Sen. Barack Obama talks a good game when it comes to such issues as anti-discrimination, the value of military service and the importance of ensuring children get a high-quality education in public schools, but the choices he has made in his own life suggest that he doesnâ€™t believe the stuff in his own stump speeches â€“ or, at least, he doesnâ€™t believe his prescriptions for â€œchangeâ€ apply to him.
â€ Obama says heâ€™s for equal pay for men and women doing the same job, but like all Dems, he just pays lip service to pay parity.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, University of Chicago economics professor Casey Mulligan â€“ who has charted women’s progress in the labor market since the 1960s using labor market data from the Census Bureau – makes the case that if women want to make progress in closing the salary gap with men, they should vote Republican:
Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Joseph Biden have proclaimed that they favor equal pay for women, and have alleged that Republicans do not. Sen. Biden has also insisted that Republicans, including vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, represent a step backwards for women. The economic record says exactly the opposite.
To wit: In 1976, the last full year of Gerald Fordâ€™s term, the gender wage gap was 38.6%. Four years later at the end of Jimmy Carterâ€™s administration the gap was virtually unchanged at 38.5%. But by 1988 as Ronald Reaganâ€™s administration was drawing to a close, the gap had shrunk to 30.3%.
Mulligan concedes that earning 30 percent less than men is â€œis obviously not full equalityâ€ but clearly it represents steady movement in the right direction: â€œWomen’s wages grew almost two percentage points per year more than men’s during the Reagan years, compared to less than 0.1 percentage point more than men’s per year during the Carter years.â€
Comparing the Repub track record vs. the Dem track record, women can theoretically, as least, expect to fare better in a McCain-Palin administration than in an Obama-Biden administration.
But why take a chance on hypotheticalsÂ when you can base your decision on cold, hard facts? Gloria Steinem recently praisedÂ Barack Obama and Joe Biden in a Los Angeles Times op-ed as being â€œmale leaders who know that women can’t be equal outside the home until men are equal in itâ€ and â€œare campaigning on their belief that men should be, can be and want to be at home for their childrenâ€ â€“ conveniently ignoring the fact that Todd Palin isnâ€™t just talking about being an equal partner to his wife, but is staying home with the kids so she can actualize herself and realize her full career potential.
But hereâ€™s one fact Steinem and NOW and other womenâ€™s rights groups shouldnâ€™t ignore: On Obamaâ€™s Senate staff, men have higher-ranking positions and are paid more â€“ on average $6,000 more â€“ than women (and BTW the only intern on his staff who was paid is male). But McCain hired more women than men for the senior positions with higher pay on his Senate staff. Thatâ€™s as good an indication as any that McCain values womenâ€™s talents and contributions more than Obama â€“ and he puts his money where his mouth is.
Â Yet, NOW is backing the all-male ticket over the one that could put a woman in the West Wing of the White House. Reacting to the endorsement The New Agenda co-founder Amy Siskind said: â€œThis is a sad day for feminism in our country. With this random endorsement, NOW seeks to divide the women of this country by what party they belong to or how they feel about choice. Women need to stand together and help one another. Womenâ€™s issues such as unfair pay, domestic violence and unpaid leave impact women of all political parties.â€Â
â€ Sen. John McCainâ€™s stirring account of his five years as a POW in Vietnam in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention prompted Obama to dredge up a repressed memory of wanting to serve in uniform after graduating high school when asked by George Stephanopoulos of ABC’s â€œThis Weekâ€ whether he’d thought about military service:
You know, I actually did. I had to sign up for Selective Service [a means of conscription in case of war] when I graduated from high school.
And I was growing up in Hawaii. And I have friends whose parents were in the military. There are a lot of Army, military bases there.
And I actually always thought of the military as an ennobling and, you know, honorable option. But keep in mind that I graduated in 1979. The Vietnam War had come to an end. We weren’t engaged in an active military conflict at that point. And so, it’s not an option that I ever decided to pursue.Â
As The Telegraph (London) notes: Â
The statement is thought to be the first time during the 19-month-long presidential campaign that the Democratic nominee for the White House has indicated he once wanted to serve in uniform. The aspiration was not mentioned in either of his two volumes of memoirs. â€¦
The Illinois senator’s newly-disclosed military ambition came after the choice of Sarah Palin as the running mate of his opponent John McCain ensured that for the first time in modern history three of the four candidates on the two presidential tickets would have a son that had served or would serve in a war zone.
During last weekâ€™s Columbia Universityâ€™s ServiceNation Presidential Forum Obama was askedÂ about this never-carried-out intention to join the armed services and spoke of his existential Angst over not serving in the armed forces (“if there are wars going on and some are being asked to sacrifice their lives, that I think you have to ask yourself, why them instead of youâ€) but did not expound further on his remarks to Stephanopoulos. Though the Vietnam War was over Obama could have opted to serve in the Coast Guard or the National Guard, and while The Stiletto does not claim to be a mind reader, circumstantial evidence suggests that Obamaâ€™s wish to see action in uniform was all talk.
â€ Obama has a lot to say about how your kids should be educated in public schools, but sends his own kids to private school â€“ unlike McCain running mate AK Gov. Sarah Palin – a practice he will no doubt continue should he get elected president. In a New York Times op-ed Sandra Tsing Loh, a self-described â€œDemocrat P.T.A. motherâ€ in Los Angeles feels about that (aside from â€œdepressedâ€) writes about how she feels about that:Â
I do not know why Barack and Michelle Obama cannot send their children to a nice public school in Hyde Park. â€¦ [E]ven though real estate prices seem high, the brave little public schools in its ZIP code seem to be flailing. Their scores on www.greatschools.net are largely 2â€™s and 4â€™s (on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best).
When you read the tea leaves as manically as I do, those low numbers suggest that few children of educated, middle-class children are attending the local schools. Rather, theyâ€™ve withdrawn, with nary a ripple, into their whispery private enclaves. â€¦
[I]f Mr. and Mrs. Obama -Â a dynamic, Harvard-educated couple -Â had chosen public over private school, they could have lifted up not just their one local public school, but a family of schools. First, given the social pressure (or the social persuasion of wanting to belong to the cool club), more educated, affluent families would tip back into the public school fold. And second, the presence of educated type-A parents with too much time on their hands ensures that schools are held, daily, to high standards. â€¦
So it is with huge grief-filled disappointment that I discovered that the Obamas send their children to the University of Chicago Laboratory School (by 5th grade, tuition equals $20,286 a year).
As Lou Reed put it:
Why do you talk, why do you waste time
Saying the same old thing, it should be a crime
You never listen, instead you stammer
As though you’re interesting, and full of glamour
Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog, chosen an Official Honoree in the Political Blogs category by the judges of the 12th Annual Webby Awards (the Oscars of the online universe) along with CNN Political Ticker, Swampland (Time magazine) and The Caucus (The New York Times).