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“A Matter Of Economic Necessity”: Thanks To Republicans, Moms Must Work

You want to talk about a war on stay-at-home moms? How about Republican economic policies that prevent women from ever becoming one.

I’m talking about policies, for instance, like the equal-pay-for-equal-work law that embattled Governor Scott Walker just shot down in Wisconsin, thus guaranteeing that when Badger State mothers do go to work to put food on their family’s table they’ll now have to spend more time away from their kids in order to do it. Three cheers for Republican Family Values!!!

Republicans have always understood better than Democrats that a good offense is the best defense. And so, with the gender gap between Democrats and Republicans approaching Grand Canyon proportions, it’s no mystery why Republicans are eager for a replay of the Mommy Wars of the late 1960s and early 70s when bra-burning feminists squared off against Mrs. Beaver Cleaver and her tastefully arranged string of white pearls.

And so, there was Mr. Etch-a-Sketch himself, chief Romney PR flack Eric Fehrnstrom, tweeting after a left-leaning CNN talking head put her foot in her mouth: “Obama adviser Hilary Rosen goes on CNN to debut their new ‘kill Ann’ strategy, and in the process insults hard-working moms.”

Some things never change. Eric Fehrnstrom is still a thug and Democrats are still incurable weenies.

Hysterical that someone might think calling Mrs. Romney a pampered plutocrat who never worked a day in her life was an implied slur on apple pie and motherhood, the rush by Democrats — up to and including the First Couple – to degrade themselves running away from Hilary Rosen and her ill-chosen words shows just how much Democrats are counting on that 19-point hole Republicans have dug themselves into with woman.

Republicans, as we’ve learned the hard way, are terrific when it comes to starting wars on false pretenses. So, if Democrats applied even a fraction of the strategic thinking Republicans use all the time to the Republican’s made-up War on Homemakers, they’d see Republicans have given them a golden opportunity to go on the attack and pivot back to their signature issue in this campaign: economic justice.

Social conservatives like nothing more than to assert it’s liberals and feminists who are pushing women into the workplace against their will by making those who’d rather be homemakers feel inadequate and unfulfilled for their politically incorrect choice of careers. But the truth is most of these moms couldn’t stay home even if they wanted to since working isn’t a career choice but a matter of economic necessity.

That’s why the idea of casting millionairesses like Mrs. Romney as self-sacrificing stay-at-home-moms is, when you think of it, laughable if not ludicrous.

By now we know the statistics by heart. Over the past 40 years, only incomes in the top 20% have seen any growth at all. During this time, average incomes for most Americans have either stayed level or declined. Whatever wage increases average households have earned in the past generation were made by women entering the workforce. And this at a time when incomes for those in the top 1% grew from an average of $500,000 a year to more than $2 million.

These trends haven’t changed even since the Wall Street-engineered collapse of the global credit markets in 2008.

As Harold Meyerson writes in the Washington Post, “three years after economic growth resumed the real value of Americans’ paychecks is stubbornly still shrinking.”

Profits by the S&P 500 are up 23% since 2007 while cash reserves have increased 49% during that time, in large part because firms are neither hiring in the US nor raising worker wages — even though on average workers are generating nearly $50,000 more each year in revenue than just three years ago, says Meyerson.

So where is all the extra income going? According to University of California economist Emmanuel Saez, all income growth in the US in 2010 went to the wealthiest 10% of households, and 93% to the wealthiest 1%.

“Profits and dividends are up largely because wages are down,” says Meyerson. Indeed, as JPMorgan Chase chief investment officer Michael Cembalest wrote in an investor newsletter last year: “US labor compensation is now at a 50-year low relative to both company sales and US GDP.”

Even in today’s fragile recovery, Meyerson says most of the jobs being created are in low-wage sectors, where 70% of all job gains in the past six months were concentrated in restaurants and hotels, health care, retail trade, and temporary employment agencies.

Construction still has an unemployment rate of 17% in part due to Republican reluctance to commit public funds for basic infrastructure construction.

The disconnect between conservative praise for full-time motherhood and conservative economic policies that prevent more women from actually being full-time moms is the same contradiction we see in the abortion debate, where pro-life conservatives talk about the sanctity of life while saying it would be just terrible for the government to lend a hand to single women forced by restrictive pro-life laws into becoming mothers against their will.

Republican charges ring hallow when they accuse Democrats of disrespecting the hard work women do to raise a family, because at the end of the day choice and self-determination for women (as well as men) are liberal values, not conservative ones.

When conservatives are not demanding strict conformity to ancient and rigid gender roles based on 5,000 years of Judeo-Christian doctrines, or whatever, they are hiding behind a false “individualism” that allows a few privileged multimillionaires to take away the real individual freedoms of the millions these plutocrats are thus able to defraud, exploit and abuse.

Republicans talk a good game about the virtues of motherhood. But when it comes to putting their money where their mouths are and fighting a real war on behalf of moms who want to be moms, the Republican Party, like always, has gone AWOL.

 

By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, Salon, April 13, 2012

April 15, 2012 - Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , ,

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