John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com/AP/Alex Brandon)

GOP's "family values" holiday treat: 3 pro-family policies it should support that have nothing to do with abortion or birth control!

Have a cantankerous uncle going on about the "death of family values"? Talk to him about these three policies


Katie McDonough
November 28, 2014 5:00PM (UTC)

It’s that time of year, everyone. Maybe you are feeling comfortably full from Thanksgiving and chatting enthusiastically with your family about the time you’ll get to spend together during the upcoming winter holidays. Or maybe you are silently fuming while waiting for your cousin to drop you off at the train already because you just spent the last 24 hours listening to your Uncle Carl talk about “Obama’s America” and the “death of family values” now that women don’t have to pay extra for basic health care.

Like it or not, if you live anywhere near your family, you’re probably going to have to gear up for round two come December. So if you’re fixing for a conversation with Uncle Carl about how best to support families in this country, here are five pro-family policies that conservatives should get behind that have nothing to do with abortion or birth control.

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(But I also encourage you to talk to your Uncle Carl about reproductive freedom because we’ve all got to put in the work and Bodily Autonomy and Self-Determination Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know?)

The list is pretty universally applicable, but if you happen to be related to Rand Paul, John Boehner or Mitch McConnell, it might be especially useful. Here we go, you guys.

Paid family leave.

Do you know what is really pro-family? Being able to take care of your family without being afraid of losing your job or losing your income. And in terms of table-friendly conversation, there’s very little risk involved with bringing up paid family leave. Pretty much everyone loves it. (Except for business tycoon types who probably wear monocles or whatever. If you are dining with a monocle-wearing business tycoon type, maybe leave the table and go steal his boat or something.)

According to a 2012 poll commissioned by the National Partnership for Women and Families, 86 percent of Americans support paid leave. It’s also pretty popular across party lines -- the poll found that 96 percent of Democrats and 73 percent of Republicans are for it.

In 2013, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro introduced the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act, which would have taken 0.2 percent of employee wages to be paid to the Social Security Administration in order to provide workers with up to 12 months of paid time off at 66 percent of their current wages. It wasn’t perfect (66 percent of your wages isn’t 100 percent), but it was certainly a start since less than 40 percent of American workers have access to medical leave.

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But the measure stalled in the House and hasn’t been heard from since, though lots of Democrats ran on the issue of paid leave during the midterms. And that’s probably because it’s a winner with most voters.

I’m from a very large, wonderful, baby-obsessed family. At any given moment, it seems I have at least one pregnant cousin. If this also describes your family, maybe try making meaningful eye contact with your expecting relative and her partner and start talking about the challenges of balancing work and family in this darned modern era.

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Or maybe talk about it with your brother who is a major hypochondriac. Let him know that the proposed law would also apply to time off spent caring for sick relatives.

Or maybe bring it up with a joke. “Paid family leave? You mean someone will pay me to make my family leave?” It will be the best joke, and it will make everyone laugh and hug you.

Raising the minimum wage.

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Like paid family leave, raising the minimum wage is kind of the most popular thing ever. Probably because so many people are minimum-wage workers or know minimum-wage workers and understand that a bump would dramatically improve their lives.

Research shows that 80 percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. That’s by no means a living wage, but it’s a start. Data show that 92 percent of Democrats support the increase, while 62 percent of Republicans support it.

And, surprise, the less money you make, the more likely you are to support raising the minimum wage. The poll shows that 83 percent of people making less than $40,000 a year were in favor of it.

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So what does a little thing like raising the minimum wage do for families? Two out of every three minimum-wage workers is a woman, and many of those women are also mothers or the primary caregivers in their households.

Raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour would boost earnings for 28 million workers, and would help lift millions of women out of poverty. More than 25 percent of low-wage and low-income workers are single mothers, but at the current minimum wage, a woman who works full-time can expect to make an average of $14,500 each year. That’s $4,000 less than the poverty level for a mother of two children.

Do you have a cousin with two children making $14,500 a year? She probably already supports raising the minimum wage. Do you have a cousin with two children (or a cousin with no children) making more than that? Talk to them about how raising your children above the poverty line shouldn’t be considered a luxury.

And maybe remind them how popular these proposals were during the 2014 midterms.

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And then maybe compliment your dad on his excellent corn pudding.

Universal Pre-K.

Did you know that 70 percent of Americans are in favor of using federal money to fund high-quality preschool programs for kids in this country? Well, they are.

Republicans are less likely than Democrats to support it, but, at 53 percent, most still support it. (Among Democrats, support hits 87 percent.) In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama again brought up the idea of making preschool available to every kid in America.

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And there’s a bill to back that idea up. It’s called the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, and was introduced by Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin in 2013. The bill made it out of committee over the summer, but hasn’t gotten much air time in this highly dysfunctional Congress.

In his address, Obama said, “Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road…. In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.”

This is correct! It is good for kids. But it’s also really good for working parents. As Bryce Covert pointed out at the time, full-time childcare for a 4-year-old can cost nearly $12,000. That’s more than a public university education in 19 states.

The odds of such a proposal making any progress during the lame-duck session are slim, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring it up. Maybe while asking for seconds on the duck your brother made (people eat duck during holidays, right)? Say, “Hey Terry, can you pass me the duck? Speaking of ducks, uh, lame duck. Hey, do you know what’s a good idea? Universal preschool.”

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See, wasn’t that easy?


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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