January 21 2014
When my boss assigned me the daunting task of reading The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, a 400-page feminist rant, I pushed back. C’mon, Boss, can’t I read the Affordable Care Act instead? No dice.
Reader’s Digest has long published a feature entitled “Laughter Is the Best Medicine.” Laughter is also the appropriate response to The Shriver Report, a hodgepodge of lefty clichés that is being received with great earnestness in Washington’s left wing salons and policy circles. President Obama received his copy directly from the hands of Maria Shriver–Kennedy scion, NBC reporter, and former first lady of California–in the Oval Office. Shriver and the president discussed poverty. Shriver produced the eponymous report in partnership with the Center for American Progress—one nonprofit that won’t be hassled by the IRS. Here are five reasons that, despite the hype, The Shriver Report is not be taken seriously:
You don’t get how weird and disjointed it is from the earnest media coverage. It’s a hodgepodge of contributions from disparate writers. I’d say The Shriver Report throws in everything but the kitchen sink—but that would be sexist. Still, the governing principle seems to have been “No Demographic Left Behind.” You’ve got your dissident nun demographic—the ubiquitous Sister Joan Chittister, who, judging from her Shriver Report essay on the evils of religion, still has a bee in her bonnet about Galileo (d. 1642). You’ve got your recycled 2010 piece by Maria on Alzheimer’s (The Shriver Report pushes back against Alzheimer’s!), and a video of some strange group of young women called GlobalGirl Reporters reciting an angry, staccato poem about—what else?—being on the brink (“Have you ever been on the brink—uncomfortable with the thoughts that you think?… Struggling with deep aberration?” No.). The most oft-quoted entry belongs to mega celebrity Beyonce: media reports neglect to mention that it is a mere three short, wooden paragraphs. Beyonce’s publicist obviously couldn’t be bothered to spend much time on this dumb project. “Humanity requires both men and women, and we are equally important and need one another,” Beyonce dimly opines. The Shriver Report is full of such profundities. Beyonce lectures on the “myth about gender equality.” Irony Alert: Beyonce is married to Jay-Z , the rapper who became a multimillionaire with lyrics describing women as “bitches” and “ho’s.”
If you like your 77-cent wage gap, you can keep your 77-cent wage gap, despite the data: The Shriver Report cites again and again the debunked figure of a 77-cent gender wage gap—supposedly what a woman earns to a man’s dollar. Don’t these people read newspapers and magazines? This figure repeatedly has been revised, including by feminist writer Hanna Rosin, who hangs her hat at The Atlantic (which put on an all-day powwow on The Shriver Report). The liberal American Association of University Women put out a report in 2012 that officially put the gender wage gap at 82 cents in the executive summary, but admitted in its actually analysis that when relevant factors such as number of hours work and industry were taken into account the gap was really more like six percent. The Labor Department has put the wage gap at 87 cents on the dollar for men and women working 40-hour weeks. For men and women working 30 to 34 hours, women earn 109 percent of what men earn—an inconvenient truth. The authors of The Shriver Report know that it’s hard to make a case for massive government intervention to close a minus six percent wage gap. Moreover, these affluent, condescending women know that they will get away with pitching this lie. It goes unchallenged by low information voters, including those who work for elite media outlets.
Camelot is over, Maria. Well, actually it’s not in the world of The Shriver Report. The Shriver Report specifically celebrates the War on Poverty, fifty years old this year, which could only be considered a success if it had been designed to create more poverty. The solution to every ill in the Shriver Report is more government. The report tips us on what is the next front: the newly-proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act or the Family Act, which would create a paid leave of 60 days during which the federal government would provide workers with two-thirds of their average pay. Can companies survive with workers who are likely to take three months off? We all want people to have time off when they needed (and more than 80 percent of full-time workers have paid leave of some sort), but we also know that, to have time off, you need to have a job from which to take the time. The ostriches who wrote the Shriver Report haven’t been paying attention for the last five years.
The Shriver Report loves single-parenting and it seeks to create more of it. Single mothers have a hard time, and they’ll have an even harder time if the recommendations of the Shriver Report come to fruition. The Shriver Report dances uncourageously around the issue of unwed motherhood. It acknowledges—vaguely—that this is a problem. Shriver contributor Ann O’Leary, director of the Children and Families Program at Next Generation, says that “rather than promoting marriage as a silver bullet for women’s economic troubles,” there should be more government programs. In an entry entitled “What about the Fathers?” Kathryn Edin, quotes an unwed father: “Seven White, who conceived his first child at 17, told us, ‘I couldn’t imagine being without them, because when I am spending time with my kids it is like, now that is love! That is unconditional love. … It is like a drug that you got to have. I would never want to be without them.’” That’s a nice sentiment, but it says little about what it takes to actually raise children and about commitment to providing the stability that comes from a two-parent home. “Women of color overwhelmingly want society to adapt to the realities of contemporary family structures,” writes John Halpin, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. Our society has been adapting to the new forms of family structures, which are often a lack of structure. That’s why we’ve seen the explosion in the use of assistance programs and rise of entrenched generational poverty. Yet we really aren’t supposed to dwell too much on that. In the world of the Shriver Report, new family structures are just supposed to be accepted as a Good Thing.
No matter who the Democratic nominee eventually is, The Shriver Report will be dusted off and used. But it is obviously tailor-made for Hillary Clinton, who contributed to the report. Since she will be running primarily on her gender, she needs misinformation about gender politics of the sort peddled in the Shriver Report. Going above and beyond the call of duty, however, the Shriver Report even gives us a touching Hillary vignette (these must be hard to come by). Neera Tanden, a former Hillary staffer and now president of the Center for American Progress, writes:
I learned firsthand about the importance of workplace flexibility when I was raising two young children while working as the policy director on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. I have a wonderful husband who truly believes in co-parenting, but I was able to be successful in my high-pressure job only because I also had an amazing boss who created a culture that respected family responsibilities. That led to some remarkable moments: I remember changing my son’s diapers during morning conference calls, but I also remember Hillary reorganizing her schedule so I could go to my daughter’s pre-K graduation.
Yeah, a husband is fine—but you know what’s really great? Working for Hillary Clinton.
Sure, it’s the project of a nonprofit and a supposedly objective NBC journalist, but The Shriver Report is the blueprint for how the Democrats will fight in 2016 and beyond. It is dishonest and it peddles policies that have already been tried and found disastrous. Never mind. Barack Obama is president today in part because women went for him by eleven points because of his campaign’s phony “war on women” rhetoric. That’s a line they aren’t giving up.
One of the recommendations of The Shriver Report is getting (well) a copy of The Shriver Report. I don’t recommend that for normal women who don’t want to go over the brink. But The Shriver Report should be required reading at the Republican National Committee. They may chose to update the name of the “war on women” but this is their game plan. Their policies don’t work but their political generalship does. Be forewarned.