Republican Prioritizes Family Time — But Only For Himself

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.
It should be something to celebrate: A powerful man prioritizes family time when faced with a huge professional opportunity. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin was ready to turn down one of the biggest jobs in politics, and one reason, he said, was that he wants to be there for his kids. But when it comes to the Republican congressman's record, Ryan doesn't seem to think everyone else deserves access to family time.

Ryan is on the verge of becoming Speaker of the House — he's been negotiating with conservative members of his party to smooth his path to the job — but Ryan demanded that he be able to continue to spend weekends in Janesville, WI, with his wife and three children. The move earned the 45-year-old praise from current work-life-balance thought leader Sheryl Sandberg, but it also exposed an ugly underbelly of a debate that has mostly focused on women.

Ryan is a strict conservative who has supported attempts to gut social programs that feed poor children and provide public assistance for poor families, and he's voted against bills that would expand paid family leave. He also opposed a bill that would have given employees paid sick leave. For many workers living in poverty, a sick child means missing work, with no way to make up those hours.

To Ryan, social programs for poor families — which are already paltry enough that families struggle to make them last all month — keep people from learning the "dignity of work." Never mind that the majority of people receiving public assistance already have jobs, or that many programs have work requirements that make it impossible for recipients to go to school, at a time when there is an overwhelming consensus that education is essential to escaping poverty.

It's great that Paul Ryan wants to spend time with his family. If he gets his way, it will be a great victory. But we need to ask why he doesn't think other parents deserve the ability to follow his example.

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