March 16, 2022

Smith Opening Statement: Ensuring Women Can Thrive in a Post-Pandemic Economy

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

It is fair to say that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women. It is also important to acknowledge that much of that negative impact came in the form of policies enacted in response to the pandemic.

For example, working mothers represent 27 percent of Americans who left the work force during the pandemic – and school closures played a huge part. According to a 2020 study mothers were almost 70 percent less likely to be working in states that closed schools early compared to other states. In other words, school closures harm both the child and the parent.

It was under the guise of responding to COVID-19, that just over a year ago Democrats chose to spend $2 trillion – less than 9 percent of which went to combatting and eliminating the virus.

They ignored the warnings – including from those in their own party – that the spending spree would ignite inflation. We now have the highest spike in prices in 40 years – the most recent data from February showing a year-to-year increase of 7.9 percent. The highest in 40 years.

Prices are up on everything from groceries to gas to the clothes that you put on your back. The cost of women’s apparel is up 11 percent, and mothers are having to shell out more and more money for infant and toddler clothing too, with the prices rising by nearly nine percent.

If Democrats want to help women thrive in a post-pandemic economy, they ought to stop the inflationary spending that is undermining paychecks and family budgets.

When it comes to jobs, Democrat policymakers are also keeping women out of the workforce. Right now, eighty percent of the top ten states with the highest unemployment rates for women are run by Democrat Governors. Of the 15 states with the lowest unemployment rates for women, 11 are run by Republican governors. That is no coincidence.

Democrats will claim that the policies in their $5 trillion Build Back Broke bill will solve these challenges – just as they claim spending another $5 trillion will solve a spending-driven inflation crisis. Democrats are trying to reframe – and rename – their agenda to fit the moment rather than change their agenda to fix the challenges in the moment.

Their spending policies will further drive-up prices. Their policies will reduce incentives to work and make child care for many mothers more expensive. In fact, a Congressional Budget Office analysis from November found that the Build Back Broke government mandated child care policies would raise costs for those middle-class families whose care is not subsidized. Those working mothers who are just above the income threshold to qualify for subsidized child care would be forced to make a choice: work less to qualify or pay more out of pocket for child care.

To create an economic environment under which all Americans – but particularly women – can find greater opportunity to thrive, we need to only look to the recent past.

Under the economic policies of Donald Trump – which included regulatory relief and tax relief that put money back in the pockets of working families and spurred substantial growth in our economy – the labor force participation rate for women reached 57.9 percent, the highest since 2011. For mothers, that labor force participation rate was even higher at 72.4 percent, the highest since 2000.

Median real earnings for women grew by 9.6 percent during the Trump Administration – and that’s including the year 2020. That wage growth was also 2 percentage points higher than wage growth for men.

Under President Biden’s economic policies, earnings for women have gone down by 2.6 percent. The decline for men has been less, but still 1.2 percent.

We ought to be disturbed by the negative impact your policies, Democrat policies are having on all Americans. But since our colleagues often wish to make comparisons, let’s be clear: under President Trump, earnings for women grew substantially and more so than earnings for men. Under President Biden, wage growth for women has declined and declined more so than for men.

The data does not lie. It tells a clear story about how damaging lockdown policies and a Washington-knows-best spending agenda have been and will be for women. To help women thrive in a post-pandemic economy, Washington needs to stop with the permanent pandemic narrative, stop undermining wages with inflationary-spending, and stop telling Americans – particularly women – how to raise their kids.

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