WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's campaign declared during a conference call with reporters Tuesday that if there is a war on women, the major blow was President Barack Obama's economic policies.
Bay Buchanan, a longtime GOP activist and surrogate for the former Massachusetts governor, made the most audacious charge, arguing that the White House had set back women in the workplace several decades.
"One million women have lost their jobs under this administration, nearly one million have become unemployed as a result of Obama's policies," Buchanan declared. "That is 92 percent of the jobs lost while Barack Obama has been president. ... This is frightening, because you know these women are often single women, they are taking care of themselves, they are trying to do their best to do that. ... And many of them are single women who are solely responsible for caring for those kids. And to have this kind of unsettling in the work place is an outrage. It is clear his policies have failed women miserably. It has set women in the workplace back 20 years and we certainly can't afford it. Nor can the children of these women."
It was a charged claim, though one that Romney and the Republican National Committee both have made before. It's also is based on highly debatable facts -- relying on data and circumstances that were outside Obama's control.
According to the Romney campaign, from January 2009 through March 2012, there has been a net job loss of 740,000. That number is based on data maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and includes non-farm payroll jobs. Filtered by gender, the picture is alarming. Women lost 683,000 jobs during the period, accounting for nine of every 10 jobs lost.
Naturally, the Obama campaign has quibbled with this statistic, and for good reason. The president, after all, has tried desperately to curb job losses in the public sector by pushing for more money for teacher retention and the hiring of social services and health care workers. Republicans have blocked those efforts. The end result has been bad for women. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, compiled by the Obama campaign, women made up to 68 percent of the education services sector in 2011, and 78 percent of the health and social assistance sector.
Obama's other major quibble is with the timing used by the Romney campaign. The president took office Jan. 20, 2009, meaning that, at the very least, Romney and his team are counting 20 days in which Obama wasn't in office. The president's stimulus package didn't get signed into law until Feb. 17, 2009. It didn't begin having a tangible effect for a month or two after that.
Pulling out the public sector data and adjusting the time frame, the picture looks less dire. In January 2009, there were 288,000 jobs lost by women in the private sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The next month, there were 201,000. In March, there were 240,000. In April, it was 276,000. That's more than 1 million private sector jobs lost by women in the first 3.5 months of Obama's presidency.
From then until now, 474,000 private sector jobs have been created for women. As the Washington Post Fact Checker has pointed out, that rate of job growth trails the rate for male workers. But that's primarily because men lost more jobs during the recession, and their recovery was quicker and more noticeable.