So, in the wake of Republicans trying to force every woman who has sex during her fertile years into motherhood, through denial of access to both birth control and abortion, a kerfuffle started yesterday after Mitt Romney said that his wife “reports to” him on women’s concerns over the economy. The context was the economic gap between men and women.
Despite that, when liberal political strategist Hilary Rosen said Ann Romney wasn’t the best choice for representing these concerns, as she’s “never worked a day in her life”, Romney shot back on Twitter:
Sure, I believe her. Raising five kids without an involved father is hard. Nobody said it wasn’t. What Rosen did say was that she wasn’t an appropriate representative for concerns about economic gaps between the sexes–particularly concerns about job availability and fair pay. Your kids aren’t going to evaporate in an economic downturn. They’re not going to pay you less than they pay Dad. And if they do, you haven’t spent the last year or so watching your legal remedies being systematically disassembled.
In other words, your background doesn’t actually help you establish your bona fides for representing women’s economic concerns. Especially not after this:
Dressage horses and multi-day getaways are not among the “needs” of the average mother and voter. But let’s assume that Ann Romney really has been listening and really does want to represent the economic concerns of at least mothers. What does she need to be reporting to Mitt?
- Employment is still a huge issue. Given that small businesses account for 65% of job creation in the U.S. and that the bulk of these jobs come from new companies, it’s time to shift government support from existing corporations to start-ups. That means supporting affordable health care for people outside huge group policies. It also means careful attention to the patent process so that small innovators aren’t differentially disadvantaged.
- Pay is no small problem. If Romney wants mothers to have the same choice she did, we have a long way to go to make that affordable. Minimum wage is not a livable wage. Families with children are four times as likely to be classed among the working poor, and the percentage of these families in the working poor is nearly half again what it was in 2000. The education that would help families crawl out of poverty is much more expensive than it was when the Romneys went to school–due in large part to government policies. That all needs to change to make Ann Romney’s choice widely available.
- Equitable pay also affects the ability of families to make real choices. If women are not able to make the same amount of pay for the same productivity, then their “choice” to stay home is less of a choice. If men are not able to take time for parenting without being penalized more than women who do the same thing, there is not a fully valid choice for men to stay home with their children.
- Supporting choice also means supporting parents who do work. This means making quality professional child care affordable. It requires making a commitment to all of those very basic policies that make education work. It means supporting workers so that, say, those parents who have to juggle the needs of medically fragile or disabled children can’t be fired without cause.
There are plenty of things Ann Romney can do to represent the economic concerns of women, even just those women who want make a choice to have a parent in the home. So far, however, she doesn’t seem to be doing it.