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The Candidates Take on Families

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

The final debate of the 2008 presidential election season has come and gone. Whether you think that Sen. Barack Obama delivered a knockout punch or that Sen. John McCain reinvigorated his campaign has a lot to do with your politics, but one thing is widely agreed upon: The issues of import this year fall neatly into just two categories, the economic crisis and the war overseas.

And while I can’t possibly argue that those two issues shouldn’t dominate the debate, it means that a lot of interesting discussions have been pushed off to the side. For us here, the missing element in the electoral conversation is family-friendly policies. No one has taken the time to posture as the hero of the working parent.

But that doesn’t mean that Obama and McCain don’t have thoughts on the issues that matter to parents, and the fine folks at the Families and Work Institute sat down with staffers from both campaigns last month to go over where each candidate stood on the big parenthood questions: the Family and Medical Leave Act, caretaking for the elderly, universal pre-K and health care costs. Last week, the group released the notes from those meetings.

So what can we expect from a President Obama or a President McCain (once they finish fixing the economy and bring peace and tranquility to all)? In addition to the boilerplate about health-care plans, which you probably heard last night, here's a snapshot of where the candidates came down:

  • McCain would push for legislation that allows employees to swap overtime pay for comp time.
  • Obama would allow workers to formally petition for flexible schedules.
  • Obama would work to make paid sick leave available to all.
  • McCain would not support paid sick leave, though the comp time proposal could help employees take time away from work without suffering economic difficulty.
  • McCain would not expand FMLA or push for paid leave.
  • Obama would expand FMLA and give the states $1.5 billion to begin providing paid leave.
  • Obama would quadruple the number of children eligible for Head Start.
  • McCain would work to better spend the $25 billion in early education funding now in place at the state and federal level.

It’s hard to know what is pandering and what the next president of the United States will actually push for once he is in office, but if we take these guys at their word, things will be better for working parents – at least a bit. Of course, what’s left out of the discussion is probably as important as what is actually talked about. So I’ll punt to you all: Is there anything that McCain or Obama could do to make your lives any easier?

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at

By Brian Reid |  October 16, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Newsmakers
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Obama. Obama. Obama.

Soapbox warning: The funny thing is, I am getting more conservative as I get older and the Republican party is getting more interested in the social stuff -- abortion, gay marriage, etc -- that I don't give a hang about. I'd vote for someone who wants fiscal responsibility (thanks, George, for blowing the surplus you were handed by Clinton), tougher penalties for criminals, and I believe the Republican party used to talk a lot about education beyond the NCLB garbage. But they care too much now about mixing church and state. Against abortion? Don't have one. Against gay marriage? Don't attend one.

I used to really admire John McCain, but not anymore. Especially not since he chose his running mate. Someone still needs to explain to me what she brings to the table that's better than Mitt Romney's c.v.

Obama's got a strong lead, but I'm still not easy. Too many white people who won't vote for a black candidate.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 16, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse

I would like to see less emphasis on specific policies (like the details around FMLA) and more work to address the government and economic ills of the US. Structural changes to the economy that addressed stagnating middle-class incomes, and a government that functioned without earmarks and special interests would help every family more than changing one or two policies ever would.

Posted by: jjtwo | October 16, 2008 8:17 AM | Report abuse

To quote James Carville: "It's the economy, stupid."

Pushing for new benefits, family friendly or otherwise, is not very effective when there's no money to pay for them.

Job flexibility doesn't mean much when there aren't jobs to be had.

The most important thing the next president can do to help parents/ families/work-life balance is address the economic problems.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | October 16, 2008 8:52 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with Army Brat. The economy is the major issue. The war is second major issue. Everything else seems trivial at this point. I would like to see better health care coverage. But besides that I really don't expect much from either side.

Posted by: foamgnome | October 16, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Fiscal responsibility on the part of the government.

Real jobs instead of mostly minimum-wage jobs with no future.

Affordable health care that is made available to all who want to buy into a plan.

Those three would go a long way towards making life better for most people.

Posted by: lsturt | October 16, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

armybrat, along with foamgnome, said it all...which is why there is no discussion. It doesn't matter what your politics are if you don't have a job to balance.

Posted by: dotted | October 16, 2008 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Someone still needs to explain to me what she brings to the table that's better than Mitt Romney's c.v.
Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 16, 2008 7:25 AM | Report abuse


[Begin excerpt]
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late January revealed that 50% of Americans said they would have reservations or be "very uncomfortable" about a Mormon as president. That same poll found that 81% would be "enthusiastic" or "comfortable" with an African-American and 76% with a woman.
[End excerpt]

Posted by: bobi1 | October 16, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Okay, it's boring today because we all agree - to help families, fix the broken economy.

(And I'm one of the lucky ones who isn't concerned about losing my job! But we still have to pay for gasoline, food, heating our home this winter...)

Posted by: SueMc | October 16, 2008 5:20 PM | Report abuse

What about school choice? What do the candidates think about vouchers and charter schools?

I think all parents would benefit if they weren't forced to send their kids to a unionized monopoly. I don't understand why the Government puts the interests of the teacher's union ahead of our children. NCLB would be a moot point if bad teachers could be fired and poorly run schools could be closed. Why doesn't the Government think parents can be trusted to decide where to send their children to school? Our education tax dollars should be attached to our children and not to the bloated unionized bueracracy that they call our education system.

Do either of the candidates favor giving parents more freedom to pursue the best educational opportunities for their children or do they both think we're too stupid to handle that freedom?

Posted by: fallsmeadjc | October 16, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Actually, we can't afford what we have, how are we going to pay for all of this? I think they are mostly lousy ideas. The govt shouldn't be in the business of telling companies how to run theirs.

The govt can't force companies to hire people - so the whole idea of 'jobs' is kind of odd. Actually, what a president could do would be to lower corporate taxes, we have the second highest in the world - THAT would bring back jobs. Possibly. Or possibly they're lost forever. But I don't want the govt creating jobs, either - the jobs they create (more govt jobs) is not the answer.

The reason clinton did not have a deficit is that he gutted our military, and we were therefore not completely prepared when we had to go to war.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | October 17, 2008 5:46 AM | Report abuse

fr the article:

>...So I’ll punt to you all: Is there anything that McCain or Obama could do to make your lives any easier?

DUMP THE ICE QUEEN!!! palin is completely unqualified, and the thought of a geographically-"challenged" person THAT close to the Oval Office is frightening at best.

I'm voting for Senator Obama, and so is my lovely wife. We desperately need a Democrat in the White House to get rid of the village idiot that has occupied it for the last 8 years.

Posted by: Alex511 | October 20, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

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