Blind faith in the virtues of the “free market” and deregulated, unfettered capitalism is nothing new within the Republican Party.
Carly Fiorina has been lavished with praise after her performance in the “undercard” GOP presidential debate, but, as the only woman running on the Republican side, she has faced tough questioning on her desire to defund Planned Parenthood, along with her opposition to government-mandated paid maternity leave.
Fiorina, in an interview with Jake Tapper on Sunday, repeatedly insisted that she is not opposed to paid maternity leave, but she is opposed to the government forcing companies, by law, to require paid maternity leave.
She feels that this would be yet another example of the federal government overstepping its bounds, and that it should stay out of the world of business. Instead, we should simply let the market sort it out. In short: do nothing.
Here is Fiorina in her own words, responding to Tapper’s question about paid maternity leave, which cited Netflix as an example of a company which now offers a full year of paid leave for new mothers (which is itself a shaky example):
Well, when I was the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, we also offered paid maternity leave and paternity leave.
The government — for the government to tell others how to do things, when the government hasn’t gotten its basic house in order, is not only ineffective; it’s hypocritical…
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, like the example that you just gave, is doing the right thing because they know it helps them attract the right talent…
I’m not saying I oppose paid maternity leave. What I’m saying is, I oppose the federal government mandating paid maternity leave to every company out there.
Her view is not a controversial one within the echo-chamber of the GOP: It is a blind faith in the idea that the private sector, when left to its own devices, will ultimately work for the interests of everyone, new mothers included.
This is nonsensical, of course.
Safe working conditions, limitations on corporate destruction of the environment, overtime pay, and the minimum wage, among other countless others, are examples of federal mandates placed upon businesses, from the outside, to ensure that they meet a certain standard that they likely would not have met otherwise.
Fiorina is not wrong that the federal government often does a terrible job regulating, but that is not an argument for less regulation, that is an argument for less inept government officials and more effective policies.
Further, it is often the case that those responsible for regulating certain industries are benefiting — either presently or in the future — from the profits of that same industry, so it is actually in their best interest to do a poor job regulating, allowing mass criminality to slip through the cracks unnoticed.
Republicans seem to think that, if “left alone,” corporate executives will suddenly develop enough empathy and compassion for their workers that they will be forced, by their own moral compass, to offer workers the benefits they need and deserve.
In reality, the opposite is often true.
Even though it is quite well-known that paying workers decent wages and offering benefits like paid maternity leave is good for business in the long run, Think Progress reports that,
Only 12 percent of private-sector workers in the United States receive paid family leave from their employers, and most of these workers work in mostly higher-income, white-collar jobs. Just 5 percent of the lowest-paid 25 percent of employees get paid family leave. When surveyed, nearly half of workers who reported that they needed such leave said they could not afford to take it without pay.
So the underlying assumption of Fiorina’s — and the rest of the GOP’s — opposition to government-mandated paid maternity leave is utterly false.
The reality is that the private sector, when left to its own devices, will often do what is best for profit in the short term; and this happens to be quite opposed to what is best for workers, both in the present and in the future.
In effect, by only offering paid maternity leave to higher-income workers, as is the case currently, companies are “punish[ing] babies for the income level of their parents,” as Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig writes for New Republic. In this way, politicians, through their love of the “free market,” are treating paid maternity leave as an “earned privilege” that must be won in the marketplace rather than as a basic human right.
As Think Progress observes in its report on this issue, the United States is exceptional in this regard: It is the only advanced, industrialized nation that does not require paid maternity leave for its workers, with the exception of a few states.
Indeed, “conservative,” family values-promoting politicians seem quite willing to lock the U.S. in the esteemed company of Papua New Guinea and Suriname. For shame.
Despite the blind faith and conviction of Fiorina and others within the GOP, private sector companies do not do the “right thing” on their own when it comes to paid maternity leave.
Are we willing to allow workers to be deprived of the ability to properly care for their children because of irrational philosophical principles and a love of the “free market”? Members of the GOP appear to be answering, resoundingly, in the affirmative.