Economists Grade Presidential Candidates on 10 Issues Vital to Women

Economists’ Policy Group on Women’s Issues (EPGWI)

Economists Grade Presidential Candidates
On 10 Issues Vital to Women

McCain Averages a D, Obama Gets a B

A network of over thirty economists from across America released a report card today grading Senator McCain and Senator Obama on 10 issues it described as vital to American women. Obama’s grades averaged out to a B, while McCain scored a nearly failing grade of D.

The group’s Vice Chair, Barbara Bergmann, Professor Emerita, American University, remarked, “It’s not unfair to describe McCain as a firm enemy of many measures that would bring progress for women, while there is hope that under an Obama presidency, their situation could advance substantially.”

Noting the importance of economic issues in a time of financial crisis, University of Massachusetts Boston Professor Randy Albelda said the candidates’ stands on several of the issues in the report card give valuable insights into how they would handle the crisis.

Overall Grade D B
Health Care C- B-
Pay and Employment Equity F B
Retirement Security D B
Taxes D B-
Paid Time Off D B+
Child Care and Early Education D B
Poverty D B
Non-traditional Families C- B+
Domestic Violence D A
Reproductive Rights F A

“On the issue of taxes,” said Professor Albelda, “McCain is rated a D and Obama a B- because McCain’s tax plans provide much less help to ordinary Americans. McCain’s tax cuts for the wealthy would leave the government with much less revenue to provide relief for working families. McCain says he would freeze government spending, certain to hit areas like health care and education that women rely on.”

“Obama’s crisis response includes extending unemployment benefits and building needed physical and social infra-structure, all of great value to middle class Americans,” Professor Albelda said.

The group, The Economists’ Policy Group for Women’s Issues, looked at the candidates’ voting records, statements, and positions taken on their web sites, and did not rate McCain higher than C- on any of the 10 issues. He was given a D on the issue of child care because of his lack of support for increasing government subsidies for child care. The typical low-income working mother spends 25 percent of her earnings on child care. Increasing government support for child care, the group stressed, is one of the best means available to improve the life chances of these children. Obama favors considerable expansion of funds for child care and earned a solid B on the issue.

Many women have jobs that offer inadequate health care coverage or none at all. They would benefit greatly from a national program that made universal health coverage available. Neither candidate offers that, but Obama’s plan earned a grade of B- because it would cover all children and is likely to cover more adults than McCain’s plan, which received a C-, one of his highest grades. One of the report authors, Dr. Lois Shaw, a consultant, said, “The Group is concerned that under both plans, young, healthy adults might not purchase insurance, raising the costs to those who do.”

In the area of retirement security, McCain earned a D, and Obama a B, because Obama opposes privatizing Social Security, while McCain has supported privatization in the past and has been less clear than Obama on how he would bring costs and revenues of the nation’s retirement system into balance.

McCain’s pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices like Alito and Scalia, who would overturn Roe v. Wade, earned him an F on the reproductive rights issue and his long-standing opposition to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) earned him a D on domestic violence. The group graded Obama an A on these two issues – reproductive rights, because he has pledged to support Roe v. Wade – and domestic violence, because of his support of the (VAWA).

Obama earned a B+ in two areas: paid time off and non-traditional families, because of his support for a variety of federal measures that would increase paid sick days and paid and unpaid family leave, as well as his support for civil rights for gay and lesbian couples.

McCain earned a D and Obama a B in the area of poverty, because Obama calls for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit among other poverty reduction measures.

The economists’ report indicates that a revival of policies to reduce discrimination against women on the job is needed to move toward a fair labor market. Government oversight of federal contractors and enforcement of the civil rights laws by the Employment Opportunity Commission must be strengthened, they argued. McCain earned an F in this area (Pay and Employment Equity), while Obama earned a B because of his support for several equal pay bills pending in Congress.

The Group’s Chair, Professor Nancy Folbre, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, noted that Joe Six Pack and Joe the Plumber are getting lots of attention in this campaign. “What about Josephine the Working Mother, Wanda the Waitress, and Sarah the School Teacher? These working women care about health care, pay equity, retirement security, paid time off, and child care and want to know how the candidates stand on these issues,” Folbre said.

The Economists’ Policy Group for Women’s Issues is an independent working group of economists including:

CHAIR: Professor Nancy Folbre, University of Massachusetts Amherst, staff economist, Center for Popular Economics VICE CHAIR: Professor Emerita Barbara R. Bergmann, American University, University of Maryland College Park
Professor Randy Albelda, University of Massachusetts Boston, Vice-President, International Association for Feminist Economics
Professor Robert Drago, Pennsylvania State University and University of Melbourne
Dr. Lois Shaw, Senior Consulting Economist, Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Professor Carole Biewener, Simmons College
Professor Lourdes Beneria, Cornell University
Professor Gunseli Berik, University of Utah
Professor Alexandra Bernasek, Colorado State University
Professor James Boyce, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Professor Elissa Braunstein, Colorado State University
Professor Robin Douthitt, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Professor Loretta Fairchild, Nebraska Wesleyan University
Professor Emerita Marianne Ferber, University of Illinois
Professor Lisa Giddings, University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse
Professor Lonnie Golden, Pennsylvania State University
Professor Daniel Hamermesh, University of Texas
Professor Robert Haveman, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Professor John Heywood, University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Professor Karen Holden, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Professor Mary King, Portland State University
Professor June Lapidus, Roosevelt University
Dr. Vicky Lovell, Acting Director of Research, Institute for Women’s Policy Research
Professor Linda Lucas, Eckerd College
Professor Ann Markusen, University of Minnesota
Professor Arthur MacEwan, University of Massachusetts at Boston
Professor Elaine McCrate, University of Vermont
Professor Ellen Mutari, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
Professor Julie Nelson, University of Massachusetts at Boston
Professor Paulette Olson, Wright State University
Professor Robert Pollin, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Professor Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, Rutgers University
Professor Nancy Rose, California State University at San Bernardino
Professor Juliet Schor, Boston College
Professor David Shapiro, Pennsylvania State University
Professor Stephanie Seguino, University of Vermont
Professor Timothy Smeeding, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Professor Sally Stearns, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Professor David Terkla, University of Massachusetts at Boston
Professor David Vanness, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Professor Thomas Weisskopf, University of Michigan
Professor Amy Wolaver, Bucknell University
Professor Barbara Wolfe, University of Wisconsin at Madison

For a more detailed discussion of each of the 10 issues, plus details on the candidates’ positions, go to