Donald Trump caught a lot of people off guard with his proposal, spearheaded by daughter Ivanka, on child-care benefits. This is not familiar Republican territory. Of course, Hillary Clinton’s plan is more “generous,” promising 12 weeks of paid leave to Trump’s six.
But there’s one, big fat difference that has been underreported: Hillary’s plan only applies to work outside the home. Trump’s applies equally to stay-at-home parents, the vast majority of whom are moms. As Ivanka spelled out in the Wall Street Journal:
“And what if one parent staying home to raise the children is the best option for a family? This is the praiseworthy choice of many, yet there’s zero value or recognition by our government for this hard and meaningful work. Under my father’s proposal, stay-at-home parents will receive the same tax deduction as their working peers.”
Ivanka later joined her father on television with Dr. Oz, speaking movingly on behalf of mothers who care for their own children. Where, when, and from whom in this age of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In have we heard someone from the “One Percent” suggest that human beings, especially those of the female persuasion, might have something more valuable to do with their lives than claw their way to the top of the corporate ladder? (Of course in Sheryl’s case, it helped to start near the top with a bit of a boost from “Larry Summers at Treasury; Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt at Google; and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook.” Just lean in, girls, anyone can do it—as long as you have the right patrons. Sheryl is reportedly in line to be Hillary’s Treasury Secretary.)
Obviously, as with any plan the devil is in the details: how much would Trump’s proposal cost (not only the tax deduction for those in fact paying taxes but EITC for those at lower income levels), impact on hiring, quantifying stay-at-home work in monetary terms, and so forth. You also have predictable complaints from the Left and the “free market über alles” pseudo-Right, respectively, that the plan assumes most of the parents impacted would be women (The horror! The horror!) and that it constitutes more federal government interference with business. And don’t forget the pinheaded attack on Ivanka from that bastion of natalism and maternalism, Cosmopolitan magazine, as to how or if her plan would cover same-sex “couples.”
Giving the gender-warriors the dismissive brush-off they deserve, let’s ask regarding the free-marketeer critics: how many of them are the same “conservatives” cheering on the open borders and “free trade” that have helped drive down wages, forcing each parent to work for what amounts to half of the salary paid to our fathers and grandfathers only a few decades ago? (That is, if they can find jobs at all, or even contract work with no employee benefits.) Maybe we should be less worried about “conserving” market principles that long since have been skewed against the Middle Class and more worried about conserving American families. Was man (or woman, or child) made for the market, or the market for the family?
Leaving aside the details, the key to the Donald-Ivanka plan is the recognition that we need to stop pretending that as a common good parents’, especially mothers’, caring for their own children is worth exactly zero, and child care is only of value if you pay a stranger (almost always another woman, preferably a foreigner) to do it. It’s time to stop denigrating stay-at-home parents, especially moms, as “not working” and in effect subsidizing, even coercing, their exit from the home by squeezing them economically with worker-hostile trade, tax, and immigration policies imposed by a donor class that won’t be happy until American wages are on a par with those of Bangladesh. It is precisely this calculated war on home moms that Obama has waged, and which Hillary would prosecute further.
Approximately ten-and-half million American women are stay-at-home moms, and in the phony Obama Recovery that number appears to be growing. Trump’s family-friendly plan could have an impact on the election, especially in light of the Republican candidate’s polling shortfall with women. Married women are a key GOP voting bloc with which the polls show Trump lagging, but that might change—if they take note of his plans to help them.
Jim Jatras, a former US diplomat and foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership, comments on financial and foreign policy topics and on U.S. politics in his publication TheJIM!gram. Tweet him at @JimJatras.
[Image credit: By Max Goldberg from USA (Trump Cedar Rapids) [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons]