Friday, April 20, 2012

The Unemployment Problem is Solved!

Hilary Rosen (b. 1958)
Last week’s “Mommy Wars” was the latest of the political skirmishes in the U.S. They were ignited by responses to the comments of Democratic strategist and pundit Hilary Rosen, who said on CNN that it didn’t make much sense for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to look to Ann (Mrs. Romney) for advice on women’s issues because she was out of touch with the problems faced by most women in America.
“His wife has actually never worked a day in her life,” Ms. Rosen said. “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of women in this country are facing.”
Within minutes of Ms. Rosen’s comments, Ann Romney joined Twitter, and as of late Wednesday night last week had tweeted out only one post: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.”
A number of conservative women, including Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), soon took the Obama administration to task for Ms. Rosen’s comments. (As you may have heard, Rep. Rodgers is one of the people being talked about as a possible vice-presidential candidate on the Romney ticket.)
Other Republicans jumped at the chance to criticize the Democrats because of Ms. Rosen’s remarks. For example, they started marketing a coffee mug that boldly proclaims “Moms Do Work! Vote GOP.”
So if we recognize that moms are, in fact, working, no mother (or stay-at-home father) who is doing such work should be considered unemployed. Presto! The problem of high unemployment is solved!
Mr. Romney claims that “92.3 percent of all the jobs lost during the Obama years have been lost by women.” But since all of those women who have children at home are actually working, how can they be classified as unemployed?
Obviously, that is not what the Republicans meant when they criticized Ms. Rosen and stood up so staunchly for Ann Romney.
But it is just as obvious that Ms. Rosen was talking about gainful employment and was not at all belittling or demeaning the hard work of being a homemaker and mother.
I am writing about this matter mainly to emphasize how politicians should deal with the real issues, the clear differences in political positions, and the proposed solutions to the principle problems of the day rather than disseminating statements taken out of context, half-truths, innuendos, and all sorts of uncivil pronouncements. 
In his important new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), psychology professor Jonathan Haidt titled the last chapter, “Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?” That is a good and important question.
One way to disagree more constructively is to use language that is not incendiary, that is, avoiding pejorative, emotionally-laden words, name-calling, labeling, assigning guilt by association, and the like.
As we move through the next 6½ months of intense political campaigning, I earnestly hope there will be a profusion of civility with focus on solutions to the real unemployment problem, along with the myriad of other issues facing the nation. 

Sadly, I’m afraid that will not be the case.


  1. You do a nice job of parsing this particular debate and exposing the duplicity of the right's response. Clearly Rosen was not actually talking about work, but rather the struggle most American women live with trying to make ends meet. The far right and the far left have always been known for their incendiary rhetoric. Unfortunately currently in the U.S. we're in a period when the far left has been completely silenced, and the far right dominates much of the culture and is guarding the gate to political power. And now that there are basically no controls on how much money can be spent or who can spend it, we can expect the worst in the coming campaign, especially since the system is rigged so that the candidates can divorce themselves from what their supporters are saying.

  2. Anton, thanks for your positive comments. And thanks, too, for pointing out again the serious problem with the "Citizens United" Supreme Court ruling.

  3. Leroy, I’m resonating more with your closing remarks about civil vs. incendiary language rather than the gender issue or unemployment.

    But I admit, I can get as partisan as the next guy, and when I think of a clever comeback, it’s hard to repress it. Funnny thing about language — there’s something about our evolved human brains that make us vulnerable to gifted (or evil) word masters.

    Just this morning, I heard the recorded voice of George Wallace and his famous “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Wikipedia states that Wallace’s new speechwriter based this on Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, tomorrow, forever.”

    Somehow, we humans need to get beyond the rhetoric and bumper sticker mentality. As Dr. Helen Caldicott recently posted on Facebook, the imminent meltdown of the spent fuel pools in reactor #4 at Fukushima is the greatest short-term threat to humanity.

    I’m hoping this is inflated rhetoric, too, but this issue is completely of no concern in election politics or even everyday governing in America. Governor Nixon (Dem.) wants Missouri to be the home of a new production facility to build nuclear reactors for export throughout the world.

    Lucky for us, Nixon is not quoted using clever rhetoric to promote this campaign. Hopefully, sober minds will prevail and squelch this bad idea. But would I object if someone on our side came up with a clever put-down, like “No nukes is good nukes”? I say, we need all the tools on our side, given the current state of human evolution.

  4. Phil (I still like that better than Pip), I found it interesting that you mentioned Wallace's slogan taken from the Bible. Just yesterday I heard Sean Hannity talk about his "Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled" tee shirts (words from John 14:1). It seems strange to me for him to use those words as his slogan when so much of what he said is just the kind of rhetoric I object to in the posting above.

    I still want to think more, and perhaps to write later, about the nuclear power plant issue. It seems to me that the danger of such plants have to be seen in consideration of the global warming problem.

  5. I think everyone should take a breath and realize that the occupant of the White House is not responsible for the remarks of pundits from his/her own party.

    We can't hear one voice any more. We have to lump voices together, make assumptions and categorize them. We each believe we have our own unique view, but collectively we seem unwilling to extend that same belief to others.

    If we could fix that, the tone of the political debate would be more civil.

  6. My first thought of a response to your hopeful comments was to write a reply full of numerous links to evidence that events are headed in a direction contrary to your wishes. But then it occurred to me that in doing so I'd be a contributing participant in the growing political hysteria.

    A trivial side note:
    While writing the above I checked the word "hysteria" in the Merriam Webster's on-line dictionary/thesaurus to make sure it had the connotations I desired (i.e. behavior exhibiting overwhelming or unmanageable fear or emotional excess). While there I was informed that, "Hysteria is currently in the top 10% of lookups on" I'm not sure what significance to take from this fact, but I found it to be a bit of interesting trivia.

    1. It would be fun to know what other words are in the top 10%! My guesses: polarized, gridlock, ambivalence, depression . . .

  7. This is an interesting link to a video by Sojourners aimed at raising money to spread the word that "Christians must be the voice for poor & vulnerable people during the election."

  8. Today I heard an interesting interview with James Carville about his relationship with Rush Limbaugh. He took about 15 seconds to acknowledge their profound differences, then about 2 1/2 minutes about their similarities and friendship. Rush has said similar things about his opposites as well, of whom he admires and has done business. There are others as well who are polar lightning rods, but live in good will. We need to hear of these more often and publicly, as an example to others. This was also one of LBJ's attributes, and how he achieved bi-partisan successes on hard issues.

  9. According to (on 4/12), "Rush Limbaugh accused President Obama and other Democrats of launching 'a war on motherhood,' in response to Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comments about Ann Romney on Thursday."

    The same website also reported, "On Thursday, Limbaugh seized on Rosen's remark and wouldn't let up for the bulk of his three-hour program. He launched into a lengthy rant accusing liberals of 'genuine hostility' towards stay-at-home mothers."

    Limbaugh and Carville may well be friends and have similarities, but Limbaugh taking Ms. Rosen's statement out of context and making charges to his millions of listeners that are as unfair as they are untrue is certainly not a helpful way to promote the common good or honesty in the political process.