Spotlight Exclusives

Will Working Moms have a Voice at Obama۪s Economic Policy Table?

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“Out of the Spotlight” Posting for December 9, 2008

Obama policy guru Karen Kornbluh . Check out this insightful CNN articleon Karen Kornbluh a friend of Spotlight but most importantly, a true champion for families. Since her days at the New America Foundation, Karen has worked tirelessly to make the connections between America’s struggling families and our economy. In 2005, she authored, with Jared Bernstein (who’s been newly anointed as economist in residence for VP Biden, an insightful report showing the importance of women’s work to family income over the past 20 years. Of particular interest now, is their discussion of howthe relatively mild 2001 recession hitlow income families particularly hard, setting their earnings back to 1979 levels due to its impact on family work hours.

Part ofKaren’s struggle has been the struggle faced by working women themselves.That is, getting the attention of those pulling the economic strings to understand how much our economy and workforce are drivenby what Karen calls “juggler” families — those trying to juggle work and family responsibilities. Yet, our policies don’t reflect this new reality for families. Board rooms and policy tables are stuck in a black and white TV version of the 1950’s with the image of an American worker as, in Karen۪s words,”a guy with the lunchbox going off to a construction job” while the family is cared for by a wife at home with the kids. Look no further than the economic recovery package toconfirm that working moms are still an after thoughtin the minds of those trying to create jobs.

Which is why having Karen at the economic policy table is so critical. If there’s anyone in Washington who can bring the full Technicolor,high-definitionversion of the American family to economic and policy discussions, it’s Karen. To get a sense of how she is able to articulate these issues to a range of audiences, check out this session she did at CAP, as well as a Q&A she participated in for the Families and Work Institute before the election.

Lucky for us, Barack Obama understands working families, and had the foresightto hire Karen as his policy director while in the Senate. Throughout the campaign he continued to rely on her, most notably tapping her toauthorthe Democratic Party Platform over the summer.

These are all good signs for families and children, and in particular low-income families, who often find that work is neither a pathway out of poverty not conducive to being a responsible parent. They are strapped for both time andmoney — a situation that can be changed with smart policy prescriptions that loosen the vice grip on our families. Karen is just the “big-ideas” person who can ensure this happens. OOTS, as well as others in the Karen Kornbluh fan club, are anxiously waiting to see where she lands.

Posted by Shelley

(Disclosure: I worked with Karen for two years while at the New AmericaFoundation in the Work and Family program and amjockeying for a position as president of her fan club!)

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