Vail Daily column: Time for mandatory paid maternity leave? |

Vail Daily column: Time for mandatory paid maternity leave?

Butch Mazzuca
Butch Mazzuca |

The other day I was reading an article advocating for government mandated paid maternity leave. Normally this isn’t a topic I would comment on; after all, my wife and I are a bit outside the demographic where this subject may be an issue. However what piqued my interest was how this relatively obscure writer made clear that government mandated paid maternity leave was a part of the “new” American Dream.

The writer’s interpretation of the American Dream is certainly her business, and I’ll address that in a moment, but first let me opine that if a private enterprise voluntarily chooses to offer paid maternity or paternity leave to their employees, I say God bless them and all those who benefit. However, government mandated paid maternity leave is a different matter entirely.

As with many who feel our nation isn’t progressive enough, the rationale this author used was predicated on comparison, with the clear implication that if poorer nations, in this case Latvia, Mexico, Sudan and the Congo, provide this benefit to their citizens, we should, too.

Similar to many other proponents of more government control over our daily lives, the author never looked at the larger picture nor did she address what the citizens of these respective progressive countries give up while receiving those benefits. There are no free lunches!

Comparing economies, purchasing power, costs of living, per capita income, etc., between or among nations is not a simple matter, so economists have designed a metric for just that purpose. It’s a nation’s GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity. What’s that you say? PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates. An international dollar has the same purchasing power over GDP as the U.S. dollar has in the United States — got that?

And if you really want to get into the economic weeds, PPP takes into account the relative cost of living and the inflation rates of the countries, rather than using only exchange rates, which may distort the real differences in income. This is why GDP per capita is considered one of the leading indicators of a country’s standard of living and is an excellent method for comparisons.

But let’s dispense with the arcane economic jargon, and examine the economic realities of living in the aforementioned nations. To wit: Latvia’s PPP is about a third of the U.S., Mexico’s a fourth, Sudan a 17th and the Congo’s one 740th, begging the question, “How many women would prefer to live in a society with a much lower standard of living and where she would have far less purchasing power in exchange for government mandated paid maternity leave?”

As I wrote at the top of this commentary, what caught my attention was the term “New American Dream” (I wasn’t aware the old one was discarded). But how do we define the American Dream? After all, it’s an intangible term.

I decided to type “The Library of Congress + the American Dream” into Google Search. And there on its website the American Dream was defined as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement regardless of social class or birth.”

Not satisfied with one definition, I sourced, where I found the following: The ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity traditionally held to be available to every American … a life of personal happiness and material comfort as traditionally sought by individuals in the U.S.

Finally, I went to Wikipedia, even though I believe its unrestricted access makes it prone to systemic bias and inconsistencies, millions use the site so I’ve included its definition as well.

Wikipedia defined the American Dream as “a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.”

The common thread in these definitions was the conspicuous use of concepts such as “opportunity,” “ability,” “hard-work,” “few barriers” and “achievement.” Nowhere were the words “entitled to” or “entitlement” to be found. So when the author of the piece refers to a new American Dream, I must ask, when, where or how did this “new” American Dream come into existence?

It appears the author concurs with many “progressive” writers who also feel the American Dream should embrace entitlement over achievement and government mandates over free enterprise. And while that’s certainly their prerogative, they must also recognize their iteration of a “new” dream is in reality much closer to the philosophy of Karl Marx than of Thomas Jefferson.

Quote of the day: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” — Thomas Edison

Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at

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