the national interest

Paul Ryan’s Family Leave Stance Is Terrible But Not Hypocritical

House Republicans Continue Search For Their Next Speaker Of The House
Paul Ryan is a wonderful man, and we won’t hear a word against him. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Suppose somebody introduced a bill to give every American a voucher to buy expensive wine. I’d oppose a bill like that because, while it’s a nice thing for affluent wine-lovers to indulge, I don’t see expensive wine as the sort of good to which every American has a fundamental right. Presumably, very few people, with the possible exception of the wine industry, would support universal access to expensive wine. No doubt Paul Ryan would oppose it, too. Ryan is known to enjoy the occasional $350 bottle of wine from time to time with his fellow Randian ideologues. Is Ryan a hypocrite because he would deny to others the right to enjoy something he cherishes himself? No, of course not.

Keep this analogy in mind when weighing the chorus of accusations, which were renewed yesterday, that Ryan is supposedly a hypocrite on family leave. The alleged hypocrisy is that Ryan personally demands family time for himself, but opposes legislation that would extend such rights to others. It’s not hypocrisy, though. He doesn’t oppose family leave on the grounds that family leave is worthless and nobody wants it. Ryan simply regards family leave, like expensive wine, as a luxury that should be allocated by the market, rather than a right to which all workers ought to be entitled.

Perhaps your reaction to this is to say that time caring for your family is not like expensive wine. I agree! Ryan’s belief that you only have the right to be a decent parent if you have the market power to demand that right is utterly wrong and callous. But the problem here isn’t that Ryan isn’t living up to his principles. It’s that his principles themselves are wrong.

Paul Ryan’s Family Leave Stance Not Hypocritical