Political Hay

Obama’s War on Women’s Success

Ignoring the increasing stake women have in economic issues.

By 10.22.12

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Having grown up in the era of "You've come a long way, baby," I find it downright weird to hear the current appeals to women voters based on abortion and free contraceptives. After working so hard and coming so far, have we put ourselves in a time capsule and gone backwards to the last century?

What about the workplace revolution that has taken place since then, giving women an unprecedented stake in our country's economic policies? In particular, why is so little attention being paid to the impact of President's Obama's tax policies on women who have invested in themselves through education and are now part of a household with two incomes? After spending years trying to shatter the glass ceiling, these women are about to encounter another obstacle to success: President Obama's proposals to impose onerous new taxes on married women professionals.

Since the 1970s, a revolution has taken place in the professions. In the United States today, more women graduate from college and earn advanced degrees than men. While relatively few women choose degrees in computer science, information sciences, and engineering, women are on track to access -- if not dominate -- many of the other high-income professions. A glance at U.S. Department of Education statistics below shows the startling transformation that has taken place, especially in the professions, during the past four decades. Especially noteworthy is the fact that today, nearly half of all MDs are awarded to women.

Type of Degree % Earned by Women
in 1970
% Earned by Women
in 2009
Bachelor's 43.1% 57.2%
Master's 39.7% 60.4%
Doctoral 13.3% 52.3%
Law 5.4% 45.8%
MBA 3.6% 45.3%
Dentistry Less than 1% 46.3%
M.D. 8.4% 48.9%
*Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics,
Digest of Education Statistics 2009 (2010)

When professional women marry, they usually marry other professionals. Together, many of these achievement-oriented couples are earning -- or will earn during their lifetimes -- household incomes over $250,000, which the Obama Administration now classifies as "rich."

No wonder Obama supporters are blanketing the airwaves with campaign ads focusing on abortion, free mammogram referrals and free contraceptives. I would, too, if the goal was to distract from the President's onerous tax policies that penalize women trying to get ahead. President Obama's tax proposals may be advertised as targeting the "rich." But in reality, they disproportionately target middle-class women who heeded the messages of the last four decades, invested in themselves, and are staking a claim to high-income professions. President Obama is asking them to pay a steep price for making the right choices, especially for choosing to marry. That's not my idea of workplace fairness. It's a tax on hard work, professional achievement and the belief that "Yes, we can."

Economics, not reproduction, is the women's issue of the 21st century. It's one of the ironies of this election that Mitt Romney-- whose wife worked primarily inside the home -- has a better grasp of this than President Obama, whose wife worked outside the home. Obama seems stuck in the past, re-fighting the battles of the last century. Today, women are more prepared than ever before to achieve economic success and financial independence. They don't need government freebies to realize their dreams. They need strong economic growth, more jobs, and a tax structure that rewards, not penalizes, their investment in themselves.

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About the Author

Laura Genero served 20 years in senior government positions, including Associate Deputy Secretary of Labor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, and spokesman for the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.