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Now that a majority of children are being raised in families in which both parents work, or in single parent homes, polls show that an increasing number of Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters want their leaders to address family policies. These include but are not limited to paid parental leave, paid sick days, equal pay for equal work, flexible scheduling at work for knowledge workers and schedule control for hourly workers, and more opportunity for high quality, affordable child care accessible to all.

We have a long way to go to giving the people what they want. The United States is the only advanced economy with no paid parental leave or paid sick days program. According to the Department of Labor, only about 12 percent of all private sector workers have some form of paid parental leave. Research shows that mothers earn less than fathers for the same work. While more employers are giving workers at least some control over the time and place of work, a recent Families and Work Institute study found that fewer are offering flexible options such as job sharing or career breaks for personal or family responsibilities. Child Care Aware of America reports that one year of center-based infant child care is more costly than in-state public college tuition in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Costs to parents have nearly doubled in the last 25 years, according to the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. And yet nearly half of all child care workers are so poor that they qualify for public assistance.

In honor of the closing days of National Work & Family Month this October, New America’s Breadwinning & Caregiving team has compiled a sampling of what some political leaders have been saying about these breadwinning and caregiving issues with one question in mind: Democrats have tended to support government solutions; Republicans, incentives for businesses to solve the problem. But how do we find common ground on which parents in both parties can stand?

“Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship—and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode. This year, let’s all come together—Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street—to give every woman the opportunity she deserves. Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech, January, 2014

“It pains me every time that I have to miss a volleyball game or a football game or a field trip, even though I know that I’m doing this for them. And this struggle is not unique to me. It’s a problem that almost every parent in America faces today. And the reason this hurts is because we know the greatest gift parents can give their children is the time we spend together, the values that only parents can teach, the love only parents can provide, the encouragement only parents can offer.

“And it cannot come via text or cell phone calls sometimes, at least not completely. It has to come through time spent together. And that’s why one of the greatest threats to family today is that there are too many Americans who have to choose between being there for their children in times of great need or meeting the basic financial needs of their family. And like so many fundamental problems, this one can be traced back in part to the outdated policies from Washington, D.C.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), GOP presidential candidate, at The Family Research Council’s Value Voters Summit, September 25, 2015. Rubio denounced the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as an outdated policy, and proposed a tax incentive to induce companies to provide paid parental leave for their employees.

“I believe in equal pay for equal work for women, but I also believe it's about time we had paid family leave for American families and join the rest of the world.”

Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential debate, October 13, 2015. Clinton supports a mandated 12-week paid leave plan set up like Social Security that would collect contributions from employees.

"Another example of yuppie empowerment."

— Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in 1993 on the FMLA, which guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave. In a January 2015 interview, Congressman Boehner proposed using earned overtime hours towards paid time off:

“It’s a much more common-sense way of empowering employees to make those decisions on their own. Who do they think is going to pay for seven days of mandated employer-provided sick leave? That’s going to mean less employment, less jobs. It’s ludicrous.”

“Creating an inequitable system whereby government jobs receive expensive and ill-advised perks while the rest of the country is struggling to put food on the table is another [thing]. Had the 18th century French nobility understood that lesson a little better, they just might have kept their heads.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on his opposition to a proposal to offer federal workers four weeks of paid parental leave in a June, 2009, Human Events op-ed.

“We wanted not only to kill the bill. We wanted to drive a stake right through its heart.”

Pat Buchanan, Former GOP presidential candidate, on his role in convincing then-President Richard M. Nixon to veto the Comprehensive Child Care Development Act of 1971, to author Brigid Schulte in Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One has the Time.

“I cannot and will not give up my family time."

Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI) October 20, 2015. Ryan told the Republican conference that not working on weekends was one of the conditions he required before deciding to run for Speaker of the House. Ryan offers paid family and medical leave to his staff, but, according to his staff, says the decision should be left to employers, not the government.

"I think we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful of it. But certainly there are a lot of people discussing it."

Donald Trump, on Fox News, October 20, 2015.

“That’s a state decision. I don’t think we need more federal rules.”

Jeb Bush, at a campaign stop in Iowa, when asked if he supported a paid family leave policy, October, 2015.

“An international embarrassment.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), said of the fact that the United States does not have a paid family leave policy, during the Democratic presidential debate, October 13, 2015. Sanders, too, supports a mandated leave plan and co-sponsored the FAMILY Act.

“I don’t think it’s the role of government to dictate to the private sector how to manage their businesses, especially when it’s pretty clear that the private sector, like Netflix… is doing the right thing because they know it helps them attract the right talent.”

Carly Fiorina, GOP presidential candidate, on paid parental leave, on CNN in August, 2015. When she was CEO of Hewlett-Packard, the company offered paid parental leave.

“Who’s going to pay for it?”

Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ), GOP presidential candidate, on why he opposes efforts to pass paid sick days legislation in the state. New Jersey is one of three states that currently allows workers to pay into a disability fund and cover paid parental leave.

“We can provide flex time in the workplace to allow working parents more time with their children. Today, both parents are working in an overwhelming majority of American households. Research shows that ‘family-friendly’ corporate policies not only help the family, but they also help the company as well. Family-friendly policies are shown to reduce burnout, absenteeism, and turnover, while at the same time increasing employment loyalty.”

John Kasich, GOP presidential candidate, in a speech in May, 1999. Kasich voted against the FMLA twice.

“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.”

Ted Cruz (R-TX), GOP presidential candidate in a video released in September, 2015.

“Paid sick days save employers money... They reduce turnover and help increase productivity. Paid sick days are vital to maintaining public health.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on co-sponsoring a bill for a seven-sick day plan.

Dr. Ben Carson, GOP Presidential Candidate, hasn’t made public statements on family policy and did not respond to several New America inquires.

But you shouldn’t refuse to comment! Let us know what you think on social media using the hashtag #WhereToFindCommonGround.

All images via Shutterstock.


Brigid Schulte is the director of the Better Life Lab at New America. Schulte is an award-winning journalist and author, who writes widely for publications including the Washington Post, Slate, Time,  the Guardian, and others. Her book on time pressure, gender roles and modern life, Overwhelmed, Work, Love and Play when No One has the Time, was a New York Times bestseller.

Alieza Durana is a senior policy analyst in the Better Life Lab at New America, where she researches and writes about barriers to social and income equality, especially at the intersection of work, gender, and social policy.