In Denver last week, President Obama presented himself as strong on women's issues and the obvious choice for women in the 2012 election.
By women's issues he means for the most part women's health concerns, which he identifies with defending the government healthcare regime that that he and the Democrat-controlled Congress established in 2010, a regime unaffectionately known as Obamacare. In other words, if you oppose the direct benefits this system offers to women, you are obviously against women's health.
But no one is against women's health-the health of one's mother, wife, sister, or daughter. The question that divides the two campaigns is how this healthcare is best delivered. President Obama, like liberals in general, skips over this question because he assumes, first, that government is the most effective means for delivering almost everything that matters: health, education, airport security, and so on. Of course, if this were so, the Soviet Union would have buried the West instead of collapsing under the weight of its centrally directed economy. Second, he assumes reflexively that government is most trustworthy simply because it is staffed by public servants. But as these people are sinfully selfish like the rest of us, this statist confidence is dangerously naïve.
A more plausible approach to the question would be to put women (along with their families, of course) in charge of their own affairs as much as possible. This preference for self-governance is the most respectful and safest arrangement for all adults. It points to market-based solutions in conjunction with a locally and primarily civil society-based safety net.
The president gave lip service to this private empowerment in his Denver address: "Of course, the decisions that affect a woman's health? They're not up to politicians! They're not up to insurance companies! They're up to you!" The crowd greeted this assurance with a satisfied cheer. But Obamacare makes all of us dependent on politicians and government bureaucrats for how and how much we access healthcare resources, even at the end of life when these officials determine whether our lives are worth extending with limited, government-regulated healthcare dollars. The bureaucrats are worse, of course, because they are unaccountable.
But the great women's issue that President Obama is avoiding is our stalled economy. Whatever programs exist for women cannot be adequately funded without a robust economy to tax. In addition, financial strain is the chief cause of marital strain leading to divorce, which burdens women more heavily than it does men. It is also a concern of women that their children get jobs after graduating from college.
I would venture to say that the president's distracting preoccupation with his "green" agenda and his own understanding of fairness (income redistribution), on top of the regulatory uncertainty introduced by Obamacare, have played no small part in suppressing business growth for the last three years. The Obama recovery, if we can call it that, being the slowest economic recovery in 40 years, has been no favor to women.