With his daughter Ivanka by his side, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Tuesday evening introduced his plans to make childcare more affordable for Americans — a significant break from his party, which has typically been resistant to the idea, balking at the notion of a job-killing entitlement.
With several polls showing him down with women voters, Trump talked a big game in Aston, Penn., calling for six weeks of paid maternity leave for new moms, tax deductions for child care and family savings accounts. He said the program would be paid for by ending unemployment insurance fraud.
But questions, uncertainty and criticism surrounding the program linger. Here’s a look at the biggest issues:
1. How will Trump pay for it?
Trump wants to pay for the program by fixing any fraud and improper payments from the federal employment insurance program. But Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, questioned whether there is enough unemployment fraud to pay for the program — and even if there is, she noted, it’s not a revenue source that regenerates year after year.
“Is it really realistic that just by targeting or going after abuse in the insurance program that we would be able to generate a steady source of funding to fund this for everyone? It’s not clear to me how it would actually work,” said Mathur.
By comparison, Hillary Clinton has proposed 12 weeks of guaranteed family and medical leave (with at least two-thirds of their salary) that would be paid for with tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans.
2. Will Trump's plan really help working families?
Under the proposal, parents would be able to deduct from their income taxes child care expenses for up to four children. They could also contribute to a savings account in which families would be able to make tax-deductible contributions if there are additional child care needs. For example, if you’re a family earning $70,000 a year in the 12% tax bracket, and if you have $7,000 in child care expenses, your taxes would be reduced $840 a year.
Trump’s plan also offers up to $1,200 in spending rebates through the Earned Income Tax Credit. But that’s assuming you even have a tax burden after all of your deductions.
In fact, according to the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, nearly half of Americans don’t pay any income tax at all, either because they make too little, are elderly or already benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit. For those Americans, Trump’s plan would be useless.
Vivien Labaton, a co-founder of Make It Work Action, a campaign dedicated to fighting for the economic issues affecting women and families, noted that on average child care can cost $10,000 to $20,000 a year.
“For many families, they are struggling to make those payments week to week. The idea of waiting for a tax deduction just isn’t realistic for most families," said Labaton. "The proposal seems to be designed for the Ivanka Trumps of the world rather than working families.”
3. What about dads?
The plan applies to women — specifically, mothers. It doesn’t apply to fathers or those who have to care for a family member with a serious illness, unlike the existing federal legislation.
“Trump frames it as maternity leave. We don’t target a specific gender under the family paid leave program in the U.S. It’s available to a families as a whole,” noted Mathur.
4. Would Congress support the measure?
It seems doubtful. Republicans didn’t join in applause when President Barack Obama told Congress in his State of the Union address last year to “send me a bill” that would mandate paid maternity or sick leave for all workers.
GOP lawmakers have, indeed, historically opposed such programs as being too restrictive on business and improperly expanding the role of government. It's highly unlikely that Paul Ryan's House would send Trump such a bill to sign into law; Ryan wouldn’t even support a bill that guaranteed seven days of paid sick days to employees with 15 or more employees.
House Republicans, including former congressman Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, have repeatedly voted against Democrats’ efforts to expand the Family Medical Leave Act and put into place paid family leave.
5. Do the Trumps practice what they preach?
Ivanka Trump has touted offering eight weeks of paid leave through her company — even though G-III, the second-party licensing company that designs, manufactures and markets her clothing line, doesn’t provide paid maternity leave for its employees, as the Washington Post reported.
Ivanka Trump has also said the Trump Organization as a whole does offer paid maternity leave for all of her father’s employees. However, details including exactly how much time off — and when that policy was put into place — remain unclear. Requests for comment from the Trump campaign were not answered.
While stumping, Trump has also bragged about on-site child care services for his employees. However, several employees told the AP that they were unaware of such services and the programs they did know about where for guests and members only.
6. Are the Trumps correct that Hillary Clinton has ignored this issue?
In a word, no. On Tuesday night, Ivanka Trump told Megyn Kelly on Fox News, "There is no policy on Hillary Clinton’s website pertaining to any of these issues — childcare, elder care, or maternity leave, or paternity leave for that matter."
In fact, Clinton has extensively talked about her policies on these issues on her website and in speeches. She has made paid family leave and childcare a cornerstone of her campaign. As senator, she worked on paid sick days and campaigned on family leave in her first presidential bid.
7. Trump's and Clinton's plans still pale in comparison to the rest of the world.
Even if Clinton's or Trump’s plans were put into place, America would still be far behind many other countries. The U.S. is the only OECD country that doesn't mandate paid maternity leave at the federal level. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, American workers can take up to 12 weeks of leave, but unpaid.
The average OECD average of paid maternity leave is 17.7 weeks (though the payment rate varies — it's not always 100% of your salary). The U.K. offers 39 weeks, the Czech Republic offers 28 weeks and Bulgaria offers more than a year.