Donald Trump deserves credit for taking on the issue of childcare, rather than ceding the topic to the Left.
In his economic speech this week, he called for making childcare expenses tax deductible. This would help more families make ends meet and make work more economically beneficial—particularly for many married women. Right now the costs of childcare can be so high that some married women with children find that, after paying taxes and for childcare, they take home very little additional income for their labors. Making childcare costs tax deductible would help make work pay for more secondary earners.
One downside to this approach is that making childcare expenses tax deductible effectively disadvantages stay-at-home parents and those who rely on family members for childcare. All parents deserve some financial relief and there are plenty of families—including many with modest incomes—that make big sacrifices to have a family member look after their young children, because they think (for good reason) family care is best. It’s unfair to provide financial relief only to those families that choose to pay someone outside the family for childcare.
The Trump campaign has indicated that he is interested in providing similar tax relief for stay-at-home parents and is also considering making the deduction apply against payroll taxes, which would help families with lower incomes who don’t have an income-tax liability. These would be additional positive steps in helping expand tax relief to all parents.
Some analysts are criticizing Trump for failing to provide more specifics on how the tax deduction would work and how much it would cost in terms of lost revenue. They conveniently overlook that Hillary Clinton has provided an even more vague description of how her childcare proposals would work in practice. Journalists likely are accustomed to the idea that the Left has well-thought-out plans in this issue area, even if the facts (and Hillary’s campaign website) prove otherwise.
Voters, however, will welcome hearing an alternative vision for how to approach the childcare issue. In contrast to the Left’s typical mix of government mandates (such as Hillary’s typical top-down government-focused proposals to dictate how much childcare workers should earn and the maximum any family should pay for childcare), conservatives can offer help to all parents simply by letting them keep more of their own money.
This should be an appealing message for voters. Let’s hope more Republicans start helping make that case.