As the Trump transition team plans its move into the White House, many wonder what role the president-elect's daughter, Ivanka, will play in his administration. Not only has she been one of her father's closest advisers, but the one to soften his image and act as his "most overt appeal to women," as CNN's Juana Summers described her. On Thursday, CNN reported that Ivanka is calling congressmen about child care legislation, which has long been one of her favorite issues to discuss.
This move is not exactly surprising. Her speech at the Republican National Convention discussed a vision for women and families that was fairly at odds with the rest of the party. Just before the election, BuzzFeed profiled the "Ivanka Voter," white women who admire or identify with her, who chose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton despite the former's many misogynistic comments. Ivanka's apparent advocacy for child care and women's rights was said to help soften the hard image of Trump bragging on that Access Hollywood tape about groping women.
There's just one problem with Ivanka's renewed push for child care legislation: Most of the policies she and the Trump campaign have proposed are insufficient.
In September, Donald and Ivanka jointly announced that the campaign's plans for affordable child care would include tax deductions and maternity leave. Sounds great, right!
Not quite. Much like the steaks at Trump Tower Grill, apparently, Donald and Ivanka's plans sound much better than they actually are.
As I wrote when the plans were first announced, the "maternity leave" the Trumps promise does not actually include full paid leave. It would simply broaden eligibility for unemployment insurance to include temporarily out-of-work women, at a fraction of their usual pay rate. It would be insufficient, for example, for women who depend on a consistent monthly paycheck of a certain amount in order to pay rent and other expenses.
Worse, by focusing entirely on the "mother" and not on the "parents," the maternity leave plan actually reinforces existing gender norms that places the parenting responsibilities on them. It stresses the expectation that fathers will not take time off for the birth of their children, an expectation that forces women to assume the lion's share of domestic and child care duties, even while also holding down a career. Men should be empowered to take leave for newborn children, just as women should — not to mention the many single-parent or LGBT households in which neither parent is the biological mother.
Nor would the Trump plan actually make child care more affordable for many of America's poorest families: Tax deductions don't do much to help impoverished Americans who already pay little to nothing in taxes, as the Washington Post's Danielle Paquette explained. It also does not provide an incentive for women to continue working: As Edward McCaffery at CNN noted, the tax plan enables women to deduct the theoretical cost of child care whether or not they actually work. As a result, McCaffery explained, "By helping out moms whether they work or not, the plan encourages women to stay at home; there's no extra break you get from working. That would seem to be the opposite effect of a good child care policy."
It's certainly possible, if unlikely, that Ivanka Trump could hear these criticisms from the members of Congress to whom she is reaching out. A finalized legislative plan to improve child care affordability will certainly merit a fresh examination, and perhaps some of these concerns will be addressed. In the meantime, though, Ivanka Trump is peddling a deeply flawed child care plan that I believe simply isn't good enough for American families.