As Donald Trump enters the stretch run of his campaign for president, who would have predicted that his major proposal would be an ingenious plan to help mothers of young children? Instead of a weak echo of Democratic talking points, Trump’s pro-family policy for women and families offers a true contrast to Hillary Clinton’s tired feminism.
Proving that Trump is on the right track, the liberal New York Times described his plan as a “cynical play for the women’s vote.” The Times went on to complain that only mothers (not fathers or same-sex partners) would qualify for the maternity benefits that Trump proposed.
Headlines proclaimed a new tax deduction for child care expenses, but the benefits are not limited to families that use stranger care in commercial daycare settings. As the campaign explains: “Mr. Trump’s plan will ensure stay-at-home parents will receive the same tax deduction as working parents, offering compensation for the job they’re already doing, and allowing them to choose the child care scenario that’s in their best interest.”
What a welcome surprise to have a federal program that preserves maximum family autonomy in the care of children, instead of the regulated, one-size-fits-all solution offered by the Democrats. Hillary Clinton would give federal grants to highly regulated daycare centers, while also promising that regulated child care workers would be paid higher wages.
Hillary also wants to enroll every child in preschool by age 4 and, for younger children and infants, she wants the federal government to “provide home visits by a social worker.” Those proposals show that Hillary has never outgrown her 20-year association with the radical Children’s Defense Fund.
As Ivanka Trump wrote in the Wall Street Journal, Hillary’s child care ideas are “biased in favor of institutional care” — which is no surprise from the author of “It Takes a Village.” The Trump plan would give the same benefit to mothers who choose “informal child-care, such as a mom watching her own kids and a few others in her home.”
Trump’s plan may have been influenced by differing choices within his own family. Daughter Ivanka is a working mother of 3 children under age 5, while daughter-in-law Vanessa Trump is the stay-at-home mom of 5 children under age 9.
The movement of women (including mothers of young children) into the paid labor force is one of the great social changes of the last 60 years. At the same time, the labor force participation rate of men in their prime working years has declined.
The long-term trend toward more working women, and more women working full-time, is usually portrayed as an advance for women. In fact, it shows that it now takes two breadwinners to support a family instead of one — hardly an advance for women, who still prefer to spend more time at home.
Until the 1970s in America, most men earned enough to support a wife and provide her a home. That was the model of the nuclear family, which the feminists denigrated as “Ozzie and Harriet” after the popular TV sitcom of the 1950s.
Between 1950 and 1990, the percentage of women aged 25-54 who were in the workforce doubled from 37% to 74%. But the quarter-century since 1990 has seen no increase in that percentage, as large numbers of women have chosen to stay or return home in order to give their own children the irreplaceable benefit of a full-time mother.
Hillary Clinton’s lifelong so-called “advocacy” for women is based on the feminist ideal that all women should spend their entire lives in the workforce while children are raised communally in taxpayer-funded centers. The Trump plan respects the choice of many women to work in a slower lane or take time off to care for their own children at home.
“My opponent likes to say that for decades she’s been fighting for women, that she’s been fighting for children. Why, then, are 70 million American women and children living in poverty or on the brink of poverty in our country?” Trump asked his audience in Roanoke last Saturday.
The successful Trump campaign shows that Republicans can finally abandon the notorious “autopsy” produced in the wake of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss. Formally known as the “Growth and Opportunity” report, the autopsy said the way to attract women voters was to recruit more female candidates and use more women as spokesmen for Republican policies.
Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, a pro-life conservative woman, is an outstanding spokesman, as shown by her ability to match wits with anyone on TV including comedian Bill Maher. Kellyanne’s skill as a communicator is reinforced by her candidate’s increasingly solid positions on issues that women care about.
John Schlafly and Andy Schlafly are sons of Phyllis Schlafly (1924-2016).