Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has worked very hard to paint himself as a “family values” candidate by fighting tooth and nail against the rights of gay Americans to start their own families and against American women’s abilities to plan their families in a responsible manner. Now, the “family man” has spoken out against federal labor rules mandating paid family leave for American workers- because spending quality time with their families infringes on the rights of employers to squeeze every last ounce of productive labor out of their employees.
“I think maternity leave and paternity leave are wonderful things. I support them personally…But I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of mandating them” said Cruz on Friday. The doublespeak is particularly twisted because, as ThinkProgress reported, without a mandate from the government, “more than 70 percent of employers offer no paid maternity leave and more than 80 percent don’t offer paid paternity leave. That leaves 88 percent of the workforce without paid family leave if they have a new child.”
His statements paint a microcosm of the burdens afflicting the American worker:
“The less someone makes, the less likely they are to get paid family leave from work. Just 5 percent of the lowest-paid workers get paid maternity or paternity leave… And a lack of paid leave creates significant financial complications for many families. A third of those who get partial pay or no pay after the arrival of a new baby has to borrow money, while another third dips into savings and another puts off paying bills (and some may be doing all three). Fifteen percent have to enroll in public benefit programs just to get by. A quarter of “poverty spells,” or episodes of poverty that last for two months or more at a time, begin with the birth of a child.”
When Cruz’s statements are placed alongside his virulent anti-Planned Parenthood attacks, it would appear that Cruz is either entirely ignorant of the struggles of the American worker, or that Cruz and his Republican allies are orchestrating a campaign to deliberately keep the American worker in perpetual poverty, burdened with unplanned pregnancies and low wages. The Guttmacher Institute notes that “the rate of unintended pregnancy among poor women (those with incomes at or below the federal poverty level) in 2008 was 137 per 1,000 women aged 15–44, more than five times the rate among women at the highest income level (26 per 1,000).”
Without mandate family leave, the United States joins just two other nations in their disregard for the welfare of new mothers and the financial well-being of their families: Oman and Papa New Guinea. It is absolutely reprehensible that Cruz’s patently misleading statements, ostensibly about state right’s, are actually an underhanded attack on the prosperity and happiness of the American worker. From Scott Walker and Chris Christie’s loudmouth shots at American unions to the welfare for the megarich “flat tax proposals” by Carson and Paul, the opposition from tens of GOP candidates against raising a stagnant minimum wage, it is very clear that the Republican field shows no concern for the American working class. Dressing up their rhetoric with cheap cosmetic appeals to Jesus and Reagan is not nearly enough to conceal their true motivations.
Our workers deserve so much better. If Cruz really was an honest supporter of family values, he would support a mandate for paid maternity and paternity leave, allowing new parents to share the difficulties of raising a child and give them quality time to spend with their infant during their most critical development stages, helping expand the child’s potential and likelihood of growing up to be a well-rounded and productive member of society. But apparently that’s just more “big government” to hypocrite Cruz.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.