Hey, remember that annoying piece in the New York Times last week — you know, the one about a single mom who worked a child care center, who struggled to scrape by and support three kids with poorly paid job? The piece was so exasperating because it implicitly endorsed the sexist and patronizing frame that if only the woman featured in the article — clearly a very hard-working woman named Jessica Schairer — would catch herself a man, everything in her life would fall into place. But it’s not just the sexism that made this article infuriating, it’s its wholesale denial of the hostile economic reality that Jessica and the majority of the American work force are dealing with today. Katha Pollitt did such a fine job putting paid to the piece that I didn’t think I’d have anything more to add.
That is, not until I heard, via Chris Hayes’ TV show, that Mitt Romney had mentioned the piece at a campaign appearance earlier this week. Here is what he said:
“I don’t know whether you read the story over the weekend there was a story that described a couple of women working in a daycare center. One is a single mom, she has three kids. One full-time job and three kids does not make a comfortable life. Being middle class in America is getting tougher and tougher. This president’s economy is not working for the American people even for those that are employed.”
Just when I think the Mittster has plumbed the depths of his own phoniness, he has a way of astonishing me by reaching new levels of complete fakery.
The faux sympathy is galling enough: “One full-time job and three kids does make a comfortable life. Being middle class in America is getting tougher and tougher.”
First of all — riiiiiiight. Like he could even imagine not having a “comfortable life.”
Secondly, there’s that bit about how “being middle class in America is getting tougher and tougher.” Hmmm, I wonder why that is?
Let’s look at the facts. Why shouldn’t one full-time job be enough to support a modestly comfortable life for oneself and one’s family? Certainly, by all accounts, Jessica, the woman featured in the piece, is a hard worker. She has an associate’s degree, which means she is better educated that most American adults. Moreover, has been working for the same employer for six years, and she is a manager.
And yet, she is only making $12.35 an hour. And it’s not that she has an especially bad or low-paying job, either. Jessica is a child care worker, and workers in that sector are notoriously poorly paid. (Care work and female-dominated professions, which often amount to the same thing, often carry a huge wage penalty).
Mitt Romney, of course, does not say a word about how he would actually try to help people like Jessica. Not only that, in his corporate career, there are many instances in which he has enriched himself at the expense of thousands of workers just like Jessica.
As Bloomberg News reported earlier this year, while Romney was at Bain Capital, many of the business the firm helped to fund, and which Romney personally profited from enormously, were low-wage employers. One of the ones that Romney was specifically involved in early on is Bright Horizons, a national child care chain not unlike Jessica Schairer’s employer. According to glassdoor.com, average salaries for teachers at Bright Horizons are about the same as Jessica’s — they range from $12.25 to $12.94 per hour.
By contrast, according to the Huffington Post, during his time at Bain, Mitt Romney’s hourly wage was a cool $6,400.
There’s a reason why this economy is not working for so many people like Jessica. But has precious little to do with government allegedly giving people free stuff (another Romney instant classic) — and everything to do with obscenely greedy CEO’s like Romney who enrich themselves at the expense of their workers, who in many cases, are just barely scraping by.
I would say that Romney should be ashamed of himself for exploiting this Jessica Schairer’s hardscrabble life for his own political benefit. But as he has shown countless times, Mitt Romney has a near-sociopathic lack of concern for the workers he’s made a career out of exploiting. So it doesn’t exactly come as a shock that he’s doing so once again.