How Trump’s budget may undercut Ivanka’s agenda
WASHINGTON — Ivanka Trump does not have a formal title in her father’s administration. In fact, she hasn’t made any public remarks or participated in any media interviews since President Donald Trump took office.
But she played a key role advising her father’s presidential campaign, and it is widely believed she is continuing to do so in the new administration.
Trump’s recent budget proposal, however, does not reflect the promises she made on the campaign trail.
Campaign Ivanka made it clear her signature issue was women’s empowerment, a cause she also embraced and promoted through her eponymous brand. Her book on the topic, “Women Who Work,” comes out in May. Speaking at the Republican National Convention in July, Trump touted her passion for helping women and American families, acknowledging her own comfortable position.
“As a mother myself, of three young children, I know how hard it is to work while raising a family. And I also know that I’m far more fortunate than most. American families need relief. Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties, they should be the norm,” she said in Cleveland.
“Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career. He will fight for equal pay for equal work, and I will fight for this too, right along side of him,” she added.
But the President’s proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year doesn’t reflect his daughter’s priorities. In fact, some provisions of the budget could directly impact women and children, particularly those who are disadvantaged.
For instance, the 2018 budget would allocate $6.2 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“WIC provides grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children who are at nutritional risk,” the budget document says.
But that $6.2 billion would reflect a cut of approximately $200 million from last year’s $6.4 billion WIC budget, and it could impact financially struggling women and children who rely on the funding.
“WIC gives poor moms money for food for their kids, for formula — for the barest of essentials,” said Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the progressive think tank Center for American Progress. “I do not understand the rhetoric of Ivanka Trump and her women’s empowerment message, saying these things and slashing WIC funding.”
Reached for comment, the White House said more detail on child care funding is coming.
“The President’s full budget to be released sometime in mid-May will provide more detail,” a White House official said in a statement to CNN. “The budget blueprint that was released [Thursday] keeps the President’s promises and he will continue to follow through for the people who elected him.”
The proposed budget also would cut the USDA’s funding by 21% and calls for a 17.9% decrease for the Department of Health and Human Services’ current funding, which could impact programs like Head Start, the department’s largest discretionary program for children and families.
Head Start provides early education to preschool-age children from low-income families — a vital source for child development for over a million working American families.
The HHS budget decrease could also impact community health centers dependent on federal funding.
The Robert F. Kennedy Health Center in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana, serves about 5,000 low-income families, and provides key women’s and children’s health services in the community.
Federal funding for centers like this through HHS is essential for patient care, as well as training and staffing.
“That’s under intense threat at the moment. If even half of what’s proposed with his funding actually ends up in the budget, it raises question about whether a place like the RFK center or community clinics are able to function,” said Max Burns, communications director at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.
The area is largely conservative, with 55% voting for Trump in 2016.
“These are people who voted in large numbers for Donald Trump and have negative views of the Affordable Care Act,” Burns said. “They never expected that, in addition to repealing the Affordable Care Act, that there’d be a budget that so aggressively and severely slashes programs that they’ve come to depend on… It really is in the federal government’s court to keep these open.”
And the preliminary budget also would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which, per the Department of Education, “supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.”
The document cited a $1.2 billion savings from the program, writing: “The programs lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement.”
There is nothing in the proposed budget about two of Ivanka Trump’s signature issues: paid family leave and expansion of childcare incentives. But she has pursued changes to child care policy, holding meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill on legislation. She explained part of her plan to The New York Times earlier this week.
“One of the important elements of this plan revises the current tax code to eliminate the disincentive for re-entry into the work force,” Trump told the Times. “Women, who are disproportionately most likely to step out of the work force to provide unpaid care, often lack the ability to return to work because it can be hard to rationalize stepping back into the work force and incurring the enormous expense of child care when you are also making less than the primary earner in your home yet taxed at the highest household rate.”
The first daughter has made rare public appearances, though she’s been on hand for key happenings, including roundtable discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Florida school visit with her father and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, an Oval Office bill signing encouraging women in STEM, a visit to the National African American Museum of History and Culture and West Wing meetings on human trafficking and manufacturing, among others.
While Trump hasn’t given any speeches or publicly set any benchmarks for how she plans to champion women and children, Tanden said she should be held accountable for her father’s policies that could harm families in this year’s budget and beyond.
“If she’s going to go hang out in a Trudeau meeting, if she’s going to be involved substantively with anything in the administration, she should be held accountable,” she said. “She campaigned on this stuff with her dad. She should be held accountable when the rubber hits the road.”