Ivanka Trump has long been touted as a moderating force on her father, a trusted White House advisor whose woman-helping fingerprints are supposedly all over Trump’s policies. But, as many have pointed out, none of Trump’s policies actually appear to help women. For all the women she’s helped since becoming a very important presidential advisor, Ivanka may as well be stage whispering her advocacy into Mason jars and throwing them into the Potomac.
With the release of Trump’s budget this week, Ivanka, champion of women and girls, had another opportunity to show the person her brand has always insisted she was. Alas, that was not the case. Trump’s budget—a toothless wish list for how the President would like to see Congress allocate the nation’s coffers—is worse than critics feared it would be when it comes to women, both those Who Work (™) and otherwise.
“Even though we’ve got pretty low expectations for this administration for women’s issues, it’s still jarring and devastating to look at this budget,” Destiny Lopez of abortion access advocacy group All Above All tells The Daily Beast. “It’s really a manifestation of the deeply troubling view of women that this administration has had from day one.”
“It’s clear as day that undermining women’s reproductive health and rights is a centerpiece of President Trump’s harmful plan for our health care system,” Senator Patty Murray said in a written statement.
Trump’s proposed 2018 budget slashes SNAP and Medicaid, defunds Planned Parenthood, eliminates a CDC “evidence-based” teen pregnancy prevention program, and targets global women’s health care initiatives, a move Guttmacher estimates will only lead to more abortions and health complications. Trump’s budget assumes that Trumpcare will pass, and Trumpcare could force women to purchase separate “abortion insurance” if they are concerned that they may at some point become pregnant and wish to terminate that pregnancy. At a historical moment when women outnumber men on college campuses, Trump has proposed eliminating the federal student loan subsidy program. He has proposed injecting new money into a universally-panned parental leave program and something called “Abstinence and Personal Responsibility Education.” There’s also a strange no-cost line item in the budget that bars the government from “discrimination” against health care facilities that do not provide abortions, a move that could set up a showdown between states that have defunded Crisis Pregnancy Centers (like California) and the federal government.
Amidst all the trillions in proposed cuts over the next 10 years, Trump’s budget includes $19 billion in there for a six-week parental leave program. The program would pay new parents in a manner similar to the way people are paid when they’re laid off. Which is to say: very little.
Where has trusted presidential advisor and woman-helper Ivanka been in all this? Did she attend the budget meeting for the five minutes they discussed parental leave, and then duck out to post a photo of herself gardening in a messy bun to Instagram?
The Trump budget’s release, and the ensuing firestorm of controversy reminded me that we don’t know what Ivanka’s actual views on health-care policy are. Ivanka Trump has somehow become a top-level advisor to the leader of the free world without having any relevant experience in government beyond shilling shift dresses a state senator might wear on public access TV. How would we know if she has any influence on her father if we don’t know what she really thinks? She doesn’t have any background in public health, just as she doesn’t have any background in working for the government or being middle class. Ivanka does, however, have experience leading an eponymous women’s lifestyle website, one that often tutored its readers (Women Who Work(™)) about how to achieve optimal health. She’s got a Twitter account. She also had somebody pretending to be her write a book that includes several health-care tips.
“Discussing health benefits with the team... how is it possible that maternity is classified as a disability... seriously? #outdated,” the First Daughter tweeted back in 2014, right around the time her company, which didn’t initially have a paid maternity leave policy, got itself one. The six-week policy the Trump budget proposed has been derided widely as window dressing.
In 2015, Ivanka tweeted that she was “deeply touched” by a New York Daily News piece written by a mother whose baby daughter battled a rare cancer. Unless the family was extraordinarily wealthy, in the world of Trump’s budget, a family facing medical catastrophe would have little to turn to.
That year, in honor of Women’s Health Week, Ivanka tweeted out an article about how milk is actually “awesome” for your skin. Interested parties can obtain a milk-based pedicure at the Trump SoHo hotel.
One article from Ivanka’s website, written by a New Jersey internist and datelined August 2015, offers millennial women 10 tips for promoting optimal health. Eat healthy and exercise, it advises women born between 1981 and 1994. Under Trump’s budget, women who rely on SNAP and WIC would have more difficulty accessing healthy foods. Get an EKG, says Ivanka’s website, so that you can detect hidden heart conditions that could endanger your life. Under Trumpcare, a hidden heart condition an EKG detected could disqualify a woman from purchasing insurance. Perform monthly breast exams, says the article. Get a pap smear and an HPV test. Trumpcare cuts funding off to Planned Parenthood, which gives millions of women access to those things. Stress can really take a toll on your health, advises the article. Poverty is often cited as a major source of stress; it’s safe to assume that losing needed government assistance would be a mentally unpleasant endeavor. Positive energy is contagious! says the article. It’s unclear where women are supposed to catch some of that contagious positivity floating around. Perhaps if they saved soap by washing their hands less.
For more helpful tips for how to live a healthy life in an alternate reality that does not involve Donald Trump’s policies, check out the rest of the Health articles on IvankaTrump.com.
Actual women’s health advocates continue their long streak of not being impressed with Ivanka Trump. “No president has ever, ever gone this far in gutting programs for women and their problems,” says Alex De Luca of the pro-choice PAC EMILY’s List. “[Trump] has time and time again rolling back the clock on women’s health and women’s access to health care. And Ivanka has stood there and smiled.”
Of course people grow and change over the course of their lives; to assume otherwise is deeply cynical. But Ivanka Trump, trusted White House Advisor, has lived most of her life in a world where health is a fun hobby, a juice cleanse or a spa weekend or a brand new pair of high-end yoga pants, rather than a precarious state that could throw most American families’ lives into turmoil with a single diagnosis, a single accident. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the First Daughter that people cannot afford to buy organic vegetables, to get a massage, to send the children off with one of their nannies-plural when mommy has a headache. To purchase a brand-name prescription. To have three children in one of the most expensive urban areas in America. It hasn’t occurred to Ivanka Trump that some women are not also Ivanka Trump.
If Ivanka wants to be taken seriously as a White House advisor, she should start advising the White House in a way that produces real results. Otherwise, it’s time to stop thinking of her as a passively complicit innocent along for her father’s ride, as somebody who is trying her very best and getting tiny kernels of good inserted into bad policy. That would make her an ineffective advisor. That’s too generous a read.
Ivanka Trump is not a moderating influence. Rather, she’s a full-throated participant in what’s happening in Washington. She is in the room where it happens; she has a seat at the table. Every passing day she has an office in the White House further drives home that all the branding in the world can’t hide the fact that she’s just as bad as her father. Just with better hair.