Department of “Huh?”

All moms are working moms, but poor women need to leave their kids for paid jobs to “have the dignity of work.” It’s impossible that the Republicans could actually believe this crap.

Let me see if I have this straight. When Hilary Rosen pointed out that Ann Romney doesn’t have a clue about the struggles of women in the workplace because she’s never actually been in a workplace, she was insulting all mothers (including herself) by suggesting that making a home and raising kids wasn’t actual work.

But when Mitt Romney says that women trying to raise children under far less favorable circumstances than the Romneys could possible imagine need to leave the kids in lousy day-care settings and get paying jobs to “have the dignity of work,” that’s just common sense and Amurrican values.

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Or something.

As Ezra Klein points out, as a matter of public policy this country doesn’t consider stay-at-home mothering as “work.” We don’t count stay-at-home moms as being in the workforce; they don’t get quarters toward Social Security eligibility; the value of the services they provide, like other home production, isn’t factored into GDP.

I could respect the GOP apparatchiki  if I thought they actually believed their shtick. Mike Huckabee has the dignity of actually meaning what he says, even if  I think most of it is wrong-headed or worse. Even Rick Santorum at least is a genuine exponent of the idea that “religious freedom” means freedom of the TV preachers and Catholic bishops to use the power of the state to impose their twisted morality on the rest of us.

But Romney? And his enablers? Feh.

Footnote  Also worth noting that “means testing” effectively puts a huge marginal tax rate on the earnings of poor people. But the very same Republicans who insist that another 3 points on the marginal income tax rate for hedge-fund managers would collapse their work effort has no problem with benefit phaseouts amounting to marginal tax rates of well over 50%.




Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

36 thoughts on “Department of “Huh?””

  1. “When Hilary Rosen pointed out that Ann Romney doesn’t have a clue about the struggles of women in the workplace because she’s never actually been in a workplace,”

    What she actually said was “His wife has actually never worked a day in her life.” Surely you’re familiar with the concept of addressing what people actually said, instead of paraphrasing them to take the insult out.

    By the standards of American politics, let alone the standards Democrats generally work to, this attack on her wasn’t merely reasonable, it was practically obligatory.

    1. Come on. It’s clear from the context of her quote that Rosen meant Ann Romney has never worked a day in her life in a career. Perfectly true. Sure, raising kids is tough, but then it’s something that most American women do at some point in their lives. Ann Romney doesn’t deserve the special badge of honor she seems to be seeking on this issue.

      In addition, having a constant household staff of nannies and housekeepers while raising your kids in affluence (and leaving time to brush your $600,000 dressage horses) is very different from being a single working mother or even a middle class stay at home mom. Ann Romney has lived a life of luxury and privilege that few American women have ever experienced.

    2. Are you ever capable of addressing issues or do you only distort them to avoid the topic raised? Sheesh.

      Back when I was a libertarians, most of us tried at least to engage in intelligent discussion.Not any more I guess.

  2. “apparatchiki”? Kudos! (from an eccentric who pronounces “intelligentsia” with a hard “g”.)

    1. If you pronounce the hard “g” there, do you also in “intelligence?”

      And if so, aren’t you concerned that it sounds pretty much the same as “inelegance?”

        1. but the latter is clearly now an English word to be pronounced by English standard. I would suggest that intelligentsia is also an English word, to be pronounced ditto. Likewise something like cognoscenti, which I would not pronounce as an Italian word but as an English one (so hard -g- followed by usual -n-). I suppose someone deeply engaged with Russian might give a word of Russian origin a Russian-like pronunciation, but those of us who can’t even guess which way Russian goes on pronouncing what transliterate into a -g- can safely rely on the English method (which of course notoriously fails in linking pronunciation with spelling, but still…)

          1. Way off topic, but how do folks judge when a word becomes native?

            Is ‘angst’ now English?

            Was talking about a related topic recently, and I guess my take is that the word has to be understood by at least the majority of people who hear it, and- I think this is crucial – it has to be sufficiently divorced from native language nuance so as to have a slightly different meaning.

            I think ‘angst’ qualifies. For those who don’t speak German, it has a brooding, Germanic quality that doesn’t actually reflect how native German speakers use it. I don’t speak Russian, so I don’t know enough to get in to intelligenstia. Although my iPad recognizes the word, so there’s a data point.

          2. Jamie, there are plenty of words in standard English that are not understood by a majority. Wanting that to be true of imports is a higher bar than is needed.

        2. Russian only recently. Both are derived from the Latin intelligentia. For my two cents, the Russian lack of a soft g, forcing them to mispronounce the Latin, does not obligate me to follow their lead.

  3. I’m not sure I disagree with him to some extent. We should be providing daycare to poor single mothers. And they should be looking for work. There is , in theory, a dignity in being a part of the workforce.

    Where I disagree, is that what we’re often really talking about here is women having to work low-skill, minimum wage jobs. There is little dignity in being a wage slave, especially if you have been raised in a poor community, where low wages are the norm, and your life expectations have been so beaten down that you may not be able to even conceive of yourself doing much better. That doesn’t feel dignified at all.

    And yet that is what our economy relies upon – a steady supply of service workers with little education, growing up in cheap apartment housing and having had to interact with the most dysfunctional and/or disadvantaged members of society. This reliance on individuals with low human and societal capital is “baked in” to the system. It is anything but dignified. Mitt should ask his maids if their work is dignified. He should ask his gardeners, those who pump his gas, the dishwashers, carpet cleaners and laundry washers at the high-class hotels he stays at if their work is dignified. He should ask those who pick his vegetables, wash his car, and clear the dishes when he finishes dining at fancy restaurants if the work is dignified.

    There is nothing dignified about barely scraping by, growing up in a ghetto, and having no time to properly raise one’s children after having your own labor exploited to the extent that you have little left over.

  4. Whatever the male and Vichy-female Washington punditry cook up as faux outrage over Rosen’s observation, every working woman in this country knows *exactly* what to think of Mitt and Ann Romney.

    And the bitches have long memories.

    1. I wish I could have your faith. I think a significant chunk of working women are married and vote like Kansas. They’ve got theirs, or so they think.

      If this weren’t true, this entire planet would be a very different place.

      But, I’d love to be wrong. Maybe this will be a good year.

      1. Oh definitely, on the Kansas-style women. There’s nothing like being there on sufferance to make you prove your loyalty to the cause.

        The patriarchy knows that its best strategy is to divide and conquer.

  5. Last week’s news provided data for two natural experiments, both of them testing the hypothesis that the news media are biased in favor of liberal Democrats at the expense of conservative Republicans. The observed results are at variance with the results expected under the hypothesis in question.

    First natural experiment: partisan responses to remarks of Hilary Rosen and Allen West. The former, an obscure campaign consultant, makes a blatantly partisan remark which is quickly repudiated by leading Democrats and as quickly retracted by the maker of the statement; nevertheless, the remark survives multiple news cycles and is still alive and well for the Sabbath Gasbags to take time discussing. The latter, an elected official of the Republican party, makes a blatantly partisan remark to the effect that 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist party; no leading Republican so much as takes exception to the remark, and its maker sticks to his guns without apology. The remark is dead after one news cycle, and does not survive long enough for the Sunday Round Tables to remark upon.

    Those are the observed results. Under the “liberal bias” hypothesis, the expected results are a media firestorm over Allen West, featuring prominently in weekend commentaries by Cokie Roberts and her clones, in contrast with the rapid extinction of the Rosen remarks, which become “old news” as soon as they are repudiated and retracted.

    Second natural experiment: Mitt Romney makes statements that when his wife, supported by unlimited resources, raises kids at home, it is real work, but that when a welfare mom, supported by meager resources, does the same, it is not real work. Expected result: another firestorm of commentary on the blatant hypocrisy of the double standard. Observed result: see the online video clips of the aforesaid gasbags.

    Observed and expected results are not compatible. Conclusion: the tested hypothesis is rejected.

    1. That’s pretty funny. I myself believe that the liberal bias myth is part of the transition from a level 1 conservative to a level 2 conservative, but only dropped when moving to a level 3 conservative (a rare feat).

  6. This whole brouhaha is so ridiculous it’s a welcome comic relief. Should we assume I have no clue about the difficulties of physical exertion in bitter cold and thin oxygen just because I’ve never climbed K2 myself? Or perhaps, should we assume I obviously have no clue about the struggles of women in the workplace, for the obvious reason that I’m a MAN???

    What’s obvious to me is that (a) Hilary Rosen is a tone-deaf idiot who should have been flipping burgers, not one-liners, and (b) all the rest is folderol on both sides.

    1. Romneys: “Sure I understand the difficulties of physical exertion in bitter cold and thin oxygen. It’s really tough to climb K2!

      “Now, let me just take those crampon boots away from you … sneakers are much more about ‘personally responsibility’ … and … could you please hand that O2 tank to your social superior on this trip … and … I think you’ll find a thinner, flimsier tent much more to your liking … builds character …”

      (has self and buddies helicoptered to the peak)

    2. “Should we assume I have no clue about the difficulties of physical exertion in bitter cold and thin oxygen just because I’ve never climbed K2 myself? ”

      A better analogy would be talking about your all-day walk on flat ground in pleasant weather with a servant carrying snacks and beverages as if you climbed K2.

  7. I agree with you, Mark, but at the same time, it ought to be Democratic policy to fix the omissions in the Social Security system. It wouldn’t be that hard to subtract the women with full-time nannies. This might be buried in the platform somewhere, but I’ve never heard any Democrats talk about it. I’ve worked in daycare, and it really is harder than most jobs (if you do it well).

    I do think I’d prefer universal pre-school though, starting at 2 or 3, and we’re nowhere near getting that either.

  8. Ken Rhodes: “should we assume I obviously have no clue about the struggles of women in the workplace, for the obvious reason that I’m a MAN”

    Well, that is basically what Romney himself says, about HIMSELF, because whenever questions arise about (so-called) women’s issues, Romney himself references his information as coming from his wife. Apparently what’s required for evaluating such policy matters is the right genitalia in Romney-world.

    Apparently Romney is completely out of touch with 51 percent of the populace he hopes to lead, and views women as being a special interest group so separate from “his” world that he needs a translator. Then, the person he chooses to translate “women’s” concerns for him is so out of touch with the day-to-day financial realities of 99 percent of those women that she might as well be from another planet, fiscally speaking.

    The one who is tone-deaf is Romney himself, as he demonstrates nearly every time he gets near a microphone.

    And, what Betsy said.

  9. I was in the workforce before becoming a mom, I’ve stayed at home while being a mom, and I’ve returned to the workforce, albeit part-time and temporarily, while being a mom. Going to work OUTSIDE the home while one has a child who still needs lots of attention is in a class by itself, stress-wise.

    It seems to me perfectly obvious that Rosen meant “outside the home”; I don’t know how anyone could misinterpret Rosen’s statement unless they had a neurological condition that causes them to interpret language very literally or if they were looking to stir up trouble.

    1. Cf. Brett, above.

      Attempting to justify modern Republican spin isn’t, in and of itself, demonstrative of an illness, but repeated self-conditioning leads to one.

      Anyone know someone working on the DSM VI?

        1. I imagine the last line of the description of Republican Spectrum Disorder will read “The Disturbance is not better accounted for by Sociopathy or Antisocial Personality Disorder.”

    2. Hell, I have a neurological condition that causes me to interpret language very literally and I managed to figure out what Rosen meant without too much help.

  10. I’m coming to the conclusion that either the current crop of conservatives are shameless hypocrites with a thick streak of sadism whose only goal is to accumulate money and power, and only pleasurable outlet is seeing others suffer in the process, or they’re world-class masters of cognitive dissonance, from whom Tara Gregson could learn volumes about integrating multiple personalities.

    I lean heavily toward the former.

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