The first daughter and White House advisor’s schedule isn’t public, but we’ll keep you posted on her goings-on every week.
One of the reasons we regularly write about Ivanka Trump is that her position actually comes with a lot of power. As a presidential advisor to her father in the most chaotic White House ever, she has a great deal of freedom to set her own agenda. And she has, admirably, focused her agenda on issues that affect women, both globally and in the U.S., from her Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative to advocating for a federal paid family leave program here at home. Ivanka could make a big difference in women’s lives if she wanted to, or knew how. It’s also worth watching her because she has expressed her own interest in becoming president, and we all know not to ignore a wild card anymore.
But the devil’s in the details, and Ivanka’s complete lack of government experience is on display when experts review her policies. That’s because, like her father, she’s essentially an idea-free spokesperson for a smorgasbord of Republican agendas.
On paid family leave, she’s been in discussions with Republicans like Sens. Marco Rubio, Bill Cassidy, and Joni Ernst, who recently introduced the Cradle Act, which they describe as the best option because it doesn’t create “a massive mandated government program.” The major flaw experts have pointed out in this plan is that it’s actually a form of “unpaid leave,” since workers would be dipping into their Social Security funds and delaying their retirement by double the time they take off for leave. In comparison, the Democrats’ FAMILY Act, which Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has championed, would be funded in the traditional way, with taxpayer money.
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Last week’s Senate Finance hearing led by Senator Cassidy marked an important step in charting a path forward for a national Paid Family Leave plan. Looking forward to continuing bipartisan discussions on this critical issue and finding the right solution to support + invest in our working families. #PFL
A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on Jul 15, 2018 at 5:44pm PDT
Since it only covers new parents, the Cradle Act also leaves out about three-quarters of leave-takers, since many people use the time off to care for a sick parent or for their own illness, unlike the FAMILY Act, which proposes 12 weeks’ partial income a year and covers caregivers and other family situations. Ivanka’s explanation is that she’s looking for a “bipartisan” solution and right now we have none. “My preference is to go beyond parental leave,” Ivanka told Refinery29 last year. “But…right now we are at zero weeks of paid leave. We don’t have parental, we don’t have caregiving.”
The problem with a watered-down plan like this is that the issue is urgent, with the U.S. being the only industrialized country without federal paid family leave. There is overwhelming public support for paid family leave and advocates worry that if lawmakers stick behind a flawed plan, it will leave a lot of people behind for a long time. “It’s been 26 years since we passed the FMLA [the Family Medical Leave Act], and that took nine years,” Ellen Bravo, co-director of Family Values @ Work, told Refinery29. “We can’t wait another quarter century for the next slice.” FMLA allows 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but not all employee are eligible for it and it’s unpaid.
Although Ivanka has — in her inimitable sentient skim vanilla latte way — not officially endorsed a specific paid family leave proposal, she has been meeting with Republicans and her father’s 2020 budget includes paid family leave, but does not go beyond parental. Still, some hope that there will be an “Ivanka effect” when it comes to getting lawmakers to a bipartisan solution.
“[Ivanka] has expressed support for going beyond parental leave only proposals,” Andrea Zuniga, vice president of legislative affairs at PL+US: Paid Leave for the United States, told Refinery29. “I hope she will continue to do so and create space for the first Republican to come forward with a paid family leave policy that helps people care for themselves and their family in times of need.”
Another line in the president’s 2020 budget is a childcare plan that includes a one-time investment of $1 billion to increase the supply of childcare to underserved populations. States would apply for the funding and could use it to encourage employers to invest in childcare options. (Of course keep in mind that Congress often ignores presidential budgets and Democrats have called this one a “nonstarter.”)
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Access to affordable, high-quality child care is essential for modern working families. In addition to doubling the Child Tax Credit and the Child Care and Development Block Grants, POTUS’s Budget ⬇️ … Made history as the only POTUS to include a national Paid Family Leave proposal in the budget … Increased CCDBG funding level to $5.276 billion … Proposed a NEW $1 billion in grants to increase the supply of child care in underserved communities and to support providers that operate during nontraditional work hours or that cater to parents who are enrolled in school … (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)
A post shared by Ivanka Trump (@ivankatrump) on Mar 11, 2019 at 3:44pm PDT
There are multiple childcare bills already on the table in both the House and the Senate that address staggering costs (childcare can cost on average up to $9,500 per year and for some families, it’s more than college tuition), availability, and paying providers a living wage. Many of the 2020 presidential candidates have also taken up the issue, most notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Sen. Warren’s $70 billion proposal would provide families with a household income 200% below the poverty level with free, high-quality childcare. Households earning above that would pay on a sliding scale and the fee would be capped at no more than 7% of their income.
As Jezebel noted, $1 billion is “laughably inadequate.” “It looks like window dressing,” Sonya Michel, professor emerita at the University of Maryland and childcare expert, told Jezebel. “There are a lot of problems with it. One, it won’t do anything to reduce childcare costs.”
“Window dressing” is an apt description for Ivanka’s proposals overall, and while many of us wish she’d use her position for more than that, it’s unlikely to happen this far into her tenure as White House senior advisor (and with the White House as embroiled in scandal as it is). The influence that Republican women’s groups like the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), which is pushing the flawed family leave program, have on her is painfully similar to how her father operates: With no real ideology or ideas of his own, prodded in different directions by opportunistic advisors. This has proven dangerous in many cases, like when Steve Bannon wrote the executive order on the Muslim ban, the first major upheaval of the Trump presidency which sent many immigrant lives into turmoil. In Ivanka’s case, she may not be causing anyone direct harm — but she’s certainly not helping either.
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