President Obama’s Forum on Women and the Economy today was not just his Good Friday opportunity to tout a mixed-bag job report but a platform from which to release a dossier on women’s policy that essentially amounted to a 70-page campaign flier.
“There’s been a lot of talk about women and women’s issues lately, as there should be,” he said. “But I do think that the conversation has been oversimplified. Women are not some monolithic bloc.”
But the event, hosted by senior adviser and chairwoman of the White House Council on Women and Girls Valerie Jarrett, and accompanying materials were a crystal-clear effort to seize upon that bloc in light of the stumbles that the presumptive GOP nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is having with women voters.
A USA Today/Gallup poll released this week showed Obama with the support of more than six in 10 women under 50 while Romney’s support in that group has dropped by 14 points, to 30 percent, since mid-February.
The women on stage behind the president included Karma Cottman, the executive director of the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Victoria Rockwell, the president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; and two women involved in workplace discrimination cases. But the real backdrop was this morning’s Labor Department report that showed unemployment dropping to 8.2 percent even as the number of those not participating in the workforce hit an all-time high.
“Right now, no issue is more important than restoring economic security for all our families in the wake of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Obama said. “…And that includes addressing challenges that are unique to women’s economic security — challenges that have been around since long before the recession hit.”
The unemployment rates of men and women have evened out this year, though men initially had a tougher time in the recession. In June 2009 the jobless rate for men was 9.9 percent, with women at 7.6 percent. In January 2012, 7.7 percent of men were unemployed, and the same for women.
Today’s report showed that in March the unemployment rate for women was 7.4 percent and for men it was 7.6 percent.
“Women’s unemployment rate finally has come down since the start of the recovery, but progress remains slow,” said Joan Entmacher, vice president for Family Economic Security at the National Women’s Law Center. “The modest job gains reported today underscore the importance of continued investment in programs that create jobs and help families get back on their feet.” She proceeded to slam House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget plan as one that would “take us backwards.”
The event coincided with the release of a White House report titled Keeping America’s Women Moving Forward, 70 pages of 2012 campaigning wrapped in administration policyspeak. It broke down how many women received Pell grants, thanks to the president; how much compensation has been obtained for victims of gender-based wage discrimination since January 2010, thanks to his administration; how many women on Medicare got improved prescription drug coverage, etc.
“The Payroll tax cut provided an average of $1,000 of tax relief for nearly 75 million women,” states the report. “…President Obama has committed to protecting Social Security for an estimated 30 million women beneficiaries.”
The 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was the first bill Obama signed into law, is highlighted in the report. It has been mentioned by Barack and Michelle Obama in nearly every campaign speech so far this season.