Balancing the Budget on the Backs of Women

Watch out, women. Lock the doors and pull the shades. Congress, using the debt ceiling crisis manufactured by Tea Party radicals, has declared war on American women.

If you think Tea Party misogyny is limited to restricting reproductive choice, think again. The looming possibility of the first-ever U.S. government default—a “crisis” that was deliberately created by the Republicans—has morphed into a bipartisan carte blanche to commit gender violence.

There’s an assault on women built into every one of the debt ceiling “deals” now under discussion. But the one by the Congressional Gang of Sicks is especially draconian. Of five “immediate cuts” proposed, four would directly damage women.

The first, a cap on discretionary federal spending, would cause dozens of federal programs to be scaled back or terminated. Think services as disparate as health and safety inspections, health care assistance and Head Start. This harms women in two ways: We are more likely to rely on the services provided by government programs, and we are more likely to be laid off as the programs are cut.

The second proposal, changing the way Social Security is indexed for inflation, has bipartisan support, which is a shame. By reducing the purchasing power of Social Security checks, the proposal would hit the pocketbooks of older women, who rely more on Social Security than do men because women’s jobs are less likely to carry pension benefits.

A third proposal from the Gang of Six would repeal the “CLASS Act,” a voluntary insurance program established by last year’s health care reform. This will leave countless disabled women unable to pay for home-care services.

The fourth element here is straight out of 1984: “Examine ways to make unemployment insurance more effective.” What this really means is, “Let’s cut unemployment compensation.” Though men are more likely to be unemployed than women, that trend is reversing: Currently, women’s unemployment rates are climbing while men’s are falling.

If these policy changes don’t make you sick, the Gangsters’ proposals for rewriting the tax code will.

In a nod at “sharing the burden,” the plan includes some new tax revenue–in theory a good idea. Raising taxes on those who can afford to pay them is sensible policy. But this proposal would extract $1 trillion more in taxes from ordinary folks who own homes, contribute to charity or receive health insurance through their jobs. Yes, Virginia, this includes millions of women in the middle class and below. Why are we not surprised that there’s no mention whatsoever of increasing taxes on multi-billion dollar corporations (many of whom are taxed at a lower rate than you or I do) or on individuals earning millions of dollars a year?

The Gangsters’ proposal for tax code simplification make the overall U.S. tax system even less progressive, thereby shifting the burden of taxation further onto the shoulders of those who can least afford to pay. Yep, again that would be women, since we still, on average, earn only 76 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Even if you don’t lose your job when federal programs are cut back, or end up worse off when homeowner tax breaks are eliminated, you’d be sure to be hit by proposed changes in benefits programs. In just six months, under the Gang of Six plan, Congressional committees would have to cut $500 billion from health programs serving the poor and retirees, and another $250 billion from such areas as veteran’s services.

One final policy change rubs salt into our economic wounds by calling for curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits. Do you realize that many of the most destructive medical devices and drugs sold in the U.S. target women? Remember fenfluramine/phentermine (aka Fen Phen) and the Dalkon Shield? Under this proposal, damages would be limited to economic losses only.

That’s the nightmarish future we’d face under the Gang of Six plan. But even if it doesn’t pass, the Gangsters can celebrate their total success at convincing nigh on every elected official in DC that the “deficit crisis” is so severe that draconian cuts are necessary. That’s why all the plans now under consideration in Congress—Boehner’s, McConnell’s and Reid’s—propose a trillion or more in spending cuts to some of the government’s most essential services.

Think this recession isn’t bad enough? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

No matter which of these agreements is ultimately accepted, women will feel the pain. With budget cuts of the size currently agreed upon by all the key players, the economic suffering associated with unemployment, homelessness, child hunger, medical deprivation, family food insecurity, poverty and old age is only going to get worse.

Women, in short, are screwed.

Image from Flickr user House G.O.P. Leader under Creative Commons 2.0.

Comments

  1. I don’t understand. Of course all the crappy things Republicans do affect women; they affect men, too, sometimes even disproportionately. Are we having a contest or something? Are we only supposed to care about bad policy when women are more affected than men?

    • If you reread the article, it specifies how these cuts would disproportionately affect women. I’ve copied some of the highlights below for you.

      “The first, a cap on discretionary federal spending, would cause dozens of federal programs to be scaled back or terminated…This harms women in two ways: We are more likely to rely on the services provided by government programs, and we are more likely to be laid off as the programs are cut.

      The second proposal, changing the way Social Security is indexed for inflation, …the proposal would hit the pocketbooks of older women, who rely more on Social Security than do men because women’s jobs are less likely to carry pension benefits.

      What this really means is, ‘Let’s cut unemployment compensation.’ Though men are more likely to be unemployed than women, that trend is reversing: Currently, women’s unemployment rates are climbing while men’s are falling.

      The Gangsters’ proposal for tax code simplification make the overall U.S. tax system even less progressive, thereby shifting the burden of taxation further onto the shoulders of those who can least afford to pay. Yep, again that would be women, since we still, on average, earn only 76 cents for every dollar earned by men.

      One final policy change rubs salt into our economic wounds by calling for curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits. Do you realize that many of the most destructive medical devices and drugs sold in the U.S. target women?…Under this proposal, damages would be limited to economic losses only.”

  2. Christina says:

    I don’t think it’s a contest. It’s just an informative article of just how much the Boehner’s proposals could effect women.

  3. rose Orozco says:

    I don’t unerstand most of these policies and how they are affecting the elderly and women. My question is: how can we prevent them from going into effect and how can we create more opportunities for women?

    • Rose asks a very good question, “how can we prevent them (i.e., the awful policies contained in the debt ceiling deal)from going into effect?

      The debt ceiling deal announced late last night and reported in newspapers this morning includes anointing a super committee of 12 who will negotiation behind closed doors to recommend cuts, both Houses of Congress will vote the recommendations up or down, no amendments or changes allowed. If the recommended changes don’t pass, then Congress has to vote on a balanced budget amendment.

      Call your congressional representatives today to find out how they will vote on this deal. If you care about women’s economic security, and the economic wellbeing of ordinary Americans—men and women, black and white, old and young—you want your representative to vote NO.

  4. Women will be hurt the most by cuts to benefit the wealthy and corporations. When women are hurt economically, children are hurt economically, because many children — especially those in poverty — live in a household headed by a single woman. When children are hurt economically, they are less healthy and less educated. And when this happens, the entire society is harmed by losing the full potential of the ideas, solutions and innovations that children bring into the world.

    Asking why our so-called “leaders” would want to impoverish the U.S. in this way is tempting, but I’d rather put my time and energy into supporting women to lead us out of the wilderness of for-profit health care, education — and by government that serves profits, not people. Let’s start listening to the collective wisdom of women. A good place to start: http://codepink.org/blog/2011/08/rich-mans-coup-o

  5. All I know is I’ve been scared a long time. Before any of this, I knew it would only get worse. I thought it was so obvious. Not being a girl (I’m a transgender man) I’m feeling more fear and vulnerability every day.

  6. The best way for ANYONE to be affected as little as possible by what the government does is do not rely on the government. Don’t use government programs.

    • Right. Don’t leave your house … you’d have to walk on the sidewalk or drive on a road. Don’t turn on any lights, power comes over the public grid. Don’t use the internet to read this … right, it’s a public entity. Forget the post office. If your house catches on fire, don’t call the fire department. Don’t use a bank which insures deposits, don’t buy insurance (it’s all regulated … want to know why? B/c before insurance companies were regulated they’d sell policies and not have the resources to pay claims. Buyer beware?), don’t buy meat in a grocery store (right again, it’s regulated. Me, I favor beef crawling with E Coli).

      In short, the vision “don’t use government programs,” has been a pipe dream since before WWI (not WWII, WWI), when we got public water systems, public sewers, public fire departments (oh … should you find yourself in a burning building, whatever you do DON’T USE THE FIRE ESCAPE, those are big government incarnate) public libraries, public vaccination programs and oh so much more.

      Read this: http://prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=4845

      I’m not afraid to sign my name, why are you?

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