Is Trump’s Childcare Plan Basically Useless for Most of Us? We Asked an Expert

donald trumpAt first glance, Donald Trump's new proposal to help American families pay for childcare seems almost like something that might be, well, helpful: Under Trump's plan, parents would be allowed to fully deduct the "average cost of childcare spending" from their taxes. As we all know, the "average cost of childcare spending" is skyrocketing, so families could definitely use a break -- but the problem with Trump's plan is that only certain families will be getting one.


Elaine Maag, senior research associate for Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, tells CafeMom, "This is a benefit for high-income families, not middle- and low-income families."  

For this proposed benefit to be effective, Maag continues, "it would have to be delivered to the people who actually struggle to pay for childcare at the time they have to pay their bills, and Trump's plan doesn't meet either requirement."

There are several reasons struggling families won't get the help they need. For one thing, many of them don't make enough money to owe federal taxes on their income in the first place, so a deduction would be meaningless to them (as of this time, 35 percent of all people filing taxes don't have a liability at tax time; approximately 45 percent don't pay federal income tax). 

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As for families who do have liabilities, the wealthier among them will still benefit more from the deduction because they pay taxes at a higher rate. (For example, if a family paying taxes at a rate of 15 percent deducted $1,000 from their income, they would get a tax break of $150. Another family paying taxes at a rate of 35 percent would save $350 on that same $1,000.) Plus, families will only receive the tax benefits when they file a return once a year, while most childcare providers expect to be paid monthly or weekly. "That's fine for high-income families who have money to push around, but it's not going to help if you're really constrained," says Maag.

Ironically, of course, it's low-income families who are truly hurting when it comes to the burden of childcare costs. Parents living in poverty spend more than a third of their monthly income on childcare, while families living above the poverty line spend about 20 percent. Families who bring in more income, meanwhile, spend an average of less than 10 percent of annual income on childcare. So what's the point of a plan that only helps these people who don't really need the help to begin with?

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According to Maag (and other experts like her), there is another, better way to offset the crippling costs of childcare for low-income families.

"If you really want to help those people, simply increase the subsidies that exist to help more people or cover more expenses for people who already receive them," she says. 

The issue, of course, is that Trump apparently doesn't really want to help "those people" -- because he doesn't seem to consider them to be people at all.


Image via Jennifer Mitchell/Splash News

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