As a middle-aged white dude, Iâve long had mixed feelings about surveys and studies claiming that women are better at nearly all traditionally male white-collar work: Better at investing, better at managing, and most of all better (or at least different) at governing. On one hand, I kind of believe it â white dudes narrowly approve of Donald Trumpâs presidency, so in the aggregate we canât know much. On the otherâ¦.
But now itâs time for women to prove it.
I refer to yesterdayâs report from the Congressional Budget Office that Trumpâs health-care âreformâ bill, passed by the House of Representatives on May 4, will strip 23 million people of coverage. Millions more will pay less for policies only because they will cover so much less, leaving patients at risk and overall savings up in the air once the higher deductibles on cheap, unsubsidized insurance are paid.
This is brought to you by Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and the House Freedom Caucus, which held out for changes to the bill to make it even more heartless. And which counts â hold my beer as I type this â not a single woman among its 31 members!
Republicans hold the Senate by two votes, and the three GOP moderate-conservatives who will set the tone for the whole debate in the upper house are women: Maineâs Susan Collins, West Virginiaâs Shelley Moore Capito and Alaskaâs Lisa Murkowski.
If they insist that the Senate honor the better angels of Americaâs nature, 14 million working people (and their dependents) with incomes between mostly around $30,000 a year for a family of three wonât be thrown off Medicaid. Another 10 million wonât lose tax credits helping them buy individual insurance coverage if they earn less than $97,000 for a family of four â a break that seems entirely fair since their neighbors who get health insurance at work arenât taxed on the value of employer-paid premiums.
And an estimated 44,000 Americans wonât die every year so that rich folks â mostly white guys whom, surveys say, should probably let the little woman handle their brokerage account â can get a tax cut on their investments.
According to a 2016 study by researchers at Vanderbilt, Colorado College and the University of Virginia, women legislators are more likely than men to sponsor bills about civil rights, social welfare and health care, and less likely to spend their time and political capital on agriculture, energy and economic policy. (I will cheerfully credit a female reporter, Claire Cain Miller of The New York Times, with digging this up before I did).
Now is where such studies get proven â or disproven â when it counts.
The debate over repealing Obamacare is maybe the classic example of where theoretical economics one learns in college comes into conflict with kitchen-table economics as people live them. Ryan is full of theories about how Obamacareâs taxes on medical devices harm innovation â something not visible in the stock prices or profit margins for device makers like Medtronic
Â since the tax took effect. The CBOâs report yesterday reported that Trumpcare would boost after-subsidy premiums for late-middle-aged families, too young for Medicare and mostly too old to avoid pre-existing conditions, by as much as nine times, or $14,400 a year.
One gender, led by Ryan, bemoans a boo-hoo-hoo effect on an industry that has led the way in using tax-inversion strategies to evade U.S. taxes by pretending their companies are based overseas, and on wealthy investors who must make $250,000 a year on a joint return to be affected.
Rising inequality has pushed incomes of those folks rapidly upward, even as middle-class pay stagnated through the first half of the post-2009 expansion. Obamacare helped mitigate those effects, reducing the surge in inequality among after-tax incomes. To Ryan, a cognitive prisoner of a long-dead libertarian popular intellectual, thatâs terrible.
The other side of the argument is about 64-year-olds whose individual insurance premiums will go through the roof, at a time when their efforts to get jobs that offer health coverage are likely to be stymied by discrimination. And about the millions of kids who will lose health insurance. Or the young women who might pay almost 10 times more for insurance than men of the same age, for persisting in demanding maternity coverage. (In an interesting fillip, the putative family-values party has created an incentive for young men to become deadbeat dads even before birth).
Thatâs the kind of real-world policy consequences weâve been assured that women âget.â Better than guys do.
Collins, Murkowski and Capito are all from states that accepted federal money to expand Medicaid coverage under Obamacare, and all have indicated that they oppose the bill. But then, so did a number of members of the House â notably, Appropriations Committee Chair Rodney Freylinghuysen, last seen ducking town halls and trying to get a political opponent fired from her day job â until House leaders squeezed. When they folded like the little girls the bullies always knew they were.
So, ladies, courage. Womenâs work awaits â not in the house, but in the Senate.