President Donald Trump is approaching the milestone of his first 100 days in office. These past four months have been heaped with policy making and its attendant controversy. On Tuesday, for example, the Washington Post reported that the White House was changing course on a child care policy Trump announced on the campaign trail, in response to criticism that his plan was only a boon to families who could already afford costly care. Some of those critics were in the audience of the Women20 Summit when Trump’s daughter Ivanka made a panel appearance in her capacity as adviser to the president. Some attendees booed and hissed when she claimed her father was a tremendous supporter of families and empowering women, but she offered no federal policies to back it up.
So what does the administration have to show for its first 100 days in service to women and families across the U.S.?
Earlier this month, Equal Pay Day reminded us that the wage gap still exists, and even though closing it could add trillions to the U.S. economy, it’s going to take at least 42 years to get there. Or more, depending on whether or not the White House enacts legislation.
In an executive order signed on March 27, Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order. It was originally put in place by former president Barack Obama and mandated that companies with federal contracts provide employees with basic information about their pay, including hours worked, overtime earnings, and any pay deductions. This is of particular importance to women who are more likely to work in hourly jobs.
Obama had also put forth a proposal that any company with more than 100 employees had to report their staff’s pay broken down by race, gender, and ethnicity to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Salary transparency is a strategy that some companies have used to try to eliminate the gender wage gap. The reporting date has been moved from September 2017 to March 2018. However, with the appointment of EEOC commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic as acting chair, the reporting may never come to pass, as she’s voted against the EEO-1 pay data, as have other Trump appointees.
As a candidate, Trump proposed six weeks of paid leave for birth mothers whose employers didn’t offer a benefit. Since then, he told a joint session of Congress that he wanted new parents to have access to paid family leave, but hasn’t offered a proposal. Instead, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Family Act to Congress that proposes that a nationwide insurance program be created to offer up to 12 weeks of leave for family and medical purposes with partial pay to workers of any gender.
We’ve reported on how both Trump’s family leave and child care proposals were fundamentally flawed. He is now proposing to expand the existing Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) rather than allowing families to deduct the average cost of child care from their income taxes. As Tracy Sturdivant, cofounder and co-executive director of the advocacy group Make It Work, points out, this is still not enough for middle- and low-income families. “For the typical working family, child care costs $10,000 to $20,000 a year, which can amount to nearly 30% of a family’s income in the United States,” she told Fast Company in a statement. “Most families have to pay their child care provider weekly or monthly, meaning they cannot wait to be reimbursed for costs they must pay up front,” Sturdivant added.
She also noted that the previewed plan includes tax exemptions in the form of savings accounts. “Families who are struggling to simply pay their rent and health care costs won’t be able to put thousands of dollars into savings accounts to cover child care expenses,” she said. “This is in part because low-income families generally have less than two weeks’ income in their savings and checking accounts, and most families don’t have a lot of cash on hand.”
Trump also talked a lot about empowering the U.S. Armed Forces, and his 2018 budget allocates $54 billion to the Department of Defense and other national defense programs. However, a federal civilian hiring freeze will affect some military personnel who rely on hourly care for their children. “The Army is dealing with a child care backlog of over 5,500 children, which senior leaders worry could affect the readiness of military parents,” according to Military.com.
Other Support For Families
H.R.1180, the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017, would give workers the ability to take time off instead of collecting pay for any overtime hours they’ve put in. In theory, it sounds like it could be an even exchange, and something workers who are also family caregivers can use in lieu of the fact that there is no federally mandated paid time off.
However, the Economic Policy Institute’s policy director Heidi Shierholz says that overtime provisions are already part of the Fair Labor Standards Act. “The bill only provides a new employer the right to avoid paying workers the overtime they have earned,” she writes, and “adds nothing for workers but delay and risk.”
Women’s Involvement In The Administration
The Center for American Progress senior fellow Jocelyn Frye notes that the president’s cabinet is the least diverse in decades, and public reports reveal that men have outnumbered women by three to one in his early appointments. “Even though women are among his senior advisers, the policies put forward thus far have undermined women’s progress and risk eroding hard-won gains,” she tells Fast Company.
For example, after appointing Nikki Haley as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, he immediately began preparing orders to reduce the U.S.’s involvement in the organization. (At a lunch at the White House on April 24, Trump jokingly asked the ambassadors present: “Does everybody like Nikki? Otherwise, she can easily be replaced.”)
Frye points to a lack of policies that support women and states:
This is not the record of a champion for women. Rather, it is a record that is woefully out of touch with the diverse challenges that women face and the solutions that can make a difference. Moreover, it stands in stark contrast to what women’s empowerment should mean to make a meaningful difference in women’s lives. Empowering women requires comprehensive policy solutions that put power in women’s hands to make the decisions that make sense for them. It also means eliminating obstacles that disadvantage women and limit their opportunities. This administration has fallen far short of this measure.