Women trying to lure candidates to debate economics
New York — Last Friday, Oct. 10, Maria Rolfe, chairman of the Women's Economic Roundtable, and Lenore Hershey, editor in chief of Ladies' Home Journal, spent $ 30,000 on an advertisement in the New York Times.
The ad was headlined: "The Margin of Victory: Women."
In short, the two women informed the world that whichever candidate wins next month's presidential election will need the support of women. And, to educate women about their views on the economy, the candidates should participate in a "dialogue" on the economic issues.
Almost immediately after the ad ran, Mrs. Rolfe heard from President Carter's staff. "Yes," they said, "where and when will you have us?"
Gov. Ronald Reagans's staff said, "Of course we support informing women on our economic policies, but we can't debate the President until he debates Congressman John Anderson or unless Mr. Anderson is included."
Mr. Carter, of course, steadfastly refuses to debate Mr. Anderson, thus precipitating a stalemate. Mrs. Rolfe and the women are not to be put off so easily, however.
"This is a critical time for the country," Mrs. Rolfe says, "and it is absolutely imperative that women get to see and hear the differences between the candidates." Mrs. Rolfe, in fact, believes the Republican Party is beginning to focus on this fact and thus has scheduled a program Oct. 27 at Regine's, a fashionable restaurant-disco in New York, where Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R) of Kansas; Barbara Hackman Franklyn, a senior fellow at the Wharton School; Dr. Gloria E. Toote, former assistant secretary of housing and urban development; and Carla Hills, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will be the guest speakers.
"This is the liberal flank of the Republican Party," Mrs. Rolfe says, "and the meeting reflects the fact the Republicans believe that women can be swayed on economic issues." But, she asks, "why the surrogates?"
Should the candidates suddenly realize the importance of delineating their economic differences, Mrs. Rolfe says, these are some of the economic issues she and a bipartisan issues committee have drawn up to ask the candidates:
Inflation: Can greater productivity be a cure for both inflation and unemployment?
Tax policy: The country is undersaving and underinvesting. Should tax credits be considered as an incentive?
Depreciation allowances: The United States has th lowest depreciation allowance of any other country that competes with it. How can this be readdressed so that American business will become more competitive?
Capital formation: What can be done to redirect research-and-development funds to small business to help it be more innovative than any other sector?
Patents: Technological progress is all-important. Government bureaucracy has hindered the issuance of patents. What can be done to hasten this procedure?
Saving: To encourage saving, why not make savings accounts nontaxable, or give people tax credits for saving, and, in stead, tax borrowing?
Energy: The Department of Energy's budget for 1979 exceeded the total 1978 profits of the 10 biggest oil companies. How can this department's budget be curtailed?
Federal budget: A balanced budget for fiscal '81 deserves highest priority. Is the US accepting the deficit as a permanent way of life?
Defense: Should Amercians not examine whether their defense dollars are being spent effectively before adding more and more expenses?
Social security: How does the government propose to preserve the financial soundness of the social-security system?
From the tone of these questions, an observer might think the women to be firmly in the Republican camp. But the issues committee included women of both political persuasions. Senator Kassebaum represented the Republicans, while Joyce Miller, vice-president of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union, and Addie Wyatt, a vice- president of the AFL-CIO, represented the labor-democrat point of view.
The business sector included Lilyan Affinito, president of Simplicity Pattern Company Inc.; Karen Gerard, a vice-president of Chase Manhattan Bank; and Dr. Karen Horn, treasurer of the Bell Telephone company of Pennsylvania. Other notables included Muriel Siebert, superintendent of banking in New York State; Prof. Carolyn Shaw Bell of Wellesley College; and Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women.
If the candidates should agree to the debate, it would be the first time since 1932 that candidates have addressed women as a constituency. With more women in the work force, however, and with the major changes that have taken place with regard to women in the US, Mrs. rolfe believes the debate could prove useful to both the candidates and to women.
Should the candidates have a change of heart and agree to address the economic issues in a one-on-one debate, Mrs. Rolfe says, it would be held in Washington, since it would be the easiest place for both candidates to meet.