Tuesday night, Donald Trump was joined by his daughter Ivanka in suburban Pennsylvania to trumpet his latest version of family-friendly policies that are aimed to make raising a family more affordable. An earlier version had been criticized because it focused heavily on tax breaks and was seen to largely benefit the wealthy — not, for example, single mothers who wouldn't be paying taxes anyway. The new plan takes that into account and added one big policy proposal: Paid maternity leave. Now, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Ivanka positioned the childcare proposals as a big help to working mothers, but she underplayed the maternity leave bit.
She rightly acknowledges that motherhood is the "greatest predictor of wage inequality" in the United States. While women overall made just 81 cents to a man's dollar in 2014, women who do not have children made 93 cents for that same man's dollar, according to ThinkProgress. But from there she dives into the tax code. Only in the second-to-last paragraph does she bring up maternity leave:
Finally, under the Trump plan, the federal government will guarantee, for the first time, six weeks of paid maternity leave. This will be done by amending the existing unemployment insurance that companies are required to carry. The enhancement will triple the average paid leave that new mothers receive, and it will do so without raising taxes.
Maybe she's underplaying the point because she knows it could further increase gender inequality in the workforce. Some economists argue requiring paid maternity leave (without paternity leave) could increase the pay gap. That could be all the more true under Trump's plan since companies could be paying more unemployment insurance, although the Trump press release vaguely says that won't happen thanks to "offsetting reductions in the program." Clinton has argued for 12 weeks of family leave, which can be used to care for a child or another relative and would be paid for buy taxes on the rich — not businesses.
The other explanation for Ivanka playing it down is that she's hoping Republicans won't read that far into her article. The Democrats have been pushing a paid leave bill written by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that would fund 12 weeks of paid leave for male and female caretakers with a payroll tax split between employers and employees. When Obama mentioned a similar proposal in the 2015 State of the Union, Republicans scoffed at the idea. House Speaker Paul Ryan came out against paid family leave in November 2015.
Whatever Ivanka's thinking, she instead focused first on the other four parts of her father's plan that she mentions first. One would be changing the tax code to allow families making under $500,000 for writing off child care expenses; low-income families would benefit from an Earned Income Tax Credit. Two, Trump proposes tax-free "Dependent Care Savings Accounts," which would work like the healthcare savings accounts that some people use in conjunction with insurance to pay for medical care tax-free.
Parts 3 and 4 have to do with childcare. It would make it easier for "informal child-care — such as a mom watching her own kids and a few others in her home" to benefit from government programs. Businesses would also be encouraged to provide on-site daycare.
None of these other proposals are inherently bad, and perhaps Republicans should work to include them in whatever new family policies are passed in the coming years. But that doesn't negate the issues with the largest, and underplayed (at least in Ivanka's op-ed) part of Trump's plan: paid maternity leave. Only when fathers are included can we insure that men and women are not discriminated in hiring practices and that women receive equal pay for equal work.