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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Despite Voting No On Parental-Leave, Ryan Pleads for Family Time


U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced on Tuesday night that he will run for Speaker of the House, but only under certain conditions. One of those conditions, he told his fellow Republicans, is that he be allowed to spend more time with his family. “I cannot and will not give up my family time,” he said following the meeting.

It’s great that Ryan wants to spend time with his wife and three children. He doesn’t want time with his family to be sacrificed to the demanding job, should he be the one to follow in current Speaker John Boehner's footsteps. However, his track-record concerning childcare legislation and subsidies shows he has one standard for himself and another for average Americans.

First, there is Ryan’s no-vote on the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act (H.R. 626) in 2009. The act, which passed, allows federal employees to substitute any paid parental leave available for any leave without pay for either a child’s birth or adoption/foster care placement.

Second, there was Ryan’s budget proposal for 2015 through 2024 that proposed eliminating over $16 billion from the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities describes as distributing funds to state human services departments. States use the grant for a variety of services including childcare subsidies for working poor families.

The abysmal state of U.S. childcare

Bryce Covert of ThinkProgress points out: “Ryan is fortunate to have a job where he has the power to demand time to go home and be with his children. But for the rest of the country, no one is guaranteed paid time off for illness, holidays, vacation, or the arrival of a new child.” Indeed, the state of childcare in the U.S. is a rather abysmal one.

A 2007 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s National Institute of Child Health Development found that most childcare facilities surveyed were “fair” or “poor,” and only 10 percent of them were ranked as high-quality. An InterNations guide on childcare for people moving to the U.S. cautioned that “U.S. child care can be very costly.” The guide pointed out that “U.S. childcare is not financed or provided for by the state,” in contrast to most other developed countries.

A 2013 expose by the New Republic on U.S. childcare observed: “American day care is a mess.” It noted that about 8.2 million kids, 40 percent of them being under 5 years old, “spend at least part of their week in the care of somebody other than a parent.” The article points out that in other countries “such services are subsidized and well-regulated.” The expose’s most searing indictment of the state of U.S. childcare is that its “overall quality is wildly uneven and barely monitored, and at the lower end, it’s Dickensian.”

Helping the most vulnerable in society

Ryan is vocal about his Christian faith and being a devout Catholic. In 2012, while campaigning for his running mate, Mitt Romney, he stated, “I am a Catholic, not because anyone has ordered me to accept a creed, but because of the grace and truth revealed in my faith.” 

That same year, he spoke again about his faith during an interview with the Brody File, where he said that his faith helped him create his federal budget proposal. “A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private," he said.

Perhaps Ryan needs to re-read a New Testament verse (James 1:27), which states that “pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” In the ancient world, orphans and widows were the most vulnerable. In our society, financially struggling parents -- particularly single mothers -- are among the most vulnerable. Making it easier for families to afford and find quality childcare plus have paid parental leave are two ways to apply this ancient text to our present-day world.

Why doesn’t Paul Ryan think struggling families deserve the same access to family time that he is demanding? Why can't he apply his Christian faith to help American families?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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