What Women Want: To Make You a Sandwich


National Review's Carrie Lukas:

Anyone with half a brain can peruse the National Organization for Women's wish list and promise ever more government handouts. Instead of more NOW-approved trinkets, why not consider what women themselves say they want and offer policies to help achieve these goals?

Yes, let's consider. You might, looking at actual poll data in which pollsters actually ask women what they want, come to this conclusion: Women are distinct human beings. Single women obviously skew more liberal than married women. Women are more likely than men to have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton. Majorities in '04 and '06 voted Democrat; you might plausibly infer that some women support the Democratic agenda. But you'd be wrong. Because, Lukas explains, what all women really want are right-wing economic policies:

The appeal of full-time work has fallen considerably among those mothers who are employed: In 1997, nearly one-third of working mothers described full-time work as their ideal, compared to just one-fifth of working mothers today…

Financial pressure keeps many mothers reluctantly in full-time jobs. To reduce that pressure, policymakers should cut spending and lower taxes…

Not all people in the set "women" are also part of the set "mothers," but never mind – we're all pre-pregnant! Lukas may be right to claim that people raking in more money will respond by cutting their own hours. I'm skeptical. There are many, many ways to encourage women to stay out of the labor market. Increasing their take home pay is probably not one of them. Conservatives who believe women belong at home—that the will to work is an evil seed the ghost of Betty Friedan plants in our soft brains as we sleep at night–would do well to support soul-crushing taxes and strive to reduce, not increase, the after-tax wages of married women.

The polling data Lukas cites may indicate that, despite their tendency to hysteria, women respond rationally to incentives. If married women's incomes are considered the "second" income, and the second income is hit with a punishing tax rate, many women will likely choose to stay at home. What women say they want with regard to hours worked may reflect the present payoff to work, not a shared vision of hearth and home.

So candidates take note: Listen to women, not to the professional feminists. There's a difference.

I happen to want exactly what Lukas wants—lower taxes, less spending—and that's in part because I'd prefer women to be financially independent and well rewarded in the labor market. But it's a bit of stretch to claim that a candidate who agrees with us will be "listening to women." Women skeptical of subsidized day care are weird, warped, mutant beings: Be proud of that.