Ivanka Trump used to talk about useful policies for working women. These days, not so much.
The president’s daughter and White House senior adviser is touting the Republican tax plan, specifically promoting one of its provisions: an increase to the child tax credit. She portrays it as a way to help families. “It is a legislative priority to ensure that American families can thrive,” she said Wednesday at a news conference.
Working parents would see little benefit from an increase to this tax credit ― particularly in light of other changes currently under consideration in the Republican plan.
Those earning the minimum wage or slightly more would get almost no benefit from an increase to the child tax credit, according to an analysis from the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
This is reflective of the tax proposal overall, said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the center. “The framework is specifically designed to exclude low-wage working parents.”
And while middle-income Americans would be able to tap this tax credit, its benefits could be canceled out by other changes to the tax code currently proposed by the administration ― including eliminating personal exemptions and the deduction for state and local taxes.
That’s why Republicans have stopped short of guaranteeing that every family would get a tax cut under the plan. They’ve said an expansion of the child tax credit would offset the loss of other tax breaks that help the middle class, but they haven’t specified how much they’ll expand the credit.
Ivanka Trump likes to portray herself as a champion of working women. There’s increasingly scant evidence that’s true. Back in August, she supported the administration’s move to scuttle a new rule that would have required companies to report information on how they pay their employees, broken down by gender and race. The new rule was meant to help fix the pay gap. Women still make less than men on average in the U.S.
“The framework is specifically designed to exclude low-wage working parents.”
Increasing the child tax credit isn’t typically on anyone’s list of policies that would help mothers who work outside the home, such as subsidies for child care costs, paid maternity leave or universal pre-K. Indeed, the credit is more in line with social conservative views on mothers, said Michael Madowitz, an economist at the progressive Center for American Progress.
“They don’t want to incentivize women to work outside the home,” he said. “Social conservatives like stay-at-home mothers.”
Madowitz brought up how a Nixon-era effort to create universalized day care was killed by social conservatives with similar views.
Which families will benefit more from the increase to the child tax credit? Higher-income earners. Right now couples who earn $150,000 a year can’t tap the current $1,000 child tax credit. Under the increases proposed by the Trump administration, they could, according to the analysis.
That’s in line generally with what the administration seems to be doing with its tax reform plan. Eighty percent of the tax cuts in the plan would go to the top 1 percent of households, according to an estimate from the Tax Policy Center.
The reason the child tax credit doesn’t help lower-income families has to do with the fact that it is only partially refundable. That means, you get less tax benefit when you owe less in federal income tax. A single mom with two kids who makes less than about $16,000 wouldn’t be eligible.
The Trump administration has not specified how much it would increase the credit, but it has said any increase would be “non-refundable,” which essentially shuts out low-income workers, Marr explained. His group assumes the credit will be increased to $1,500, which is in line with a similar proposal touted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).
The bottom line: Some 16 million children ― the nation’s poorest and most vulnerable kids ― would see no benefit at all. That’s despite a strong line of research that shows the children of low-income parents see big benefits from tax credits: better grades, better health and even higher incomes as adults.
If the Trump administration really wants to help working families, it could increase the earned income tax credit, experts have pointed out. Instead, Republicans have been talking about the need to go after low-income earners for potentially abusing that tax benefit.
So much for helping families.