Yes, people in other countries are startled to learn we have no federally mandated paid maternity leave. I just heard from a startled person on Twitter. Employers are free to provide it, but they’re also free not to.

NPR did a piece on the subject last July.

If you’ve been paying attention to the political news in the past couple of years, you know that the U.S. stands virtually alone in not mandating paid leave of any type for its workers.

It’s because we love freedom. We love the freedom of employers not to provide it, and we love the freedom of workers to be screwed over.

President Obama likewise brought new attention to paid leave this year as well, when he pointed out in his State of the Union address that the U.S. is the only advanced economy that doesn’t mandate paid sick or maternity leave for its workers.

He was right about that — it’s true that most American workers are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows workers up to 12 weeks of leave per year to care for family members. But that leave is unpaid.

I remember fuming about that during the Clinton administration (which is when the act was passed) – the media were making such a big deal of it but it was just unpaid leave. God we’re pathetic. We’re the only advanced economy that doesn’t. What a miserable distinction.

But of course our elections are sold to the highest bidder, so what do I expect?

The U.S.’s campaign finance system helps businesses keep these laws off the books, says one expert.

“Money plays a role in politics in many countries, but the extent to which the amount of dollars [is] spent on campaigns in the United States just dwarfs the amount spent in campaigns elsewhere,” says Jody Heymann, dean of the School of Public Health at UCLA. “The ability [to make] very large corporate contributions plays a much more substantial role in our elections than in other countries.”

Another miserable distinction.

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