On Wednesday on CNN Hilary Rosen, who has no official connection to either the Obama administration or the Democratic National Committee, opined that Ann Romney, wife of Mitt, had never worked a day in her life. The implication was Mrs. Romney, who Mitt had suggested gave him cogent advice on economic matters facing families, was not qualified to do so since she’d had the luxury of being a stay-at-home mom raising the couple’s five children.

An uproar ensued. Numerous pundits offered their view that Ms Rosen was utterly out of line, prominent Democrats quickly distanced themselves from both her and her remarks, emphasizing her lack of official relationship to all things Democratic, and some members of the media were insightful enough that they recognized this was really much ado about nothing and distracted from more serious concerns about the looming Presidential campaign issue of the economy, a most worthwhile topic.

There’s a lot of nonsense here, but let’s get one matter out of the way.

Families with two adults with children often face enormous difficulties in balancing work and home life whether the need to earn a paycheck by both spouses, if present, is for survival or sanity. Rarely should the decisions they reach be the subject of public scrutiny, let alone scorn.

Even more so these days, with layoffs, cut backs, salary slashing, and underemployment in a lower paying field, it is often imperative that both spouses or parents work simply to make ends meet. Families where one spouse, most frequently the wife (though many men do this now), stay at home to manage the household and children bringing in no extra income are thought to be very fortunate. Such a circumstance is considered to be a luxury. But there is no question that it can also be hard…and admirable…work.

Yet, looking at this kerfuffle more closely allows one not attuned with Romney politically to experience a little schadenfreude at the expense of the Mittster.

You see, his own pronouncements on women in the work force make it plain that he views them with a different perspective according to on which side of the tracks they happen to reside.

The video linked to below provides a glimpse of this. In 1994, while running for the Senate, Romney remarked that children benefitted from a home with one parent staying home, but noted the changing times that basically meant it was necessary for both parents to work, sometimes two jobs. He also bragged (deservedly so) about his accomplishments of providing day care for working mothers. Listen.

Of course Romney was still making big bucks at Bain Capital at the time so Ann did not need avail herself of outside employment nor day care.

His umbrage at the Rosen comment re: Ann are further undermined by his own statement in January that women with children and who receive federal assistance should have the “dignity of work”.

The welfare reform enacted under Clinton in the ’90’s replaced Aid to families With Dependent Children (AFDC) with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Under TANF there is a work requirement, though the precise criteria may vary from state to state.

As far as Uncle Sam is concerned, if you’re poor, deciding to stay at home and rear your children is not an option. Thanks to welfare reform, recipients of federal benefits must prove to a caseworker that they have performed, over the course of a week, a certain number of hours of “work activity.” That number changes from state to state, and each state has discretion as to how narrowly work is defined, but federal law lists 12 broad categories that are covered.


Raising children is not among them.

According to a 2006 Congressional Research Service report, the dozen activities that fulfill the work requirement are:

(1) unsubsidized employment
(2) subsidized private sector employment
(3) subsidized public sector employment
(4) work experience
(5) on-the-job training
(6) job search and job readiness assistance
(7) community services programs
(8) vocational educational training
(9) job skills training directly related to employment
(10) education directly related to employment (for those without a high school degree or equivalent)
(11) satisfactory attendance at a secondary school
(12) provision of child care to a participant of a community service program

The only child-care related activity on the list is the last one, which would allow someone to care for someone else’s child if that person were off volunteering. But it does not apply to married couples in some states. Connecticut, for instance, specifically prevents counting as “work” an instance in which one parent watches a child while the other parent volunteers.

The federal government does at least implicitly acknowledge the value of child care, though not for married couples. According to a 2012 Urban Institute study, a single mother is required to work 30 hours a week, but the requirement drops to 20 hours if she has a child under 6. A married woman, such as Romney, would not be entitled to such a reduction in the requirement. If a married couple receives federally funded child care, the work requirement increases by 20 hours, from 35 hours to 55 hours between the two of them, another implicit acknowledgment of the value of stay-at-home work.

In other words, the disingenuity of Romney’s position is clear. On one hand he expresses outrage that his wife should be expected to work outside the home but demands that women on the lower end of the economic scale experience that “dignity”.

It depends not upon whose ox is getting gored, but upon which part of the wealth spectrum to which you belong.

All this is evidence that Romney is out of touch with what the majority of Americans face in dealing with their financial lives intertwined with their family responsibilities.

When you’re busy building a quarter billion dollar fortune you can dine on Rock Cornish game hens rather than KFC. It’s time for the chickens to come home to roost.

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  • Deke  On April 16, 2012 at 7:36 AM

    Ms. Rosen said nothing wrong.I find it kind of sad how wimpy Dems wring their hands and say spouses are off limits. Give me a fracken brake. Ann Romney’s children are grown. She never held a job. She had fivie servants and a nannie looking after er children. Even tat shill mChris Hayes piled on the attack against Hillary Rosen. Hayes all to willing to become a shill for the corporate Dems of wich President Obama is their leader.
    My feeling are this if you say it, then stand by it. I’m sick and tired of these self serving Dems throwing good people under the bus. That’s one of the reason I’ve been a Independent after many years as a Democrat.

    • little_minx  On April 16, 2012 at 11:18 AM

      I recall reading that Ann Romney finds it amusing that Mitt doesn’t how exactly many (very, very expensive) dressage horses she’s bought and keeps, because the number’s more than she’s told him. Is this supposed to be like something out of a Depression-era screwball comedy about a superrich marriage? Or just her version of Mr. Minx not knowing how many pairs of shoes I own (LOL!), as if to prove she’s just like the rest of us? I don’t think so. Give me Michelle Obama’s forays to Target any day.


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