Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dear Mr. Romney: Don't lie. Care.

Dear Mr. Romney:

I am a woman. Like most other women, I am not likely to vote for you. Your unpopularity among women worries you, I know. That's no doubt why you're claiming that Mr. Obama's policies have been disastrous for women's jobs. Promoting a cynical lie, however, is not a good way to attract women's votes.

These days the word lie is thrown around too often and too loosely. Since I am accusing you of using a lie--a serious charge--let me define my terms. A lie is a statement intended to deceive. It can be nonfactual or factual; the speaker's intent is what matters. President Bush was probably not lying when he said Iraq had WMD, even though they didn't. If he believed what he said, though it was untrue, it was not a lie.

By contrast, when your press secretary tweeted that "92.3% jobs lost under [Obama} r women's," she was making a true statement. She may or may not have intended to deceive: I don't know if she paid attention to all the relevant facts before tweeting. By now, though, the facts have been checked, and you have no excuse for repeating her claim on your website. To do so is to turn truth into falsehood.

Here are the facts: The recession officially began in December 2007, while Mr. Bush was president. From that date until June 2009, six months into Mr. Obama's presidency, men lost some 5.3 million jobs while women lost about 2.1 million. This is a typical pattern, says Betsey Stevenson, a business and public policy professor at Princeton University: "In every recession men’s job loss occurs first and most, with unemployment rates for men being more cyclical than those of women’s."

My mother finished secretarial school and began her first job in 1929, the year the Great Depression hit. She managed a small office for maybe half a dozen church administrators--all male, of course. Then the stock market crashed, donations plummeted, and most of the men were let go.  Before long the only people left in the office were the president and my poorly paid 20-year-old mother.

That's how it has always worked. Men lose jobs first; women lose  jobs later. Still, with women making up 47% of the labor force (2010 figures), they "account for just 39.7 percent of the total" jobs lost from the beginning of the recession to the present. It is grossly misleading to imply that the recession was caused or worsened by Mr. Obama, and that it was harder on women than on men. You need to distance yourself from that claim, not promote it.

The recession was indeed hard on many women--and on just about everybody else except people in your income bracket, Mr. Romney. I suspect you truly believe that you are better suited than Mr. Obama to restore America's prosperity. Do you want women to give you a chance to try? Then forget about badmouthing the president. Instead, show us you care.

A lot of us, as you've pointed out, need work. How would your administration help us meet our obligations and feed our families until we find it? A lot of us, or our family members, have serious health problems. How would you help us pay for medical care? A lot of us want to strengthen our public schools. How would you improve the quality of elementary and high school education? A lot of us would like to send our children to college. How would you make higher education affordable? A lot of us are concerned about the effects of pollution on our families' health. How would you keep our food and air clean? A lot of us are getting older and frailer. How would you deal with our needs for housing and medical care?

I know that some vocal Americans believe the federal government should do just about nothing except arm our young people and send them out to kill. I know there are people who cry "socialism!" whenever the government tries to make people's lives better. Fortunately, most Americans disagree with such extremists. And yet there are honest differences between conservatives and progressives as to how the common good is best served.

Mr. Romney, if you have ways of serving the common good that you think are more effective than Mr. Obama's ways, please tell us about them. Don't worry about your supposedly stiff persona; it doesn't bother us nearly as much as it bothers the press. And don't try to scare us with lies and negative ads. That just turns us off. If you convince us that you care about us when we need help, and if you offer us solutions that will help us survive and thrive, we will listen. Otherwise, we'll vote for the candidate who does.

1 comment:

V. Wallace said...

Thank you, LaVonne, for this thoughtful and factual post. Hope it goes viral! I'm so disturbed by any and ALL candidates who believe the electorate--especially women--are stupid enough not to care about the facts or how much mud is thrown. Politics is America's new form of hazardous waste.