The Underlying Myth Of Paid Family Leave

            The demise of paid family leave within the framework of the barebones Build Back Better budget reconciliation bill reveals some of the myths surrounding this issue. The paid media journalists are mostly focused on the broad scale economics and political ramifications of its inclusion/exclusion. Generalizations are made as to who will benefit, and who resists its inclusion. But the real myth of caregiving, and the myth of how it works within the everyday of American healthcare, is not investigated. For many in Newark, reliance on Licking Memorial Health Systems is a default position – driving out of town is time consuming and costly. Besides, for many outpatient procedures, it requires someone to drive you there and back. In other words, it requires a caregiver. And that is where the myth comes in. So “what else is new,” you say, “that is precisely what the conversation re: paid family leave is about?” And so the myth is discretely formatted and grounds the “conversation.” In an article from 2014 (Singles nation: why Americans are turning away from marriage) WNYC cites Bureau of Labor statistics showing 50.2% of Americans to be single. A Sept. 2020 Pew Research finding showed that 31% of those over 18 are not married, living with a partner or in a committed romantic relationship. The recent 2021 US Census shows that 45.5% of those over 18 years old are unmarried. The myth that is not assailed within the “conversation” (and that grounds it while framing it) is that of the assumed existence of a caregiver to begin with. The health care “system” (as in the name “Licking Memorial Health Systems”) takes that (existence of a caregiver) for granted, assumes it, even practically requires it (or that its services be purchased). Yet, for any of one third to one half of Americans, the existence of a caregiver within their day to day life is not a given. It only goes to show how much to the ideological right our “conversation” has centered itself when the issue of “caregiver’ is grounded in a family situation (for which it is named), all the while upwards of one half of Americans live their everyday lives not exactly within such a context. Hence the resistance to the inclusion of Paid Family Leave within the reconciliation bill is precisely from the health care system which stands to lose part of its market share on the realignment of the provision of caregivers, that the system’s services require as well as commercially provide. Hence its demise has been met with a mostly “does not apply to me” shrug by almost half of Americans.

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