Commentary Religion

Why Is Georgetown University Denying Freedom of Speech and Assembly? A Letter to the President

Erin Matson

On September 22, Georgetown University campus police removed from outside the school's front gates a small group of students who had been peacefully advocating for reproductive rights, women's rights, and equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.

Note: Rewire Editor at Large and Georgetown alum Erin Matson sent this letter in response to an incident concerning abortion rights and free speech that took place near campus on September 22. 

September 29, 2014

President John J. DeGioia
Georgetown University
Office of the President
204 Healy Hall
37th and O Streets, NW
Washington, D.C. 20057

Dear President DeGioia:

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We the undersigned 232 Georgetown University alumni are writing to express our dismay and strong concern regarding campus police’s September 22 removal of a small, peaceful group of students, representing H*yas for Choice, from a public sidewalk just outside the front gates.

In January, police removed students similarly tabling for H*yas for Choice from an on-campus location, ordering them to relocate to the very sidewalk from which they were removed last Monday. On both occasions, the students were quietly presenting an alternative view to official church teachings by advocating for reproductive rights, women’s rights, and equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.

These issues matter. They are both moral and practical. This is an age of social change and political polarization on issues pertaining to sexuality and human rights, on both a national and international scale.

Georgetown has long played a leadership role in policy debates as the premier institution of higher learning in our nation’s capital. It can no longer do so if only one view may be stated.

Further, this is a unique moment within the Catholic Church. Our first Jesuit pope has set a fresh tone. Many listened closely when Pope Francis indicated this view as pertains to abortion and gay rights: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules … We have to find a new balance.”

We the undersigned 232 alumni take the view that Georgetown should allow its students to take part in these discussions. We believe in open dialogue and debate.

In May of this year, the university revised its speech and expression policy to designate speech zones on campus. While this effort may have been designed to give clarity as to where H*yas for Choice and other unsponsored student groups may express their views, recent events demonstrate that such an objective has not been achieved. The designation of free speech zones in itself serves to segregate and stigmatize certain speakers. We also take concern with this most recent removal of speech from a public sidewalk in Washington, D.C.

Respectfully, we are requesting an affirmation that H*yas for Choice will be permitted to peacefully dialogue in the future.


Sarah Audelo, SFS 2006
Melissa Adams, COL 2012
Sara Ainsworth, SFS 2014, L 2017
Arturo Altamirano, COL 2014
Jessica Ann, SFS 2014
Kate Appleton, COL 2003
Sara Appleton, COL 2012
Deanna Arthur, SFS 2014
Amy Baer, CAS 1988
Jonathan Balloch, COL 2011
Michael Balsan, COL 2012
Michael Barclay, COL 2012
Johanna Barron, COL 2010
Ksenya Belooussova, SFS 2014
Tyler Bilbo, COL 2012
Jordyne Blaise, COL 2006, L 2010
Alex Bozzette, SFS 2012
Ashley Bradylyons, SFS 2012
Jordan Braunfeld, COL 2014
Laura Brayton, MSB 2013
Peter Brigham, SFS 2014
Jheanelle Brown, SFS 2010
John Bufe, COL 2011, GS 2012
Elizabeth Buffone, COL 2014
Nikita Buley, MSB 2014
Gina Bull, SFS 2012
Donald F. Burke, III, MSB 2010
Robert Byrne, COL 2012
Rachel Calvert, COL 2014
Toby Campion, COL 2013
Kaitlin Carano, COL 2013
Juan Felipe Cardona, SFS 2014
Carolyn Junttila Carson, COL 2013
Mary Cass, COL 2012
Caitlin Cassidy, COL 2011
Michelle Cassidy, COL 2013
McKenzie Cato, COL 2012
Christina Cauterucci, COL 2010, SCS 2014
Irene Cavros, SFS 2014
Camila Chaudron, COL 2012
Soraya Chemaly, COL 1988
Celeste Chen, COL 2014
Laurel Chor, NHS 2012
Sophia Chung, COL 2014
Jonathan Cohn, COL 2010
Rachel S. Cohen, COL 2009
Madeline Elizabeth Collins, COL 2013
Elizabeth Cooper-Chrismon, SFS 2013
Bridget Copes, COL 2009
Jessica Corsi, SFS 2004
Bobby Courtney, COL 2011
Jessica Craige, SFS 2014
Christina Crisostomo, SFS 2013
Nicole Cronin, SFS 2010
Randy Crooks, SFS 2013
Frances Davila, SFS 2010
Catherine DeGennaro, COL 2013
Carlos DeLaTorre, COL 2013
Michael Deneen, COL 2014
Amelia Di Stefano, COL (FLL) 2012
Ellie DiBerardino, COL 2013
Kelly Differding, COL 2010
Zoe Disselkoen, SFS 2014
Amanda Dominguez, SFS 2014
Zosia Dunn, COL 2014
Kate Dylewsky, COL 2013
Victoria Edel, COL 2014
Mo Elleithee, SFS 1994
Ceyda Erten, SFS 2013
Joanne Esteban, SFS 2014
Gillian Evans, SFS 2012
Katherine Everitt, COL 2013
Claire Sunderland Ferguson, SFS 2013
Lawson Ferguson, SFS 2012, MSFS 2016
Guadalupe Fernandez, SFS 2014
Leigh Finnegan, COL 2013
Heather Flaherty, COL 2014
Lisa Frank, COL 2013
Alex Freeman, COL 2014
Stephanie Frenel, SFS 2012
Natalie Gallagher, COL 2013
Maya Gebeily, SFS 2013
Petar Georgiev, NHS 2013
Richa Goyal, SFS 2013
Leslie Gordon, COL 2009
Madelyne Greene, COL 2010
Joyce Gresko, L 2008
Elizabeth Gromet, COL 2014
Francisco J. Gutierrez, MSB 2013
Lanier Hagerty, SFS 2014
Rebecca Harris, MSB 2002
Brittany Harwood, SFS 2013
Rocio Hernandez, SFS 2011
Sarah David Heydemann, COL 2009
Haley Hirzel, COL 2014
Tanisha Humphrey, COL 2012
Kaan Inan, SFS 2014
Lina Jamis, COL 2012
Eun Sun Jang, SFS 2013
Charlotte Japp, COL 2013
Blake E Johnson, COL 2014
Sebastian Johnson, COL 2010
Ann Jung, SFS 2014
Upasana Kaku, SFS 2013
Codie Kane, COL 2012
Joe Kapusnick, SFS 2010
Sean Keady, SFS 2013
Jackie Kelley, COL 2007
Sean Kelly, SFS 2013
Anne Kenslea, COL 2013
Megan Kirby, COL 2012
Alisha Kramer, COL 2012
Samantha Kubek, COL 2013
Akari Kubo, SFS 2014
Catherine Kulick, COL 2014
Christian Lambert, SFS 2013
Capri LaRocca, SFS 2013
Nick Laskowski, COL 2003
Margaret Laush, SFS 2014
Jessica Lee, COL 2005
Brittanie Leibold, COL 2013
Taylor Lescallette, SFS 2012
Phoebe Lett, COL 2013
Zoe Lillian, COL 2013
Michael Lindvall, SFS 2013
Shiouyu Theresa Lou, SFS 2014
Jenna Lowenstein, COL 2009
Michael Madoff, SFS 2013
Kara Mahoney, COL 2007
Dr. Meredith M. Malburne-Wade, GS 2003
Andrew Malzberg, COL 2011
Elisa Manrique, COL 2014
Natalia Margolis, SFS 2013
Ian Martinez, GS 2004
Erin Matson, COL 2002
Benjamin McAfee, SFS 2012
Melissa McClure, COL 2013
Morgan McDaniel, SFS 2013
Chase Meacham, COL 2014
Evan Milberg, SCS 2013
Alex Miller, COL 2011
Cynthia Miller, COL 2002
Melissa Miller, COL 2011
Rehana Mohammed, SFS 2012
Shaella Morales, COL 2014
Rebecca Moses, COL 2012
Megha Motgi, SFS 2014
Anjani Nadadur, SFS 2012
Laura Narefsky, COL 2014
Jessica Natoli, COL 2014
Alfonso Fernández Navas, COL 2014
Eric Nemarich, COL 2014
Andrew Nolen, COL 2004
Anna Northrup (nee Johansson), COL 2006
Meghan O’Hearn, COL 2012
Rena Pacheco-Theard, SFS 2007
Keerat Pannu, SFS 2010
Irma Pérez, COL 2004
Zenen Jaimes Perez, SFS 2013
Emily Perkins, COL 2014
Hanna Perry, COL 2013
Alyssa Peterson, COL 2014
Hashim K. Pipkin, COL 2010
Allison Prescott, COL 2014
Liana Preudhomme, COL 2014
Caterina Profaci, COL 2012
Jennifer Ortiz Quezada, SFS 2013
Lauren Reese, COL 2012
Kate Reott, SFS 2013
Helah Robinson, SFS 2009
Aliz Rozell, SFS 2011
John Russell, COL 2009
Jenna Sackler, SFS 2014
Morgan Salomon, NHS 2012
Maria-Theresa Sanchez, SFS 2014
Talia Sandwick, COL 2009
Benjamin Santucci, SFS 2013
James Saucedo, MSB 2013
Kelly Sawyers, COL 2011
Gavin Schalliol, MAAS 2014
Mara Schechter, COL 2011
Jacob Schindler, SFS 2012
Emily Schuster, COL 2013
Katherina Shabalov, NHS 2014
Catherine Shi, MSB 2013
Beth Shook, COL 2009
Laura Shrum, NHS 2014
Deepa Sivarajan, COL 2012
Alison Smith, COL 2013
Jessica Smith, COL 2014
Daniel Solomon, SFS 2013
Colin Soper, COL 2012
Katherine Spiegel, COL 2014
Liam Stack, COL 2005
Cole Stangler, SFS 2013
Adele Stewart, NHS 2013
Natarajan Subramanian, SFS 2012
Marie Sullivan, COL 2014
Ariel Tabachnik, COL 2014
Adam Talbot, COL 2012
Neesha Tambe, COL 2013
Shuo Yan Tan, SFS 2012
Matt Taurchini, COL 2012
Kim Tay, COL 2014
Alexandra Theobald, SFS 2012
Sophia Topulos, COL 2012
Claudia Triana, SFS 2011
Michael Tubman, SFS 2003
Kat Tuckett, COL 2011
Madhuri Vairapandi, COL 2014
Alexandra Van Dine, SFS 2014
Joseph Vandegriff, COL 2014
Kalia Vang, COL 2013
Sarah Vazquez, COL 2013
Salome Viljoen, COL 2011
Allie Villarreal, COL 2012
Sara Wallace-Keeshen, SFS 2008
Mary Nancy Walter, COL 2014
Margaret Wardell, SFS 2014
Alyssa Warren, SFS 2012
Kelsey Warrick, COL 2014
Jared Watkins, COL 2011
Jasmine Wee, SFS 2013
Maura Weigel, COL 2010
Corey Wells, COL 2014
Taylor Wettach, SFS 2013
Claire Wheeler, COL 2012
Elspeth Williams, SFS 2008
Michael Wilson, COL 2005
Madeline Wiseman, COL 2013
Colleen Wood, SFS 2014
Ceecee Yao, COL 2013

Copies sent to:

Dr. Todd Olson
Dr. Jeanne Lord
Council Member David Grosso, L 2001

Commentary Politics

It’s Not Just Trump: The Right Wing’s Increasing Reliance on Violence and Intimidation as a Path to Power

Jodi Jacobson

Republicans have tried to pass Trump's most recent comments off as a joke because to accept the reality of that rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large.

This week, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump stated that, if Hillary Clinton were elected and able to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, “Second Amendment people” might be able to do something about it. After blaming the media for “being dishonest” in reporting his statement, the Trump campaign has since tried to pass the comment off as a joke. However characterized, Trump’s statement is not only part of his own election strategy, but also a strategy that has become synonymous with those of candidates, legislators, and groups affiliated with the positions of the GOP.

To me, the phrase “Second Amendment people” translates to those reflexively opposed to any regulation of gun sales and ownership and who feel they need guns to arm themselves against the government. I’m not alone: The comment was widely perceived as an implicit threat of violence against the Democratic presidential nominee. Yet, GOP party leaders have failed to condemn his comment, with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) agreeing with the Trump campaign that it was “a joke gone bad.”

Republicans have tried to pass it off as a joke because to accept the reality of their rhetoric would mean going to the core of their entire party platform and their strategies. The GOP would have to come to terms with the toll its power plays are taking on the country writ large. The rhetoric is part of a longer and increasingly dangerous effort by the GOP, aided by corporate-funded right-wing organizations and talk show hosts, to de-legitimize the federal government, undermine confidence in our voting system, play on the fears held by a segment of the population about tyranny and the loss of liberty, and intimidate people Republican leaders see as political enemies.

Ironically, while GOP candidates and leaders decry the random violence of terrorist groups like Daeshitself an outgrowth of desperate circumstances, failed states, and a perceived or real loss of powerthey are perpetuating the idea of loss and desperation in the United States and inciting others to random violence against political opponents.

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Trump’s “Second Amendment” comment came after a week of efforts by the Trump campaign to de-legitimize the 2016 presidential election well before a single vote has been cast. On Monday, August 1, after polls showed Trump losing ground, he asserted in an Ohio campaign speech that “I’m afraid the election’s gonna be rigged, I have to be honest.”

Manufactured claims of widespread voter fraud—a problem that does not exist, as several analyses have shown—have nonetheless been repeatedly pushed by the GOP since the 2008 election. Using these disproven claims as support, GOP legislatures in 20 states have passed new voter restrictions since 2010, and still the GOP claims elections are suspect, stoking the fears of average voters seeking easy answers to complex problems and feeding the paranoia of separatist and white nationalist groups. Taking up arms against an illegitimate government is, after all, exactly what “Second Amendment remedies” are for.

Several days before Trump’s Ohio speech, Trump adviser Roger Stone suggested that the result of the election might be “illegitimate,” leading to “widespread civil disobedience” and a “bloodbath,” a term I personally find chilling.

Well before these comments were made, there was the hate-fest otherwise known as the Republican National Convention (RNC), during which both speakers and supporters variously called for Clinton to be imprisoned or shot, and during which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a man not widely known for his high ethical standards or sense of accountability, led a mock trial of Hillary Clinton to chants from the crowd of “lock her up.” And that was the tame part.

The number of times Trump has called for or supported violence at his rallies is too long to catalogue here. His speeches are rife with threats to punch opponents; after the Democratic National Convention, he threatened to hit speakers who critiqued his policies “so hard their heads would spin.” He also famously promised to pay the legal fees of anyone who hurt protesters at his rallies and defended former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski after allegations surfaced that Lewandowski had assaulted a female Breitbart reporter.

A recent New York Times video compiled over a year of reporting at Trump rallies revealed the degree to which many of Trump’s supporters unapologetically express violence and hatred—for women, immigrants, and people of color. And Trump eschews any responsibility for what has transpired, repeatedly claiming he does not condone violence—his own rhetoric, that of his associates, and other evidence notwithstanding.

Still, to focus only on Trump is to ignore a broader and deeper acceptance, even encouragement of, incitement to violence by the GOP that began long before the 2016 campaign.

In 2008, in what may appear to be a now forgotten but eerily prescient peek at the 2016 RNC, then-GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and his running mate, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, used race-baiting and hints at violence to gin up their crowds. First, Palin accused Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” a claim that became part of her stump speech. As a result, Frank Rich then wrote in the New York Times:

At McCain-Palin rallies, the raucous and insistent cries of “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” and “Kill him!” and “Off with his head!” as well as the uninhibited slinging of racial epithets, are actually something new in a campaign that has seen almost every conceivable twist. They are alarms. Doing nothing is not an option.

Nothing was in fact done. No price was paid by GOP candidates encouraging this kind of behavior.

In 2009, during congressional debates on the Affordable Care Act, opponents of the health-care law, who’d been fed a steady diet of misleading and sensationalist information, were encouraged by conservative groups like FreedomWorks and Right Principles, as well as talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity, to disrupt town hall meetings on the legislation held throughout the country. Protesters turned up at some town hall meetings armed with rifles with the apparent intention of intimidating those who, in supporting health reform, disagreed with them. In some cases, what began as nasty verbal attacks turned violent. As the New York Times then reported: “[M]embers of Congress have been shouted down, hanged in effigy and taunted by crowds. In several cities, noisy demonstrations have led to fistfights, arrests and hospitalizations.”

In 2010, as first reported by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, in an unsuccessful bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), suggested that armed insurrection would be the answer if “this Congress keeps going the way it is.” In response to a request for clarification by the host of the radio show on which she made her comments, Angle said:

You know, our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. And in fact Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years.

I hope that’s not where we’re going, but, you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies and saying my goodness what can we do to turn this country around? I’ll tell you the first thing we need to do is take Harry Reid out.

Also in 2010, Palin, by then a failed vice-presidential candidate, created a map “targeting” congressional Democrats up for re-election, complete with crosshairs. Palin announced the map to her supporters with this exhortation: “Don’t retreat. Instead, reload!”

One of the congresspeople on that map was Arizona Democrat Gabby Giffords, who in the 2010 Congressional race was challenged by Jesse Kelly, a Palin-backed Tea Party candidate. Kelly’s campaign described an event this way:

Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.

Someone took this literally. In January 2011, Jared Lee Loughner went on a shooting rampage in a Tuscon grocery store at which Giffords was meeting with constituents. Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others, including Giffords who, as a result of permanent disability resulting from the shooting, resigned from Congress. Investigators later found that Loughner had for months become obsessed with government conspiracy theories such as those spread by GOP and Tea Party candidates.

These events didn’t stop GOP candidates from fear-mongering and suggesting “remedies.”  To the contrary, the goading continued. As the Huffington Post‘s Sam Stein wrote in 2011:

Florida Senate candidate Mike McCalister, who is running against incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), offered a variation of the much-lampooned line during a speech before the Palms West Republican Club earlier this week.

“I get asked sometimes where do I stand on the Second and 10th Amendment, and I have a little saying,” he declared. “We need a sign at every harbor, every airport and every road entering our state: ‘You’re entering a 10th Amendment-owned and -operated state, and justice will be served with the Second Amendment.’” [Emphasis added.]

These kinds of threats by the GOP against other legislators and even the president have gone unpunished by the leadership of the party. Not a word has come from either House Speaker Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decrying these statements, and the hyperbole and threats have only continued. Recently, for example, former Illinois GOP Congressman Joe Walsh tweeted and then deleted this threat to the president after the killing of five police officers in Dallas, Texas:

“3 Dallas cops killed, 7 wounded,” former congressman Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, wrote just before midnight in a tweet that is no longer on his profile. “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
Even after the outcry over his recent remarks, Trump has escalated the rhetoric against both President Obama and against Clinton, calling them the “founders of ISIS.” And again no word from the GOP leadership.
This rhetoric is part of a pattern used by the right wing within and outside elections. Anti-choice groups, for example, consistently misrepresent reproductive health care writ large, and abortion specifically. They “target” providers with public lists of names, addresses, and other personal information. They lie, intimidate, and make efforts to both vilify and stigmatize doctors. When this leads to violence, as David Cohen wrote in Rolling Stone this week, the anti-choice groups—and their GOP supporters—shrug off any responsibility.
Some gun rights groups also use this tactic of intimidation and targeting to silence critique. In 2011, for example, 40 men armed with semi-automatic weapons and other guns surrounded a restaurant in Arlington, Texas, in which a mothers’ group had gathered to discuss gun regulations. “Second Amendment people” have spit upon women arguing for gun regulation and threatened them with rape. In one case, a member of these groups waited in the dark at the home of an advocate and then sought to intimidate her as she approached in her wheelchair.
The growing resort to violence and intimidation in our country is a product of an environment in which leading politicians not only look the other way as their constituents and affiliated groups use such tactics to press a political point, but in which the leaders themselves are complicit.
These are dangerous games being played by a major political party in its own quest for power. Whether or not Donald Trump is the most recent and most bombastic evidence of what has become of the GOP, it is the leadership and the elected officials of the party who are condoning and perpetuating an environment in which insinuations of violence will increasingly lead to acts of violence. The more that the right uses and suggests violence as a method of capturing, consolidating, and holding power, the more they become like the very terrorists they claim to be against.

Analysis Politics

Experts: Trump’s Proposal on Child Care Is Not a ‘Solution That Deals With the Problem’

Ally Boguhn

“A simple tax deduction is not going to deal with the larger affordability problem in child care for low- and moderate-income individuals," Hunter Blair, a tax and budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute told Rewire.

In a recent speech, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested he now supports policies to made child care more affordable, a policy position more regularly associated with the Democratic Party. The costs of child care, which have almost doubled in the last 25 years, are a growing burden on low- and middle-income families, and quality options are often scarce.

“No one will gain more from these proposals than low- and middle-income Americans,” claimed Trump in a speech outlining his economic platform before the Detroit Economic Club on Monday. He continued, “My plan will also help reduce the cost of childcare by allowing parents to fully deduct the average cost of childcare spending from their taxes.” But economic experts question whether Trump’s proposed solution would truly help alleviate the financial burdens faced by low- and middleincome earners.

Details of most of Trump’s plan are still unclear, but seemingly rest on addressing child care costs by allowing families to make a tax deduction based on the “average cost” of care. He failed to clarify further how this might work, simply asserting that his proposal would “reduce cost in child care” and offer “much-needed relief to American families,” vowing to tell the public more with time. “I will unveil my plan on this in the coming weeks that I have been working on with my daughter Ivanka … and an incredible team of experts,” promised Trump.

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An adviser to the Trump campaign noted during an interview with the Associated Press Monday that the candidate had yet to nail down the details of his proposal, such as what the income caps would be, but said that the deductions would only amount to the average cost of child care in the state a taxpayer resided in:

Stephen Moore, a conservative economist advising Trump, said the candidate is still working out specifics and hasn’t yet settled on the details of the plan. But he said households reporting between $30,000 and $100,000, or perhaps $150,000 a year in income, would qualify for the deduction.

“I don’t think that Britney Spears needs a child care credit,” Moore said. “What we want to do is to help financially stressed middle-class families have some relief from child-care expenses.”

The deduction would also likely apply to expensive care like live-in nannies. But exemptions would be limited to the average cost of child care in a taxpayer’s state, so parents wouldn’t be able to claim the full cost of such a high-price child care option.

Experts immediately pointed out that while the details of Trump’s plan are sparse, his promise to make average child care costs fully tax deductible wouldn’t do much for the people who need access to affordable child care most.

Trump’s plan “would actually be pretty poorly targeted for middle-class and low-income families,” Hunter Blair, a tax and budget analyst at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), told Rewire on Monday.

That’s because his tax breaks would presumably not benefit those who don’t make enough money to owe the federal government income taxes—about 44 percent of households, according to Blair. “They won’t get any benefit from this.”

As the Associated Press further explained, for those who don’t owe taxes to the government, “No matter how much they reduce their income for tax purposes by deducting expenses, they still owe nothing.”

Many people still may not benefit from such a deduction because they file standard instead of itemized deductions—meaning they accept a fixed amount instead of listing out each qualifying deduction. “Most [lower-income households] don’t choose to file a tax return with itemized deductions,” Helen Blank, director of child care and early learning at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), told Rewire Tuesday. That means the deduction proposed by Trump “favors higher income families because it’s related to your tax bracket, so the higher your tax bracket the more you benefit from [it],” added Blank.

A 2014 analysis conducted by the Congressional Research Service confirms this. According to its study, just 32 percent of tax filers itemized their deductions instead of claiming the standard deduction in 2011. While 94 to 98 percent of those with incomes above $200,000 chose to itemize their deductions, just 6 percent of tax filers with an adjusted gross income below $20,000 per year did so.

“Trump’s plan is also not really a solution that deals with the problem,” said Blair. “A simple tax deduction is not going to deal with the larger affordability problem in child care for low- and moderate-income individuals.”

Those costs are increasingly an issue for many in the United States. A report released last year by Child Care Aware® of America, which advocates for “high quality, affordable child care,” found that child care for an infant can cost up to an average $17,062 annually, while care for a 4-year-old can cost up to an average of $12,781.

“The cost of child care is especially difficult for families living at or below the federal poverty level,” the organization explained in a press release announcing those findings. “For these families, full-time, center-based care for an infant ranges from 24 percent of family income in Mississippi, to 85 percent of family income in Massachusetts. For single parents the costs can be overwhelming—in every state annual costs of center-based infant care averaged over 40 percent of the state median income for single mothers.”

“Child care now costs more than college in most states in our nation, and it is an actual true national emergency,” Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, CEO and executive director of MomsRising, told Rewire in a Tuesday interview. “Donald Trump’s new proposed child care tax deduction plan falls far short of a solution because it’s great for the wealthy but it doesn’t fix the child care crisis for the majority of parents in America.”

Rowe-Finkbeiner, whose organization advocates for family economic security, said that in addition to the tax deduction being inaccessible to those who do not itemize their taxes and those with low incomes who may not pay federal income taxes, Trump’s proposal could also force those least able to afford it “to pay up-front child care costs beyond their family budget.”

“We have a crisis … and Donald Trump’s proposal doesn’t improve access, doesn’t improve quality, doesn’t lift child care workers, and only improves affordability for the wealthy,” she continued.

Trump’s campaign, however, further claimed in a statement to CNN Tuesday that “the plan also allows parents to exclude child care expenses from half of their payroll taxes—increasing their paycheck income each week.”

“The working poor do face payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, so a payroll tax break could help them out,” reported CNN. “But experts say it would be hard to administer.”

Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released her own child care agenda in May, promising to use the federal government to cap child care costs at 10 percent of a family’s income. 

A cap like this, Blank said, “would provide more help to low- and middle-income families.” She continued, “For example, if you had a family with two children earning $70,000, if you capped child care at 10 percent they could probably save … $10,000 a year.”

Clinton’s plan includes a promise to implement a program to address the low wages many who work in the child care industry face, which she calls the “Respect And Increased Salaries for Early Childhood Educators” program, or the RAISE Initiative. The program would raise pay and provide training for child-care workers.

Such policies could make a major difference to child-care workers—the overwhelming majority of which are women and workers of color—who often make poverty-level wages. A 2015 study by the EPI found that the median wage for these workers is just $10.31 an hour, and few receive employer benefits. Those poor conditions make it difficult to attract and retain workers, and improve the quality of care for children around the country. 

Addressing the low wages of workers in the field may be expensive, but according to Rowe-Finkbeiner, it is an investment worth making. “Real investments in child care bring for an average child an eight-to-one return on investment,” she explained. “And that’s because when we invest in quality access and affordability, but particularly a focus on quality … which means paying child-care workers fairly and giving child-care workers professional development opportunities …. When that happens, then we have lower later grade repetition, we have less future interactions with the criminal justice system, and we also have a lower need for government programs in the future for those children and families.

Affordable child care has also been a component of other aspects of Clinton’s campaign platform. The “Military Families Agenda,” for example, released by the Clinton campaign in June to support military personnel and their families, also included a child care component. The former secretary of state’s plan proposed offering these services “both on- and off-base, including options for drop-in services, part-time child care, and the provision of extended-hours care, especially at Child Development Centers, while streamlining the process for re-registering children following a permanent change of station (PCS).” 

“Service members should be able to focus on critical jobs without worrying about the availability and cost of childcare,” said Clinton’s proposal.

Though it may be tempting to laud the simple fact that both major party candidates have proposed a child care plan at all, to Rowe-Finkbeiner, having both nominees take up the cause is a “no-brainer.”

“Any candidate who wants to win needs to take up family economic security policies, including child care,” she said. “Democrats and Republicans alike know that there is a child care crisis in America. Having a baby right now costs over $200,000 to raise from zero to age 18, not including college …. Parents of all political persuasions are talking about this.”

Coming up with the right way to address those issues, however, may take some work.

“We need a bold plan because child care is so important, because it helps families work, and it helps them support their children,” the NWLC’s Blank said. “We don’t have a safety net for families to fall back on anymore. It’s really critical to help families earn the income their children need and child care gives children a strong start.” She pointed to the need for programs that offer families aid “on a regular basis, not at the end of the year, because families don’t have the extra cash to pay for child care during the year,” as well as updates to the current child care tax credits offered by the government.

“There is absolutely a solution, but the comprehensive package needs to look at making sure that children have high-quality child care and early education, and that there’s also access to that high-quality care,” Rowe-Finkbeiner told Rewire. 

“It’s a complicated problem, but it’s not out of our grasp to fix,” she said. “It’s going to take an investment in order to make sure that our littlest learners can thrive and that parents can go to work.”


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