Why is the American social safety net so weak?

This piece is a crossposted excerpt from a slightly larger piece originally posted on DailyKos. Our thanks to the writer, Democrats Ramshield, for the crosspost. The opening has been slightly edited for clarity, as the original lead-in material is not included within this crosspost. Those are the only alterations. -- GH

How does the US social safety net protect working families?

Did you know that virtually speaking the United States is the only major industrialized nation in the world that doesn't offer job protected paid maternity leave by right of law? To which this diary offers a number of quotes below. In reviewing those quotes please ask yourself the question, what type of family values is Yankee capitalism promulgating for the working class?

Paternity Leave / international comparisons

Did you know that 157 countries offer paid maternity leave?

Check out Wikipedia: "Parental Leave": there's a shocking chart which is an embarassment to the United States

Source: http://comet.lehman.cuny.edu/...

Let's take a look at how the French maternity leave policies work to support families as an earned benefit provided to working people. In doing so please consider the quote below.

Maternity Leave in France

CNN: Bindi Dupouy, an Australian living in Paris, and her French husband, just had their first child, a son born in the country.
Dupouy, a 28-year-old lawyer, got almost five months paid maternity leave from her company for the birth. She can take another seven months off beyond that -- a year total -- unpaid, if she wants, with her job guaranteed under French law.

Source: http://articles.cnn.com/...

Would you please consider telling your friends, family about how our British cousins are provided with extensive maternity benefits which maybe shared by hetero-sexual couples, as well as same-sex couples and single parent families? Isn't it time that we in the U.S. adopted these types of progressive family friendly policies?

Now we're talking about real family values not just lip service.


Maternity Leave in Britain

BBC: In the UK, women get a year off, with the first six weeks on 90% pay, followed by 33 weeks on Statutory Maternity Pay. The rest is unpaid.

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/...


A spouse or partner of the woman (including same-sex relationships) may request a two week paid (at a fixed rate) paternity leave. Both the mother and her partner can additionally request non-paid parental leave, which can be for up to 4 weeks annually, with a current limit of 13 weeks.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/...

Source: http://www.direct.gov.uk/...


Prime Minister David Cameron to take paternity leave after birth of daughter

Next let's take a quick look at real family values in the Republic of Ireland.

If you think this is interesting, please share it with a friend or even share it with your member of Congress.

Maternity Leave in Ireland

Length of time Maternity Benefit is paid

Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks. At least 2 weeks and not more than 16 weeks leave must be taken before the end of the week in which your baby is due.


Let's take a look at how the German people view real family values in the type of paid maternity benefit protected by law that they provide to their citizens.

Maternity Leave in Germany

German law is very generous when it comes to maternity and paternity leave. Mothers are allowed six weeks leave at full pay prior to the child's birth and eight weeks at full pay afterward. In the case of a multiple birth, 12 weeks paid leave is allowed. The mother or father is then allowed up to three years of unpaid leave to stay at home with the child. Recently, the German government initiated a program that allows direct subsidies to new parents (Elterngeld).

Source: http://www.howtogermany.com/...

Maternity Leave and Job Protection (Mutterschutz)

Source: Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women & Adolescents, Maternity Protection Guide 09.2005

Adjusting to motherhood is made a little easier if you happen to be an employed woman working for a German company. You will actually be provided mandatory time-off from work, before and after childbirth. This is revelatory news for many English speaking expats. Basically the Mutterschutzgesetz, Maternity Protection Act of 1968 was instituted to ensure that expecting mothers are not discriminated against when applying for jobs and to provide them with added protection from being dismissed from work as a result of their pregnancy or arrival of their newborn child. This law actually goes well beyond that fundamental claim and provides much more.


Expectant mothers applying for employment are not required to make their pregnancy known before entering into employment.


Employers may not disseminate information about an employee's pregnancy to a third party.


Women are well protected from loss of employment due to dismissal - from the beginning of pregnancy until 4 months following childbirth

Source: http://www.howtogermany.com/...

Let's compare and contrast that with the good old USA

where zero days of paid maternity leave are provided by right of law to families.

Now how do you feel about those types of family values?


Paid maternity leave - none.

Parental leave - Under the Family Medical Leave Act 2003 every qualifying individual has the right to 12 weeks unpaid family and medical leave, including parental leave. To qualify, they must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year for an employer who has more than 50 employees. Some States laws provide more or have less stringent qualifying conditions (see the US Study, September 2008 "A Detailed Look at Parental Leave Policies in 21 OECD Countries" by Rebecca Ray noted above)

Source: http://www.emplaw.co.uk/...

Now let's look to our friendly neighbor to the north. I'm referring of course to the Canadians and in doing so please consider the package of maternity benefits that are guaranteed by right of law by the Canadian federal government to all families and please ask yourself what kind of family values are those and how do they contrast and compare to what we have in the US?

Canadian Maternity Leave

In Canada, maternity benefits for working mothers and parents remain the responsibility of the federal government. Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) gives paid maternity leave for 15 weeks.

Source: http://www.canadaimmigrants.com/...

Let's look at Italy's maternity leave by right of law.


Maternity leave

During pregnancy, women have the right to a period of leave lasting two months prior to and three months following the expected date of childbirth


Australia just joined progressive nations all around the world by passing a paid parental leave act. Shouldn't we in the US do the same? Why should we deny working families the ability to fully participate in the benefits to society and wealth through their labor produce, by denying them paid maternity leave.  

The Australian Government will deliver Australia’s first national Paid Parental Leave scheme from 1 January 2011. It will provide eligible working parents with 18 weeks of pay at the weekly rate of the National Minimum Wage.


Paid parental leave for New Zealand:

You can receive paid parental leave for a maximum of 14 weeks. You can transfer your paid parental leave to your spouse or partner, as long as they also qualify for paid parental leave from their employer or self-employment.



Shouldn't we view the lack of paid maternity benefit as a de facto tax levied against working families in America as a methodology for depriving working families to be able to share in the value and wealth that they produce, but aren't able to fully participate in. In fact when we view the fact for example in the European Union when we adjust for the fact that they all have universal medical systems, paid child allowance, paid maternity leave, paid sick leave and aren't reduced to the humiliation of using food stamps and for the most part get 3 or 4 weeks paid vacation a year, that working families pay less taxes, work less hours and have on average longer life expectancies, than their counterparts in the US.  

Please tell us how do you feel about the lack of paid maternity leave in America today, and that America stands alone in its use of food stamps to try to humiliate its citizens in the grocery check out line. Please also share with our readers how you feel about what all this is doing to the American dream? We find ourselves in a posture where our health care reform measures will leave millions of uninsured Americans behind. Where the doors to college opportunity are being closed by ever higher tuition rates, wherein we note that the lifetime limit for the federal Stafford student loan program has not been increased in about 18 years. Where we find a prison population in the United States that has grown to over 2 million which represents a staggering loss of potential in the American society

Also please tell us about how many American companies who claim that they cannot afford to pay paid maternity leave in the United States, seem to have no problem paying them overseas in their European conglomerates? This diary is merely a discussion starter and by no means a comprehensive treatment of the subject matter, but has attempted to look at the American social safety net in a contrast and comparison to the social safety net as it presents itself in the European Union countries.

No votes yet


...one hears is that the "family" should take care of that. The implication being that one has a choice of one's family, and that all families have the resources to tend to their new members and their parents--and, if they don't, they have somehow failed.

In a way, however, we should be seeing our country as an extended family, providing to all what only a few could otherwise afford on their own. "It takes a village to raise a child." Yes.

But too many of us here in America want to give up that responsibility, withdrawing behind the smokescreen of "family" to practice, quite simply, nothing more than greed.


justification behind the politics of greed.