(AFP) – Oct 23, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Republican presidential candidate John McCain barely got a passing grade on issues that matter to women while his Democratic rival Barack Obama scored a "B" in report cards awarded Thursday to the two men by US economists.
The Economists' Policy Group on Women's Issues (EPGWI), made up of economics professors and researchers from 25 US universities, gave McCain two "Fs" -- the failing grade -- for his positions on pay and jobs equity and reproductive rights.
The 72-year-old Republican also got six "Ds", one mark short of failing, and two Cs, with his grade averaging out to D overall.
Obama, 47, scored two "As" -- at the opposite end of the scale from an "F" -- for reproductive rights and domestic violence. All the rest of his marks were Bs.
EPGWI, which hasn't issued candidates' report cards since 1992, when Democrat Bill Clinton ran against incumbent Republican George H. W. Bush, decided to do so this year "because we felt women's issues were being upstaged," said Nancy Folbre, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
"We're tired of hearing about the "Joes," as in six-pack and Plumber, and want more attention paid to the "Joannes" -- the women in our economy who typically earn less money and shoulder more family responsibilities than men," Folbre said.
"Joe the Plumber" is a white, male plumber from Ohio who has been center-stage in the campaign since he expressed his concern to Obama about the Democratic candidate's "share-the-wealth" tax plans.
"Joe six-pack," meanwhile, was the name given by McCain's running mate Sarah Palin to describe the average American.
"Six-pack" refers to the way beer cans are often sold in US liquor stores.
"What about Josephine the working mother, Wanda the waitress, Sarah the school teacher?" asked Folbre.
"These women care about health care, pay equity, retirement security ... and want to know where the candidates stand on these issues," she said.
The 10 issues on which the candidates were graded were health care, pay and employment equity, retirement security, taxes, paid leave, child care and early education, poverty, non-traditional families, domestic violence and reproductive rights.
The panel of economists, comprising both women and men, awarded the grades based on the candidates' policies.
The top mark of A was rare, said Folbre, and failing grades were reserved for "policies we felt would do harm," she said on behalf of the 43 signatories of the report.
McCain earned one of his Fs for pay and employment equity because "his past votes and present positions reveal no serious commitment" to the issue, said Folbre.
Obama got a B in the subject-matter, partly because he voted in favor of a key piece of anti-discrimination legislation, the Lily Ledbetter act, which McCain opposed.
McCain earned his other F in reproductive rights, for pledging to appoint justices to the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe versus Wade, the landmark 1973 decision which legalized abortion in the United States, and for supporting abstinence-only sex education.
Obama got an A because he has pledged to support Roe versus Wade, favors a broader approach to sex education, and has voted to increase access to family-planning services.
Obama got his second A for his stance on domestic violence, because he was a co-sponsor in 2007 of a bill against violence against women and his running mate, Senator Joe Biden, authored the original bill in 1994.
McCain got a D because he voted against the Violence Against Women Act both times.
"It's surprising to me that the two male running mates get an 'A' when around 90 percent of domestic violence victims are women," said Professor Robert Drago of Pennsylvania State University.
McCain never scored higher than C-minus and Obama never lower than B-minus on the 10 issues.
Women are expected to play a key role in the presidential election, which takes place in less than a fortnight.
Several US women's rights groups, including the half-million-strong National Organization of Women, last month threw their weight behind Obama, saying he
has consistently backed women's rights while McCain has "consistently said 'no'."
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