Last month, the dream of paid parental (and medical) leave in the U.S. died an unceremonious death when it became clear that supposedly-a-Democrat Joe Manchin would not support it, joining Republicans who think women should give birth and then get back to the assembly line an hour later and that men should see their newborn babies on nights and weekends, unless they happen to be working then, in which case, tough shit. Then on Wednesday, a small glimmer of hope emerged when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that paid leave was back in the social-safety-net package, though its fate still rests in the hands of a guy who should just switch parties already but won’t because he loves the power that comes with fucking with millions of people’s lives.
Why doesn’t the U.S. have paid leave in the year 2021? It’s a great question for which there are no good answers—every other wealthy nation in the world provides such a benefit and the United States can clearly afford it given how much it spends on defense, while simultaneously allowing the country’s zillionaires to pay basically nothing in taxes. But there are a lot of stupid answers re: why America shouldn’t provide workers what amounts to a relative pittance, compared to more evolved countries, to care for their children. And on Monday, Representative Lauren Boebert offered one up for the taking.
Addressing whatever audience tunes into a show she calls Bullet Points With Lauren Boebert, the cartoon villain explained that because she apparently gave birth to one of her children in a truck, no one is entitled paid leave. “I delivered one of my children in the front seat of my truck. Because as a mom of four, we got things to do,” Boebert says in the video. “Ain’t nobody got time for two and a half months of maternity leave. We have a world to save here.” Setting aside the fact that whatever Boebert gets up to in Washington is the literal opposite of saving the world, it’s not clear why her delivering one of her four children anywhere has anything to do with paid leave. Maybe she gave birth in the truck because the baby came quicker than expected. Maybe she was too far away from the hospital to get there on time. Maybe this whole story, like the one she tells about why she carries a gun, is “mainly fiction.” Maybe it’s true, which still doesn’t explain why other people shouldn’t get a few weeks off to bond and care for their newborns.
Boebert’s argument, if it can be called that, came amid a homophobic rant against Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for having the audacity to take advantage of the leave policy provided by his employer, the U.S. government. “While the country fell into one of the worst supply-chain crises since 1979…the guy in charge of it all, Mayor Pete, was on a two-month maternity—paternity, whatever the heck you want to call it—leave. The guy was gone, the guy was not working,” she says. “Because why? He was trying to figure out how to chest feed.” (This was a reference to a photo Buttigieg posted of himself and his husband, Chasten, holding their twins in an entirely normal pose that has nothing to do with breastfeeding, unless you’re a weird Republican who thinks real men carry babies in buckets.) “Maybe someone should tell him so he can get back to work.… While Mayor Pete builds up his image as doting dad, the country is burning around him as everything falls apart.… When the supply-chain crisis means you can’t celebrate Christmas like mayor Pete and Chasten, you know who to blame.”
Like many things the right tries to scare voters over, we’re not sure being a “doting dad” is as bad as Boebert thinks it is. Meanwhile, she apparently had nothing to say about the fact that Buttigieg’s son was in the hospital over the weekend because, as you may have noticed, she’s an evil troll.
The White House has said it fully supports Buttigieg’s decision to take the leave afforded to him, with Press Secretary Jen Psaki tweeting that the transportation chief is one of the “role models on the importance of paid leave for new parents.” Buttigieg himself told The New York Times that he has a newfound “personal appreciation for the fact that [parental leave] is work. It may be time away from a professional role, but it’s very much time on.”
Studies have shown that parental leave benefits not just children but the economy, facts that apparently don’t fit into Boebert and the GOP’s narrative of paid leave being for losers.
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