When President Obama addressed the gender-based wage gap during his State of the Union address last week, women cheered and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro even gave out high fives. Obama called on Washington and businesses to help women succeed at work and “do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.” However, the President forgot to name a key constituency in his call to help women succeed: husbands.
All the workplace policies in the world aren’t going to get women to parity unless we do away with our Mad Men-era policies at home, too. Despite the fact women are the sole or primary source of income in a record 40% of U.S. households, they still do the majority of housework and childcare. According to the Pew Research Center, during an average week[OK? The study, if I’m looking at the right one, seems to have measured weeks rather than days.], women spend more time cleaning, doing laundry, and preparing food then men do. Men, on the other hand, spend more time watching television than women do. And even in households where the woman is the sole breadwinner, the labor division is far from equal. Men who stay home average 18 hours of housework per week, while their working partners average 14. Stay-at-home mothers, though, average 26 hours of housework. Their working partners average just a third of that time. America has a housework gap, and it’s fueling the gender gap at work.
Research indicates there is a direct and negative correlation between housework and the wage gap. One theory, from research in The Journal of Human Resources, suggests this could be employers’ negative reactions to women who appear dedicated to household activities. It could also be that many employers believe mothers are less committed to their jobs than other employees, as Shelley J. Correll, a sociology professor at Stanford University, posits. As a result, employers are reluctant to hire them and offer them high salaries. The “mommy penalty” is real. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is greater than that between women and men, according to the advocacy group MomsRising.
It appears that in 2014, we have high expectations of what a woman can accomplish at work, but we still have 1950s expectations about her role at home. But it’s time to rethink and renegotiate who does what where. Men who have opted out of housework should lean in at home so their wives can lean in at work. And they should advocate for, and take advantage of, family-friendly policies such as paid sick days, paternity leave, and flex benefits in order to create a more equitable arrangement at home.
If we truly believe that, as Obama said, “when women succeed, America succeeds,” then we need to stop ignoring the housework gap. Laundry and dirty dishes may not be standard agenda items for our legislators and business leaders, but they should be. After all, a woman can’t have it all if she’s too busy doing it all.
By: Liz O’Donnell, Time, February 4, 2014
The 19th-Century British politician Benjamin Disraeli once said, “A conservative government is an organized hypocrisy.” This was obviously a prescient review of the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.
Mind you, it’s hard to know which Republican response to respond to, given that there were (at least) four. But let’s start with the official one, delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wa), the highest-ranking woman in the House Republican caucus. With a lulling tone and a living room-like backdrop, McMorris Rodgers’s response was less like a speech and more like a bedtime story trying to use her sweet biography to mask more sinister policy implications.
McMorris Rodgers spoke of her son, who has Down’s Syndrome. The doctors, McMorris Rodgers said, “told us all the problems. But when we looked at our son, we saw only possibilities.” That was the moral of her story, that we all have boundless and equal opportunity in life and the only thing getting in our way is government—because of Democrats. What a nice story. It just happens to be utterly untrue.
Take just one example—when McMorris Rodgers insisted, “Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.” Planned Parenthood quickly pointed out that just five hours before McMorris Rodgers spoke those words, House Republicans passed a set of sweeping bills that would significantly reduce the number of private health insurance plans that cover abortion. That, in other words, is Republicans using government to interfere in the private marketplace and control the decisions that women about their own bodies.
Disraeli might be disappointed—a well organized hypocrisy would probably wait at least 24 hours before uttering such a flagrant contradiction. But wait, there’s more.
McMorris Rodgers added, “whether you’re a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer … you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you.” What a great idea! Hey, there should be a health care reform law that prohibits private insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions—which, of course, is only possible if we expand the pool of people in private insurance pools. Republicans should, I dunno, get behind a law that supports that, doncha think? Instead of voting again and again and again to repeal it?
McMorris Rodgers started her speech by noting that she worked at a McDonald’s drive-thru to help pay for college and then, after talking about her son, said, “whether we are born with an extra twenty-first chromosome or without a dollar to our name—we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential.” Yes, but the problem is that Republican policies are expressly limiting that potential. When we allow highly profitable corporations like McDonald’s to pay their workers poverty wages at the same time we give those big businesses giant tax breaks and government handouts, we are limiting the potential for hard work to pay off in America. When instead of passing comprehensive immigration reform, we allow unscrupulous employers to exploit undocumented workers—driving down wages and working conditions for immigrants and citizens alike—we undermine equal opportunity. When we fail to acknowledge the simple reality that women and people of color and rural white folks in America face profound wage and wealth disparities not because they don’t try hard but because of policies that have stacked the deck against them, policies Republicans have continued to embrace, we naively pretend that the playing field of opportunity in America is a level one. It is not.
Talking about your son with Down’s Syndrome as a metaphor for the values of a Republican Party that cut federal funding for Down’s Syndrome research over the past several years is hypocrisy. Being a major political party that represents millions of Americans and yet fails to grasp the very real barriers to opportunity those Americans face, barriers made worse by your own policies, is beyond hypocritical. It’s sad.
By: Sally Kohn, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2014
Yesterday, Rand Paul (R-Ky) declared an armistice in the “war on women” when he told Candy Crowley that the war is over and besides, “women are winning it.”
“The whole thing with the War on Women, I sort of laughingly say, ‘yeah there might have been,’ but the women are winning it,” he said Sunday on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ “I’ve seen the women in my family and how well they’re doing. My niece is in Cornell vet school and about 85% of the people in vet school are women.”
Mazel Tov to your niece, Rand Paul. It’s so great to hear that there are more women in vet school than in Congress.
“I think women are doing very well, and I’m proud of … how far we’ve come,” Paul said. “I think some of the victimology and all this other stuff is trumped up and we don’t get to any good policy by playing some charade that one party doesn’t care about women or one party isn’t in favor of women advancing or other people advancing.”
On the one hand, Paul’s not totally wrong. Here are all the ways women are winning:
- Women outnumber men on college campuses 57% to 43%, and the gap is expected to reach 59% to 41% by 2020.
- The pay gap is shrinking for millennials, with younger women making 93% of what men make
- Women are 48% of medical school graduates, up from around 10% in 1965
- Three words: Hillary Rodham Clinton
But on the other hand, women still have the cards stacked against them, especially poor women:
- 1 in 3 American women live in poverty or on the brink of it
- 2/3 of minimum wage workers are women, and they usually don’t get sick days
- The average woman makes 77 cents on a man’s dollar, and that’s lower for minorities; black women make only 64 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic women make only 55 cents
- Even for the rich and well-educated, there’s still a disparity: men with MBAs make an average of $400,000 per year a decade after grad school, women with MBAs make around $250,000
But what Paul said next about marriage is the real nugget here.
“The number one cause of poverty is having kids before you’re married,” he said. “I tell people over and over again, I can’t make you get married, I can’t do anything about that.”
But, Rand…what if there was some magical way to make sure women didn’t have babies before they were married? What if there were some kind of pill, or even a procedure that would allow women to not have babies when they couldn’t afford them? How bout it, Rand? Maybe science has the answer! Let’s check!
Oh wait, this the same Rand Paul that co-sponsored the Life at Conception act to completely outlaw abortion and opposes the Obamacare birth control insurance coverage mandate. Right, I forgot.
He did seem very, very concerned about the plight of women on CNN. “It would be very difficult to have a government policy… how would you institute a government policy that didn’t create incentives to have more children?”
It’s a real head-scratcher.
The fact that Rand Paul thinks the war on women is over means he had no idea what it was about in the first place. Nobody accused the Republican party of standing in the way of women going to veterinary school– women’s financial and educational advancements are propelled by social changes that aren’t being specifically debated on the Senate floor. The “War on Women” is about abortion rights and access to affordable contraception more than anything, and Paul is fighting against both of them.
It’s giving me deja vu to when Bush stood in front of a “Mission Accomplished” banner in 2003; a false victory, a pat on the back, and nothing really accomplished.
By: Charlotte Alter, Time, January 27, 2014
The theory, which is reportedly being pushed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) over the objections of some House members, goes as follows: As the rollout of the Affordable Care Act continues, Republicans should fade to the background and watch it “collapse under its own weight,” as Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is prone to saying. That will allow Republicans to eliminate any distractions as they relentlessly hammer Democrats over the law’s failures, on the way to maintaining their House majority and winning the net six seats needed to take control of the Senate.
The Republican strategy makes some sense on its face — after all, no issue fires up Republican loyalists quite like the Affordable Care Act, and there’s no question that the law’s troubled rollout has been a massive political headache for Democrats.
But there’s a question that should keep every Republican strategist up at night: What happens if health care reform isn’t the electoral albatross that Republicans assume?
It’s not an unrealistic proposition. After all, despite the massively publicized problems with the launch of the law, the percentage of Americans who want it scaled back or repealed has hardly changed over the past two years. There are more reasons to be optimistic that the law will work as intended than there have been at any point since its rollout. Americans still have no faith in the Republican Party to create a constructive alternative. And, crucially, at least one poll suggests that the public is more concerned with job creation, gun reform, and immigration reform — bread-and-butter issues for Democrats — than with reducing the deficit or repealing Obamacare (the central tenets of the GOP platform, such as it exists).
In fact, according to the final Democracy Corps battleground survey of 2013, Republicans may actually pay a political price for their unyielding attacks on the health care reform law. As pollster Erica Seifert put it, “battling on Obamacare is [Republicans'] weakest case for re-election. In fact, it undermines it.”
So if the Affordable Care Act doesn’t crash and burn, destroying the Democratic Party with it, what is the Republican Party’s plan B?
It appears that their guess is as good as yours.
Speaker Boehner has reportedly been trumpeting the results of a recent survey finding that the public now primarily blames President Obama for the nation’s economic problems, rather than the policies of his predecessor.
“Since he can’t blame George W. Bush anymore, the president has chosen to talk about rising income inequality, unemployment, and the need to extend emergency unemployment benefits,” Boehner told House Republicans, according to The Hill. “After five years in office, Barack Obama still doesn’t have an answer to the question: Where are the jobs?”
The problem for Boehner is twofold: First, Americans very clearly want to have the conversation that President Obama has begun. Second, if Republicans have an answer to the “where are the jobs?” question, they are keeping it awfully close to the vest.
The Republican Party’s official “Plan for Economic Growth & Jobs” is incredibly thin on details. In fact, with the exception of repealing Obamacare — and replacing it with yet-undefined “patient-centered reforms” — it does not offer a single specific policy prescription. (By contrast, the White House jobs page leads directly to a description of the American Jobs Act, which, regardless of what one thinks of its merits, is undisputably an actual plan.)
The GOP has similar problems discussing other top issues of the day. Tacit in Boehner’s barb about President Obama “distracting” Americans with a discussion of inequality is the fact that Republicans have few productive ideas to add to the conversation. Immigration reform is similarly treacherous territory for the party. As is any conversation on “reforming” Social Security or Medicare.
It’s not as though Republicans aren’t aware of the issue; after the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee made a concerted effort to change its image from that of a party that’s only “talking to itself” (it has not been going well, by the way).
Perhaps in an attempt to fill out its pitch to voters, on Thursday the Republican National Committee tweeted a link to a “campaign strategy survey,” urging its followers to “tell us your top issues” so the party can “win big in 2014.”
In a reflection of the party’s priorities, however, question one — “Which of the following should be the top priority for the Republican Party in the next 18 months?” — offers a choice between “Elect principled conservatives to the U.S. House and U.S. Senate,” “Rally a grassroots movement,” “Stop the liberal agenda by defeating Democrats,” and “Unite the party.” In other words, the “strategy” isn’t exactly technocratic.
It’s entirely possible that Republican predictions are right, and merely opposing Democrats — with a specific focus on their health care reforms — will be enough to carry them through the midterm elections. After all, the map and the electorate (which history suggests will be smaller, older, and whiter than 2012) favor the GOP. But if they’re wrong, and Obamacare does not ruin the Democrats, then Republicans could be in serious trouble. Because unless they have a major surprise up their sleeves, this is the only card they have to play.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, January 17, 2014
On Monday, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan gave a brief address on poverty and economic mobility at the Brookings Institute. His goal? To present the GOP as a party committed to alleviating poverty. And he gestured toward ideas—straightforward cash payments and an end to means-testing—that would sit well with liberals.
But his rhetoric revealed the extent to which this concern for poverty is still bound by the right-wing, anti-government ideology that drove his budget blueprints, and continue to dominate the Republican Party.
To wit, during the question and answer session, Ryan chose to distance himself from the phrase “compassionate conservatism.” “I don’t like that term or the premise of it,” said Ryan, “Since it presumes that conservatism itself isn’t compassionate. I believe conservatism, or what I call classical liberalism, is the most compassionate form of government because it respects the individual.”
Ryan wants to present this as a kind of reform conservatism, but it’s too similar to what he’s offered before, and what we’ve seen from Republicans in the past. Indeed, like many of his predecessors, he sees existing anti-poverty programs as ineffective—despite evidence to the contrary—and the War on Poverty as a failure. “Just as government can increase opportunity, government can destroy it as well. And perhaps, there’s no better example of how government can miss the mark is LBJ’s War on Poverty.”
Why has the government missed the mark? Because it doesn’t understand that poverty is “isolation” from civil society as well as “deprivation.” To bring the poor back to their communities, Ryan wants to eliminate the “hodgepodge” of existing programs and craft a “simpler” system that provides straightforward cash transfers. He doesn’t offer any detail, but when you consider these critiques in the broader context of the GOP, it’s clear what he means: “Reforms” that would reduce spending and redirect what’s left to smaller, state-controlled programs that would be at risk of additional cuts.
Indeed, what Ryan has offered is a more attractive version of the GOP’s long-standing narrative on poverty: That it has as much to do with individual choices as it does anything else, and facilitating better choices—though marriage promotion, job training, and other programs that enhance civil society—is the core job for government.
This gets to a core divide that makes poverty a tough topic for liberals and conservatives. The former see poverty as the product of structural economic and social forces that create certain incentives and shape individual behavior. People can make bad choices, yes, but they play out differently depending on where you stand in the structure. A lazy, irresponsible rich kid can still become a stable professional, a lazy, irresponsible poor kid might find himself in jail.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are less likely to acknowledge the role of environment, and more likely to focus on choices. Yes, you can be trapped in poverty by circumstances beyond your control, but if you make the right decisions—get educated, get married, have kids—then you’re likely to escape, or at least create the conditions for your children to escape.
Speaking as a liberal, there seems to be a real limit to what the Wisconsin congressman—or any Republican—can do. An anti-poverty agenda that focuses on individual behavior and individual communities is one that can’t accommodate the fact of systemic discrimination and deep racial inequality—two realities that shape the physical and human geography of poverty.
In other words, while I think Ryan is sincere about wanting to alleviate poverty, but he’s bound by an ideology—and a party—that doesn’t want to acknowledge the role that structure plays in all of this, and remains committed to a vision of government that isn’t equipped to deal with those kind of problems.
By: Jamelle Bouie, The Daily Beast, January 14, 2014