by E.G., The Economist
Democracy in America
Women, the Romneys and Hilary Rosen
Yes, Ms Rosen was snide in saying that Mrs Romney "has actually never worked a day in her life." And Ms Rosen's larger point wasn't compelling: in the next sentence, she said that Mrs Romney isn't in a typical socioeconomic situation and therefore doesn't count as evidence that Mr Romney understands the economic issues women face.
Just so. Nothing distracts people from the issue at hand better than a polarising comment on a sensitive topic that calls up people's deeply-seated views about identity, equality and family. And that's the opportunity cost of this whole fracas. I doubt that the economic issues facing women would have become a major campaign issue in any case, particularly as men faced higher unemployment than women during the recession. There are, however, some economic issues that disproportionately affect women, and now we're definitely not going to talk about them. Women still earn less money than men, for example—a phenomenon that Mr Romney fumbled in addressing this week, before Ms Rosen's tone-deaf comment trumped his. They pay more for health care than men do, a situation that would not be improved if, for example, America's leading provider of family-planning services was in fact shuttered. They face higher poverty rates than men, and in old age, women are among the groups more likely to be wholly dependent on Social Security than men—a fact that gives entitlement reform a feminist dimension, as it means that the looming shortfall will disproportionately affect women. Mr Romney doesn't need to invoke his wife to discuss any of those issues. He could just invoke data, logic and analysis.