Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner on Sunday pushed back against the argument made by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and allies that women were the biggest losers of jobs during the Obama administration.
In a series of Sunday TV show appearances, Geithner repeatedly called the GOP claim “ridiculous and very misleading,” and argued that Republicans were selectively reporting job losses for part of the recession to attack the president.
Geithner’s public remarks came amid a heated campaign battle between the camps of President Obama and the presumptive Republican nominee to win over female voters. Geithner, in three appearances Sunday, came out swinging against Romney’s recent claims that the Obama administration had waged an economic “war” against women.
Romney had said earlier this week that the “real war on women has been waged by the policies of the Obama administration . . . did you know that of all the jobs lost during the Obama years, 92.3 percent of them are women? During the Obama years, women have suffered.”
On Sunday, Geithner argued that “you have to look at the whole duration of the recession,” and that men overwhelmingly lost jobs in the part of the recession before Obama took office.
“The recession started in 2008, early in that year,” Geithner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It was a year in the making before President Obama came into office, and it was very damaging to everybody, to families, men and women across the country.”
Geithner noted, as Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler and others have pointed out, that “the early job losses were felt mostly by men, because they happened in construction, in manufacturing across the economy, and as the crisis intensified over the course of ’08 and the government started to feel the pressure, they had to cut back on teachers.”
“A lot of women are teachers, so you saw the later effects as the crisis spread to women, too,” Geithner added.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Geithner said the argument that 92 percent of jobs lost during the Obama administration had been held by women has been “largely debunked.”
“To borrow a line from [former New York governor] Mario Cuomo, you’re going to see a lot of politicians choose to campaign in fiction, but we have to govern in fact,” he told host George Stephanopoulos.
Republicans seized on the jobs statistic in an effort to push back against Democratic claims that the GOP is waging a “war on women.” The real war on women, Republicans have argued, has been waged by Democrats who have instituted economic policies resulting in vast job losses for women.
But the Romney camp’s use of the statistic came under criticism last week, and not from Democrats alone.
Chris Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” said during an interview with Romney adviser Ed Gillespie on Sunday morning that he believed the claim was “a little bit of an accounting trick.”
Pressed by Wallace, Gillespie acknowledged Sunday that “more men than women lost jobs before President Obama took office; more women lost jobs since President Obama took office.”
“The fact that more men lost before he took office doesn’t make it a good thing that more lost since he took office,” he said. “It’s a bad thing, and we need to reverse that.”
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the Obama campaign was trying to “hide the enormous damage this president has done to American women.” She said that “women have benefited from less than one-eighth of the meager job creation” the administration credits itself with achieving during Obama’s tenure.
“The president should stop making excuses for his failures — he is entitled to his own spin but not his own facts,” Saul said.
Geithner also faced tough questioning about whether the Obama administration was engaged in a “publicity stunt” by pushing the Buffett Rule to hike taxes for millionaires. Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer noted that even White House aides privately acknowledge that the proposal has little chance of passage.
Geithner conceded that the plan to set a minimum tax for people making at least $1 million annually had an unphill battle.
“If we don’t push for things that make sense, then we’re not governing,” Geithner said.“I certainly hope it will [pass], but I know it’s a political moment. It’s tough to do.”