Conservatives talk incessantly about family values, tax cuts and the need to protect the middle class. Donald Trump's latest proposal will test their resolve.
Trump pitched his child care affordability plan on Tuesday, which would establish generous new tax deductions for child care expenses. The plan would offer child care spending rebates, create dependent-care savings accounts, incentivize companies to offer child care at work, reward grandparents who care for grandchildren, guarantee six weeks of maternity leave and provide tax breaks for stay-at-home parents.
The announcement drew immediate criticism from conservatives who say it sounds like a Democratic plan.
"How many Democratic parties does the country need? We already have one," said Charles Krauthammer on Fox News. "What he is proposing is to out Democrat the Democrats."
With all due respect to Dr. Krauthammer, that's not really true. Despite the conservative movement's penchant to selectively limit government, Republicans are not libertarians. They have a long history of championing government pursuits of socially conservative goals. They spend heavily on law enforcement, national defense, veterans benefits and transportation. Republican presidents gave us interstate highways, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Direct Student Loan Program, the "drug czar," the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Department of Homeland Security and more.
President Ronald Reagan advocated corporate responsibility for child care services and increased the dependent care tax credit. Reagan, like most conservatives associated with the revolution he led, believed strong, two-parent households with children strengthened the country's future.
Fast-forward to 1997, and conservative columnist George Will wrote a timeless column for Newsweek advocating "a GI Bill for mothers."
"Politics has come to seem demoralizingly disconnected from practicality because leaders have been unable to connect their rhetoric with programs," Will wrote. "They have failed to find ways for government to get a grip on the nation's principal problem — the coarsening of the culture that is produced by the brew of toxic behaviors associated with family decomposition."
Will based his argument on concerns raised by James Q. Wilson, then a political scientist, former Harvard and UCLA professor and chairman of the Council of Academic Advisors of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, called Wilson "the smartest man in the United States." It was an era in which Republicans and Democrats worked together.
As Will explained, Wilson warned the political class of a country "being poisoned by a subculture that is both cause and consequence of many children's being born to unwed girls, raised in neighborhoods where there are more male sexual predators than committed fathers, and who matriculate, as it were, into gang life for protection and self-advancement."
He urged public policy that favored children in the parental clash of work and family. Among a litany of Wilson's suggestions, Will favored his proposal for a GI Bill-style entitlement that would pay for parents who stay home with young children to later attend college, graduate school or technical institutions.
Republican Presidents Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and neither Bush were fiscal conservatives by today's standards. They believed in limiting government's stranglehold on economic growth, but had no compunction directing the fruits of subsequent or anticipated tax revenues to encourage economic activity and set the country's course.
Trump has promised a pro-family, pro-child, pro-woman agenda in his quest to "make America great again." His detailed child care plan adds substance to the pledge.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE