Trump’s Childcare Plan Saves Middle-Class Families $5 A Year

by Joseph D. Lyons
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The man who promised to reinvigorate the American middle class has yet another plan that doesn't quite hold up to expectations. "Make America Great Again," regardless of what it means to you, did mean something to Donald Trump voters. For better or worse, Trump was supposed to upend the economic and political order in their favor — at least, as far as they thought. But a new study about Trump's childcare plan saving middle-class voters just $5.55 a year may change their minds about the impact that he promised to make.

The numbers come from the Center for American Progress, and they focus specifically on the families that helped Trump win the presidency. In other words, these are families that live in counties that swung more than 15 percentage points from Barack Obama to Trump. Geographically, these people live in "Appalachia, the Midwest, and northern Plains," and they make about $68,500 per year on average, based on the income data at the county level. Of that, about $6,000 goes to childcare expenses — nearly 10 percent of their pre-tax income.

When you consider these big numbers, saving $5 a year sure doesn't seem like much. It's really not. And the reason for this is the way that the Trump childcare plan is designed as a tax measure. The government wouldn't pay for the childcare or give you a subsidy to contract your own —rather, you would spend the money and then get some back in the form of a tax deduction (assuming you make less than $250,000 or $500,000 for couples). The problem there is obvious for the poor: If you don't have an income, you can't deduct the tax you owe.

That was always obvious from the get-go. But for the middle-class voters who went for Trump, a tax cut may sound great. But $5 is a pretty weak amount of savings. And again, you have to spend the money first — which can be difficult when things are already tight.

One of the authors of the study, Rasheed Malik, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, explained this to ThinkProgress:

The mismatch in timing really leaves out a whole lot of families. This assumes that everybody can already afford it and they just need a little bit of a discount on next year’s tax bill. But the families who can almost afford quality childcare are not going to be helped by this because you will essentially have to spend thousands upfront and wait until March or April of the following year to get your couple hundred dollars.

Ivanka Trump has been a big part of pushing this plan. "As a society we need to create policies that champion all parents, enabling the American family to thrive," she said back on the campaign trail in September with her father. Well, clearly this plan doesn't help parents who really need the money. It needs a rethink.

Given that this is an issue that Democrats would be willing to work on, too, maybe the Trump Administration can work across the aisle to give it a revamp. And it sure could use one, because $5 is just sad.