Weaponizing the well-being of women

  • Article by: KATHERINE KERSTEN
  • Updated: August 26, 2012 - 9:22 PM

Obama is a field general in a 'war' that exists only for the sake of his re-election.

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Jan. 25, 2012: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer points during an intense conversation with President Barack Obama at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.

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There's a "war on women" being waged by those knuckle-dragging Republicans. How do you know? Because President Obama has told you so, and because his media enablers parrot the line at every opportunity.

What does the battlefield look like? A first reconnaissance might suggest that men, not women, are under assault and in full-scale retreat. For example, women now earn almost 60 percent of college degrees, and a majority of master's and doctoral degrees. Education is the best predictor of future earnings in our information economy.

Women now hold 51 percent of white-collar management and professional jobs. Traditional male sectors like manufacturing are in decline, while women dominate 13 of the 15 job categories projected to grow most in the next decade. In 2010, the Atlantic magazine documented the shift in an article titled "The End of Men."

So why this juiced-up "war on women" rhetoric from the White House?

The president's much-ballyhooed "hope and change" has been a bust. He can't run on his dismal economic record: persistent high unemployment, an exploding national debt, a regulatory burden that grows more oppressive daily, and the deeply unpopular Obamacare.

His polling numbers make clear that winning a majority of men's votes will be a challenge. So the president is trying to keep women -- who deserted his party in large numbers in 2010 -- on board by fear-mongering on "women's issues" like contraception and the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act.

But this strategy requires world-class fact-twisting. For example, a Health and Human Services mandate implementing Obamacare requires employers to provide insurance covering abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives. Obama supporters are trying to convince women that Republican efforts to exempt employers who object on grounds of conscience -- a tiny fraction -- will somehow threaten access to contraception, which is cheap and widely available. For Obama, a "right" to free contraception trumps employers' right to freedom of religion.

On the workplace front, Obama supporters allege that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. They blame sexist employers, and denounce Republicans for opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which they portray as key to "pay equity."

In fact, the wage gap essentially disappears in "apples to apples" comparisons of the earnings of women with and without children. Women with children tend to choose hours, occupations and flexible work environments that result in lower earnings, while childless women earn virtually the same as their male counterparts on average. In fact, in cities like Minneapolis, Boston and New York, women in their 20s who work full-time now outearn their male peers.

The Paycheck "Fairness" Act is nothing of the sort -- which is why Democrats couldn't ram it through even when they held big majorities in Congress in 2010.

The act has been described as a "feast for lawyers." It would harm the economy and stunt job creation by encouraging frivolous class-action lawsuits and by preventing employers from linking compensation to employees' experience and productivity. Ironically, it would hurt women by greatly increasing the cost to employers of hiring them.

Is there really a war on women? One could argue there is, but it's not the one Obama is describing. It's a war on every individual who aspires to a middle-class job, values America's traditions of freedom and opportunity, and hopes for a future in which our children are not crushed by government debt. The president's relentless determination to expand the size and scope of government has provoked that war.

In 2009, Obama assured us that his monster $800 billion stimulus would cut unemployment to 5.6 percent by July 2012. Instead, it's at 8.3 percent, and it would be at 11 percent if the labor force participation rate were the same as when he took office. Likewise, in 2011, economic growth was a dismal 1.8 percent, not the 4 percent Obama predicted in his 2010 budget.

Obama assures us that American women want "choice." But women can wave goodbye to choice with Obamacare, which will steadily strip control over family health care decisions from women and their doctors and hand it to federal bureaucrats.

Obama's "Life of Julia" ad campaign made clear that he views women as dependents in perpetual need of government largesse. But women don't want or need a nanny state. To flourish, they need the freedom to seek prosperity and happiness on their own terms, not the soft tyranny of government handouts -- and the creeping control of their lives it inevitably will bring.

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Katherine Kersten is a senior fellow at the Center of the American Experiment. The views expressed here are her own. She is at kakersten@gmail.com.

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