WASHINGTON — One of the biggest surprises of the election is how well Donald Trump did among women, especially white women.
He won 52% of the white female vote, according to exit polls.
Trump’s pitch to women went like this: I’ve watched my daughter Ivanka be a great mom and a great businesswoman. I want more of you to have those opportunities.
“Who’s a female entrepreneur here?” Trump asked the crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, last week on the first stop of his Thank You Tour. “Hate to tell you men, generally speaking, [female entrepreneurs] are better than you are.”
Women at the rally cheered. Trump grinned.
Trump and his daughter Ivanka campaigned hard in the final weeks to reach out to women.
Trump unveiled a plan that called for six weeks of paid maternity leave for new mothers and a bigger tax credit to make child care more affordable for all. Ivanka even did an entire ad called “Motherhood.”
Trump is keeping childcare relief high on agenda
Hillary Clinton’s campaign blasted Trump’s plans to help women as half baked and unlikely to ever happen.
Yet since the election, Trump and key members of his inner circle have gone out of their way to keep talking about child care and ways to aid working women.
“Our agenda will fight to increase pay and opportunities for women in the workforce,” Trump said in Ohio last week. Women still earn less than men in every state and industry, according to numerous studies.
Four of the 12 cabinet positions Trump has announced so far have been female (Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary, Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary, Seema Verma as the Medicare and Medicaid Administrator, and Nikki Haley as UN Representative).
Child care is clearly on Trump’s radar.
It’s even part of his first 100-day plan. But paid maternity leave appears to have fallen off the list. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide paid leave for new mothers.
“I am asking Congress to pass legislation to support the American family and make safe and affordable child care accessible to all. It’s so important,” Trump said in Ohio.
Trump’s proposal: The details
His Treasury Secretary nominee — Steve Mnuchin — also mentioned child care relief in his very first press interview.
“We’re going to have the most significant middle income tax cut since Reagan,” Mnuchin said. “We’re going to incorporate the Child Care Program, so this is going to be a tremendous boon to the economy.”
Trump’s proposal is for parents to be able to deduct the average cost of child care in their state for up to four children or elderly dependents. Anyone making less than $250,000 ($500,000 if married) would be eligible to take the tax break. Low-income families would be able to get a refundable credit up to $1,200 a year.
Any changes like this to the tax law would have to be approved by Congress.
What about maternity leave?
But what about maternity leave?
“President-elect Trump stated in September that he would fight for paid parental leave,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York who has introduced bills in Congress for paid parental leave in the past. “I hope he stands by that commitment.”
Trump’s website still lists that he supports six weeks of paid leave for mothers. His plan would give women whose employers don’t offer paid leave the ability to collect six weeks of unemployment when they have a child. Only 14% of civilian U.S. workers have access to paid parental leave, according to the latest figures from the Labor Department.
But there are concerns about how Trump would pay for it. His campaign says enough money could be generated just by eliminating fraud in the unemployment insurance system. Experts like Doug Holtz-Eakin aren’t so sure.
Congresswoman Maloney also points out that Trump’s plan doesn’t include fathers, and it’s unclear if it would include parents who adopt or foster children.
Betsy McCaughey, a Trump supporter and frequent CNN guest, said there likely isn’t enough support in Congress right now to pass maternity or paternity leave.
“It might work its way up” as a priority, she said.