November 9 2011
The Hill, Pundits Blog
In an opinion piece for The Hill last week, Brent Budowsky argued that Hillary Clinton would “win big in 2012” because she represents the traditional brand of the Democratic Party and would stand up for the “disempowered.” Specifically, he points to Hillary’s “woman power” — her unwavering commitment to women at a time when he claims Republicans have become openly hostile toward the second sex.
Budowsky scrambles together a number of policies and issues — equal pay, Social Security and the gender gap — that he thinks demonstrate Republicans' aggressive stance toward women. Instead, he misrepresents reality, Republicans and free-market ideas.
Budowsky claims, “Many Republicans aggressively oppose pay equity for women.” Democratic lawmakers, national women’s organizations and liberal pundits embrace the idea that equal-pay legislation — like the 2010 Paycheck Fairness Act — would bring an end to gender discrimination and the infamous wage gap.
It’s true Republicans reject gender protection legislation; but not because they don’t believe in equal pay. The fact is, there are serious consequences to legislation like this that will stymie job creation and economic growth. Rather than help women, as Budowsky suggests, gender protection laws skew the labor market, increase liability and the potential of lawsuits for employers and ultimately increase the cost of hiring women.
Perhaps equally important, the research doesn’t back up the myth of the wage gap. The default notion on the left is that gender discrimination — rather than personal choices — is the primary reason for a disparity in wages between men and women. But when researchers control for any number of variables — from choice of college major to time taken off — the wage gap largely disappears.
As for Social Security, feminists and Budowsky need to move beyond the antiquated view of Social Security as the best we can do for women. One of the biggest problems with the current government-funded structure is the gender imbalance that characterizes the system. Social Security was designed to fit a 1935 family, in which the husband was the sole breadwinner. Today this no longer reflects a modern American family, in which more women work outside of the home, marry later (if at all) and divorce more often than nearly a century ago. Nevertheless, Social Security has remained largely static and as a result highly regressive.
The solution is not more “wealth distribution”; rather, women need a retirement plan that reflects the changing roles of women in the 21st century. Individual retirement accounts, for instance, are a step toward giving women more control over their savings and yielding higher returns they can pass on to family or charity. What perhaps Budowsky forgets is that women want the same thing men want — the freedom to save and invest in a way that reflects the needs of their family and plans for the future.
Finally, Budowsky points to the “tidal wave of support from female voters” that he anticipates will help reelect President Obama. While it’s true women have favored Democrats over Republicans for the two decades since analysts started keeping records, this all changed during last year’s midterm elections, when women closed the gender gap.
President Obama and Democrats like Hillary Clinton believe that by playing gender politics they can win the hearts and votes of women. But unless Democrats start addressing the issues that really matter to women — the size and scope of government, repealing and replacing ObamaCare, tax and regulatory reform to encourage growth of new businesses — they can kiss the faithful women’s vote goodbye.
Budowsky has bought into the misguided notion of the Republican “war on women.” But what’s at the heart of this “war” is the notion that what’s good for women and their families is not more government spending, but robust economic growth. In the end, the worst thing lawmakers can do to ensure equality for women is to pay more attention to “women’s issues.”
Sabrina L. Schaeffer is a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum and managing partner of Evolving Strategies.