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July 22, 2008

Offshoring: It's Not (Just) A Dude Thing

Offshoring, downsizing, rightsizing... mention these words, and the image that pops in most people's heads is a hefty Midwestern man grumbling about his economic problems and then voting Republican.

But Lou Uchitelle has a piece today entitled "Women Are Now Equal as Victims of Poor Economy" that shows this view to be fatally flawed:

After moving into virtually every occupation, women are being afflicted on a large scale by the same troubles as men: downturns, layoffs, outsourcing, stagnant wages or the discouraging prospect of an outright pay cut...

Hard times in manufacturing certainly sidelined Tootie Samson of Baxter, Iowa. Nine months after she lost her job on a factory assembly line, Ms. Samson, 48, is still not working. She could be. Jobs that pay $8 or $9 an hour are easy enough to land, she says. But like the men with whom she worked at the Maytag washing machine factory, now closed, near her home, she resists going back to work at less than half her old wage...

The Joint Economic Committee study cites the growing statistical evidence that women are leaving the work force “on par with men,” and the potentially disastrous consequences for families.

“Women bring home about one-third of family income,” said Carolyn Maloney, Democrat of New York and vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. “And only those families with a working wife have seen real improvement in their living standards.”

Remember all the wage stagnation that we talk about on this blog? Well, what Maloney is saying is that the only reason there's not rioting in the streets is because BOTH parents are now working for low pay. Mix this with the Alan Greenspan admission that American paychecks only look good when seen through the flood of imported cheap plastic gadgets, and if you get drunk enough after your third shift, you might almost think your living standards are rising.

It's pretty rare in this town that Congress would be on the vanguard of a scarcely examined idea (even one that affects large numbers of Americans). And official feminism doesn't tend to focus on these working-class issues. Fifty years from now, when we're looking back on how America developed a comprehensive approach to class and gender issues, Maloney's report will register as one of the foundational steps: admitting that there's a problem, and one that's not going to go away by just putting a few rich women in high-paying positions and pretending like that's a victory for the movement.

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