Ivanka Trump, who is desperate to paint herself as a champion of working families, held a White House summit on paid leave and childcare on Thursday, throwing out adjective after adjective like “remarkable” and “incredible” and “amazing” to describe what she views as the Trump administration’s remarkable successes in pushing forward family-friendly policies. “Families have never had a brighter future,” she warbled at one point, a shit-eating grin pasted to her face like a death rictus.
I wonder if the 700,000 people whose SNAP benefits will be cut thanks to the Trump administration would agree! But I digress. Ever since her daddy ascended to the presidency, Ivanka has attempted to portray herself as a leader on paid leave, despite the inconvenient fact that she neglected to provide parental leave to employees at her clothing company until they protested. Events like Thursday’s summit, which featured mostly Republican elected officials and Trump administration talking heads (and notably not Senator Kirsten Gillibrand or Representative Rosa DeLauro, the long-time co-sponsors of the FAMILY Act who very pointedly were not invited), serve instead to sustain the fiction that Ivanka cares, and she has some ideas!
But aside from the absurdity of attempting to paint the Trump administration as “family friendly” and the hollowness of her empowerment-driven PR campaign, there’s another pesky problem for Ivanka when it comes to paid leave—a similar problem to that of her childcare plan, which I’ve covered here. According to experts and advocates, the paid leave policies that Ivanka has supported, from the one that she likely inserted into the Trump administration’s annual budgets to those of largely Republican members of Congress, are terrible. Imagine that!
“All of the proposals they have looked at so far are woefully inadequate for what the workforce needs,” Vicki Shabo, a senior fellow focusing on paid leave policy at New America, told Jezebel.
Let’s start with the (vague) paid leave proposal included in the Trump administration’s annual budgets, which have Ivanka’s fingerprints all over them. (Donald Trump has repeatedly credited his daughter with pushing him to even talk about the issue.) The plan proposes that states provide six weeks of paid parental leave through their unemployment insurance funds, an idea that even Aparna Mathur of the rightwing American Enterprise Institute told NPR was “a bit puzzling.” Because states would have fairly wide latitude in how to implement this program, “that means they’d likely cut other people’s unemployment in order to make it happen,” Ellen Bravo, the director of Family Values @ Work, told Jezebel. Wonderful job, Ivanka!
What about the paid leave proposals that Ivanka has spoken positively of? One of them is Marco Rubio’s paid leave and childcare proposal, which he introduced in the Senate with Mitt Romney in March of this year, and which was introduced in the House by Republican Ann Wagner of Missouri. The bill would allow parents of a newborn or an adopted child to use their future Social Security benefits to pay for the time they take off from work or for childcare expenses. If this sounds like a loan that you somehow give yourself that would merely serve to delay your retirement, well, you’d be right! Ivanka, of course, who has been working to craft a paid leave program that would be palatable to Republicans, gave an earlier iteration of Rubio’s legislation a “warm reception.”
Rubio and Romney are not the only Republican senators who want people to take out a loan against their own retirement to cover the costs of taking time off; a similar bill was introduced by Senators Joni Ernst of Iowa and Mike Lee of Utah earlier this year. Another paid leave proposal, recently introduced by Arizona Krysten Sinema, nominally a Democrat, and Republican Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, works in largely the same way. Like the other paid leave proposals mentioned above, it’s best described as a loan, only instead of dipping into future Social Security earnings, a new parent would take out an advance against their annual child tax credit, in an amount up to $5,000 and to be repaid over a ten-year period. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it, “The bill thus provides no net new financial help for families. In effect, it is a loan that families would repay during some of a family’s most financially crunched years.”
Ivanka, in a statement, applauded their legislation.
To Bravo, all of these plans do little to address the real needs of families. “They’re deeply flawed,” she told Jezebel, and provide “too little time for too few people, and too little money.”
Here’s another problem: while three out of four people who take unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act do so in order to take care of their own medical needs or to care for family members that are not newborn children, all of these plans are limited to new parents. (Even the recent inclusion of 12 weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which Republicans were seemingly willing to support so that Trump could get his precious Space Force, only covers new parents.) “I think the key question is, who do they leave out?” Shabo told Jezebel of these proposals. “And how are they double burdening the very workers who don’t have access to paid leave now?” She noted how all of the paid leave legislation proposed by Republicans (and Sinema) would, if passed, do little to support lower-wage workers as well as people of color, a greater percentage of whom rely on Social Security as their only form of retirement income than white people. “The folks who are going to be most dependent on Social Security for most or all of their retirement income are the very people who don’t have paid leave now,” Shabo pointed out.
Like a well-programmed robot, Ivanka is very good at parroting all of the talking points advocates generally make to push for a robust paid leave program—that no one should, as she said on Thursday, have to choose between staying at home with an infant and being fired from their job, that one out of four people go back to work two weeks after giving birth. Too bad for Ivanka that none of the ideas that she supports, which rely on the worst of Republican policies, will actually fix any of those problems. But hey, she held a summit. Ivanka, as always, is on it.