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Man with a plan

Marco Rubio’s latest intriguing idea

BY THEIR OPPONENTS’ arguments ye shall know them.

Marco Rubio, our favorite United States senator not from Arkansas and not named Lindsey Graham, is a font of good ideas, which might be one reason why he’s reached such political heights at such a young age. Will this latest splash turn out to be another good idea, or just an intriguing one in the fleeting moment? Our initial editorial opinion: It do have promise.

Sen. Rubio has put together some legislation, with a little help from conservative friends, that would allow new parents to tap some of their Social Security funds to pay for family leave. To pay back the trust fund, they’d have to delay retirement a few months later in life. It’s completely voluntary. And could allow more American parents to spend more time with their newborns.

We once heard a school superintendent say, only half-jokingly, that he’d give up the 12th grade of high school if he could have universal pre-K in his schools. Getting them early is key. And it doesn’t get much more early than newborn. Studies have shown that the longer parents are with a newborn 24/7, the better chances the kid has later on.

There could be a myriad of reasons for that. Parents with good jobs that provide maternity leave might be better able to provide the basics, and not just the basics. Parents who take maternity leave might be more likely to read to their kids as they grow up. Correlation doesn’t imply causation and all that. But allowing folks to spend their own money to bond with their children early in life can’t be a bad thing, can it?

Old Ned lives in the details. And they’ll have to be ironed out as the political process goes forward. How many years will a body have to pay in before taking maternity leave? Can Americans trade 12 weeks of 70 percent pay for a retirement delay of, say, six months? Or 12 weeks at 100 percent pay for a year’s delay? Surely We the People will get more than summaries down the line.

But the knives are already out. From the right and left.

The argument among our friends on the left seems to be that maternity leave should be a right. And nobody should have to put off retirement to pay for it. Just put it on the nation’s credit card. Again. Some outfit called the National Partnership for Women & Families has been heard from. They call the plan “irresponsible and ill-conceived” and chalked it up as a “Social Security benefit cut.”

Oy vey.

This NPW&F put out a statement that said, in part, the idea by Sen. Rubio & Co. “only covers parents caring for new children, provides no leave for family care and personal medical needs, and forces parents to choose between paid leave and retirement security [and] is absolutely the wrong way to go.” What’s really needed, perhaps, is a larger benefit for more people paid for by those very children we’d all be staying at home with. Talk about a liberal benefit.

There have been those on the right who’ve complained that this plan would only contribute to the belief that Social Security money belongs to each of us, individually, and that will make it harder to reform the system later. We read that in a column in Forbes.

Maybe a better way to view this: Americans should demand that belief turns into reality.

Even if the government has already spent our money in the Social Security bank account, the government still owes it back to Social Security, which in turn owes the money to each American. It really is our money. And should be considered so.

The practical effect of this plan would be that those running the Social Security’s trust fund would keep enough of our money in the bank so they could disperse some of the cash for maternity leave(s). Surely mothers and fathers would spend that money much more judiciously than the government.

Or is that too conservative, and practical, a thought?

There might be problems with this legislation down the road. Certainly we haven’t thought of everything. (We never do.) But the arguments we’ve heard against this plan so far ... .

Make Sen. Rubio’s plan sound even better.

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