The media is billing Trump’s childcare and family leave proposals as an attempt to appeal to swing voters – particularly women. Yet this proposal should also attract another group who has been wary of the untested candidate: economic conservatives.
Trump doesn’t resort to trying to woo women by entering the Left’s bidding war of promising more and more taxpayer funding for a favored cause. Rather Trump is offering an alternative – and a decidedly conservative – approach to an important set of public policy issues.
Rather than Hillary Clinton’s predictable promises to increase federal grants to daycare centers, decree that child care workers all must be paid more, and complicated plan to cap how much families spend out of pocket on daycare expenses, Trump offers what many conservatives have long called for: a major expansion of tax deductions for families with children.
While this proposal is mostly being discussed as a tax break for childcare expenses, importantly, these deductions will also be available to families that do not use paid daycare arrangements. As explained on the campaign fact sheet:
Mr. Trump’s plan will ensure stay-at-home parents will receive the same tax deduction as working parents, offering compensation for the job they’re already doing, and allowing them to choose the child care scenario that’s in their best interest.
That’s an important point and one that conservatives should embrace. The government shouldn’t be in the business of using subsidies to encourage more families to put their kids in paid daycare if they think that family care is best. Lots of families – including those with modest incomes – make big financial sacrifices to keep a parent home when kids are young and they deserve a break too.
He uses the model of savings accounts – which have been a conservative favorite for education, retirement, and health care – for additional care expenses. His Dependent Care Savings Accounts would allow people to set aside money tax-free, which could then be used for expenses not only for caring for children , but also for the elderly. This is a positive, market-based approach, which would encourage continued innovation and the efficient use of resources, and an important contrast to the Progressives’ steady push to simply have government become both the payer and provider of all such services.
Trump even delved into the great paid leave debate, offering an approach favored by some on the Right, to expand the Unemployment Insurance system to provide women who lack paid leave benefits a safety net. There are other competing conservative solutions to this issue—and, of course, the important more fundamental concept that government really shouldn’t be micromanaging employment agreements for adults. But at a minimum this is a far better, more conservative approach than what’s been offered by Hillary Clinton and other leading Democrats, which range from costly, job-killing mandates on employers to massive new federal entitlement programs.
Just engaging on an issue like this sends an important message to the public that the Right recognizes the challenges that working families face and wants to create a better system. Too often, Republicans have avoided these topics, which has allowed the Left to dominate the conservation. Research shows that just offering a competing argument – highlighting the downsides of the Left’s big government approach and offering an alternative solution — can have a big impact on people’s perceptions and their support for different policy options.
For conservatives – as well as for women and the rest of Americans – there’s a lot to like in this proposal and campaign move.
Carrie Lukas is the vice president of policy at the Independent Women’s Voice