Welcome to the surreal phase of the campaign where Republicans, mindful of facing a gender gap – nay, a chasm – try to nominally out-feminist Democrats, but only insofar as it comes to respecting the right of a spectacularly wealthy woman to raise her children without a job outside the home (or, perhaps, to join an exclusive golf club). But make no mistake: This is not about the so-called Mommy Wars, where mothers with a paycheck sneer at the ones without one – a binary simply not reflected in women’s lived experience. It’s about class and about how government policy compounds its impact on households with kids.
The Romney campaign may not know what it’s getting into here, since this is where plenty of progressives live, which is how they had a bunch of substantive questions at the ready. “I will tell you that Mitt said to me more times than I can imagine, Ann, your job is more important than mine,” Ann Romney said on Fox News today. But is this about nominal celebration or actually helping parents? If the Romneys “value women’s domestic work so much,” tweeted feminist author Jessica Valenti, “when will they discuss their plan for national paid parental leave?” And Slate’s Matt Yglesias wondered, “Do Mitt & Ann Romney think unemployed single moms have a full-time job? Do such moms deserve a living wage?” Or healthcare? You could almost fantasize for a minute that this campaign season jockeying of faux outrage is going to somehow lead to a substantive conversation about those oft-neglected policy issues, which force women and men into unhappy choices about how they’re both going to provide for and care for their families.
“Choice” was the word on Ann Romney’s lips in her Fox News appearance this morning. “We need to respect the choices that women make,” she said several times, adding, “Mitt respects women that make different choices.” “Choice,” of course, is a word that represents in other contexts, like abortion rights, a negotiated truce on rights and liberties of women to live within and without their traditional roles. But Ann Romney’s use of it shows how limited it is as a trope: Is it a relevant “choice” for the vast majority of American women to decide whether to use their degree in French in the workforce or rationally rest on their husband’s millions to focus on five children – six, according to Ann, if you count mischievous Mitt?
The more pertinent “choice” involves a series of unappealing options when it comes to affordable childcare or workforce opportunities. According to the census, the proportion of mothers with a recent birth in the labor force increased during the recession, from 56 percent in 2006 to 61 percent in 2008. And another Census Bureau report suggests that the 5.6 million stay-at-home mothers, a minority among mothers, have little in common with Ann Romney. They tend to be younger, Latina and foreign-born – and they are less likely to have graduated from high school or attained a bachelor’s degree. These women face markedly different circumstances from the more publicly visible stakeholders in alleged Mommy Wars, the ones who opted out of the workforce and who have the ear of people making movies and writing novels, but the women with the luxury to live on a single income at their expected standard of living are a statistical and demographic blip. The bulk of stay-at-home moms have characteristics that correlate to lower earnings in the workforce, and for them, with the high cost and inaccessibility of childcare, the “free” childcare offered by staying at home is also a rational economic choice.
Did these women feel acknowledged when ultra-wealthy Ann Romney said on Fox News, “I know what it’s like to struggle,” if they heard her say it at all? The Romney campaign is counting on the fact that such women, and maybe other women who have felt the tug between home and the workplace, will be more moved by the unfortunate phrase “never worked a day in her life” than by the fact that the Republican Party’s policies disproportionately impact these lower-income mothers, from their access to reproductive healthcare to cutting the public-sector jobs that tend to be held by women. They hope that Obama will effectively be blamed for structural job losses to women, without being able to point to a single Democratic policy that drove it, even as women are supposed to be mad that an alleged Obama surrogate only values employment outside the home.
All of this started because Mitt Romney said that he knew what women care about because his wife had told him: “She reports to me regularly that the issue women care about most is the economy, and getting good jobs for their kids and for themselves,” he said last week. Apparently, he is unable to speak to these alien creatures himself, or to understand that women’s interest in the economy includes how to balance their economic responsibilities with their family ones – since the latter still disproportionately falls on women – or how controlling their fertility is an economic issue. But maybe there’s a policy prescription that’s to augment the elaborate umbrage at the alleged disrespect to Ann Romney and women everywhere. Let’s hear it.
By: Irin Carmon, Salon, April 12, 2012
Probably everyone has heard the New Testament story in which Jesus entered the temple and told the money changers, “You know, if you got a massive tax break, the benefits would probably benefit poor families eventually.” Or something like that, right?
That seems to be the message I’ve been hearing from the right this week. Over the weekend, evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren said the Bible “says we are to care about the poor,” but he also said he opposes “wealth redistribution,” adding, “When you subsidize people, you create the dependency.”
He’s not the only one adopting this theological approach.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), whose budget plan recently passed the House in a party-line vote, says his faith contributed in shaping the proposal, which he says is consistent with Catholic teachings.
“A person’s faith is central to how they conduct themselves in public and in private,” Ryan said in an interview released on Tuesday by the Christian Broadcasting Network. “So to me, using my Catholic faith, we call it the social magisterium, which is how do you apply the doctrine of your teaching into your everyday life as a lay person?”
To be sure, Ryan’s spiritual beliefs are his own business, and his religious beliefs are between him and his conscience. I’m not going to pretend to be a theologian or try to interpret Scripture for him.
I can, however, point out the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops — the leaders of Ryan’s faith tradition — have urged Republicans to adopt a budget strategy that “requires shared sacrifice by all,” including additional tax revenues and eliminating unneeded military spending. In a letter last year, the bishops also characterized “massive cuts” to programs that benefit the poor as unacceptable. “The needs of those who are hungry and homeless, without work or in poverty should come first,” the bishops said, articulating a principle that the Ayn Rand acolyte considers ridiculous.
I can also point out that Ryan’s budget plan is simply brutal towards the poor.
The House Republican agenda gets “at least 62 percent of its $5.3 trillion in non-defense budget cuts over ten years from programs that serve people of limited means,” while also “giving a massive tax break to the wealthy.” This means redistributing wealth in the wrong direction — taking money from SNAP, Medicaid, and education, and redirecting that money towards those who are already rich.
If his read on the New Testament is that Jesus would cut food stamps while giving millionaires a tax break, Paul Ryan has a far more creative mind than I do.
I hate to break it to the right-wing Budget Committee chairman, but praying that dubious numbers will somehow add up doesn’t count as a budget shaped by faith.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 12, 2012
When Allen West, the Republican congressman from Florida, said he had “heard” that up to 80 members of Congress were members of the Communist Party, but refused to say who they were, I began once again to worry about the declining standards of excellence in American life. Once upon a time, Joe McCarthy (eventually) named names.
Oh, what a falling off was there! To see figures like West stumbling around and accusing liberals of communism, the Democratic Party of socialism, Obama of militant Islamic sympathies is like watching a Broadway revival of Oklahoma! performed by tone-deaf weightlifters from Bulgaria. There were once high standards for rabble-rousing. Think Father Coughlin. Think Joe McCarthy. Think Pat Buchanan. They played on American paranoia as if on a violin. (OK, fiddle.) They had a unified vision of conspiracy that encompassed Jews, blacks, Zionist bankers, greedy plutocrats, and Bolsheviks. The problem with today’s demagogic paranoids is that they are struggling with the same relativistic, politically correct universe as everyone else.
Consider the Jews. Completely off limits. Partly this is because of the presence of Jews in every dimension of American life, but it’s also because Jews are spread across the political spectrum. Back in Father Coughlin’s time, finding a Jewish Republican was something like searching for the afikomen on Passover. Even during McCarthy’s heyday, right-wing Jews were still a rarity, despite the Jewish Roy Cohn at McCarthy’s side. But since the rise of the Jewish neoconservatives in the 1980s, there have been a substantial number of Jews on the right. If you had had Sheldon Adelson in 1950, you might never have had the Hollywood 10.
The same goes for Zionist bankers, a staple of right-wing conspiracy-mongering rhetoric. You can’t use “Zionist” as a slur because Israel is that holy ally who is constantly being betrayed by Obama and his ilk. Then, too, it’s hard to go after bankers when your entire political agenda revolves around ensuring that the wealthiest people in the country—i.e., bankers—pay as little in taxes as possible. As for greedy plutocrats, goodbye also—and hello!
That leaves blacks, who gradually usurped Jews as the right’s favorite national specter. But just as Jews became “normalized” throughout American life since Father Coughlin’s tirades in the ’30s, so have blacks followed, though more slowly and painfully, a similar process since Reagan’s welfare queens. It’s hard as well to get the rising numbers of prominent blacks in the GOP to reliably pursue the subtle context of racial politics. West himself denounced George Zimmerman after the killing of Trayvon Martin.
But the most important element of right-wing demagogic populism is the most impossible to retrieve: Soviet communism. Commentators and pundits love to draw tiresome analogies between today’s Tea Partying radical right and the rise of the radical right in the Goldwater, John Bircher, National Review ’60s, but there is simply no basis for comparison without the Cold War. Bolshevism was the linchpin that held all the other facets of conspiracy together. Jews, unions, Zionists, even plutocratic bankers somehow all comprised a tainted trail that always led back to Moscow.
The effect on the radical right of the loss of communism is incalculable. The right wing is like a vulnerable adolescent who has suddenly been jilted. Hatelorn, you might say, the right is on the rebound from one substitute bête noire to another, but nothing sticks because there is no unifying adhesive on the order of the menace from the Kremlin. This is why you get the utter weirdness of the right talking about Obama’s Washington as if it were actually Soviet Moscow: a totalizing, centralizing monster out to collectivize American life and crush personal freedom and individual rights. There was a time when Stalin’s murder of tens of millions haunted the American imagination. Now it’s the possibility that everyone can have his tonsils out for free.
From hipsters to Mad Men to A Streetcar Named Desire to pompadours and victory rolls, nostalgic revivals are everywhere. In the political realm, expect the next six months to be full of retro-red menace, as the GOP searches desperately to recapture the love of its life.
By: Lee Siegel, The Daily Beast, April 12, 2012
Mitt Romney’s meaningless 92.3 percent statistic about women and job losses has been thoroughly debunked pretty much everywhere, but let’s take one last look at his original statement:
There’s been some talk about a war on women. The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration’s failure on the economy. Do you know what percentage of job losses during the Obama years of have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men? Do you know how many women, what percent of the job losses were women? 92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who’ve lost those jobs.
In large part because of its absurdity, Romney’s misleading92.3 percent claim became the focus of attention after he delivered his remarks. When you reread his original statement, however, it’s clear that the bogus statistic wasn’t really the main thing he hoped to communicate. Rather, he offered it as evidence to support his core accusation: that “the real war on women has been waged by” President Obama.
As it turns out, the 92.3 percent stat failed to provide any support whatsoever for that claim—even though it was technically accurate. That’s important: Romney’s 92.3 percent claim wasn’t itself a lie, rather it was a meaningless factoid offered in an attempt to mislead his audience about something else. That’s a time-honored tactic of unethical salesmen, and the fact that Mitt Romney decided to take such a sleazy approach to the issue is a pretty big clue that he was in the middle of telling a pants-on-fire lie.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what it was. Mitt Romney and his Republican Party are waging an all-out assault on Planned Parenthood, birth control coverage, reproductive rights, and even Obamacare’s guarantee that women won’t be charged more for insurance than men just because they can get pregnant. That’s what you call a real war on women. It’s being led by Romney and the Republicans. And when they blame it on President Obama, that’s a lie.
By: Jed Lewison, Daily Kos, April 12, 2012
Last week, Romney campaign press secretary, Andrea Saul, set off a firestorm when she tweeted, “FACT: Women account for 92.3 percent of jobs loss under @BarackObama.”
Before you knew it, the Romney campaign had locked onto the statistic and made it the centerpiece of their effort to turn the corner on the mass defection of female voters to Obama—a stampede that, should it hold up, will make it very difficult for the Governor to defeat the President in November.
The strategy is a tricky one—although it certainly doesn’t hurt the Romney meme that Ms. Saul’s statement is factually true.
However, there is a great deal more to the story and—should women become acquainted with the facts rather than the bumper sticker—Governor Romney may find that he has dug the hole deeper by trying to pull a fast one on female voters. Unlike we male troglodytes, women tend to pay closer attention to the facts because…well…because they are smarter then men.
To get to the truth behind the numbers, we begin with Gary Burtless, a labor market expert with the non-partisan Brookings Institute, who highlights what took place during the recessionary period that began in December 2007.
I think males were disproportionately hurt by employment losses in manufacturing and especially construction, which is particularly male-dominated. A lot of job losses in those two industries had already occurred before Obama took office. Industries where women are more likely to be employed – education, health, the government – fared better in terms of job loss. In fact, health and education employment continued to grow in the recession and in the subsequent recovery. Government employment only began to fall after the private economy (and private employment) began growing again.
Burtless’ perspective is borne out by data that reveals that men lost 5,355,000 jobs during the recessionary period that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009 when things began turning around, albeit unconvincingly. During that same period, women lost 2,124,000 jobs. Thus, during the recession, roughly 72 percent of all the jobs lost were taken from the men.
Oddly, it was not until things started moving in a better direction that women began experiencing the lion’s share of the pain.
There is a reason for this. What followed the recession were the deep cuts in state and local government jobs—jobs that tend to be filled by women in far greater numbers then men.
According to Joan Entmacher, vice president and director of family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C., while the private sector has added more than 2.5 million jobs since March 2010, state and local government jobs have been cut by 500,000—the majority of these jobs once belonging to women.
What’s more, it turns out that this pattern of men getting fired first followed by women losing their gigs just when men are beginning to return to work is a pattern that has held in previous recessions.
So, can you rationally blame this female job loss problem on President Obama?
Some could argue that had the President’s policies brought about a more emphatic recovery, states and localities would be racking up greater tax receipts, giving them more money to spend and, as a result, would not have found it necessary to cut so many of the jobs that have put women out of work disproportionately.
But to make that argument, you would necessarily have to support keeping or returning women to their state and local government jobs.
This is a problem when one acknowledges that it is the Romney side of the political ledger that makes ‘small government’ a hallmark of their reason for being. Thus, even if there were more dollars available to fund government at all levels, it seems fair to point out that conservatives would strenuously argue that the money should remain in the pockets of the taxpayers and not be shuttled off to government coffers to be spent on more public workers.
This is where it gets a bit sticky for the Romney camp.
It’s awfully hard to pursue a position that conflicts with your central reason for being—let alone making it a major campaign plank. If you support smaller government, you necessarily support fewer government employees. If those employees happen to be women— because women make up the majority of people who hold these jobs—you can’t really grouse about their job loss when the very act of their losing the job is a fulfillment of a critically important piece in your political platform.
And if you do decide to grouse, you run the risk of being exposed for a measure of hypocrisy.
It is no secret that a great many of the government job losses have come in education where states have cut back spending dramatically in response to budgetary problems. It is also no secret,as the following chart reveals, that the teaching profession—overwhelmingly dominated by women—has taken a major hit during the recent, post-recession years.
So, do we blame Obama for the firing of so many teachers?
Education budgets are controlled by the states. Of the top ten states that have made the deepest cuts into education, eight of them are under the firm control of Republicans.
Meanwhile, reviewing the only three states that have increased funding for education during the past year—Maryland, South Carolina and Massachusetts—we find that two are led by Democrats. Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina is the only Republican governor in the nation to increase spending on education.
Now, one can again suggest that a more robust recovery would have allowed these GOP governors and legislators to hold onto more of the teaching workforce. However, when it comes to cutting state and local jobs, blaming the President is somewhat akin to blaming him for the state proposals we’ve seen over the past few months attempting to subject women to vaginal ultrasound testing before an abortion is permitted.
At the end of the day, there is simply no rational basis to pin the loss of women’s jobs following the recession on the President. When taking in all the information, the argument just does not hold up.
In some respects, I have sympathy for Governor Romney in having to wear the mantle of a ‘warrior against women’. He didn’t start this. Indeed, there is ample evidence that he has not discriminated against women throughout his career and campaign.While right to life supporters might take issue with my cutting the governor such a break, given Romney’s flip-flop on the subject of abortion, I remain convinced that Romney is, in reality, no more opposed to abortion rights than he was when he was the Governor of Massachusetts.
Of course, the governor didn’t help himself with his milquetoast response to Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke just as his campaign did him no favors yesterday when it appeared they had never heard of or, at the least, yet to form an opinion when asked about the Lilly Ledbetter Act—the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Obama and one aimed at improving women’s access to the courts to redress pay discrimination.
Fair or not, as the party standard bearer, Governor Romney takes on the troubles caused by Limbaugh and the many GOP state and federal legislators who have come up with some pretty bizarre, old century ideas that are the stuff of the “war against women.” If he’s going to overcome the handicap, I suspect he’s going to have to do much better than attempting a little misdirection in the effort to fool female voters.
Because if the women of America are anything like my own wife—and I strongly suspect that they are—the Governor’s ploy is a non-starter that will easily be found out.
If Romney wants the women to come back, he’s going to have to do much better.
By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, April 12, 2012