This piece was originally published at GenFKD.
The Donald Trump family leave plan offers both maternity leave and child-care assistance, something done by no previous Republican presidential nominee.
Generally, Republicans shy away from imposing policies on businesses, and, while Trump’s plan has pulled plenty of criticisms from the left, it is in many ways more similar to Hillary Clinton’s family and medical leave plan that anything we’ve seen coming from the right.
The Trump plan
Trump’s paid family leave plan includes measures for making child care and care for elderly dependents easier on working families. His paid parental leave plan includes six weeks of paid maternity leave (sorry, dads, but no leave for you).
Trump proposes tax deductions for child care/elder care expenses for single parents making up to $250,000 a year, or couples making up to $500,000. It would be capped at four children and/or elderly dependents, and the average cost of care in an individual’s state. Lower-income individuals who don’t make enough to owe the government taxes would receive rebates through the Earned Income Tax Credit that is already part of the tax code.
One component of the plan that could appeal to Republican lawmakers is the provision to incentivize personal savings; Trump proposed the implementation of a Dependent Care Savings Account, into which people could make tax-deductible contributions to go toward various child care and elder care needs. The Grand Old Party is into prioritizing individuals’ saving power over what it sees as government “handouts” or “entitlements.”
To situate Trump’s proposal among other Republicans, consider that the closest proposal from a presidential primary challenger on the right was from Sen. Marco Rubio; that proposal involved only a tax incentive for businesses to provide four weeks of paid family leave, not a mandate, like Trump’s.
Still, Democrats and others on the left are highly critical of Trump’s proposal. It falls short of Clinton’s proposed 12 weeks, which would apply more broadly to new moms and dads, and explicitly includes time off for illness or injury, in addition to caring for sick loved ones, not necessarily just children or elderly dependents.
How he plans to fund it
Also, there are significant differences in how Trump and Clinton propose funding these programs. Clinton would tax the wealthy to fund her proposed family leave plan, while Trump said he’d cut down on unemployment fraud to make up the difference, thereby preventing employers or taxpayers from having to pay additional money.
Rhetorically, Trump’s reference to unemployment fraud is good strategy; as a member of a party wary of unemployment insurance entirely, he’s paying heed to the skeptics who suspect that many people abuse the program in order to get a paycheck without working.
“But whether cracking down on fraud would be sufficient to fund Trump’s proposal is questionable.”
But whether cracking down on fraud would be sufficient to fund Trump’s proposal is questionable. The St. Louis Federal Reserve reported $3.3 billion in unemployment fraud in the United States in 2011. While $3.3 billion is a big-ass number, it’s not likely to fund a family leave program.
We actually don’t have an estimate of how much Trump’s plan would cost, since he didn’t say what percentage of individuals’ income would be paid during the period of paid leave (Clinton proposed up to 66 percent their normal income). But we can refer to Clinton’s plan for some kind of reference.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reported that Clinton’s paid leave program would cost around $300 billion. Now, Trump’s maternity leave proposal only accounts for moms and for half the period of time as Clinton’s. Also, he mentions overall economic growth and changes to the tax code as sources of additional revenue for other aspects of his paid family leave program. That’s important, since money saved from crackdown on fraud would probably only fund a sliver.
With so many details and numbers left to hammer out, Trump’s proposal, as with Clinton’s, is not rock-solid in terms of funding. And while it’s not generous enough for those on the left, it’s a real shock to those on the right, for whom paid family leave has long been something to leave up to businesses rather than to legislate into existence.
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