes.

Worker
Worker

The number one goal of any company is to make a profit, without profit there are no workers!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex I'm talking about the mobility of workers from job to job and/or place to place. You're talking about something completely different: mobility up and down the income ladder.

MarkVV
MarkVV

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex  An d what makes that mobility (from job to job and /or place to place), an advantage for the workers? Especially in countries much smaller than the US?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

First off: "Most liberal"?

Gee, where've I heard that before?

2004?

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/mar/1/20040301-085725-5267r/?page=all

2008?

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2008/01/31/study-obama-most-liberal-senator-last-year/

Why, the cynic in me is inclined to believe there's a cottage industry out there to develop metrics to ensure that whoever is running for President on the Democratic side is somehow judged "objectively" to be the "most liberal" ... something.


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex If there is such an industry, it must be on the left, since the author of the piece that subbed Hillary the "most liberal" (potential) nominee in decades is a left-winger cautioning his fellow left-wingers to chill out about Elizabeth Warren.

luckjoe
luckjoe

Most big companies offer short term disability through their insurance benefit. You purchase it and if you need it you have it and your actual time off is covered with FMLA as an excused absence.. This has worked great for businesses. Hillary is trolling for votes. period.

MarkVV
MarkVV

Whether a mandate of paid leave is a god thing and under what conditions it should be mandated is something that is worth debating. But the most important fact is that it would be another employees’ benefit according to labor laws, just like workweek and work day, workers compensation in certain industries, etc. Therefore, if Kyle, the conservatives and the Republicans want to argue the way Kyle does, let them try to take those benefits from the employees.

Finally, suggesting that Hillary Clinton may want “to take us to something approximating the French or Italian labor markets” is such a cheap shot it hardly requires a serious response.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

To my surprise, Hillary has turned out to be your run of the mill political panderer, not a woman who speaks the truth. 

AvailableName
AvailableName

"Along with raising the minimum wage, this is an example of the left’s belief that we can legislate our way to Lake Woebegone."


Perhaps; but, you don't address the right's schtick that trickle down and no regulations will give us all beach front houses in warm climates.

Mustang100
Mustang100

It's obvious to me the Democrats want nothing else to do with Mr. Hillary, so her 'run' ain't gonna happen.

Wena Mow Masipa How
Wena Mow Masipa How

Well, Kyle, at least you acknowledge that Obama isn't all that liberal.  Truth be told, he's a centrist.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

I just love this photo of Hillary, I call it the hokey pokey photo.  She put the left foot in (how appropriate is that), she is not about to take it out, and is about to spin the voters around. 

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

I wouldn't spend so much time on this one Kyle, she'll be out of it by mid summer.


By hook or by crook.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

Once again we are back to a growing economy.  IF, we had a typical growing expanding American economy, the benefits problems would take care of themselves as companies compete for good employees.  That no longer works, since we have almost 94 million Americans who want a job, not even trying to find one.  I forget the figure on women, who would like a job but have given up looking, but it is a significant part or probably the majority of the 94 million.


Since Obama's fundamental transformation of America, there doesn't seem much choice but for government mandates requiring additional benefits, unless we get back to a more entrepreneurial economy.  A continuation of the Obama economy fits right in with the Hillarasaurus' ideology of top down government control of all aspects of our life.  Whether she is more liberal than Obama is something that has to be debated daily.  The Hillarasaurus has left us to assume that her principals and ideology are transient, depending on the polls of the day. Some days she is more liberal than Obama, other days less liberal, just another political wind sock.  

notagain
notagain

Call it left wing if you like,paid time off when having a baby or parents,children,mates death would be a good work benefit.

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

In your opinion Kyle, who is more liberal Hillary or Obama ?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JeffreyEav I would have said Obama until now, but Hillary is showing signs of a real leftward lurch (presumably to fend off a challenge from Warren). So I'll call it "too soon to say."

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

I appreciate your response. I just hope it's not a trend to say everyone is more liberal than the person before them. The way conservatives use the word is not meant to inspire. That said. I do recognize the level of conservatism in Republican candidates.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

We don’t have any laws that mandate paid leave for pregnancy, sickness, or care of sick family members. When it comes to paid maternity leave, the U.S. is one of four countries, out of 173 studied, that fails to provide paid maternity leave. The other three are Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.


Some pretty fine company to keep no ?


Earlier this year, Mitt Romney warned that European-style benefits would "poison the very spirit of America." And British-born Harvard historian Niall Ferguson has written that in contrast to Americans' Protestant work ethic, Europeans have an "atheist sloth ethic."


According to a 2011 Eurofound study, “coupled with public holidays, the average German has 40 days of holiday a year -- still tied with the Danes for the most in Europe. Greeks and Portuguese by comparison each average 33 days vacation a year, including public holidays.”


The Germany argument doesnt hold water


http://www.alternet.org/story/156131/why_europe%27s_laws_on_vacations_are_better_than_your_wildest_dreams_%28and_how_badly_americans_get_screwed%29

Infraredguy
Infraredguy

Hillary " I can't remember " Clinton is just another closet Liberal who talks a good game about helping women, the middle class and the poor while taking money from the rich who are betting the low information crowd in America will elect her and she will return the favor to the wealthy, just remember she and Bill were broke when they left the White House.

Dusty2
Dusty2

Paid leave?  For how long?  Americans are already losing their reputation as hard workers.  The old principle that Americans can work their way to higher finances by hard work and diligence are long gone.


Diligent workers are usually the last to "require" leave of any kind. 


If there are good managers,  emergencies will be negotiated.  Paid leave may create good feelings but it certainly cannot produce profit, one essential of business. 

JeffreyEav
JeffreyEav

Down here in God's country she isn't liberal enough. And wasn't Obama supposed to be the most liberal ever? That didn't last long.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JeffreyEav Re: this comment, it's a pretty liberal writer who dubbed her the would-be most-liberal nominee in decades, not me.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Kyle_Wingfield @JeffreyEav

Kyle, you're not that young that you wouldn't remember both Kerry and Obama getting called "most liberal" during their respective Presidential campaigns.

It's clickbait at this point, nothing more. Meaningless, however the National Journal or whomever want to rig their metrics.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex 1) Is it not possible that, in 2004, Kerry was the most liberal to that point, and in 2008 Obama topped him, and in 2016 Hillary might top him?

2) In any case, that label is only tangentially important to the main point of this point.