While the recession has hit men far harder than women — so much so that some pundits have dubbed this economic downturn a “mancession” — the Obama administration is focusing on the struggles women are facing during these tough economic times.
The National Economic Council released a report Thursday detailing women’s economic hardships and the different ways the administration is helping to alleviate their pain.
The report heralds the president’s economic policies but acknowledges the need for more work. “Since his first day in office, President Obama has worked to lay the foundation for economic growth that creates good jobs and incomes for all Americans,” the report reads.
“Many of these policies have been particularly important for women. These policies have helped stave off a second Great Depression and get our economy growing again, but job growth is still not fast enough. The President is committed to continuing to push for an economy that provides economic security and jobs for America’s women.”
Critics, however, diverge from the president’s bright outlook, and question the focus on women.
Economist Mark Perry, visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller that the lack of attention to the economic problems of men has been foolish.
“My initial impression of the report is that it completely ignores all of the significant and disproportionate hardships faced by men in the recession. We just went through an unprecedented ‘mancession,’ and it’s still not over,” Perry wrote in an e-mail to TheDC.
“[W]omen have done far better, due to career choices and being in industries less affected by recessions (health care and education), and being much better educated, etc,” he said noting that women have been outperforming men in the acquisition of degrees, earning 57.2 percent of college degrees awarded, 60.3 percent of master’s degrees, and 51.6 percent of doctor’s degrees.
It is difficult to deny, when looking at the numbers, that men have felt the effects of the recession more than their female counter parts. Perry notes that the most recent gap between male and female joblessness is 1.90 percent — high, but still below the peak August 2009 2.7 percent disparity.
Experts explain that the difference in unemployment is due largely to the fact that men make up many of the industries hit hardest by the recession, such as construction, finance, and manufacturing, while female-dominated fields, such as health care and education, have not felt the effects of the recession as much.
Veronique de Rugy, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, believes that the current focus on women is tied to the election and the administration’s “get out the vote” efforts.
“Women overwhelmingly voted for president Obama two years ago, I think it was like 56 percent. And so that is a target,” Rugy said. “You put a target on people you can get [to vote].”
The timing of the report’s release is extremely suspect, echoed Amy Siskind, president and founder of the feminist advocacy group The New Agenda.
“The Democrats are trying to go after voters that are traditionally loyal to the party,” Siskind said. “What has happened under this president and this administration is that women sort of feel like their issues have not been addressed, economic or otherwise with this president.”
And Siskind’s contentions are accurate, according to Sonja Eddings Brown, president the women’s economic group The Kitchen Cabinet, for despite Obama’s focus on women, Brown’s internal polls show that women are losing confidence in the president.
“Our poll, released last week, revealed that women across all party lines see Barack Obama’s policies as failures. Healthcare? 53% -28% a failure. Economic Stimulus? 54% to 30% a failure. The Auto Bail-out? 51% to 33% a failure,” Brown wrote in an e-mail to TheDC.
“The surprise vote, however, might be from women who have previously identified themselves as Democrats,” Brown continued. “Even women who voted for ‘hope and change’ realize now that the price tag has been much too high.”
Despite de Rugy and Siskind’s suspicions, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Wednesday that women’s plight during the recession has been a constant project for the President. “[T]he timing isn’t political. It’s an issue that obviously is on everybody’s mind and I’m sure is on the minds of people of the states that are represented by women in the Senate and those that aren’t.”
With polls indicating that unpopular economic policies have not endeared Obama to women as much as he would think, Jennifer Rubin, contributing editor at Commentary magazine, told The DC that, with nearly 10 percent unemployment, it is quite “nervy” of the administration to say they have helped women.
“Certainly women small business owners don’t appreciate the upcoming tax hike, senior women don’t appreciate the Medicare rationing which ObamaCare entails, and mothers don’t appreciate the avalanche of debt being loaded on to the backs of their kids,” Rubin said. “Perhaps that is why so many conservative women are running for office and why so many Tea Party leaders are women.”
Whether the policies have helped or hurt women, the bottom line, according to Perry, is that men have been neglected and are facing a much tougher economic landscape.
“There has probably never been any previous recession in U.S. history that has caused such a disproportionate economic hardship on one gender as the Great Mancession of 2008-2009, and its disproportionate adverse effects on men,” he said. “For the administration to release such a one-sided, biased report emphasizing the need for economic security for only women, who fared so much better than men during the Great Mancession than men, seems extremely misguided.”
In that vein, Rubin concluded that there remains an important question to be answered. “The statistics on unemployment tip toe around a key fact: men have been laid off in far great numbers than women in the recession. So perhaps the question is: What is Obama doing for men?”