Women and work

When Washington pundit Hilary Rosen told Anderson Cooper last week that Ann Romney, the candidate’s wife, is no expert on economic issues because she “has actually never worked a day in her life,” she set off a firestorm.

What Rosen later said she meant was Romney had never worked a day outside the home for wages, which is true. But by then her comment was being batted around like a softball, and clarification had no weight.

There’s no doubt Ann Romney works. Any family as rich as hers—income of $20 million last year—is a major enterprise. In addition to her five kids, she’s got three or four houses (and their staffs) to manage and the myriad responsibilities of an important politician’s wife. She’s got paid help, lots of it, but it’s still a big job.

But it’s not a job in the marketplace; there Romney lacks experience, just as Rosen said. And it’s the marketplace where the recession has hit hardest. What does Ann Romney know about the fear of losing a job or being unable to pay your bills or mortgage because your husband was laid off?

If Ann Romney is going to speak for women, she might want to speak to issues she knows first-hand. As a breast-cancer survivor, she could have weighed in on the issue of defunding breast-cancer-related services provided by Planned Parenthood. Or she might address her husband’s own announced determination to defund Planned Parenthood altogether.

Indeed, she might explain why her husband wants to eliminate the federal family-planning program, which serves low- and middle-income women. As a woman and mother, these are matters on which Ann Romney no doubt is qualified to speak.