President-Elect Obama wants to make good on his promise to create 2.5 million jobs by investing heavily in infrastructure, including retooling public buildings to make them more "green." Unsurprisingly, those in the construction industry cheered this news: after all, they stand to gain directly from this government largesse.
But not everyone is applauding the plan. In an op-ed in the New York Times, feminist author Linda Hirshman notes that the jobs created by the Obama plan are in sectors dominated by men. Women, who account for nearly half of the labor force, hold only 9 percent of jobs in construction and 12 percent in engineering, which will be the big beneficiaries of the Obama stimulus. Hirshman offers a solution: an expanded stimulus program with a focus on building "the most important infrastructure - human capital." Women hold the overwhelming majority of positions in social work, child care, education, and libraries, and Hirshman asks that the new administration "create jobs for them, too."
Hirshman does make an important point. If the government is going to get in the business of creating jobs, then which type of jobs should it create? What supporters of these policies fail to recognize is that no government jobs program is going to end up being "fair." Some will be rewarded, and some will be left out.
Those concerned about promoting "fairness" should focus on ending government's inappropriate intrusion into so many sectors of our lives. Trying to broaden any particular package to make it more equitable to this group or that is an endless proposition. While some groups may have a temporary victory, ultimately we all lose by perpetuating this process.
Carrie Lukas is the Vice President for Policy and Economics, Independent Women's Forum and a senior fellow with the Goldwater Institute. A version of this article originally appeared in National Review Online.
National Review: This Time, Hirshman's Feminist Whining Makes A Point
New York Times: Where Are the New Jobs for Women?