When Hilary Rosen attacked Ann Romney for not having worked a day in her life, she did it for two very important reasons, both of which seem to have slipped under the radar of conservative pundits.
The first reason was strictly tactical. Don’t think for a minute that this was not planned by the Obama campaign. It was absolute deliberate. As a long-time student of martial arts I am tempted to use a metaphor from full-contact sparring: this was a “test jab” by the Obama campaign to see how the Romney camp would react. Based on the opponent’s reaction you know if he is aggressive, defensive, and possibly what technical skills he may have. If he backs away, you know you have a psychological advantage. Back in 2008 Obama quickly learned that McCain was the defensive kind who would back off and avoid a confrontation. This emboldened Obama to become even more aggressive.
The reaction that the Obama campaign got from Romney was entirely different. Both Ann and Mitt Romney have shown that they do not back down. Unlike McCain the Rubber Spine, Romney is ready to go on the offense and counter-jab just as hard. On top of that the general public reaction sided with the Romneys.
For those of you who are familiar with full-contact sparring, the Romney counter to the Obama jab planted Obama in a wide-open horse stance with his center line fully exposed. This is why Obama was so quick to back down and distance himself from Rosen.
The second reason why Rosen attacked Ann Romney is more profoundly ideological. When the Obama camp asked for a test jab against the Romneys, it was obvious to choose something that has a deeply rooted ideological value to the left: big, redistributive government.
In order to pay for big government, government needs a big cadre of taxpayers. In the Scandinavian welfare states – the largest and most burdensome in the industrialized world - the women’s workforce participation rate is 73-76 percent. In America, on the other hand, it has historically been in the 60-63 percent bracket.
If the workforce participation rate for America’s women climbed to Scandinavian levels, there would – in theory – be another ten million taxpayers out there toiling for Uncle Sam. At $40,000 per year on average each of these women would att up to $8,000 in federal tax revenues, as family incomes are bumped up to higher tax brackets and filing statuses change. This means $80 billion in new tax revenues for the federal government and another $30-35 billion in state and local taxes.
For those who crave a Scandinavian welfare state in America, the prospect of another $110-115 billion in tax revenues is too juicy to resist. It would of course mean that government would have to provide universal child care, but that is something that the left has been after for a long time anyway. It would also mean almost wiping out home schooling – another item high on the statist wish list.
When Hilary Rosen “test jabbed” Romney for Obama, she chose an issue that statists have embraced for decades: women should be taxpayers, not home with their kids. As is evident from Scandinavia, this forces children into government-provided “education” at a very early age and it reduces parents to feeder units for the children more than actively caring parents.
Some women end up in the situation of being caretakers more than parents. They are either married to men who choose not to participate at all in their children’s lives, or single. Having been a single parent myself for many years, I know what hard work goes into trying to be both full time working and a good parent. You can do both, and millions of American parents do their best. But it is also an indisputable fact that women – and sometimes men – who make the choice of being home, part time or full time, do so because they feel it is in the best interest of their children. That is a choice deeply rooted in human nature and ideologically charged politicians should refrain from tampering with it.
The one thing to take away from Hilary Rosen’s attack on Ann Romney is that the Obama campaign is trying very hard to find an ideological angle from which it can defeat Mitt Romney. They have realized, for now, that this one did not work. But the only thing this means is that the next jab will be packaged differently. It will be just as ideologically charged as this one.