September 19 2013

Report from Inside the Belly of the Beast: IWF Goes to CAP

Charlotte Hays

“Everybody I know is here,” exclaimed Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, mingling in the crowd of more than 150 women who gathered at the Center for American Progress (CAP) yesterday to launch a campaign entitled “Fair Shot: A Plan for Women and Families to Get Ahead.”

Fair Shot is sponsored by CAP, a think tank with ties to the Obama administration, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, American Women, which is affiliated with Emily’s List, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Organizing for Action, the successor to Organizing for Obama, is in charge of coordinating Fair Shot rollout activities for the next ten days. Fair Shot is definitely not a fresh start: the 77 cent wage gap, supposedly what a woman earns to a man’s dollar in a similar job, was cited again and again.

Do Nancy Pelosi, Valerie Jarrett and the other speakers yesterday who used the figure, know that this number has been debunked again and again, and not just by conservative-leaning groups? Do they care? It’s just more impressive than the actual 6 cent wage gap that the liberal American Association of University Women recently found, if one reads the entire study. But who can rally the troops over six cents!

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama, kicked off the morning, and her remarks were very much a campaign speech for promoting the president’s unpopular health care reform. “ObamaCare—I like that name, don’t you?” Ms. Jarrett said. Echoing President Obama’s unfortunate remarks made while people were scrambling and hiding for their lives at the Navy Yard, Ms. Jarrett recalled that during the 2012 presidential campaign “the candidate who called for the repeal [of ObamaCare] lost.”

Also using administration talking points, Ms. Jarrett emphasized that mothers will play a role in getting young people to sign up for ObamaCare. She neglected to point out that the system is designed to get young people, who can get by on slimmer insurance policies, to defray the costs of ObamaCare. She urged that people tweet the virtues of ObamaCare (hash tag: getcovered). “On behalf of the president, I want to thank you,” she said. “Isn’t it wonderful to have a president who really gets it?” She received a standing ovation.

Former speaker Nancy Pelosi was so excited about the day’s program that she “got goose bumps just coming here.” She had had a hard morning on the Hill because Republicans are trying to cut benefits. She said that wherever she goes she goes to Mass, and that at a Mass in Houston, the priest said something that impressed her—he said that it was wrong to come to Mass and pray and then go out and prey on people. “Isn’t that exactly what [the Republicans] are doing—preying on people?” Ms. Pelosi asked. She seemed surprised that a priest in Houston, which she noted is not a liberal place, would be against preying on people.

Pelosi said that she and her Democratic colleagues in Congress have come up with three priorities: passing paycheck fairness (including raising the minimum wage), paid leave, and providing quality, affordable childcare. The middle item came up as long ago as the Nixon administration, “but the Pat Buchanans of this world and others talked [President Nixon] out of signing the bill.”

What was missing from the proceedings was any real discussion of these issues beyond campaign-style rhetoric. Might there be adverse consequences for any items on the Fair Shot want list? Might there be better ways to assure that women prosper? Might, for example, paycheck fairness, cause lazy and hard working employees to be compensated in the same way? Can the economy afford these things? As with ObamaCare, the want list is more important than exploring alternatives or possible outcomes. Feasibility isn't an issue.

The Fair Shot agenda includes such goals as making sure children have “a healthy start in life,” protecting women’s constitutional rights by combating the erosion of access to abortion,” and ensuring “healthy pregnancies and deliveries.” Nowhere did Fair Shot, as far as I could tell, encourage women to marry before beginning a family. Now that is something that really would make women safer and more prosperous. But it was nowhere on the Fair Shot agenda.

So many of the ideas kicked around yesterday were old and debunked. But they remain powerful. As CAP President Neera Tanden noted yesterday there was a “historic” gender gap in 2012 that was a key factor in President Obama’s winning a second term. It was stale, dishonest ideas that moved women in 2012. Yesterday’s event was preparation for 2016. Fair Shot isn't so much about protecting women as protecting the gender gap.    

I found myself thinking about yesterday’s event as the counterpoint to tonight’s IWF-National Review panel on whether there is a war on women (or a war on men): Fair Shot was monolithic. Everybody towed the line. We will have dissent. There will be people on both sides of the issue. We’ll ask those present to think about these issues—and we’ll have a laugh or two.  And we’ll continue to tell the truth about such things as the gender wage gap. Nancy Pelosi may have a vested interest in misrepresenting it—but most women don’t.

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