Book Report and Public Policy

So I just started reading Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, by Ron Suskind. Granted, I'm mostly just reading it before bed, so it's a bit slow going.  I'm only about 20 pages in, and was already super-annoyed not with the writing, but how policy development occurred.  The opening scene of the book is a meeting among a few economists and then Senator Obama in 2007.  They are discussing the future of the workforce, and frankly a number of things that are aptly predicted that are occurring now. What I found fascinating was this: The group, including the current President of the United States see a trend in which more women are attending college, and that the future job crisis will likely be that working class men will need new roles. The conversation did circle around that due to an aging population, health care sector positions would likely be the quickest growing, but they were concerned that men equate these positions - nursing, care taking roles - as not masculine. This already raises flags for me, but there is more to it.  Essentially the focus of their new employment policies need to center on this group of working class, non-educated men.

While I understand this perspective, and it certainly is a worthy goal to seek ways to ensure this population does not become a large, unemployed underclass, it misses one very large thing.  It misses that women too are working class. Yes, the rate of women attending college was higher than men in 2000, and that trend has not changed since then.  BUT that completely overlooks the number of women who are also working class and are not attending college. By prioritizing this group of working class men over working class women, it further ensures that working class women become the unemployed underclass that these smartest minds are trying to prevent.

Public policy has implications, and in this case, an unintended effect of a policy focused on lower-class men will harm lower-class women, who are already making less than men, and do more of the caring work than do men, and while it may assist some people, by putting the focus of the policy on gender instead of class, it could do more harm than good. It has always been my contention that often problems that are placed into dismissable boxes like, oh that's about race or that's about gender are actually about class, something that is much harder for Americans to discuss.

What surprised me about this being included in the book, which I originally was drawn to as there was a great deal of discussion prior to this book's distribution that discussed gender inequity within the Obama administration.  This opening few pages illustrates gender-focused policy creation without the author - or the actors in this scene - acknowledging that this is occurring.  This leads me to believe that there were definitely not any women in the room during that conversation, and I found this opening chapter to be a great illumination of why it is so important to have diversity within all steps of the policy process. While just having a woman in the room might not mean that someone would notice what they had just proposed, but maybe it would have.  And maybe that would have made a difference.