For the third time in 2007, ABC has used its "Good Morning America" program to deride the United States for not being generous enough in providing paid leave for employees. On the Thursday edition of the show, reporter David Wright complained that "the U.S. doesn't make it easy" for working parents. He used a 2007 study to claim that, on this issue, America is no better then several Third World nations.
At no point did the ABC reporter mention that countries who provide generous leave, such as France, also have extremely high taxes and high unemployment. (The French are currently at 8.7 percent.)
[Related post by Mark Finkelstein available here]
After an introduction by host Robin Roberts that explained how Congress is considering legislation to expand federal and medical lave, Wright cited a recent Harvard-McGill study that lumps the U.S. in with third world countries such as Swaziland:
David Wright: "A recent Harvard-McGill study of more than 170 countries found that only four of them do not require paid leave for new mothers: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the U.S. The study also found that 145 countries provide paid sick days."
The linkage of America to these countries is, perhaps, intended to provoke gasps in the audience. But Mr. Wright left out important differences in quality of life, such as the fact that Swaziland has 40 percent unemployment, almost 70 percent of the country lives in poverty and has a per capita GDP of only $5,200. (Comparatively, the U.S. is at $44,000.)
Additionally, "Good Morning America" made this exact same point about the study in February. Back then, reporter Elizabeth Vargas even used the same phraseology:
Elizabeth 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."
The intent seems clear: America is very backwards on paid leave. Perhaps an indicator of where the network would like the U.S. to ultimately go is the fact that Wright described the legislation as "baby steps."
Other instances of GMA touting the progressive leanings of various nations include an April segment on the welfare system of Denmark and how it "provides security and comfort."
In fact, in February, Diane Sawyer appeared impressed by aspects of the dictatorial regime of Syria. She approvingly commented that Syrian women have "safety on the streets, family to help with children, and the government helping too."
A transcript of the June 21 segment, which aired at 7:14am, follows:
Robin Roberts: "This morning, Congress is going to hear about a battle on the home front, one that goes on inside millions of American homes. It's the battle to not only balance work and family but also try and make ends meet, a juggling act that is quickly becoming part of the American experience. Our David Wright has more from Washington. David."
ABC Graphic: "Can Govt Help Working Parents? More Paid Leave For Moms?"
David Wright: "Good morning, Robin. It's something that every parent struggles with, how to balance work and family. And the U.S. lags far behind other countries in helping parents to cope. Well, here on Capitol Hill today, Congress will take the first baby steps to try and address that situation. Missy Quarberg of Amery, Wisconsin recently quit her job at Wal-Mart to stay at home and care for her two kids. She says she liked the job, she simply couldn't afford to keep it."
Missy Quarberg: "I was getting to the point where I was going to have to take– and get a part-time job to pay for the gas to go to my full-time job to pay for day care."
Wright: "She also says her boss wasn't so sympathetic about her needs to take time off whenever her kids had doctors appointments. Today she's coming to Capitol Hill to tell her story. She's not alone. In roughly 80 percent of two-parent families, both parents have jobs . All of them struggle to juggle and the U.S. doesn't make it easy. A recent Harvard-McGill study of more than 170 countries found that only four of them do not require paid leave for new mothers: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and the U.S. The study also found that 145 countries provide paid sick days. The U.S. requires only unpaid family and medical leave and not all workers are covered."
Janet Currie (Columbia University): "I don't think the hearing is going to magically produce legislation that's going to cover all of these issues. But I think it's very important to keep attention focused."
Wright: "Why is Congress paying attention now? Quite possibly because more moms are on Capitol Hill than ever before. They too, struggle to juggle. A struggle for every parent. Today's meeting of the Workforce Protection Subcommittee is the very first step in trying to address the work-family balance. And among the bills they're considering are a measure that would expand family and medical leave and also a bill that would amend the Civil Rights act of 1964 to protect women who breast feed. Diane?"