Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Family leave and shared prosperity: YOYO vs. WITT

Cognitive dissonance is both a fascinating and terrifying ride. Case in point: responses to Carolyn McConnell’s article in about Washington’s Family Leave Insurance program. McConnell writes:

Two-thirds of comments expressed the same feeling: The legislation is “a token for the irresponsible,” a “confiscation of my tax dollars” for “social parasites.” One reader even called the legislation morally depraved…

How can a program that makes it easier for parents to take care of their own children be called irresponsible? The culprit is the YOYO (“Your On Your Own”) fallacy.

As McConnell puts it:

The line of thinking goes something like this: individualism is the ideal state, we shouldn’t be fostering dependency, people are responsible for themselves and their own children, and don’t ask the rest of us for handouts.

In the YOYO fantasy world, gas taxes only pay to pave the streets you use to drive to work. Property taxes only educate your own kids. And if a company goes under and takes the neighbor’s 401(k) with it, too bad.

Reality is of course much different and somewhat more complicated – more like, “We’re In This Together” (or WITT).

There are freeways on which we will never drive that get food to our local markets. Schools on the other side of the state are educating kids who will be our future doctors, teachers, lawyers, mechanics and nurses. When our retired neighbors can afford to keep their homes, they help keep an eye on the neighborhood while others are away at work during the day.

Family leave helps lower infant mortality, encourages moms to breastfeed, and improves the early learning skills and academic performance of children. It’s a shared investment in minimum standards to ensure a family-friendly workplace, and part and parcel of creating a more prosperous and secure world for ourselves, our neighbors and fellow citizens.

(Full credit: YOYO and WITT thanks to Jared Bernstein.)

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