Donald Trump wants to make childcare more affordable — but only for those who can already afford it.
Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club on Monday, the Republican presidential nominee announced an economic plan that promises prosperity for Americans "who have the very least." Among a raft of proposals that included ending the estate tax and capping taxes on business income, Trump said he would allow parents to deduct the cost of childcare from their taxes, adding that he would outline the details of the childcare tax deduction in the coming weeks.
"No one will gain more from these policies than low- and middle-income families," Trump said.
However beneficial Trump's plan would be for people who have taxable income, it does nothing for the estimated 45% of Americans whose income doesn't meet the threshold to pay taxes — those with low-wage jobs in most need of assistance.
"The important takeaway is that Trump's policy only helps families that are making enough money that deducting this from their taxes gives them monetary relief," said Victoria Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. "If you're a family paying for childcare but make so little there's not enough tax income left, this doesn't help."
Trump's plan would be a departure from current policies that allow parents to deduct up to $6,000 annually for the cost of childcare. But unlike a tax credit, which doles out refunds to those who qualify even if they don't make enough money to owe federal income taxes, Trump's proposed childcare deduction would apply only to parents who do make enough. It is unclear how Trump's deduction would affect the existing Child and Dependent Care Credit, which provides some benefit to working parents.
Where Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton, has proposed capping childcare costs at 10% of a family's annual income — in addition to other family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave and a higher minimum wage — Budson noted that the GOP candidate has yet to suggest other ways of providing relief to the working poor. Establishing universal preschool, expanding Head Start and ensuring higher wages for childcare workers could dramatically improve quality of life for families, she said.
"This doesn't help the poorest, and that's something that needs to happen to ensure support for families and support for kids," Budson said.