By Ian Salisbury
October 7, 2016
The Washington Post/Getty Images

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump hasn’t shied away from making big promises this election. His childcare proposals, which promise to allow most families “to fully deduct the average cost of child care spending,” are no exception.

Seeking to bolster his flagging standing with women voters, Trump broke with Republican party small-government orthodoxy to unveil a detailed child care and maternity leave proposal last month. Those proposals, which have been criticized for skewing benefits toward wealthier parents and for excluding stay-at-home dads and unconventional families from some benefits, could come with a substantial price tag.

Altogether the Trump child care proposals are likely to cost the government at least $180 billion over the next decade, and could cost as much as $680 billion, according to right-leaning think tank, the American Action Forum. Estimates varied widely because the Forum’s analysts were unsure to what extent the deduction would encourage more Americans to pay more for childcare, increasing its costs.

By far the most expensive feature — estimated to cost $154 billion to $558 billion — is Trump’s proposal to allow parents to deduct childcare costs, up to the average cost in their state, from their income taxes. That’s also the feature which has come in for criticism, since the less wealthy (more than a third of taxpayers) already owe nothing in income taxes. To counter that criticism, the Trump campaign has included other proposals aimed at poorer working parents, including a $1,200 tax rebate. The American Action Forum estimated this would cost between $11 billion and $63 billion a year.

Childcare and family proposals put forward by Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, could also come with a hefty price tag, the American Action Forum found, when it analyzed them earlier. While somewhat vaguer than Trump’s plan, Clinton’s suggestion that childcare expenses should be capped at 10% of family income. The program would like cost about $400 billion over a decade the group found.

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Clinton’s spending proposals, which include not just childcare, but other priorities like infrastructure and education, are largely offset by a proposed tax hike on the wealthy, independent analysts like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has found.

In contrast, the Trump campaign has not identified revenues that will pay for its childcare proposal, or other promises such as increased military spending. Instead, Trump has argued that tax cuts will spur faster economic growth, thereby boosting tax receipts, making tax hikes unnecessary. This contention has not been supported by the CFRB, the Tax Foundation or other independent budget scorers.