Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner ripped presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney on Sunday, calling Romney’s argument that women have been disproportionately hurt during the recession “a ridiculous argument.”
“It’s a ridiculous argument. Ridiculous. It’s been largely debunked this week by the people who have looked at it,” Geithner told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week. “It’s a ridiculous way to look at the problem. And this is a political moment and you’re going to be seeing — just to borrow a line from Mario Cuomo — ‘you’re going to see a lot of politicians choose to campaign in fiction, but we have to govern in fact.’”
“There’s been some talk about a war on women,” Romney said. “The real war on women has been waged by the Obama administration’s failure on the economy.”
“Do you know what percent of job losses in the Obama years have been casualties of women losing jobs as opposed to men?,” Romney said. “92.3 percent of the job losses during the Obama years have been women who lost those jobs. The real war on women has been the job losses as a result of the Obama economy.”
Romney’s figure comes from a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that says there are 740,000 few non-farm payroll jobs since Obama took office in 2009, and that 683,000 women lost jobs in that same time frame.
While the numbers are accurate, the Obama campaign and some fact checking organizations have pushed back, calling Romney’s statement misleading. Men were disproportionately affected in the early stages of the recession, and while women have followed, most economists say this has nothing to do with the policies of President Obama or his predecessor, George W. Bush.
“This crisis was a very damaging crisis, hurt everybody,” Geithner continued. “And it began in, as you know, in early 2008, and a lot of the early job losses in 2008 affected men because they affected construction and manufacturing. And as the crisis spread and state and local governments were forced to cut back on services and fire a lot of teachers, that causes a lot of damage to women, too.”
Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg stood by the claim.
"No amount of spin by the Obama campaign can hide the enormous damage this president has done to American women," Henneberg said in an email to The Hill. "If they move the starting point to the beginning of their so-called recovery, they will find women have benefited from less than one-eighth of the meager job creation. The President should stop making excuses for his failures – he is entitled to his own spin but not his own facts."
The president leads Romney by 9 percent overall in 12 key swing states, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll released this month, and the difference is almost entirely due to the gender gap. Romney holds a 1 percent lead among men, while Obama leads by 18 percent among women.
Democrats were on the defensive last week after Republicans pounced on remarks made by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who said Romney’s wife, Ann, had “never worked a day in her life.” Republicans said this diminished the role mothers play in raising a family.
Rosen apologized, but by the end of the day the president and handful of other top Democrats had to step in to denounce the remarks. Some saw it as an opening for Romney with women on social issues, but speaking on Sunday, Geithner kept his focus on women and the economy.
“You know, unemployment — as you know, the GDP, at that point, was falling. The economy was contracting at an annual rate of almost 9 percent at that point. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month, devastating damage. Now — and it hurt men and women. It hurt families across the country,” he said. “There’s no doubt about it. And, again, the early job losses were concentrated in manufacturing and construction. A lot of men lost jobs then. A lot of women lost jobs later on.”
Geithner also pushed for the Buffett Rule, which would set a minimum tax rate for the wealthiest earners. While the measure faces long odds in the Senate due to Republican opposition, Geithner pushed back at the notion that a vote on the bill was a gimmick.
“Just because they oppose this doesn’t mean it’s not the right thing to do,” Geithner said on CBS’s "Face the Nation." “If we don’t push for things that make sense, then we’re not governing. That’s our responsibility in this case.”
This story was updated at 1:40 p.m.