Trump's Child Care Plan is the Latest Cheap Joke in the Slapstick Comedy of 2016

So the big political news of the day is that Trump has proposed a child care plan, and it’s made an even bigger deal by virtue of the fact that Ivanka is involved. The plan, as it is described by the Trump campaign, consists mainly of rehashed ideas from previous Republican candidates, some of which are even good:

A campaign memo shared early Tuesday with The Washington Post shows that Trump’s plan “will rewrite the tax code to allow working parents to deduct from their income taxes child-care expenses for up to four children and elderly dependents.”

That deduction would be capped at the “average cost of care” in the state of residence, and it would not be available to individuals earning more than $250,000 or a couple earning more than $500,000.

So far, so good. We do, in fact, have a looming demographic crisis in America. Not as bad as Russia or China, but it is coming. Healthy economic growth is predicated on a certain sustained level of population growth and we are going to soon reach the point, in developed countries in particular, where we are shedding population instead. The long-term economic effects of this are going to be bad, catastrophically bad. Liberals won’t discuss the effect of shrinking the marketplace because their religion tells them that reducing the human population is necessary to save the earth’s ecosystem, so whatever the economic effects of demographic collapse are, they consider it to be a plus regardless.

But Trump – or more accurately, the people who have written this plan and gotten Trump to sign off on it – are correct that the government has a vested interest in encouraging child bearing and I don’t have a fundamental problem with helping to ease the tax burden of parents although I am not sure the child care credit is really much of an incentive when people are making family decisions.

But I digress, because whatever the benefit of expanding the child care credit, this plan goes off the rails pretty quickly.

Also included in Tuesday’s speech: additional spending rebates through the Earned Income Tax Credit, expanded deduction opportunities for stay-at-home parents, and revised federal savings accounts to set aside funds for child development and educational needs.

Let’s call this what it is: welfare payments. If you qualify for the EITC, you are almost certainly already a) getting a refund and b) facing a federal tax liability that is net zero. And since the EITC is refundable, it mostly now consists of cash payments directly from the treasury to recipients. Expanding it is just basically saying “we’re going to be giving some people flat out cash that we have confiscated in taxation from others.” This is wealth redistribution, plain and simple.

Then of course we get to the “controversial” part:

Another policy proposal will be guaranteeing “six weeks of paid maternity leave” through an amendment of current unemployment insurance policies.

Oh, good grief. More details:

I don’t think I probably need to tell you that the math involved here is absolute horsecrap.

Donald Trump may not have ever run for office before, but he sure does have the politician routine down pat. Promise something everyone would like to have for free, then when someone asks how you plan to pay for it, offer an answer that is completely nonserious and defy the media to actually explain that to people. In Trump’s case, he’s not even creative about it; his automatic answer is “eliminate fraud and waste.”

For Trump, “eliminate fraud and waste” has the same talismanic power as “tax the rich” does for Democrats. If anyone points out that this particular talisman is not up to the task for which it is being used, Trump chortles and declares that no one has attempted to eliminate fraud and waste in the way that he, Donald Trump, is prepared to do.

Whatever. We are long past the part of this election season where we should have expected to see anything approaching a reasonable or plausible proposal from these two joke candidates. Instead we just get these cheap punchlines to advance the plot of a comedy that, frankly, isn’t that great for entertainment and is horrible for the country.