During the second presidential debate, Mitt Romney tried to appeal to women when asked a question on pay equity. His response was one of the more laughable of the night.

Romney said he was dismayed, after being elected governor of Massachusetts, that his staff was failing to put forward any names of women for his cabinet. He said he insisted that they find some suitable female nominees, and so they brought him “binders full of women.”

I wonder about the lack of creativity and diversity among the insiders he gathered in 2002 who supposedly couldn’t find qualified women in Boston — an intellectual and cultural mecca. The concept of women in leadership seems to have been utterly incomprehensible to them. Will that frat-boy sensibility prevail in a Romney presidency?

And anyway, the question he was asked was about pay equity in the workplace, not about diversity on his staff.

In 2011, full-time working women in the United States typically earned just 77 percent of what men earned, according to a study by the American Association of University Women. It’s better than when the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, but the gap is still hurting families.

“In typical married households, women’s incomes accounted for 36 percent of total family income in 2008,” the association reports. “About one-third of employed mothers are the sole breadwinners for their families.”

Reduced pay for women can lead to a variety of problems for families with children, including substandard housing, malnutrition and fewer educational opportunities.

Romney was out of touch because he has never had to deal with the consequences of gender inequality. This is not solely because he’s a man, but because he’s a man of considerable means whose mind has been fixated on shareholder value.

Romney makes it sound as if co-founding Bain Capital was akin to opening a mom-and-pop candy company in a tiny kitchen in South Boston. The relationship between Bain Capital and Bain Co. would be analogous to an already wealthy and influential group of male partners starting a candy company with the assistance of Hershey. If he closed Bain Capital, a step considered early in the firm’s infancy, Romney would not have been sleeping at a shelter, clipping coupons, collecting cans and shopping at Goodwill.

By contrast, women who work out of necessity find themselves not in a binder but in a bind. When bad business decisions happen, they’re not fortunate enough to fall back on lunches at the Harvard Club or playing a brisk round of golf for career advancement.

Romney failed to give a good answer to the pay equity question because he has never faced what many American women across the spectrum know to be the truth: The glass ceiling is intact, there is still a pay gap and the uterus is the target of employment policies and decisions in meeting rooms, locker rooms and Capitol Hill.

Romney needs a new binder, not filled with women but with compassionate policies toward women.

Fred McKissack Jr. is a former Progressive magazine editor and editorial writer who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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