Monday, April 23, 2012

Mitt Tries To Appeal To Women

Campaigning in March in Cincinnati before Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney declared "We’re watching a president divide America right now.      I will make sure … we always remain the hope of the earth.

On April 16 he told ABC News' Diane Sawyer

We don’t divide America based upon success and wealth and other dimensions of that nature.  We’re one nation under God ….  This is a time when people of different backgrounds and different experiences need to come together.  I happen to believe that I’m by far the best qualified in this race between myself and President Obama."

Yesterday in Miami, Romney described Barack Obama as a "president who is dividing America."

Prior to the latter two remarks, Romney had claimed, as reported by MSNBC's First Read

There's been some talk about a war on women. The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration's failure on the economy. Do you know what percentage of job losses during the Obama years of have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men? Do you know how many women, what percent of the job losses were women? 92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who've lost those jobs.

Sharpening differences is a major function-and benefit- of a political campaign.    We might be able to forgive Mitt for dividing women from men, trying to stoke gender envy and anger, if he were accurate.     Of course, as usual, he was not, as was found by First Read, which

contacted the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get to the bottom of this 92 percent charge. The conclusion: The Romney campaign’s figures don’t tell the whole story.

The campaign, in a research document circulated yesterday and on its website, said the numbers come from the “Current Employment Statistics” database at BLS. The document notes that there was a net change of -740,000 nonfarm payroll jobs from January 2009 to March 2012 -- and that women accounted for 683,000 of those jobs.

That is accurate, according to BLS. But Brian Davidson, an economist at BLS, told First Read: “The math they use is correct; the terminology is completely wrong.”

Davidson noted that women actually make up a larger share of the workforce now than they did in Jan. 2008 before the financial meltdown, and since January 2009, it is a statistically insignificant change.

In January 2008, women made up 48.8 percent of the workforce; in January 2009, 49.5 percent; now 49.3 percent.

“Do we still have the same amount of women workers relative to men in the ‘net-change’? Yes we do,” Davidson said.

He added, “It’s like trying to pull a bunny out of a hat, but there’s no bunny inside.”

Independent fact-checkers like Politifact and the Washington Post’s Fact Checker also took on the claim.

Giving the claim a “Mostly False,” Politifact called it “misleading”: “We found that though the numbers are accurate, their reading of them isn’t.”

“One could reasonably argue that January 2009 employment figures are more a result of President George W. Bush’s policies, at least as far as any president can be blamed or credited for private-sector hiring,” Politifact wrote. “We reached out to Gary Steinberg, spokesman for the BLS, for his take on the claim. He pointed out that women’s job losses are high for that period of time because millions of men had already lost their jobs. Women were next. … [I]f you count all those jobs lost beginning in 2007, women account for just 39.7 percent of the total. … There is a small amount of truth to the claim, but it ignores critical facts that would give a different impression.”

The Washington Post’s fact checker, Glenn Kessler, begins this way: “[W]e frown on the somewhat arbitrary dividing line of measuring jobs statistics by presidential terms. It is a common journalistic — and political — metric. But restarting the employment clock from the moment the president takes the oath of office doesn’t tell you much about a his performance, especially since it takes time for the new president’s policies to take effect.”

In fact, he writes, “[T]here is less to this stat than meets the eye. … If you start the data in February, then the overall job loss is just 16,000 jobs—while women lost 484,000 jobs. … How could women lose more jobs than the overall total? It’s a function of the dates one picks.”

And notably: “[T]he picture becomes clearer if you start running the data from the date the recession began — December 2007. With that starting point, the total decline in jobs was just over 5 million, with women accounting for nearly 1.8 million of those jobs. Now look what happens when we just look at the past year, March 2011 to March 2012. Men gained nearly 1.9 million jobs while women gained 635,000 jobs.”

You might think that Romney came up with this angle to counter criticism of his party for its relentless attack on the reproductive rights of women.     You might think also that, if Romney were so concerned about women, he would want to preserve as many jobs as possible in the teaching profession, which is still dominated in most locations by women.
But this is the same Mitt Romney who decried the preservation of public sector jobs- such as firefighters, police, and teachers- accomplished by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.      In February, the former Massachusetts governor charged "That stimulus did not create private sector jobs like it should have, like it could have, it instead protected government jobs."      "Protecting government jobs" sounds a lot like keeping people working, an awful lot of them in education and most of them women.

That was not an aberration.     On April 14, Romney, taking aim at teachers, vowed  "The Department of Education: I will either consolidate with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller. I'm not going to get rid of it entirely."

"Part of his reason behind preserving the agency," reported the NBC reporter who was present at the fund raiser, "was to maintain a federal role in pushing back against teachers' unions. Romney added that he learned in his 1994 campaign for Senate that proposing to eliminate the agency was politically volatile."

Mitt Romney has found that he needs principles as much as fish need feet.    He's going to bend to the will of whatever ideological force is putting the most pressure on him.     Since he left Massachusetts, that has been the right wing, and it's likely to continue.

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