On Nov. 8, I stepped into a voting booth with my one-year-old strapped to my back. I wasn’t only there to vote in the presidential election: we also had a local school board race and several proposals on our ballot. But it felt particularly urgent to do the little that I could to keep Donald Trump away from the office of the presidency.
In that, unfortunately, I failed.
Many experts and political pundits have argued for the myriad reasons why a Trump presidency is not the best thing for the country, or even for the rest of the world. Yet as a low-income mom, I don't just think Trump is a less than ideal choice — he's a downright dangerous one.
There’s no two ways around it: Trump is dangerous for low-income people and low-income families.
My family and I live below the United States poverty line, and I come from a pretty thoroughly working-class background. I do not have a college degree, and though living around middle-class people has given me the ability to “pass” as middle-class in most company, I live like the poor person that I am. With two working adults and no money for childcare, my little family of three is barely staying afloat most of the time. Deviating from our grocery budget can easily mean not having enough to pay the electric bill. And with another Midwestern winter on its way, “put on another sweater and don’t touch that thermostat” is about to become a constant refrain in our home.
No one in my life has admitted to me that they voted for Donald Trump. Yet because I live in the Midwest, it's pretty much inevitable that my family knows some covert Trump voters. While I would never single anyone out or publicly shame them for casting their vote for a candidate I don't agree with (OK, a candidate I despise), honestly, the incoming Trump administration is scaring me more than I can possibly describe. There’s no two ways around it: Trump is dangerous for low-income people and low-income families.
I’m a white woman, so my white privilege means that I’m not directly affected by Trump's racism. And it's true that plenty of working-class white people — people who look a lot like me on paper — voted for Trump themselves. Pundits have argued that this reflects the left's struggle to reach the working class, which may very well be true, but it doesn't tell the whole story: after all, plenty of rich people voted for Trump as well. (Plus, the phenomenon of poor people voting against their own interests isn't exactly a new one.)
Trump's policies are set up to help those who have money, rather than those who do not. Families like mine will see no change in our childcare prospects at all.
What is clear, however, is that Trump's policies screw over low-income people like myself — specifically, low-income moms. First of all, there's the matter of Trump's childcare plan. Essentially, Trump wants to give parents the opportunity to be able to deduct childcare costs from their taxes. But according to Elaine Maag, a senior research associate at the Tax Policy Center, that doesn't apply to poor parents: "The plan tilts benefits toward high income families, rather than low income families," she told the Washington Post. The plan is set up to help those who have money, rather than those who do not. Families like mine will see no change in our childcare prospects at all.
Then there's the matter of the Affordable Care Act. Trump has wavered in his stance on this one, recently saying he may want to keep some parts of it, but given that his website still calls for a repeal of Obamacare, it's tough to be sure he won't just gut it altogether.
Even if my kid still has insurance, it won't matter if he has two parents who cannot get care when they get sick or injured.
That is extremely dangerous for low-income families. While my son would likely keep his state-sponsored insurance no matter what, my wife and I would certainly lose ours if Trump does, in fact, repeal the Affordable Care Act, which resulted in my having health insurance for the first time in about a decade. To say that the Affordable Care Act completely revolutionized my life would be an understatement. Just this week, I got sick, and I was able to see a doctor and get the treatment I needed, without having to put off paying a bill or borrow money from a family member. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, that would have been impossible.
Make no mistake, expanding health insurance for low-income people has improved — and saved — many lives. Without it, I would currently be drowning in medical bills, debt that I would be entirely unable to pay. Even if my kid still has insurance, it won't matter if he has two parents who cannot get care when they get sick or injured.
Then there's Trump's tax plan. He wants to restructure current tax brackets, which he framed as an effort to help the "middle class" throughout his entire campaign. However, a quick look at his plan shows that it actually helps rich people far more than those in the middle class, and is likely to widen our already-wide income gap. Top-earners would receive the largest tax cuts under this plan, which of course does nothing for poor folk like me. Greater income inequality tends to screw over the people who are already the most broke.
I'm utterly terrified of what this administration means for me and the people that I love.
On top of all of that, there will likely be other cuts to services like Planned Parenthood, which Trump vowed to defund throughout his entire campaign. Considering that four in 10 women use community health centers like Planned Parenthood as their primary source of medical care, according to a Guttmacher Institute report, decreased access to such services could lead to low-income women having few to no resources for reproductive health care. When you add it all together, families like mine are basically screwed.
The media has been quick to pin the election results on Trump's appeal to lower-income white people. The truth is, I'm a low-income white person, and I'm utterly terrified of what this administration means for me and the people that I love. The coming administration is dangerous on so many levels, and this is just one. But make no mistake: poor people will struggle more under the coming regime. To low-income parents like myself, these things are not merely hypotheticals — they are real threats that will affect our daily lives. And while we may not be able to do much about it, we need to be ready to stand up against these injustices whenever and however we can.