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What Hillary Said About Paid Leave, Child Care, Inequality — Yesterday And 20 Years Ago

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What Hillary Said About Paid Leave, Child Care, Inequality — Yesterday And 20 Years Ago

Hillary Clinton Campaigning

Following Hillary Clinton’s first major campaign speech on Saturday, purveyors of conventional wisdom have assured us again that she is tacking toward the left to deflect her challengers and mollify her party’s liberal base. Such assertions usually hint that Clinton is not progressive herself, but merely swayed that way by polls and consultants.

On the evening before her big event in Four Freedoms Park, New York’s memorial to its favorite son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I picked up a copy of her 1996 bestseller, It Takes A Village. (While many journalists once thumbed through it, few seem to remember its contents.) Published during an era when the nation showed few signs of turning leftward, Clinton’s first book offered pithy arguments for the same priorities she is emphasizing now. Consider the views she expressed on family leave — and, in particular, the limitations of the law signed by her husband in 1993:

 As I have mentioned, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees unpaid leave to employees in firms with more than fifty workers. That is a good beginning. Many parents, however, cannot afford to forgo pay for even a few weeks, and very few employers in America offer paid maternity and paternity leave….

Other countries have figured out that honoring the family by giving it adequate time for caregiving is not only right for the family and smart for society but good for employers, who reap the benefits of workers’ increased loyalty and peace of mind. The Germans, for example, guarantee working mothers fourteen weeks’ maternity leave (six weeks before and eight weeks after delivery) at full salary…

Other European countries provide similarly generous leave, some of them to fathers as well as mothers. In Sweden, for example, couples receive fifteen months of job-guaranteed, paid leave to share between them…

As First Lady, Clinton obviously was in no position to demand that her husband’s administration (or the Republican-dominated Congress) institute paid family leave, but her own opinion was clear enough. So was her view of early childhood education, another current issue that she highlighted on Saturday:

Imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals. Imagine a country that conceives of child care as a program to “welcome” children into the larger community and “awaken” their potential for learning and growing.

It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not….More than 90 percent of French children between ages three and five attend free or inexpensive preschools called écoles maternelles…

While I was in France, I had conversations with a number of political leaders, from Socialists to Conservatives. “How,” I asked, “can you transcend your political differences and come to an agreement on the issue of government-subsidized child care?” One after another of them looked at me in astonishment. “How can you not invest in children and expect to have a healthy country?” was the reply I heard over and over again.

Finally, Clinton drew sharp attention to the social instabilities of the post-industrial American economy and the role of government in redressing what she called a “crisis.” Observing that “long-established expectations about doing business have given way under the pressures of the modern economy,” she warned bluntly:

Too many companies, especially large ones, are driven more and more narrowly by the need to ensure that investors get good quarterly returns and to justify executives’ high salaries. Too often, this means that they view most employees as costs, not investments, and that they expend less and less concern on job training, employee profit sharing, family-friendly policies…or even fair pay raises that share with workers – not to mention their families and communities – gains from productivity and profits…

Despite record profits for many companies, the gap in income between top executives and the average worker has widened dramatically….This growing inequality of incomes has serious implications for our children.

She went on to again praise Germany, where “there is a general consensus that government and business should play a role in evening out inequities in the free market system” — and where higher base wages, universal health care, and superb job training guaranteed “a distribution of income that is not so skewed as ours is.”

Writing 20 years ago, when President Clinton was running for re-election against the odds, Hillary hedged her message — and yet she was prescient in addressing the harms of an increasingly unfair economy. What she said then undergirds what she is still saying, more and more forcefully, in this campaign.

Joe Conason

A highly experienced journalist, author and editor, Joe Conason is the editor-in-chief of The National Memo, founded in July 2011. He was formerly the executive editor of the New York Observer, where he wrote a popular political column for many years. His columns are distributed by Creators Syndicate and his reporting and writing have appeared in many publications around the world, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, The New Yorker, The New Republic, The Nation, and Harpers.

Since November 2006, he has served as editor of The Investigative Fund, a nonprofit journalism center, where he has assigned and edited dozens of award-winning articles and broadcasts. He is also the author of two New York Times bestselling books, The Hunting of the President (St. Martins Press, 2000) and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth (St. Martins Press, 2003).

Currently he is working on a new book about former President Bill Clinton's life and work since leaving the White House in 2001. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, including MSNBC's Morning Joe, and lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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  1. JPHALL June 15, 2015

    Isn’t it funny how the modern media seems to have no memory or concern for accuracy in its reporting? Especially when their reporting concerns the Clinton’s or truth on past actions by Republicans.

    1. Independent1 June 15, 2015

      Yes, a majority if ill informed Americans love to believe that it’s a ‘liberal’ media, when like so many other things that are transpiring these days – nothing could be further from the truth!! The media has been bought and paid for by outright corrupt right-wingers!!!!

      1. Carolyn1520 June 16, 2015

        For the right, if it’s truth and facts, it has a “liberal bias”. They’ve been programmed to accept spin and innuendo. As Colbert coined it, “truthiness”.

  2. Dominick Vila June 16, 2015

    Paid maternity leave, financial inequality, and investment in education and infrastructure, are some of my top priorities. Hillary has my vote.

    1. nana4gj June 16, 2015

      You wouldn’t think, in the 21st century, in the year 2015, that this country would be slipping back into the years of child labor, draconian working conditions, sick people on the streets; when there were no taxes paid into the federal government and there were only two distinct economical and social classes of our society, the poor and the very wealthy. Yet, that is and has been what Republicans advocate for, that is the substance of their policies and their beliefs, clearly articulated in the last presidential campaign. Is their even one civilized country, that is not Third World, today, that operates like that today?

      1. Dominick Vila June 16, 2015

        The social programs and working conditions of people in Western Europe, Japan, Canada, and Australia, are so far ahead of ours that it almost seems as if we inhabited different planets. I find the criticisms of the ACA, the calls to privatize or dismantle SS and MEDICARE, and all the other attacks against social programs and, by default, our most vulnerable citizens, an embarrassment, and evidence of both greed and inhumanity.

  3. AgLander June 16, 2015

    Isn’t it fitting that it is necessary to go back 20 years to get any idea of what Hillary Clinton believes. And very necessary because that is how long it’s been since she’s answered any questions from the press! Isn’t it ironic that the woman who worked on the staff of a Watergate investigator (and was fired for her unethical behavior), now has taken on a most “Nixonian” type secrecy 40 years later!…….We need to accurately re-name her Hillary Clinixon!

    1. Susan June 16, 2015

      Is she running for president of the press? Who cares if she caters to them? She’s smarter to do what’s she’s doing and go directly to the people in addition to using social media. The press has one standard for Hillary and another for everyone else and she knows it. Don’t you wonder why they’re not all over Bush for flaunting campaign finance laws or never mention the 60 Americans killed in embassies under W? How the Bushes and Kochs allied with the Nazis? How Republicans vote against Veteran’s bills? Of course you don’t. 90% of media is owned by six Conservative companies. Everyone in America does better under Democrats. Google it. Where’s the proof she was fired? That’s another RWNJ myth. At least when you go back 20 years with her she’s relatively consistent. Unlike the Republicans who parrot whatever the Kochs want, or just flat out lie. You want to know what Republicans stand for? Look up David Koch’s 1980 platform when he ran for office. Name one thing they have done for anyone but the very wealthy. You want bread lines and poor houses? No Social Security? No public education? No minimum wage? Dirtier air and water? A fiefdom?

      1. AgLander June 16, 2015

        Kool-Aid Alert! You obviously have drunk so much of it you are constantly looking for a bathroom!

        P.S. Clinton has been “going directly to the people” ? Are you talking about the hand-picked, screened groups of sycophants and campaign staffers used like props for staged discussions and photo ops? ….. WISE UP, sucker!

    2. nanorich June 5, 2016


      “A pair of articles published during Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency in 2008, one by Northstar Writers Group founder Dan Calabrese and one by Jerry Zeifman himself, asserted that Zeifman was Hillary’s supervisor during the Watergate investigation and that he eventually fired her from the investigation for “unethical, dishonest” conduct. However, whatever Zeifman may have thought of Hillary and her work during the investigation, he was not her supervisor, neither he nor anyone else fired her from her position on the Impeachment Inquiry staff (Zeifman in fact didn’t have the power to fire her, even had he wanted to do so), his description of her conduct as “unethical” and “dishonest” is his personal, highly subjective characterization, and the “facts” on which he bases that characterization are ones that he has contradicted himself about on multiple occasions.”

  4. nana4gj June 16, 2015

    She has been an advocate for people, middle class, children, women, families, all of her life, before she was known to anyone as a Governor’s First Lady. She warned about the mortgage crisis. She learned more about health care industry, reform needs, than any other public servant and was not even elected to any office when she learned about it and advocated for it. “Hillarycare” failed, but, it ushered in Managed Care, ie, HMOs, PPOs, et al.

    She is mocked now because she is a millionaire, but, when they entered the WH and while they were there, they were called “trailer trash”, because they didn’t even own a home and had no wealth, connections, legacy families. They were made into notorious celebrities by their opponents so that when they left the WH, in debt, they were able to command record book deals and sales, unprecedented speaking fees, and became millionaires, in huge part due to what their opponents did for them. Now, they are mocked for having wealth.

    This millionaire has spent her entire life advocating on behalf of people, at home and abroad. She and her husband established a global foundation to continue to advocate and provide for people in needy countries, and at home, and even that is attacked by those who make their wealth taking money from political foundations and PACs, sitting on corporate boards because of their last name and family connections, and outsourcing jobs, shutting down employment, and stashing their monies in foreign countries. The same people who resent “entitlement” programs for retired seniors, veterans, the hungry, homeless, sick, and children born into poverty and need; who believe public education is not a good investment, lest the wrong people get too educated.

  5. Audrey R. June 17, 2015

    Absolutely accurate. It annoys me so much when Democrats, who should know their stuff, claim that Hillary is Republican-lite; or not progressive enough. Thank you Joe Conason for this excellent article. Hillary 2016!


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