September 3 2012
Carrie L. Lukas
Democrats taking the stage this week in North Carolina will make their case for why Americans should hire them to go to Washington. Democrats plainly see women as their most promising pool of potential supporters, and their most effective sales pitch as portraying Republicans as an unacceptable alternative engaged in a “War on Women.”
Women should consider what it says about the administration’s record that such scare tactics are the best Democrats have to offer. Four years ago, women overwhelmingly supported candidate Obama based on his promise of a robust economic recovery and a new tone in Washington. Today, Democrats can’t brag about greater civility or prosperity, only of an expanded safety net that helps Americans weather the never-ending economic storm.
Indeed, the Obama Administration has succeeded in expanding government so today more Americans depend on Washington for basic sustenance. One in seven Americans now receives food stamps. One million more than when President Obama took office receive Social Security disability checks. As the new health care law is implemented, millions will come to depend on taxpayers to cover their health care bills.
The substance to Democrats’ “War on Women” charge—to the extent there is some—is that Republicans seek to reduce government spending and roll back aspects of this safety net. Women evaluating this claim should start by weighing the benefit of government freebies against the costs they create. After all, Democrats may sell new programs and regulations (such as those that require insurance to make contraception “free” to users) as manna from heaven, but their costs reappear elsewhere. We pay for government’s generosity through higher insurance premiums, more government debt, higher taxes, lower economic growth and fewer jobs.
Americans familiar with government’s bleak balance sheet might also rightfully question if Democrats really are effective stewards of the public safety net. Social Security and Medicare’s Actuaries consistently warn that the programs’ looming financial shortfalls imperil their long-term existence. Yet Democrats ignore anyone—not just vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, but also members of the President’s own commission created to study the issue—who propose reforms. The President’s signature health care law would cut hundreds of billions from the Medicare program, even as the numbers of seniors on Medicare explodes. How long can these already thinly-stretched programs last?
Democrats in Charlotte will trumpet other federal initiatives that may sound swell, but that in reality exacerbate problems they are supposed to fix. Take government subsidies for higher education. Those are supposed to make college more affordable, but since schools have consistently responded by raising tuition prices and capturing those subsidies, students end up deeper in debt, rather than better off.
Democrats will tell women how they are protecting them from a hostile workplace. Equal pay for equal work is a good slogan, but it has been the law of the land for decades. Recent efforts advanced under that name simply make it easier for employees to sue their employers, and harder for businesses to defend themselves against frivolous lawsuits. Americans should ask themselves if more litigation will really result in greater justice, or if it is just another way for lawyers to drain money from the private economy and another deterrent to job creation.
Many women watching the convention may wonder if the speakers at the podium understand how most Americans actually live. All this women-specific discussion often comes across as bizarre, since few see the world, or even the economy, as a tug-of-war between the sexes. Women aren’t comforted that the unemployment rate for women is a little lower than it is for men. We worry about the growing number of young men who don’t have jobs, haven’t graduated from college, and seem lost and without goals.
Despite what pollsters say, women aren’t a special interest group. We want the same things men want: A growing economy that provides plentiful job opportunities, a healthy marketplace with affordable goods and services, and a safety-net that helps those in need, but without bankrupting the government or encouraging a life of dependency.
This election should be about the best way to reach that goal. Conservatives tend to argue that the key is returning resources and greater freedom to people and the private sector. Democrats want government to actively manage the economy, through redistributionist tax policies, regulation, and government spending programs.
That’s a debate worth having. It’s the debate that the Democrats’ War on Women rhetoric seeks to avoid. American women shouldn’t let them get away with it.