Conservative media have created a furor over CNN contributor Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney, drowning out an important truth: conservative policies limit women's opportunities to succeed economically.
Rosen Says Ann Romney Never Dealt With Everyday Economic Problems, Then Apologizes
Rosen: Ann Romney "Never Really Dealt With The Kinds Of Economic Issues That A Majority Of The Women In This Country Are Facing." From CNN's Anderson Cooper 360:
HILARY ROSEN (CNN contributor): Well, first, can we just get rid of this word war on women. The Obama campaign does not use it. President Obama does not use it. This is something that the Republicans are accusing people of using, but they're actually the one spreading it.
With respect to economic issues, I think actually that Mitt Romney is right, that ultimately women care more about the economic well-being of their families and the like. But there's -- but he doesn't connect on that issue either.
What you have is Mitt Romney running around the country saying, well, you know, my wife tells me that what women really care about are economic issues. And when I listen to my wife, that's what I'm hearing.
Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life. She's never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing in terms of how do we feed our kids, how do we send them to school and how do we -- why do we worry about their future?
So I think it's -- yes, it's about these positions and, yes, I think there will be a war of words about the positions, but there's something much more fundamental about Mitt Romney. He seems so old- fashioned when it comes to women.
And I think that comes across and I think that that's going to hurt him over the long term. He just doesn't really see us as equal. [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 4/11/12]
MSNBC's First Read: Rosen's Comments Became A "Manufactured Controversy" That Was "Fueled By Twitter And Social Media." From the MSNBC.com blog First Read:
[O]n Wednesday and Thursday, the Romney campaign seized on comments by Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist with thin ties to the White House, who said that Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life. It was a manufactured controversy -- fueled by Twitter and social media -- because no serious political actor in this presidential contest is criticizing stay-at-home moms or the value of the work they do. In fact, Rosen was referring to the Romneys' wealth, not Ann Romney's decision to raise her five sons at home. [First Read, MSNBC.com, 4/13/12]
Rosen: "I Apologize To Ann Romney And Anyone Else Who Was Offended." Rosen released a statement saying:
"Let's put the faux 'war against stay at home moms' to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women's financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance." [TalkingPointsMemo.com, 4/12/12]
Uproar Diverts Attention From Conservative Support For Policies That Limit Women's Economic Opportunities
Senate Republicans Voted Unanimously To Block Paycheck Fairness Act. From a Huffington Post article:
Senate Democrats were unable to overcome a Republican filibuster of the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday, with the chamber falling two votes short of the 60 needed to end debate and proceed to a vote on the measure that would help combat wage discrimination on the basis of gender.
The vote broke down along party lines with the exception of sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who sided with Republicans and voted against cloture. Not a single member of the GOP broke rank.
Observers closely watched the votes of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), all women senators who voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provides basic protections against wage discrimination. [The Huffington Post, 11/17/10]
WI GOP Gov. Walker Repealed Law Aimed At Preventing Gender Wage Discrimination. On April 5, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker repealed a law "that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court." From The Huffington Post:
A Wisconsin law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court was repealed on Thursday, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed the bill.
The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.
In November, the state Senate approved SB 202, which rolled back this provision. On February, the Assembly did the same. Both were party-line votes in Republican-controlled chambers.
Sara Finger, executive director of WAWH, said that the repeal was a "demoralizing attack on women's rights, health, and wellbeing."
"Economic security is a women's health issue," she said. "The salary women are paid directly affects the type and frequency of health care services they are able to access. At a time when women's health services are becoming more expensive and harder to obtain, financial stability is essential to maintain steady access." [The Huffington Post, 4/6/12]
Study: Women's Early Access To Contraceptives Significantly Improves Their Economic And Educational Opportunities, Narrows U.S. Gender Gap. A study by economists from the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia found that contraceptives have a significant impact on women's educational and economic opportunities. They argued that contraceptives are at the "root cause" of the boon in female college enrollment and workplace employment from the 1970s on, because they "improved [women's] ability to time births, altered their expectations about future childbearing, and reduced the cost of altering career investments to reflect their changed expectations." The study also found that "younger access to the Pill conferred an 8-percent hourly wage premium by age fifty" and concluded that "the Pill can account for 10 percent of the convergence [of] the gender gap in the 1980s and 30 percent in the 1990s." [Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein, and Amalia R. Miller, "The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages," 3/7/12]
Almost Every GOP Senator Voted To Negate Mandatory Contraception Coverage. From a Washington Post article:
The Senate Thursday rejected an effort to vastly expand conscience exemptions to the Obama administration's new birth control coverage rule, even as Republican presidential contenders continued to tussle over the issue.
The measure, an amendment proposed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to a highway funding bill, would have allowed not only religious groups but any employer with moral objections to opt out of the coverage requirement. And it would have allowed such employers to do so in the case of not only contraception but any health service required by the 2010 health-care law.
The 51 to 48 vote to kill the amendment was largely along party lines, although three Democrats -- Robert P. Casey Jr. (Pa.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) -- broke ranks to support it, and Republican Olympia Snowe (Maine) opposed it. [The Washington Post, 3/1/12]
Mitt Romney: "Of Course I Support" Negating Contraception Requirement. From a CBS News article:
After suggesting Wednesday that he did not support a controversial measure allowing U.S. employers to opt out of a rule requiring them to provide employees with contraceptive health coverage, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney quickly clarified his position, affirming in a radio interview that "of course I support the Blunt Amendment."
On the Howie Carr radio show later on, Romney said explicitly that "Of course I support the Blunt Amendment."
He explained that he was confused by the question and thought the reporter was referencing legislation in Ohio, despite the fact that it was explicitly referred to as Blunt-Rubio.
"I didn't understand his question, of course I support the Blunt amendment," he said. "I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply -- misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment." [CBSNews.com, 2/29/12]
Assistance for the needy
Center On Budget And Policy Priorities: Republican Budget Would Cut SNAP Funding By $134 Billion Over 10 Years. From a paper released by the CBPP:
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget plan includes cuts in SNAP (formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) of $133.5 billion -- more than 17 percent -- over the next ten years (2013-2022), which would necessitate ending assistance for millions of low-income families, cutting benefits for millions of such households, or some combination of the two. Chairman Ryan proposed a similarly deep SNAP cut last year.
While Chairman Ryan has outlined some key features of his proposal as it affects SNAP -- in particular, converting SNAP to a block grant beginning in 2016 -- he has provided little information on how the cuts would be achieved or their timing over the ten-year period. And the total cuts under the Ryan plan could turn out to be somewhat larger than $133.5 billion.
Since more than 90 percent of SNAP expenditures are for food assistance benefits for low-income households, and most of the remaining funds go for necessary state administrative costs to determine program eligibility and operate the program properly, policymakers couldn't possibly achieve cuts of this magnitude without substantially scaling back SNAP eligibility or reducing benefits deeply, with serious effects on low-income families and individuals. ["Ryan Budget Would Slash Snap Funding By $134 Billion Over Ten Years," CBPP.org, 3/22/12]
USDA: 62 Percent Of Nonelderly Adult SNAP Recipients Were Women, 66 Percent Of Elderly Were Women. From the Department of Agriculture's report on the characteristics of SNAP for fiscal year 2010:
In fiscal year 2010, 46 percent of all SNAP participants were nonelderly adults, and 8 percent were elderly. About 62 percent of nonelderly adults were women, as were 66 percent of elderly adults. Forty-seven percent of all participants were children, similar to the number of participating children in fiscal year 2009. About 66 percent of the children were school-age. ["Characteristics of Supplemental Assistance Program Households: Fiscal Year 2010," USDA.gov, September 2011]
CBPP: Republican Budget Would Cut At Least $463 Billion From Programs From Lower-Income Americans. From a paper released by the CBPP:
At least $463 billion in cuts in mandatory programs serving low-income Americans (other than Medicaid and SNAP). Chairman Ryan's budget documents indicate that he is proposing $1.2 trillion in cuts in mandatory programs other than Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other health programs, but the documents do not specify how much specific programs would be cut (with the exception of SNAP). For this analysis, we make the conservative assumption that savings from low-income mandatory programs (other than Medicaid and SNAP) would be proportionate to their share of spending in this category. Thus, we derive the $463 billion figure from the fact that 45 percent of mandatory spending other than for Social Security, health care, and SNAP goes for programs for low- and moderate income individuals and families.
This likely substantially understates the cuts that the plan would make in low-income programs. The Ryan documents show that $758 billion in cuts would come from mandatory programs just in the income security portion of the budget (function 600), and the bulk of the mandatory spending in that category goes for low-income programs. The documents also show $166 billion in mandatory cuts in the education, training, employment, and social services portion of the budget (function 500), which, based on the discussion in the Ryan budget documents, would likely come mainly from the mandatory portion of the Pell Grant program for low-income students. ["Chairman Ryan Gets 62 Percent Of His Huge Budget Cuts From Programs For Lower-Income Americans," CBPP.org, 3/23/12]
- "Function 600" Includes Temporary Aid For Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income. [Budget.House.gov, accessed 4/12/12]
National Women's Law Center: 86 Percent Of Adults Who Got TANF In 2009 Were Women. From the website of the National Women's Law Center:
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is a block grant to states to fund cash assistance, work supports, and other services for low-income children and parents. In FY 2011, nearly 1.89 million families and almost 3.4 million children received TANF assistance on average each month. In FY 2009, nearly nine in ten (86 percent) adults served by TANF were women. [NWLC.org, 2/15/12]
NWLC: Nearly Six In 10 Adult SSI Recipients In 2010 Were Women; Two-Thirds Of Elderly Beneficiaries Were Women. From the NWLC website:
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) provides income support for low-income individuals who are elderly, blind or living with disabilities. In 2010 SSI served 7.9 million people, including over 1.2 million children. The majority of adults in the program in 2010 were women -- nearly six in ten -- and two-thirds of elderly SSI beneficiaries were women. [NWLC.org, 2/15/12]
Elimination of public-sector jobs
Economic Policy Institute: Women "Have Taken The Brunt Of The Job Losses In State And Local Governments." From an EPI blog post by David Cooper:
Paul Krugman and Jared Bernstein have written recently of the seemingly contradictory forces at work today in government policy. On the one hand are the stimulus efforts of the Obama administration and the federal government, which have had a measurable impact in reducing unemployment and aiding the recovery. On the other hand are the dramatic cuts to state and local budgets that these governments have made in the wake of the Great Recession. States have had to deal with the largest drop in state revenues ever recorded, and the resulting deficits have meant huge jobs losses among state and local workers.
I have commented on these job losses a few times before, so this time around I want to highlight the gender dynamics a bit. These cuts to state and local government workforces, while a significant drag on the economy as a whole, are particularly damaging for women. In 2011, women made up 46.6 percent of the overall labor force, but among state and local workers, about 60 percent are women. Because women are so disproportionately represented in state and local jobs, they also have taken the brunt of the job losses in state and local governments. Of the net change in total state and local employment between 2007 and 2011 -- a decline of roughly 765,000 jobs -- 70 percent of the drop is from female employees. Today, there are about 540,000 fewer women in state and local jobs than in 2007, compared with about 225,000 fewer men. [EPI.org, 3/6/12]
Princeton Business Professor: "Many Of Women's Job Losses Have Been Government Jobs," And Those Jobs Have Been "Slower To Come Back Because They Require Greater Government Spending." From a PolitiFact article:
Betsey Stevenson, a business and public policy professor at Princeton University, also pointed out that "in every recession men's job loss occurs first and most, with unemployment rates for men being more cyclical than those of women's."
She added that many of women's job losses have been government jobs -- teachers and civil servants -- which have been slower to come back because they require greater government spending. [PolitiFact.com, 4/10/12]
FactCheck.org: "There Has Been Scant Republican Support For Increased Federal Aid To States To Retain And Hire Teachers, Police And Firefighters." From a FactCheck.org article:
[P]art of the Obama plan is to invest $35 billion to prevent the layoffs of up to 280,000 teachers, police officers and firefighters, and to hire tens of thousands more.
In December 2009, House Democrats passed the Jobs for Main Street Act that included $24 billion for state and local governments to retain teachers and police officers. (Not unlike what is included in Obama's plan now.) It did not include a tax credit for small businesses that create jobs.
It passed the House 217 to 212, but not a single Republican voted for it. The measure never took hold in the Senate, however.
In March 2010, six House Republicans joined 211 Democrats to help pass a pared-down version of the bill, then called the HIRE Act. The $17.5 billion bill included a temporary payroll tax break to companies that hire jobless people. Notably, however, it was opposed by 166 House Republicans. Two weeks later, 11 Republican senators helped pass a Senate version of the bill. But it also was opposed by a majority of Senate Republicans -- 28.
On Aug. 5, 2010, two Republican senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine, crossed party lines and voted for a bill that included $10 billion for state governments to spare thousands of teachers whose jobs were imperiled by strapped state budgets. But 39 Republicans voted against it.
In short, there has been scant Republican support for increased federal aid to states to retain and hire teachers, police and firefighters. [FactCheck.org, 9/12/11]
CAP Economist: States That Cut The Most Spending Have Lost The Most Jobs. From a Think Progress blog post by Center for American Progress economist Adam Hersh:
[S]teep spending cuts are hampering economic recovery in some states, while other states that resisted cuts or increased spending are now seeing declining unemployment rates, faster private-sector job creation, and stronger economic growth.