Are women really on track to become “the richer sex” and replace men as primary breadwinners in American families, as recent headlines suggest? Not quite. The notion that women are outpacing men on the job has become a popular media narrative over the past few years. But the data on which it’s based don’t hold up.
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that, in fact, we’re in the middle of a “mancovery”—while women are slipping backwards. Between June 2009 and June 2011, women lost close to 300,000 jobs, while men gained more than 800,000. “We’ve never seen a recovery like this,” the National Women’s Law Center’s Joan Entmacher told NPR, “where two years into the recovery women are doing so much worse than men and are actually losing ground.”
Still, the popular perception is that women are soaring. Much is made of the “fact” that more than 40 percent of American women are their family’s breadwinner. In her recent Time magazine cover piece (adapted from her new book, The Richer Sex), for example, journalist Liza Mundy cites 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics data saying that one in four women outearn their spouses. This claim was picked up by scores of media outlets.
But look a bit more closely at the numbers, and the picture doesn’t seem so rosy for women. Which women are advancing? And which men are backsliding? The answers are important if you are going to talk about who’s getting “rich.”
In fact, the only segment of society in which a substantial percent of wives significantly outearn their husbands is low-income workers, according to two respected scholars who looked at large national data sets. Senior economist Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress says that in 2010, among couples whose earnings are in the bottom 20 percent, 70 percent of women outearn their husbands.
And Anne Winkler of the University of Missouri, in her detailed 2005 analysis, found that the wealthier the couple, the less likely it is that the wife will outearn her husband.
As family income goes up, fewer and fewer women outearn their husbands, Winkler told The Daily Beast. When you look at women who really are the breadwinners—who earn 60 percent of family income—the figure drops to about 10 percent. So when you talk about women who are making appreciably more than their husbands, it’s only one woman in ten. And it’s primarily among couples earning the lowest salaries, averaging some $20,000 a year per household. Clearly, using the term “rich” doesn’t describe what’s really happening for many women.
In addition, the 40 percent figure widely cited today drops dramatically when more sophisticated analyses are used. Only when you define a woman who outearns her working husband by as little as a dollar a day as the “breadwinner”–and you include single mothers who are sole providers—can you get to that 40 percent figure.
Certainly, women have made significant gains in the past four decades, and there are indeed educated middle-class women who are the primary breadwinners, but they are far from taking over American homes.
The real story behind headlines touting the rise of women is that men, especially at the lower end of the wage scale, were doing poorly at the beginning of the recession. Even then, women weren’t doing great, but men were losing their jobs at a faster clip and their wages were declining. Now, women are sliding backward. But will the “mancovery” story have legs, or will it lose out to the “richer sex” narrative?
The latter seems likely, in part because women are graduating from college and grad schools at record rates, and there’s a strong belief that advanced degrees will turn into fat paychecks. But that doesn’t seem to be happening for women.
Women start behind when they enter the workforce and never catch up. This pattern holds true even with graduates from our most elite universities. Female Harvard alumni earn 30 percent less than their male counterparts 10 to 16 years after graduation.
And women’s representation hasn’t grown significantly in corporate boardrooms, executive suites or among companies’ top earners, reports Catalyst. CEO Ilene H. Lang said in 2011, “This is our fifth report where the annual change in female leadership remained flat. If this trend line represented a patient’s pulse—she’d be dead.”
In a recent speech, Harvard law professor Nancy Gertner said about women, “You’re supposed to say: ‘Things are fabulous.’ But they are not. Advancement has stalled.” Half of all new lawyers are women, she said, but only 16 percent of equity partners in law firms are female. And of lawyers who leave the profession, most are women—and most do it because of family and social concerns.
Under a veneer of success and progress, women are in fact at risk of sliding backward. A 2010 study by psychologist Jennifer Spoor and her colleagues at Queensland University in Australia found that men feel threatened by women’s gains.
As we wrote in a Daily Beast column last year, based on the anxiety men report over women’s successes, exaggerated news coverage of women “taking over the world” could result in a real pushback from men.
In contrast, when women focus on these gains, they report low levels of threat—as well as a diminished need to bond with other women. Spoor calls this the “rose-colored-glasses syndrome.” Too many women think all the battles have been fought, discrimination is a thing of the past and the future will bring ever-greater progress for them. This difference may explain the current low levels of feminist activism.
The “richer sex” narrative may blind women to reality, making it harder for them to build on the very real gains they’ve made in the past and truly move forward.
By: Rosalind C. Barnett and Caryl Rivers, The Daily Beast, April 28, 2012
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tried to send the message this week that, contrary to “urban legend,”he is not obsessed with philosopher and author Ayn Rand.
“I reject her philosophy,” Ryan told National Review on Thursday. “It’s an atheist philosophy. It reduces human interactions down to mere contracts and it is antithetical to my worldview. If somebody is going to try to paste a person’s view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don’t give me Ayn Rand.”
Best known for her novels “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged,” Rand advocated a philosophy that emphasizes the individual over the collective, and viewed capitalism as the only system truly based on the protection of the individual. She has been a significant influence on libertarians and conservatives.
Ryan, whose name has been floated as a possible running mate for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, appeared to be distancing himself from Rand in response to a public letter he received this week from nearly 90 faculty and administrators at Georgetown University. In their letter, they criticize him for misusing Catholic social teaching in defending his budget, which hurts the poor by proposing significant cuts to anti-hunger programs, slashing Pell Grants for low-income students and calling for a replacement of Medicare with a voucher-like system. They also invoke Rand’s name.
“As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor,” said Jesuit Father Thomas J. Reese, one of the organizers of the letter. “Your budget appears to reflect the values of your favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her call to selfishness and her antagonism toward religion are antithetical to the Gospel values of compassion and love.”
But any urban legend about Ryan’s affinity for Rand surely started with Ryan himself, who, prior to this week, had no qualms about gushing about Rand’s influence on his guiding principles.
“The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan said during a 2005 event honoring Rand in Washington, D.C., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in April 2009.
During the 2005 gathering, Ryan told the audience, “Almost every fight we are involved in here on Capitol Hill … is a fight that usually comes down to one conflict — individualism versus collectivism.” The event was hosted by The Atlas Society, which prominently features a photo of Rand on its website and describes itself as a group that “promotes open Objectivism: the philosophy of reason, achievement, individualism, and freedom.”
Ryan also said during a 2003 interview with the Weekly Standard, “I give out ‘Atlas Shrugged’ as Christmas presents, and I make all my interns read it. Well … I try to make my interns read it.” He noted that he “looked into” Rand’s work when he was younger, but reiterated that he is a Christian and reads the Bible often.
In 2009, Ryan posted two videos on his Facebook page raving about the importance of Rand’s views.
“If ‘Atlas Shrugged’ author Ayn Rand were alive today, here’s the urgent message I think she’d be conveying,” Ryan wrote alongside the first video, titled “Ayn Rand’s relevance in 2009.”
He says in the video:
What’s unique about what’s happening today in government, in the world, in America, is it’s as if we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel right now. I think Ayn Rand did the best job of anybody to build the moral case for capitalism. And that morality of capitalism is under assault. And we are going to replace it with a crony capitalism, collectivist, government-run system which is creeping its way into government. And so if Ayn Rand were here today, I think she would do a great job in showing us just how wrong what government is doing is. Not the quantitative analysis, not the numbers, but the morality of what is wrong with what government is doing today.
In the second video, titled “Ayn Rand & 2009 America, Part 2,” Ryan says it doesn’t surprise him that sales of “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” have “surged” since President Barack Obama took office.
“It’s that kind of thinking, that kind of writing, that is sorely needed right now. And I think a lot of people would observe that we are living in an Ayn Rand novel right now, metaphorically speaking,” Ryan says. “The attack on Democratic capitalism, on individualism and freedom in America is an attack on the moral foundation of America. And Ayn Rand more than anyone else did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. This, to me, is what matters most.”
Some of Ryan’s critics took a shot at him for suddenly distancing himself from Rand.
“Not pure enough on entitlement cuts @philipaklein @robertcostaNRO Paul Ryan on Ayn Rand: ‘I reject her philosophy,’” Austan Goolsbee, the former chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tweeted Thursday.
UPDATE: 5:14 p.m. — Ryan spokesman Kevin Seifert downplayed the lawmaker’s apparent change of tune on Rand.
“I wouldn’t make too much of this one way or another. Congressman Ryan was not ‘distancing himself’ from Rand, merely correcting several false storylines that are out there, such as the myth that he requires all of his staffers to read Atlas Shrugged. Saying he ‘rejects Ayn Rand’s philosophy’ was simply meant to correct a popular falsehood that Congressman Ryan is an Objectivist — he isn’t now and never claimed to be,” Seifert said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
By: Jennifer Bendery, The Huffington Post, April 27, 2012
It seems awfully early in the campaign for campaign-strategy kibitzing, but Republicans are already leaning into the front seat to tell Mitt Romney what he should be doing differently. The New York Times reports on a host of Republicans fretting over the “angry tenor” of Romney’s campaign. Likewise, the Wall Street Journal editorial page urges Romney to be more positive. (And also, um, more mean: “One of Mr. Romney’s trickiest challenges will be how to handle Mr. Obama’s, er, veracity. … Mr. Romney can’t let the President get away with this.”)
Campaign backseat driving, as a rule, tends to be crap. There is a grain of truth here. In any incumbent election, voters tend to have pretty firm opinions about the incumbent. The campaign dynamic therefore hinges largely on the acceptability of the challenger. (Obviously, if the incumbent is popular or unpopular enough, the challenger’s standing doesn’t matter much.) The 2004 election, an election that seemed to revolve almost entirely around defining John Kerry, offers a good illustration. An incumbent hanging around the 50 percent approval mark will tend to devote his energy to disqualify the challenger, and the challenger will tend to focus on building himself up.
The problem for Romney’s campaign is that his staff is built to run a negative campaign.
Jason Zengerle’s fantastic profile of Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s all-purpose guru, underscores how and why his campaign has behaved as it has. Fehrnstrom is tabloid hit man by trade, a cynical man who is filled with resentment at the liberal swells. He excelled at crafting a series of attacks against Romney’s parade of Republican challengers, knocking each of them off one by one. But a big-picture visionary he clearly is not. The undercurrent of early criticism probably reflects the fact that Romney’s main advisers are not deeply rooted in conservative-movement ideology.
An additional problem is that Romney doesn’t have a politically attractive vision to offer. The Journal counsels him to move beyond his gauzy paeans to capitalism and American greatness and instead embrace the Paul Ryan agenda more specifically. Of course, Romney had to embrace the Ryan plan to make it through the primary, but his campaign pretty clearly grasps that this is a liability, and the more closely he’s tied to its specific policies, the worse he’ll fare. A bold and centrist agenda might work — say, an embrace of a Bowles-Simpson type of plan, perhaps coupled with some alternate proposal to ensure universal coverage. But the Ryan plan precludes that.
The Journal also argues that Romney should inoculate himself from the inevitable charge that he represents a return to the Bush era by attacking Bush’s record from the right:
Before Mr. Obama’s stimulus, Mr. Bush joined with Nancy Pelosi and Larry Summers on the blunder of “targeted, temporary” tax cuts. Mr. Bush began playing business favorites for ethanol and green energy fads. Republicans in Congress spent like Democrats and protected Fannie Mae and the housing lobby. And Mr. Bush and most Republicans embraced an easy-money Federal Reserve that favored Wall Street and asset bubbles at the expense of real middle-class incomes.
The interesting thing about this isn’t the political-advice aspect. It’s that the Journal is really giving away the game on the right-wing hysteria against Obama. After all, the point here is that many of Obama’s policies truly are a continuation of traditional bipartisan approaches. Republicans (including the Journal) have spent more than three years decrying Obama’s plans to destroy American freedom with a nefarious new agenda of profligacy and crony capitalism. Here, they’re basically admitting that Obama is just doing stuff they all considered, at worst, a minor annoyance until he proposed it. For better or worse, the party that’s departing from long-standing tradition here is the GOP. I don’t know if it matters much one way or another politically, but it’s quite an admission.
By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intel, April 26, 2012
This week, the three military contractors that do the most business with the Pentagon announced their quarterly profits for 2012. Their profits continue to grow while they push Washington, D.C. to protect their budgets at the expense of the rest of us.
Here’s the breakdown so far for this year:
This week’s announcement raises a fundamental question: Should people and companies be allowed to make huge profits from war? Even raising this question in today’s environment may seem trite, but we used to have different answers than those that prevail in modern-day Washington, D.C.
“I don’t want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, May 22, 1940.
“Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains of the South and their countrymen mouldering the dust.” –President Abraham Lincoln.
This last quote is particularly relevant to this week’s profit announcements. Lincoln referred to war profiteers making money by cheating the Union Army. Outrage at war profiteering during this period led to the passage of “Lincoln’s Law,” officially known as the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act is the very same law that two of the companies listed above, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, violated through price-fixing and double-billing the taxpayer, leading to their having to pay roughly $20 million in the first quarter of 2012 to settle suits brought by the U.S. government.
During Roosevelt’s time, the idea of a single contractor company making almost a billion dollars worth of profit in three months would have received short shrift. As Roosevelt’s quote above shows, the idea of people profiting from war’s “disaster” disgusted him, and during his presidency the Truman Committee relentlessly investigated and exposed war profiteers. The closest analogy in our time would be the Committee on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which found that up to $60 billion (as of September 2011) was lost to waste and fraud in military contracting in those conflicts.
And yet, despite this historical lack of patience for war profiteering, and despite the current record showing gross misconduct and waste, the U.S. government keeps shoveling taxpayer money at these huge corporations. Could it be that the $5 million in campaign donations and $32 million in lobbying dollars so far this election cycle from the military contractors keep Congress intentionally ignorant of the problem?
President George Washington knew a few things about war profiteers, and he didn’t mince words:
“There is such a thirst for gain [among military suppliers]…that it is enough to make one curse their own Species, for possessing so little virtue and patriotism.”
As long as we continue to allow the profit motive to play a role in America’s war, virtue and patriotism–to say nothing of peace–will continue to be in short supply.
By: Robert Greenwald, Co-Authored by Derrick Crowe, AlterNet, April 27, 2012