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Platform Check: Presidential Candidates Present Family Policies


It's time now for Platform Check, where we examine what the candidates say they will do if they become president.


HILLARY CLINTON: We should raise the national minimum wage.


DONALD TRUMP: And we will build the wall.


CLINTON: Our tunnels, our ports, our airports - they need work, and there are millions of jobs to be done.


D. TRUMP: ...New trade policies that put American workers first.

MCEVERS: Today we're going to talk about family policies. That's paid leave and child care. This week Donald Trump unveiled a package of programs aimed at helping working families and also aimed at winning over more women voters. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton already had her policies spelled out. Here to compare the two is Danielle Kurtzleben. Hi there.


MCEVERS: So Donald Trump is offering maternity leave, and that is not something that he has been offering for a long time. Where did this come from, and what's in the plan?

KURTZLEBEN: Right, so it's generally understood that his daughter Ivanka at the Republican National Convention this summer really started putting the spotlight on this issue for the Trump campaign. Here's what she said then.


IVANKA TRUMP: As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all.


KURTZLEBEN: So that really made people sit up and take notice. It brought maternity leave front and center for the Trump campaign in a way it hadn't been before.

And like I said, maternity - this is for new moms but not new dads. What he's offering is six weeks through the unemployment insurance program, and he would not be offering mothers a full replacement of the wages that they are losing.

MCEVERS: So once someone comes back from maternity leave, someone else needs to watch the kids, right? So what's Donald Trump proposing to be done about that, about child care?

KURTZLEBEN: Really central to this program is a tax deduction which he explained in a speech on Tuesday.


D. TRUMP: They will fully be able to deduct the average cost of child care for their state from birth through the age of 13.

KURTZLEBEN: Now, when he first proposed this last month, he was really criticized because this plan seemed like it would really help rich families a lot more than poor families. After all, a lot of low-income families in the U.S. don't pay any income tax, and therefore...


KURTZLEBEN: ...A deduction really wouldn't help them. So yesterday he tacked on something else. It's a rebate of up to $1,200 for these lower-income families. Now, let's put that into perspective - $1,200. I mean if you pay for child care, you know that that isn't a...


KURTZLEBEN: ...Whole lot.


KURTZLEBEN: In some - you know, especially in some really expensive cities, it can cost 20,000 or even more.

MCEVERS: Right. Donald Trump yesterday said that Hillary Clinton does not have a plan for family policy, but she does have a plan. What is it?

KURTZLEBEN: You're absolutely right. She does have a plan, and she's had a lot of plans in this family-friendly area for a while. Central to this is 12 weeks of family leave. And she is stressing that it is not just maternity. It is for moms. It is for dads. It's for taking care of other family members. It can be for elder care, for example. Her plan would replace around two thirds of a person's lost wages.

Now, as for child care, she's really emphasizing that she wants to really help families cut back on how much they have to pay for child care. Here she is in her economic address this summer.


CLINTON: So we have to make it easier to be good workers, good parents and good caregivers all at the same time. That's why I've set out a bold vision to make quality, affordable child care available to all Americans and limit the cost to 10 percent of family income.

KURTZLEBEN: So she said limit there, but the Clinton campaign has also been talking about this as a goal that they're trying to reach over time.

MCEVERS: And these are really ambitious plans. How are these candidates going to pay for it?

KURTZLEBEN: So both candidates have provided pretty loose outlines. Donald Trump has said that he would pay for his maternity leave by getting rid of unemployment fraud. By one estimate, there's $3 billion of unemployment fraud out there. So that's not a lot of money when you consider how much all of these policies could cost. You know, it could be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

He has also said that his other economic policies, however, you know - getting better trade deals and reducing regulation and so on - would create so much economic growth; they would also bring in more revenue. Now, there are plenty of economists who would disagree with that. There are some who say that his economic policies could indeed reduce economic growth, so that's not entirely clear.

The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, like with a lot of her policies, has said she is going to pay for it more with taxes on the wealthy. So that's really how the Clinton campaign is going to try to get at that.

MCEVERS: So one of the things that's striking here is that both candidates are talking about these family issues. I mean we didn't hear as much of an emphasis on these issues in past campaigns. Why are they talking about this now?

KURTZLEBEN: Well, it's been kind of a slow growth in the movement to provide better paid family leave and other family-friendly policies. And one reason that's happening is that women are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their families. There are lots of single mothers out there, and aside from that, women are very well-educated these days. They're earning more. And by the way, women vote more than men do.

Aside from that, the conversation is slowly getting less gendered. Millennial men in particular are also open to, you know, taking care of children, and they really want their families to also have these kind of policies.

MCEVERS: That's NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben. Thank you very much.

KURTZLEBEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Danielle Kurtzleben is a political correspondent assigned to NPR's Washington Desk. She appears on NPR shows, writes for the web, and is a regular on The NPR Politics Podcast. She is covering the 2020 presidential election, with particular focuses on on economic policy and gender politics.