The ‘Mad Men’ Problem at Home

Dish Washing
Getty Images / Getty Images

Closing the wage gap begins with remedying the housework gap first

When President Obama addressed the gender-based wage gap during his State of the Union address last week, women cheered and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro even gave out high fives. Obama called on Washington and businesses to help women succeed at work and “do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.” However, the President forgot to name a key constituency in his call to help women succeed: husbands.

All the workplace policies in the world aren’t going to get women to parity unless we do away with our Mad Men-era policies at home, too. Despite the fact women are the sole or primary source of income in a record 40% of U.S. households, they still do the majority of housework and childcare. According to the Pew Research Center, during an average week[OK? The study, if I’m looking at the right one, seems to have measured weeks rather than days.], women spend more time cleaning, doing laundry, and preparing food then men do. Men, on the other hand, spend more time watching television than women do. And even in households where the woman is the sole breadwinner, the labor division is far from equal. Men who stay home average 18 hours of housework per week, while their working partners average 14. Stay-at-home mothers, though, average 26 hours of housework. Their working partners average just a third of that time. America has a housework gap, and it’s fueling the gender gap at work.

Research indicates there is a direct and negative correlation between housework and the wage gap. One theory, from research in The Journal of Human Resources, suggests this could be employers’ negative reactions to women who appear dedicated to household activities. It could also be that many employers believe mothers are less committed to their jobs than other employees, as Shelley J. Correll, a sociology professor at Stanford University, posits. As a result, employers are reluctant to hire them and offer them high salaries. The “mommy penalty” is real. The wage gap between mothers and non-mothers is greater than that between women and men, according to the advocacy group MomsRising.

It appears that in 2014, we have high expectations of what a woman can accomplish at work, but we still have 1950s expectations about her role at home. But it’s time to rethink and renegotiate who does what where. Men who have opted out of housework should lean in at home so their wives can lean in at work. And they should advocate for, and take advantage of, family-friendly policies such as paid sick days, paternity leave, and flex benefits in order to create a more equitable arrangement at home.

If we truly believe that, as Obama said, “when women succeed, America succeeds,” then we need to stop ignoring the housework gap. Laundry and dirty dishes may not be standard agenda items for our legislators and business leaders, but they should be. After all, a woman can’t have it all if she’s too busy doing it all.

Liz O’Donnell is the author of Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman.

TIME state of the union

State of the Union: Handshakes, Hugs and Photo Ops

He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information of the state of the union

TIME White House

This Man Will Be Your President If the Worst Happens

Dr. Ernest Moniz, secretary of energy. Ken Shipp / Dept. of Energy

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is tonight's 'designated survivor'

If the unthinkable happens during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz will assume the role of President of the United States.

Moniz, the 12th person in the line of succession for the Oval Office, will be protected by Secret Service agents at an undisclosed location as the so-called “designated survivor” while President Barack Obama delivers his address to Congress. Meanwhile, the vice president, members of the Cabinet, Supreme Court justices and others will gather at the Capitol to listen to the president’s annual address.

The nuclear physicist was a longtime faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before he was sworn in on May 21, 2013. Moniz is no stranger to the federal government or the White House, having served as under secretary of the Department of Energy and White House staffer during the Clinton administration. He’s better liked inside the administration than his predecessor—and last year’s designated survivor—Steven Chu, who was considered by some administration officials to be a political loose cannon.

Moniz is probably best known for his hair styling, which has led to comparisons with Oscar Wilde and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.

The idea of having a designated survivor originated during the Cold War over fears of a nuclear attack wiping out the country’s political and military leadership. Traditionally a lower-level Cabinet officer is selected, so that high-profile members will be seen in audience shots during the president’s address. The role took on a more serious note after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with tightened security and secrecy.


Obama to Hike Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama talks about National Security Agency surveillance, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at the Justice Department in Washington. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Ahead of his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, President Obama is pressing for an increase in the minimum wage for new federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour, up from $7.25, according to the White House

President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday that he is acting unilaterally to raise the minimum wage for new federal contract workers, signaling ahead of his annual State of the Union address that he’ll work around congressional opposition wherever possible this year.

Obama will sign an executive order lifting the minimum wage only for workers under new federal contracts to $10.10 an hour, the White House said, up from the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The order won’t apply to millions directly on the government payroll; that would require an act of Congress, which has been cool to raising the minimum wage since even before Obama made doing so a centerpiece of his State of the Union speech last year. The White House has repeatedly refused to take similar executive action to extend anti-discrimination provisions to LGBT employees of government contractors.

“A higher minimum wage for federal contract workers will provide good value for the federal government and hence good value for the taxpayer,” the administration said. “Boosting wages will lower turnover and increase morale, and will lead to higher productivity overall.Raising the minimum wage will make sure no family of four with a full-time worker has to raise their children in poverty.”

The executive order also signals the opening salvo in a midterm-election year fight in which Democrats are focusing on income inequality and pushing a minimum-wage increase for all workers, and in which Obama is promising a “year of action” using executive orders and other moves to work around Congress. Republicans have argued that raising the minimum wage will cause employers to cut back on hiring, ultimately hurting low-income workers. Recent polls have found that more than 60 percent of Americans favor raising the minimum wage. Republicans, who have mocked the idea of the White House’s “year of action,” reacted skeptically to Obama’s latest move.

“Well I suspect the president has the authority to raise the minimum wage for dealing with federal contracts,” House Speaker John Boehner said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “But let’s understand something. This affects not one current contract. It only affects future contracts with the federal government. And so I think the question is how many people, Mr. President, will this executive action actually help? I suspect the answer is somewhere close to zero.

“When it comes to the federal minimum wage, listen, I used to be an employer,” Boehner added. “When you raise the cost of something, you get less of it. And we know from increases in the minimum wage in the past that hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans have lost their jobs. And so the very people the president purports to help are the ones who are going to get hurt by this.”

The administration said that “raising the minimum wage will make sure no family of four with a full-time worker has to raise their children in poverty.”

-with reporting from Zeke J Miller and Alex Rogers

TIME Speeches

State of the Union: Competing Rebuttals Muddle Republican Message

Boehner, House Leaders Hold Speak To Media At The Capitol
From left, Speaker of the House John Boehner, House Republican Conference vice chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, House majority leader Eric Cantor and Representative Nan Hayworth attend a news conference on Capitol Hill on July 10, 2012 Alex Wong / Getty Images

After President Obama speaks on Tuesday, the Republican Party will demonstrate — in triplicate — the challenges it faces in mounting a unified opposition

The new White House mantra is that Barack Obama, forever thwarted by an obstreperous Congress, will use “his pen and his phone” to push the action in 2014. But at least for one night, Obama can still draw on the power of the pulpit. Tuesday’s State of the Union will showcase all the pomp a presidency can muster: the House chamber filled with dignitaries, the seesaw of applause, a broadcast audience numbering in the tens of millions. The privilege is a perk of the office.

But Congress has found a way to intrude even on this. Obama’s address will be followed by no fewer than three Republican rebuttals, which will (spoiler alert) pan the speech with varying degrees of contempt. These responses — not to mention the 530 or so separate email blasts that will begin flooding inboxes before Obama even finishes speaking — are meant to siphon attention on the one night the President is supposed to have it in full.

At the same time, however, the triple rebuttal lays bare the challenges facing a fractured party. After consecutive losses to Obama and the disastrous government shutdown, the GOP’s factions are increasingly divided over tactics and message. The practice of responding to the sitting President dates back decades for both parties, but it wasn’t until the Obama era that Republican factions began jostling for postpresidential airtime. Instead of advancing the party’s ideas, the competing speeches wind up stepping on them.

Nor is it clear why the speakers would want the honor. Compared with the grand pageantry of a prime-time speech delivered by the sitting President, the opposing response tends to be flat, if not pure fiasco.

Consider the stars the GOP has selected for the task. Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s water-swigging rebuttal last January was the beginning of a difficult year. In 2012, Republican matchers tapped Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, hoping he might emerge as the white knight to rescue a weak presidential field; now Daniels is out of politics, choosing instead to become president of Purdue University. In 2010, the party’s featured face was then Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, who has just been indicted for favor trading. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s wooden speech in 2009 dealt his reputation a blow from which he’s never fully recovered. In the age of Obama, being chosen for the Republican rebuttal has been politics’ version of the Madden curse.

A rival tradition within the GOP has only complicated matters. Since 2011, the Tea Party has sponsored its own rejoinder to the President’s address. Its record of success has been no more distinguished. In 2011, Michele Bachmann botched her moment by gazing into the wrong camera. The following year the Tea Party offered up Herman Cain, whose laughingstock presidential campaign propelled him to a gig flogging erectile-dysfunction pills.

This year’s crop should fare better. The official Republican response will be delivered by Washington Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the fourth-ranking Republican in the House. A married mom of three, she is “proof that with humility, hard work and dedication, you can overcome any obstacle,” House Speaker John Boehner said. More important, she offers a visual and biographical counterpoint to Democrats’ charges that the party is inhospitable to women. McMorris Rodgers is a dull speaker, but she sticks to the script. For a party struggling with message discipline, that may be enough.

The Tea Party riposte will be given by Utah Senator Mike Lee, the architect of the ill-fated plan that shut down the government last fall. He’ll compete with Senator Rand Paul, last year’s Tea Party responder, who is freelancing this time around as he tries to position himself as the bridge between the party’s warring factions. Bypassing official channels, Paul will broadcast his denunciation of the speech over social media. In a party with a power vacuum at the top, Paul is among the ambitious figures scrambling to fill it.

The scrum is a symptom of the civil war that threatens the party over the next two election cycles. In 2014, party bigwigs will drop millions to contest congressional primaries, sums that might be better spent in the battle to take back the Senate. In 2016, Republicans are facing a bloody presidential primary (just count the number of darts Paul has hurled at New Jersey Governor Chris Christie lately) that threatens to hobble the eventual nominee. If the GOP can’t find common ground on a response to Obama, it may struggle to find its way back to the White House when he leaves.

TIME state of the union

Barack Obama Will Try to Outrun History at 2014 State of the Union

Obama's State of Union address
President Barack Obama, gives the State of the Union address in Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. Charles Dharapak / AP

Recent Presidents had already become lame ducks by this point whether they knew it or not

Once upon a time, Barack Obama could deliver a game-changing speech. His 2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address thrust him into national headlines, his Philadelphia speech on race closed the book on the Reverend Jeremiah Wright furor, and his eulogy brought the nation together after the Tucson shooting involving Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Obama’s oratory has always been the most powerful weapon in the White House arsenal, able to change conventional wisdom, unstick public opinion and embarrass recalcitrant opponents. But after 10 years in the national spotlight, four State of the Union speeches and a tendency to rely too heavily on speechmaking when in a bind, the novelty is fading. “The fact is that the oratory and the communicating skills are just not what they used to be. They peaked maybe during the ’08 campaign, and he hasn’t been able to match that because it’s not new anymore,” says Kenneth Khachigian, Ronald Reagan’s chief speechwriter for the second State of the Union address in Reagan’s second term. “People are used to it. It’s not a knock on him or his speechwriters. It’s that familiarity breeds contempt.”

(MORE: Obama’s Three Challenges for January)

With his approval ratings near all-time lows and Obamacare in the news for the wrong reasons, the President could use a last game-changing speech. But his goals will likely be much more moderate on Tuesday. In the chamber, Obama will be facing an audience of members of Congress who shut down the government this past year and stymied Obama’s efforts on gun control, immigration reform, Syria and unemployment-insurance benefits. “Typically the President comes out of the gate in the second term feeling pretty ambitious. He makes some bold plans and gets things done with the understanding that that window closes pretty soon,” says Jeff Shesol, who was just entering the White House as a speechwriter as Bill Clinton was delivering his second State of the Union in his second term. “That was [Obama’s] address last year. After a year or so the political reality starts to assert itself. Second-term Presidents are aware that they have only a certain amount of time before others take center stage.”

Indeed, Obama’s window is arguably nearly shut, at least legislatively speaking. Congress has a few months to pass farm and transportation bills, a debt-ceiling increase and perhaps the Trade Promotion Authority before the campaign season overtakes all else. Chances are slim House Republicans will give the President a victory on immigration reform, tax reform or any other big-ticket items so close to the midterm elections. Still, on the small hope that they might get something done, Obama is reportedly holding his fire on shaming the GOP on immigration. But as the 2014 election approaches, passing bipartisan legislation will only get more difficult, and then the 2016 presidential election will likely overshadow any policy pushes.

President George W. Bush found himself in a similar position ahead of his 2006 State of the Union. He hoped to push immigration reform, yet knew he was losing juice with his own party and Democrats were likely to fight against giving him win ahead of the 2006 midterm elections. (The Democratic strategy was a success: Latino outrage helped them retake the House that year.) Though Bush did not know it when he stood before an applauding joint session, he was already a lame duck by the spring of 2006. The only major domestic bill he’d sign into law in the next three years would be the bank bailout.

Similarly, Clinton entered 1998 excited to govern with a surplus, but news of his affair with Monica Lewinsky had broken weeks before his State of the Union speech, and that pall would hang over the remainder of his second term. Likewise, says Khachigian, Reagan’s second State of the Union during his second term was overshadowed by the Iran Contra scandal. “Usually the problem is the gas tank’s running on empty, and Obama has used up most of his big initiatives early on. So the challenge is to have something fresh to say,” says Khachigian. “I worked on Reagan’s ’87 State of the Union, and it was a challenge because we had really no new initiatives, nothing earthshaking, and so we were basically left with a tour de raison of past big achievements.”

“Obama has some of the same problems,” he adds.

This will likely leave Obama selling a raft of executive orders as he looks to cement his legacy. His audience will not be the people in the chamber he’s looking to circumvent, but the American people watching on television. “I think he’ll push hard on two themes: increasing opportunity and social mobility — initiatives on job creation, wages, training, education — and frame those around the need for action,” says Jon Favreau, who wrote Obama’s first four State of the Union address and his February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress, but recently left the White House for the private sector. “Not just executive actions that he can take himself, but highlighting actions that people outside Washington can and are taking: mayors, companies, citizens, etc. The idea is to prod Congress into some kind of productivity by pointing out how the rest of the country is moving forward, many instances in a bipartisan manner.”

In other words, he will give Congress a choice: work with me or I will go around you. “He’s setting up the choice and saying to Congress: Here’s what I can do and will do, and here’s what I can’t do without you,” says David Dreyer, a former Clinton speechwriter. “And if they don’t, then he has an argument in fall of 2014 on why the Republicans don’t deserve the majority.” Will this economic populism be enough to turn the page from the drumbeat of Obamacare stories that have weakened Obama’s second term? The President hopes he can change the game one last time, because if the Republicans keep the House and gain the Senate — as is looking increasingly likely in November — his fate as a lame duck will certainly be sealed.

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