The good times we know

This is shamelessly lifted from Andrew Sullivan Is there a way to acknowledge America’s Progress for your consideration — Tainley.

The present is female. And the future will be as well. This past week, as hands were wrung over whether a female president is possible, we learned that there are now slightly more women in the workplace than men. It happened before briefly in 2009, when the Great Recession destroyed industries where men were disproportionately represented. But the new stats, in a period of low unemployment, represent something like the new normal. Other recent stats have found ever-more female triumph: As of 2017, there were 2.2 million more women than men in college, and the Department of Education predicts that by 2026, women will make up 57 percent of college students, leaving men far behind.

Women now dominate the service sector, especially in health and education, where most new jobs will be found. In December 2019, a full 95 percent of net jobs added went to women — a stunning statistic. To give some perspective on this, in 1970, almost 30 million women accounted for 29 percent of the workforce; nearly 50 years later, in 2019, 74.6 million women accounted for 50.3 percent of the non-farm labor force. If that isn’t a massive victory for feminism, what would be?

Yes, the gender pay gap persists — but in attenuated form. The number most commonly cited — 81 cents to the dollar — is just the raw annual total of all male annual wages compared with all female wages. It doesn’t tell us if women are paid less than men in the same job; it doesn’t account for choice of profession, or working hours, or use of parental leave. When you adjust for all that, women now earn 93 to 95 percent of male hourly earnings: not good enough, but still at record highs. In the past decade, parental leave has expanded, as has working from home, both hugely beneficial to tens of millions of working women. And as the economy shifts toward the sectors where women dominate, and as women get more education than men, this trend looks highly likely to continue and even intensify. NPR notes: “Women hold 77 percent of the jobs in health care and education — fast-growing fields that eclipse the entire goods-producing sector of the economy.”

Yes, there are still notable exceptions at the very top: Most C-suite executives (four out of five) are male, even though women’s presence there has grown 25 percent in the past five years. First-level managerial positions are still disproportionately held by men, which affects the rest of the pipeline. But all the stats point upward, and, for much of corporate America, a more diverse workforce is increasingly valued. In 1970, there were no women in the Senate; now there are 26 — more than half the entire number of female senators in U.S. history. In the House, as recently as 1980, women accounted for only 3.2 percent of the members; now it’s 23.7 percent, and the Speaker is a woman. There’s work to be done. But this rise in women’s earnings and power seems real and inexorable.

I’m not dismissing the resilience of sexual harassment, although great journalism and the Me Too movement have undoubtedly helped raise the costs for abusive men. Nor am I dismissing all the myriad ways women meet obstacles where men don’t. I see a lot more now than I used to, and I’m grateful for having my blind spots pointed out. I’m just noting that comparing the condition of women today with women in an era that, say, denied them suffrage, education, careers outside the home, or treated them as properties of their husbands, it’s a whole universe of advance.

And yet feminist rhetoric has intensified as all this remarkable progress has been made. A raft of recent books have been full of the need for renewed rage against the oppression of women. The demonization of “white men” has intensified just as many working-class white men face a bleak economic future and as men are disappearing from the workforce. It is as if the less gender discrimination there is, the angrier you should become.

This is not just in feminism. You see it in the gay-rights movement too. I get fundraising emails all the time reminding me how we live in a uniquely perilous moment for LGBTQ Americans and that this era, in the words of Human Rights Campaign spokesperson Charlotte Clymer, is one “that has seen unprecedented attacks on LGBTQ people.” Unprecedented? Might I suggest some actual precedents: when all gay sex was criminal, when many were left by their government to die of AIDS, when no gay relationships were recognized in the law, when gay service members were hounded out of their mission, when the federal government pursued a purge of anyone suspected of being gay. All but the last one occurred in my adult lifetime. But today we’re under “unprecedented” assault?

The right is not immune to the same syndrome. Donald Trump talks about crime as if we are still living in the 1980s. Here’s a great tweet from the acting DHS secretary, Chad Wolf, this week: “There has been a complete breakdown of law and order in NYC.” Really? Last year, there were 295 murders in New York City; as recently as 1990, there were 2,295. Trump himself speaks of a surge in illegal immigration overwhelming the country. And it’s true that we are close to a record percentage of foreign-born Americans, and that last year there was a surge of asylum seekers from Guatemala (many fraudulent). But in 2018, to provide some perspective, there were 400,000 people caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally on the southwestern border; under Reagan and George W. Bush, those numbers peaked at over 1.6 million. It was only when such apprehensions were back down at levels not seen since the early 1970s that an insurgent anti-immigration candidate won the presidency. Go figure.

Question: So… are things getting better, for women, the gay community, crime, and the illegal immigration issues the US is coping with?

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