Donald Trump falsely claimed that Hillary Clinton “has no child care plan” and “never will.” In fact, Clinton’s proposals for child care and paid family leave have been posted on her campaign website for months.
Despite that fact, Trump’s daughter Ivanka also claimed in an interview on Fox News: “There’s no policy on Hillary Clinton’s website pertaining to any of these issues, child care, eldercare, or maternity leave or paternity leave for that matter.”
Both Trumps encouraged people to visit donaldjtrump.com to see the full details of the child care and maternity leave policies Trump was proposing. But that campaign website acknowledges that Clinton does, indeed, have a plan. It says: “Donald J. Trump’s Plan Is More Complete Than Hillary Clinton’s Plan.”
As fact-checkers, we pay close attention to the words that politicians use. Words matter. And voters watching Trump’s speech or Ivanka Trump’s interview would have been falsely led to believe, as they both said, that Clinton had no plan that pertained to these issues.
Ivanka Trump also incorrectly said in an interview with ABC News that all of the employees of her father had a paid parental leave benefit. The Trump Organization later said in a statement that the policy varied “from property to property.”
Trump’s ‘No Plan’ Claim
In his Sept. 13 speech on child care in Aston, Pennsylvania, Trump talked about his proposal for tax deductions for child care expenses, which he first announced Aug. 8, and a new plan he was announcing to provide paid maternity leave to working mothers. He claimed Clinton didn’t have any such plan:
Trump, Sept. 13: Yet very little meaningful policy work has been done in this area, and my opponent has no child care plan. She never will and if it ever evolves into a plan it’ll never get done anyway. All talk. No action.
Clinton’s campaign website contains a child care and early childhood education plan — calling for universal access to preschool for 4-year-olds within 10 years and a doubling of the federal investment in Early Head Start and the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership program, child development and support programs for children under age 3 and pregnant women. It also has a separate plan for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave.
Both plans have been posted on the site since at least early February, according to the cached images available through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
In a June 15, 2015, speech at a YMCA in Rochester, New Hampshire, two months after she had declared her candidacy, Clinton began talking about her policy ideas on child care.
“I will be rolling out specific policies over the weeks to come, but I do believe with all my heart that everything we need to do in our country really starts with how we treat our children and how we try to raise them, taking care of their needs, being able to stimulate them, to give them a better chance in life, helping them become successful and good citizens,” she said.
Among her proposals in that speech: universal access to preschool, a “middle-class tax cut” aimed at reducing child care costs, and a doubling of the funding in the Early Head Start programs.
Since then, Clinton has announced more details and how she would pay for her proposals — by increasing taxes on the wealthy.
In late November 2015, Clinton proposed a tax credit of up to $1,200 for those caring for an elderly family member. In a speech in May in Kentucky, she proposed capping the amount a family spends on child care at 10 percent of income, a goal her website says she would achieve “by significantly increasing the federal government’s investment in child care subsidies and providing tax relief for the cost of child care to working families.” On her website, she also calls for a program to give scholarships of up to $1,500 per year to students who are parents to help pay for child care.
As for family leave, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, signed by President Bill Clinton, requires certain employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave with existing medical benefits and job protection for workers to care for a newborn or adopted child, an ill family member or because of a personal illness. The federal requirement pertains to workplaces with 50 or more employees within 75 miles, and workers who have been on the job at least 12 months.
In January, Clinton proposed guaranteeing up to 12 weeks of paid leave covering at least two-thirds of a worker’s salary (with a ceiling) “to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member, and up to 12 weeks of medical leave to recover from a serious illness or injury of their own.” That mirrors congressional legislation introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, though Clinton proposes paying for it by “making the wealthy pay their fair share,” rather than the 0.2 percent increase in the payroll tax on employees and employers under the bill. Gillibrand and DeLauro’s legislation would set up a new trust fund under the Social Security Administration to operate the program.
Trump, meanwhile, proposed on Aug. 8 to allow parents to deduct the average cost of child care in their state from their income taxes. His website says the deduction is limited to those earning under $250,000 a year or $500,000 for couples. And for low-income workers, his website says, he proposes increasing the earned income tax credit by an amount equal to up to half of payroll taxes. He also proposed on Sept. 13 allowing tax-free contributions, up to $2,000 per year, to dependent care savings accounts, with a 50 percent federal government match for low-income parents who contribute up to $1,000. Both programs are available for eldercare as well.
For maternity leave, Trump proposes six weeks of paid leave through the unemployment insurance program for “any mother with a newborn child whose employer does not provide the benefit.” Mothers would get partial pay, equal to “what would be paid to a laid-off employee,” his website says. That was 46 percent of a worker’s normal wages on average for the United States in 2014 and 2015, though the percentage varies by state. States also have a cap on unemployment compensation.
Trump said in his Sept. 13 speech that the maternity leave program would be “completely self-financing” by ending “fraud and improper payments in the unemployment insurance program.” His other child care policies, his website says, “can more than be offset by additional growth,” which he says his tax, trade, energy and other plans will bring about.
As we noted, the Trump campaign website acknowledges that Clinton has a child care plan, despite Trump’s claim that she didn’t. We reached out to the campaign for clarification of the contradictory statements, but we haven’t received a response.
Our fact-checking colleagues at PolitiFact.com reported that the Trump campaign had told them that by “child care,” Trump was referring specifically to policies that affect children ages 0 to 4, and that maternity leave is a separate policy area. But it’s not true to say that Clinton has no plans affecting children in that age range – nor did Trump make such an age stipulation when he made his claim.
Are the Plans Feasible?
Trump claimed in his Sept. 13 speech that if Clinton’s talk of child care “ever evolves into a plan it’ll never get done anyway.” Not being able to implement a policy — and not having a policy at all — are, of course, different things. And it’s an open question whether either candidate’s proposals could get through Congress, and whether the funding mechanisms the candidates have proposed can cover the cost.
We can’t predict the future, as we often say, but we can note that given recent history and the positions of those in Congress, these policies face a tough road ahead.
On maternity or family leave, for instance, Clinton’s plan is similar to Democratic legislation in Congress that was referred to committee in March 2015 and hasn’t moved since. Trump’s maternity plan was immediately met with resistance by those in both parties, as the Wall Street Journal reported. The Washington Post wrote that Trump’s plan was similar to one pushed by advocates, and then President Bill Clinton, in the late 1990s called “Baby UI,” for “unemployment insurance.”
As for paying for it, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated in a June report that neither candidate had proposed ways to fully pay for all of their spending plans, but Clinton had come closer. And at that time, Trump’s child care policies weren’t yet part of his spending plans.
Clinton’s early childhood education proposals would cost about $200 billion over 10 years and the paid family leave proposal would cost $300 billion, CRFB estimated. CRFB found that all of Clinton’s spending proposals were $250 billion short over 10 years of being covered by her proposed tax increases.
And that assumes that Clinton could enact the tax increases on the wealthy that she has proposed. Republican lawmakers have generally opposed enacting tax increases, although Congress in 2012 did approve bipartisan tax legislation that allowed the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for individuals earning $400,000 a year or more and couples making $450,000 or more.
CRFB didn’t give estimates for Trump’s plans on those topics, because he hadn’t yet announced them. But it still found that Trump came up $11.5 trillion short in paying for his plans over 10 years, mainly because of the tax cuts he has proposed.
As for his new child care policies, Trump claims his pro-growth policies would pay for those tax benefits. But that’s far from clear. The Tax Policy Center and Tax Foundation both found Trump’s tax plan didn’t pay for itself. The candidate has scaled down his plan since then, and the two tax organizations haven’t analyzed Trump’s more recent proposals.
Trump estimates his maternity leave plan would cost $2.5 billion a year, providing an average benefit of $300 a week. That’s significantly less than the CRFB estimate for Clinton’s family leave proposal, which would be about $30 billion per year. Trump says he would pay for his plan by reducing improper payments under the unemployment insurance program, which, the campaign puts at “$5.6 billion per year.” But the amount of estimated improper payments varies year to year: It’s higher when total UI payments are higher, as in times of economic downturns, and lower when the program is paying out less in benefits overall.
The $5.6 billion figure was the estimate for fiscal 2014 from the Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General, which said that was mainly due to recipients not following state laws on work search activities or “continuing to claim UI benefits after they have returned to work.” For 2015, the figure was down to $3.4 billion. The overpayments have been around 10 percent or 11 percent of total outlays over the past decade, and there has been under 1 percent in underpayments as well.
Steve Ellis, vice president of the budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, told us that he’s “always skeptical” when politicians say they’ll eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. It’s not possible to completely eliminate it, and how much one could reduce improper payments, Ellis says, is “open to speculation.”
We leave it to voters to evaluate these proposals and determine which they’d support. But voters’ ability to do that is hindered when one campaign falsely claims that the other has “no plan.”
Trump’s Corporate Policy
Ivanka Trump also incorrectly said that all of Trump’s thousands of employees had a paid parental leave benefit. They don’t, according to the Trump Organization and reporting by the Huffington Post.
Ivanka Trump made the claim in a Sept. 14 interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America”:
ABC’s Amy Robach: You’re an executive vice president at the Trump Organization. You said last night that the Trump Organization headed by your father does offer paid maternity leave for its employees. Is that for all of the thousands of employees of your father?
Ivanka Trump: It is, and also adoption leave.
But the policy isn’t available to all of the employees of Trump’s many businesses. The Huffington Post reported that employees at the “Trump SoHo, New York and Miami hotels, as well as the Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, all said that they do not offer workers paid maternity leave.” Huffington Post also cited an undated employee manual for the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, which said that workers could get unpaid family leave, as federal law required, and that employees must use vacation days and personal days toward that leave.
A statement from the Trump Organization confirmed that not all Trump employees had paid parental leave benefits. It said the “policies and practices … vary from property to property.”
Trump Organization statement from Deirdre Rosen, senior vice president of human resources: The Trump Organization is proud of the family friendly environment it fosters throughout its portfolio. The Trump Organization, along with the lifestyle brand, Ivanka Trump, a company separate from the Trump Organization, wholly owned by Ivanka Trump, both offer an industry leading 8-week paid parental leave policy. The policies and practices allowing employees to enjoy a healthy work-life balance vary from property to property. We take an individualized approach to helping employees manage family and work responsibilities.
The Trump campaign told CNN’s “State of the Union” for the weekly fact-checking video that it produces as part of a partnership with FactCheck.org that the campaign did not dispute Huffington Post’s report.
Update, Sept. 16: Marc Goldwein, senior vice president and senior policy director for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, told us that CRFB’s estimates on savings from waste, fraud and abuse were in the hundreds of millions – not billions, as would be needed to cover Trump’s maternity leave plan.
The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates savings of $1.5 billion over 10 years for improving program integrity of unemployment insurance. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, estimates such improvements would cost $399 million over 10 years, and bring in $170 million in revenue.