The Washington Post’s Melinda Henneberger thinks Representative Pelosi has had a brilliant revelation in realizing that “economic issues are women’s issues.” She reports, with some apparent amazement, that Pelosi has launched an initiative “focused solely on the economic issues that impact women and families: Pay equity, sick leave, and child care,” eschewing any mention of issues like abortion and sexual harassment, the usual meat-and-potatoes that liberals serve to their female base.
Perhaps it is newsworthy that for once Democrats are looking beyond women’s “lady parts,” but it’s hardly a revelation that economic issues are an important way to appeal to women. Those of us who were appalled by the Democrats’ War on Women campaign tactic, and their attempt to convince female voters that somehow Republicans running for office in 2012 were plotting to outlaw contraception, wrote endlessly that women shouldn’t be fooled by this distraction and ought to consider the dismal economic record of the administration.
Henneberger seems also to miss that Pelosi’s plan does continue to pigeonhole women as being primarily interested in family issues, rather than in job creation and the broad economy. With 14.5 percent of Americans unemployed or under-employed, few women’s top concern is likely to be government mandating paid sick leave. While many undoubtedly like the idea of people having access to such benefits (and indeed most jobs come with paid-time off, even absent a government mandate), the experience with Obamacare, as companies move to limit the number of full-time employees, may be providing an education in how mandated benefits can back-fire on workers.
Women want plentiful job opportunities, affordable child care options, and benefits and flexibility that allow for them to balance work and family responsibilities. Yet that doesn’t mean that the best way to create that reality is for government to set up a new thicket of expensive mandates and budget-breaking programs. What we really need is to embrace reforms that lower government’s burden on businesses so they can create lasting jobs and encourage actual economic growth.
Sadly that’s not going to be found in Representative Pelosi’s outreach to women, which still casts women as a small-ball interest group rather than as half of the American population that’s suffering in this stalled economy.