Hillary Clinton Just Exposed Our Society's Hypocrisy on Big Government

October 14th 2015

Sarah Gray

On Tuesday night, discussion of women's issues did not occur in the Democratic debate until the eleventh hour. But when asked about paid family leave, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an important point about our society's hypocrisy when it comes to big government.

"It’s always the Republicans and their sympathizers that say, 'You can’t have paid leave, you can’t provide healthcare,'" Clinton said. "They don’t mind having big government to interfere with a woman’s right to choose and to take down Planned Parenthood, they are fine with big government when it comes to that. I’m sick of it."

This particular sentiment—the GOP calling for less government regulation unless it pertains to a woman's reproductive rights or LGBT rights—is far from original. However, by virtue of it being expressed from a woman candidate for president on a national stage at the first Democratic debate, it carried special magnitude.

The positive response may also have been due to the fact that it was the only mention of women's reproductive rights during the entire debate—despite the fact that Planned Parenthood has been in the news recently and that the GOP spent two lively debates discussing their desire to defund the reproductive health organization.

Paid family leave.

All five of the Democratic candidates support some form of paid family leave, the New York Times points out. However, it was Clinton who was squarely asked by CNN moderator Dana Bash to respond to former Hewlett Packard CEO and GOP presidential candidate Carly Fiorina's stance against paid family leave. Fiorina has also stated that paid family leave would disincentivize companies from hiring women.

Clinton had a simple answer about whether government-funded paid family leave would be tenable: it works in California.

"I’m surprised [California resident Fiorina] says that because California has had a paid leave program for a number of years … and it has not had the ill effects that the Republicans are always saying it will have," Clinton stated during the debate. "We can design a system and pay for it that does not put the burden on small business."

Clinton later stated that the wealthy would be helping fund this program.

As Katie McDonough pointed out at Fusion, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CERP) did a study on the effects of California's paid family leave program. The study, which was published in 2011, surveyed 500 individuals and 253 employers during 2009 and 2010.

In terms of results, the majority of employers said it had not raised costs. "Asked if the introduction of the PFL program had resulted in 'any cost increases,' 86.9 percent of employers responding indicated that it had not," the CEPR report states. "Moreover, some employers (8.8 percent of those responding to this question) indicated that the PFL program had generated cost savings for their organizations by reducing employee turnover and/or by reducing their own benefit costs when employees used the program instead of (or in combination with) employer-provided paid vacation, sick leave, or disability benefits."

Finally, "[m]ost employers report that PFL had either a 'positive effect' or 'no noticeable effect' on productivity (89 percent), profitability/performance (91 percent), turnover (96 percent), and employee morale (99 percent)," the report stated.

And in terms of paid family leave's effect on actual families, the report said that more men are taking leave than five years prior to the report, women who used the paid family leave breastfed for longer, and that 84 percent of those in "low-quality" jobs got at least half of their typical earnings while on leave; for those who did not use paid family leave in "low-quality" jobs, only 31 percent received at least half their wages.

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