Given the economic times, the joblessness and insecurity, it was almost funny listening to the two guests on yesterday's Radio Times
attempting to make the case for government-mandated paid vacation time.
Americans, the audience was told, work way too hard with not nearly enough time off to relax and recreate. This is certainly true compared to many European countries that make it against the law for companies not to give workers paid vacation.
According to JOHN SCHMITT from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, author of "No Vacation Nation" and JOHN deGRAAF, national coordinator of a group called Take Back Your Time, one in four Americans have no paid vacation. This is a travesty and the way they talk about it that make it sound almost as if it were a human rights violation.
In Europe, workers get an average of 30 days off a year. In the U.S. workers get only 9 paid holidays. Not having having legislated/mandated paid vacation puts America in the company of some of the most backward nations on earth; Burma, to name one.
Europeans and Aussies are famous for taking extended holidays and traveling the world. Why can't America be more like them? After all, people who take more vacations are happier, and more productive, according to studies cited by Schmitt and deGraff. Don't we want our citizenry to be happier and more productive?
Listening to them yak, citing statistics, and being lobbed softball questions by substitute host Tracey Matisak (in for the vacationing Marty Moss-Cohane) was charming. But their arguments, though seductive, are downright foolish, especially for legislated mandates. The costs involved would be significant, especially on small business owners.
When Matasak finally asked about small business owners who might like to offer paid vacations for their workers but didn't feel they could afford it, one of her guests suggested as long as all their competitors were required to offer the same thing, the "playing field" would be level.
Such is the faith that these sort of people have in government to properly command the private economy and the behavior of American citizens for their own good.
First healthcare, now vacations.
Believe me, I have nothing against paid vacation time. I get it and I take it. But, I accept the trade-off of being paid a lesser salary for that benefit. The same is true with my health insurance. My company pays half of it and it's a form of compensation (on which I don't have to pay taxes). Besides, we (the unionized employees of this newspaper) negotiated a contract that gives us paid vacation time, mostly in lieu of higher salaries. Plenty of non-unionize companies offer paid vacation time, just not as much as guys like Schmitt and deGraff think is appropriate.
What makes this "issue" so silly right now is that it is the high costs associated with hiring people that is keeping so many of them unemployed. With Obamacare just passed, a law that requires businesses to buy health insurance for their workers or PAY A $2,000 (per year, per employee) FINE to the government, the cost are growing higher than ever.
And these guys want to add to those old and new costs, another one. And somehow, this WON'T cost the economy jobs? The lack of thinking about the consequences of their idea is quite incredible.
One more thing, envying European level's of vacation time is understandable. But they have consequences too. High unemployment and poor economic growth. Given all that, the social benefits mandated in Europe are quite unsustainable.
And one last thing... Remember that heat wave that hit France
a few years ago (2003)? Thousands of elderly nursing home and hospital patients died, in part because so many healthcare workers were on vacation.
I missed the end of Radio Times yesterday. I wonder if anybody brought that up.