GMA to America: Be More Socialist With Paid Time Off
On Friday’s "Good Morning America," reporter Elizabeth Vargas openly lobbied for the passage of legislation that would require employers to offer six weeks of paid time off to workers for maternity, illness, or the care of a loved one. In addition, the ABC correspondent bashed America for not having "flexible, family friendly polices." According to Vargas, a new Harvard University study places the United States near the bottom among countries that provide paid maternity leave. She also offered only token opposition to the idea that all employers should be forced to give six weeks, plus the standard sick time and vacation. For the most part, the segment came across as a stinging indictment of the U.S.:
Robin Roberts: "Now to a new study from Harvard about paid maternity leave all around the world. It ranks countries based on how generous or stingy their benefits were. And the bottom five countries may have you scratching your head and saying, 'You must be kidding.' ABC's Elizabeth Vargas is here with the details. And we did see this and we were like, no, no, no. This cannot be right."
Elizabeth Vargas: "Everybody has that reaction, Robin. 26 million mothers in this country work. The vast majority say to make ends meet, they must. With that many moms in the workforce, you'd think the U.S. would lead the way in flexible, family-friendly policies. Think again. For millions of working moms, those first weeks after giving birth are a time to take off, recover, and bond with your new baby. But increasingly, the question is who pays?"
In the segment, which aired at 7:44am on February 2, Vargas’ tone constantly betrayed incredulity at just how rotten America’s leave policies are. At no time was the effect of paying for an additional six weeks seriously considered. After co-host Robin Robert’s introduction, Vargas began the report by asking women on the street which country they thought would be the worst offender:
Vargas: "Most countries around the world provide paid maternity leave, but which ones don't?"
[Montage of women answering the question]
Woman #1: "Maybe India?"
Woman #2: "China?"
Woman #3: "Maybe Russia or Mexico."
Vargas: "In fact, a study out this week from Harvard and McGill University, shows that of 173 countries surveyed, only five provide no form of paid maternity leave: Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, Swaziland, Liberia, and the United States."
Michelle Porter (Mother): "I do think American women are not aware of how bad they have it."
Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut): "We took better care of pets in your automobile than we take care of your child in this country."
Vargas: "Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut says that only 12 percent of U.S. companies offer paid maternity leave, even though 71 percent of all mothers work. Late yesterday, he proposed expanding the Family Medical Leave Act to allow all employees in this country at least six weeks of paid leave, to care for a baby or any sick family member. Senator Dodd says studies show it is good business for employers to offer paid maternity or medical leave. But when we spoke to Karen Czarnecki from the Department of Labor, she disagreed.
Karen Czarnecki: "We'd end up losing jobs. I really think the economic consequences would be dire."
Vargas: "Czarnecki says it would cripple many businesses if they had to pay an employee to take time off to care for a newborn or a sick parent. She says it's up to each employee to plan for those life events."
Czarnecki: "We need to do more to encourage Americans to save more for the times that they do need to be out of the workforce."
Vargas: [Incredulous] "It's up to a person to save enough money before they have a baby to be able to stay home for a few weeks and recover and spend some time with that new baby?"
Czarnecki: "Yeah. I think people have to take responsibility for themselves and they shouldn't always look to government to have an answer for them."
First off, note that Chris Dodd is only identified as a Democrat in an onscreen graphic. Vargas simply referred to him as a Senator from Connecticut. Secondly, when Karen Czarnecki, a Labor Department advisor, actually suggested that people save for children and other life events, Vargas clearly found it difficult to hide her bewilderment at such a thought. Anchor Robin Roberts closed the report by essentially dismissing Czarnecki’s remarks:
Roberts: "In a perfect world you can save money. We just had the report yesterday, negative one percent that Americans-"
Vargas: "Right. Exactly. We're spending more than we have."
Roberts: "Exactly! All right. Also in this study, which I found alarming, 65 countries have paid paternity leave. Here in the U.S., we don't even have paid maternity live."
Vargas: "Many countries do more for the fathers who, by the way, haven't just given birth or aren't breast feeding, ‘cause that's another part of the equation. The U.S. government launched a campaign encouraging women to breast feed for a full year after they gave birth and yet they don't require employers to provide any place to breast feed. I mean, many women going back to work, especially in some of these jobs that are less flexible, you know, they don't have an office to go to, or a place to pump milk or a place to store that milk. It's really tough for a lot of these working moms."
Roberts: "And, as you said, in that report, there are some people who resent the fact that there are men and women that are going to have paid time off that they don't get."
Vargas: "--Who feel like parents are asking for special treatment. And that's a very legitimate feeling and that's why the writers of the Family Medical Leave Act say that it's not just for parents, it's not just for children or newborns. If you have a parent or aspouse who's sick, you too can take time off, paid time off from your job to take care of that loved own."
Finally, nowhere in Ms. Vargas’ piece did she point out that countries that have such generous paid leave policies, such as France, consistently have high unemployment rates and problems with giving such generous benefits. But that fact clearly wouldn’t jibe with Vargas’ liberal agenda.