He was referring to the political firestorm that erupted when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen suggested that Ann Romney couldn’t possibly speak for women in this country because she’d “never worked a day in her life.” Weigel’s point was that the WoW talking point – which had served the Democrats so well through the personhood and contraception and slutgate wars – was now dead in the water, as everyone (and their mothers), left, right and center, jumped in to defend the noble work that stay-at-home moms do.
But in the war over women voters, there wasn’t even a brief lull.
In a series of appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Geithner repeatedly refuted the claims made by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s camp that women have been the biggest losers under President Obama in terms of jobs. Specifically, Romney had argued earlier in the week that 92.3 percent of job losses since Obama took office were suffered by women, something one of his advisers characterized as “setting us back 20 years.”
Geithner called the GOP claim “ridiculous and very misleading,” arguing that Republicans were selectively reporting job losses for part of the recession in order to attack the president. Specifically, he noted that when the recession began back in 2008 under President Bush, it was men in industries such as construction and manufacturing who took the biggest hit. Subsequently, after Obama entered office and the government was forced to cut spending, women in fields such as teaching were also squeezed.
The Atlantic has a very telling graphic on precisely this last point. It notes that recent female employment declines have been disproportionately concentrated among government workers. Since January 2009, about two-thirds of all women’s job losses have been in the public sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 46 percent of those have been in education, where — according to the National Center for Education Statistics — 76 percent of public school teachers were female in 2007-08.
I’m not sure those numbers look really great for Obama, so if we want to debate something, we may as well start there. (Though in his defense, Geithner might also point out that women now occupy a third of the top jobs in Obama’s administration, compared to a quarter in the last administration.)
In the long run, the work force in the 21st century is shifting in ways that benefit women, both in terms of the sorts of professions that will be prized as well as the skill sets that will be valued. But in the long run, as John Maynard Keynes so eloquently put it, we’ll all be dead.
Rather, politics is about the short run. and in this election cycle, my guess is that we haven’t yet heard the last word on who has a better plan for how to address the very specific concerns of working women.