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Hurrah! Paul Ryan Values His Family — Too Bad He Doesn't Give A Hoot About Yours

Eileen McNamara: It’s great that weekends at home are sacred to the Republican congressman from Wisconsin. But that is his family time he is out to protect, not yours. In this photo, Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/ AP)MoreCloseclosemore
Eileen McNamara: It’s great that weekends at home are sacred to the Republican congressman from Wisconsin. But that is his family time he is out to protect, not yours. In this photo, Rep. Paul Ryan, R- Wis., speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015, in Washington. (Andrew Harnik/ AP)

Wait. Do I have this right? We are finally having a national conversation about work-life balance because Paul Ryan will only consider serving as speaker of the House if the job doesn’t usurp time with his wife and three children?

By declaring this week that “I cannot and will not give up my family time,” Ryan has The New York Times suggesting he “may be ushering in a new era” on Capitol Hill and CNN asking, “Is Paul Ryan the new poster child for the work-life balance debate?”

Paul Ryan? Seriously?

By declaring this week that 'I cannot and will not give up my family time,' Ryan has The New York Times suggesting he 'may be ushering in a new era'...

It’s great that weekends at home are sacred to the Republican congressman from Wisconsin. But that is his family time he is out to protect, not yours. When not hanging Halloween decorations with his kids at home in Janesville, as he apparently did last weekend, Ryan is in Washington voting against paid family leave and subsidized child-care and for tougher work requirements that make it harder for moms on welfare to spend time with their children.

Ryan is the former chairman of the House Budget Committee who last year proposed a federal spending plan that would have cut $3.3 trillion over 10 years from programs that serve Americans with low and moderate incomes. The programs he targeted for the biggest cuts included food stamps and the Pell grant program that helps those in need attend college. He would also, of course, have repealed the Affordable Care Act, which has brought health care coverage to 16.4 million people who were previously uninsured.

Ryan and his wife Janna talk to their children, from left, Sam, Liza and Charlie backstage before a campaign event, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Mansfield, Ohio. (Mary Altaffer/ AP)
Ryan and his wife Janna talk to their children, from left, Sam, Liza and Charlie backstage before a campaign event, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012, in Mansfield, Ohio. (Mary Altaffer/ AP)

Ryan’s idea of work-life balance is as divorced from the lives of most working Americans as his bank account. A man whose net worth runs to the millions, whose even wealthier wife stays home with their children, does not have a work-life balance problem. What he has are choices, choices that too many parents in this country do not have.

It is great that Paul Ryan is “the designated pancake maker” on Sunday mornings but for far too many parents, picking up an extra shift at Burger King has to trump leisurely weekend breakfasts. For them, a luxury would be a paid sick day to stay home when a child has a fever or access to affordable, quality day care so that a child does not come home from school to an empty house while they work for the federal minimum wage, a wage Ryan would not raise from $7.25 an hour, a rate set in 2009. (Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have higher minimums. No, not Wisconsin.)

[Ryan] does not have a work-life balance problem. What he has are choices...

Study after study attests to the benefits of paid family leave: healthier babies, lower health care costs and greater economic security. But paid leave is available to less than 20 percent of American workers, according to a report from the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University.

Ryan might want to read it. And, given that he is worried less about corralling the fractious House Republicans than having to travel every weekend to raise money for their re-election bids, he might consider becoming the poster boy for campaign finance reform as well as for paid family leave. Pancakes all around.

Related:

Eileen McNamara Cognoscenti contributor
A Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist for The Boston Globe, Eileen McNamara is the author of "Eunice, The Kennedy Who Changed the World."

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