My Plan to Support Paid Leave and Strong Families

One of the fundamental beliefs that drives my views on public policy is the idea that we cannot have a strong country without strong people, and we cannot have strong people without strong families. Too often in recent years, through both economic and social policy, Washington has tried to compete with families rather than support and defend them. As president, I will reform our government in a way that empowers our families to thrive in this new century, and a major component of this will be reforms to family leave policy.

First, I’d like to explain why I think this is so important. Even though I didn’t come from a wealthy or powerful family, I believe that I come from extraordinary privilege — not just because I was born in the greatest country on earth, but because I was born to two parents who were able to be a constant presence in the lives of their children. It wasn’t always easy for them. My parents’ jobs often required them to leave home before dawn and come back after bedtime, and they were often called to work on weekends and holidays.

Yet despite the challenges, it was an enormous advantage for me that they were able to be with me when I needed them most — for example, in the earliest years of my life, when my mom stayed home with me while my dad worked; the time I needed surgery, when my dad made sure he was there by my side; and all the smaller moments, too.

Now that I’m a parent, I, too, struggle with the challenges of balancing work and family. This struggle is not unique to me; it’s a problem that almost every parent in America faces. The reason it pains us is that we know the values only parents can teach, the love only parents can provide, and the encouragement only parents can offer must come through time spent together.

One of the greatest threats to family today is that too many Americans have to give up being with loved ones in times of great need in order to avoid losing their jobs. Most of our current, outdated leaders, including Hillary Clinton, say the only way to solve this problem is to grow government, increase taxes, and impose crippling new requirements on private businesses. But this would backfire by costing jobs, causing employers to end generous leave plans, and by making it harder for women to enter the workforce.

I would fix this problem by creatively applying our free enterprise principles in a way that encourages private businesses to offer more paid leave to workers with qualifying family or medical issues — for example, a newborn child in need of care, an elderly parent with declining health, a personal health crisis, or a spouse’s military deployment.

To do this, I will provide a limited 25% non-refundable tax credit to any business that offers between four and twelve weeks of paid leave. For instance, if you are offered $1,600 in paid leave for four weeks while you take care of your newborn, which would be the equivalent of about $10 an hour, your employer could claim a tax credit for $400. This tax relief is strictly limited to $4,000 per worker.

Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) has been a leader on family leave reform, and I’m glad to join her efforts as one way to address this issue. Unfortunately, our current president prefers not to sign legislation that is commonsense, so these efforts will likely be something I need to take up as president.

Along with my plans to end the marriage and parent penalties in the tax code, paid leave reform will help families flourish. By allowing more Americans to focus on what matters most in their lives, and by empowering businesses to create jobs and grow our economy, this is one step toward reclaiming the American Dream in the 21st century.