Monday, June 4, 2007

Progressive Wednesday 6/4/2007

From Progressive Wednesday:

The world's most important job should be a paid position (at least for a few weeks)

I'm a stay-at-home-dad. I love it. I don't think that there is a more rewarding job anywhere on the planet as taking care of your wee one. Go ahead and judge me if you want. I'm a bit too progressive to care. Raising our daughter is something that I want to do, and I take great pride in her perpetual happiness. And because my wife is a veterinarian, we are afforded the ability to have a stay-at-home-parent, though just barely. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most families. Here are some rather embarrassingly regressive statistics.

  • Less than ten percent of American workers get paid time off to take care of family members at times of extreme need.
  • Seventy-eight percent of people who need family leave can’t afford to take it.
  • Roughly half of all personal bankruptcies result from health care-related crises.

In my home state of New York, we have a political party called the Working Families Party, whose main goals are to promote better and more affordable health care, higher wages for the lower and middle classes, and better education for our young ones. They usually endorse the most progressive major candidate. Through the use of open-balloting, you can choose to vote for the candidate that the party endorses to show how important these issues are to you without wasting your vote.

The Working Families Party is sponsoring legislation called the Working Families Time to Care Act. Here's what it does in the proverbial nutshell:

  • The Working Families Time to Care Act would expand New York's existing Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program to also cover family needs (e.g., leave for either parent to care for newborns or newly adopted children or for seriously ill family members).
  • Workers would receive up to 12 weeks of benefits with a maximum of $17o a week, funded through a modest (43 cents a week) increase in premiums paid within the existing TDI program.

The bill would make New York State the most progressive in the country in terms of medical and maternity leave. According to the New York Times:

Mr. Spitzer's plan would be more expansive than the paid leave in Washington State, which is limited to caring for newborns and newly adopted children, and in California, which covers workers caring for a seriously ill child, parent, spouse or domestic partner. Mr. Spitzer's plan would also cover workers who take off to care for grandchildren, foster parents and parents-in-law.

Critics say the benefits are far too low. While I agree with that, this is an important first step in getting family leave to where it should be. It has passed through the State Assembly but has temporarily stalled in the State Senate. But with a little help from us, they'll come around. Governor Spitzer has already dipped his pen and is ready to sign. So hop on over to the Working Families website to sign their letter to New York State legislators so that others can afford to raise their newborns and help sick family members. And maybe they can even avoid having to file for bankruptcy protection.