This suggests that the Trump administration’s goal is to help those falling through the cracks, rather than implementing a broad mandate or a new entitlement program. Conservatives should have a similar focus. They should imagine a single woman who is working hard and earning $35,000 a year for a small business that can’t afford to provide paid-leave benefits. If she has to give birth via c-section, how can we help her? No one wants her to lose her job or her housing when all she needs is a little support until she’s back on her feet. We conservatives have policy ideas to help her and others in similar situations; we should be more eager to offer them.
This is important, both because helping people in need is the right thing to do and because helping those in the most need might have an added strategic benefit for those concerned about government growth: It could discourage the push for city- and state-level leave mandates, which not only burden the people in those jurisdictions, but threaten to push national businesses to support progressive, one-size-fits-all federal policies just to standardize what’s expected of them.
Conservatives opposed to using the UI system as a means of helping needy new mothers should offer alternatives. This could mean a new tax-advantaged saving vehicle. It could mean personal-care accounts to be funded by employers, workers, and charities used during employees’ unpaid absences from work. It could mean a new refundable tax credit, modeled after the Earned-Income Tax Credit, to help low-income workers who need to take leave for a Family Medical Leave Act qualifying event but lack employer-provided paid-leave benefits. Or it could mean providing tax credits to small businesses who give their employees paid leave.
Meanwhile, the crux of Trump’s child-care proposal is greater tax relief for families with children, which has long been a priority for the many conservatives who believe our current tax code unfairly favors those who make other investments, like mortgages, over those who choose to start a family. Importantly, the administration has indicated that it wants tax relief not just for families that spend money on day-care centers, but also for those with stay-at-home parents, grandparents, or other relatives who step up and make significant sacrifices to care for young children.