Families in a bind


Pity the American family. It is roundly praised as the backbone of the country, the place where American values are instilled and nurtured. But when it comes to putting rhetoric into policy, families suddenly are left to themselves, expected to stand on their own. When they don't, programs designed to help are also designed to label them "dysfunctional."

President Bush, who wants to be remembered as a pro-family "education" president, now threatens to veto a watered down version of the family medical leave bill he successfully vetoed last year. Congress has been trying to pass a such a bill since 1985. The new version would require employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, as well as continued health benefits, to workers after childbirth, adoption or during a family medical emergency. Because the bill exempts businesses with fewer hTC than 50 employees, it would affect only about half the nation's work force and about 5 percent of the country's employers. Even so, President Bush is using his veto threat again.

So parents remain in a bind. They are blamed for not nurturing their children properly, but the government refuses to guarantee them what virtually every other country in the world provides -- the chance to nurture their children at life's most critical times.

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