Presidential Debate Part II: Equal Pay, Women’s Health and the Connection to Family Finances

October 17, 2012  |  

Oh man, oh man, oh man. Our President, Barack Obama, brought it big-time during last night’s debate. He did it right and we couldn’t be happier. And Mitt Romney? Frustrated, sweaty, wrong and talking crazy talk about women in binders, Mitt Romney went off the rails. And took his manners with him. Was it just us or was he particularly rude last night? To Candy Crowley and the President. We’re listening to CNN right now and the pundits and an audience member from last night both commented on how Romney was over-aggressive to the point of being offensive.

But on to the issues… The men talked about everything from energy policy to taxes, gas prices, the economy, China and jobs. You can watch video from the debate and a full recap here. But the thing that we want to highlight here was the connection that President Obama drew between equal pay, women’s health and the average family’s finances.

In response to a question about equal pay, Romney launched into an evasive speech that never made it clear that the former Governor is in favor of equal pay policies. And then, to prove that he likes women, he made the aforementioned “binders full of women” comment that was not only ridiculous, but said a lot about the way he thinks about the issue. It’s just another talking point that he’ll address with an awkward, unrelated anecdote. And he’s got an actual book (The Atlantic reports on the binders that Romney’s office used to find staffers while he was governor of Massachusetts) that he can pull out and show off when necessary.

“Romney did a good job appointing women to high office in the context of a bipartisan statewide push to get him to do so as a new governor, but a terrible job in finding and promoting women to senior roles in the context of the high-paying private-sector business he built himself. That may be why, by his own admission, his social power network when he came into office led to an all-male pool of job applicants,” reports The Atlantic. Boo.

On the other hand, President Obama drew the connection between the middle class, women’s health and financial well-being. “This is not just a women’s issue,” he said. “This is a family issue. This is a middle-class issue. And that’s why we’ve got to fight for it.” He also noted the increased cases in which women are “breadwinners” for their families. And, of course, he opened with talk of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that he signed into law in 2009. An advisor tells The Huffington Post that Romney was opposed to the law as it made its way through Congress. He still hasn’t voiced support for it.

It’s simply unfair that women make less money than men for the same work. It’s something that we shouldn’t stand for, and the fact that this is an issue that some people have found a way to be opposed to is appalling. But even when you look at the issue in purely dollars-and-cents terms, any political leader who claims to be working towards restoring the middle class without advocating for fair pay when so many women are providers for their families is destined to fail. And when you add health care costs — the cost of medication, ob-gyn services, contraception, the cost of having a baby, and the financial toll it takes when a woman is too sick to work — into the equation, you can clearly see why equal pay and women’s health are critical topics as we continue to climb out of this recession. President Obama laid out his feelings on the issue. Romney did not.

“That’s a pocketbook issue for women and families all across the country,” President Obama rightly added. There’s a great analysis of this segment of the debate on The New York Times.

In the end, Reuters says that President Obama “likely stemmed decline in support among women” while Romney is now doing battle with a damaging Internet meme during these crucial final weeks of the election.

Reuters reports: “‘Any ground that Mitt Romney gained over the last week or week and a half, he lost tonight,’ said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women and Politics Institute at American University.”

 

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