Not Going Back: Economic Equality

This series is based on a full-length feature appearing in the Winter 2016 issue of Ms. Subscribe today to get a copy and become a member of the Ms. community!

Republicans in Congress have systematically opposed toughening laws against workplace discrimination, providing paid family medical leave, guaranteeing paid sick days or raising the federal minimum wage, currently set at $7.25 per hour. These policies would greatly benefit women workers. Nearly two-thirds of workers earning minimum wage or below are women, and 43 percent of women private-sector employees do not have access to even one paid sick day.

Copyright Jenny Warburg

When asked directly about these issues, voters in state after state have consistently supported ballot measures giving workers the pay raises they deserve and the ability to care for themselves and their loved ones without fear of losing a paycheck. We must continue this momentum at both the state and federal levels over these next four years, despite Republican opposition.

We must also defend Social Security against privatization. Republicans in Congress have been clamoring for years for privatization, leaving the wellbeing of older people to the uncertainty of the stock market. Under a privatized system, instead of paying into the Social Security trust fund, workers would place retirement savings into individually managed, private investment accounts. That means that retirees would no longer be guaranteed benefits; instead, individual benefits would depend entirely on the market, the capacity of a worker to make individual contributions and the success of one’s investment portfolio. If the market tanks, retirees would have no protection against the loss of their savings.

In order to transition to a privatized system, money that would otherwise go into Social Security would be diverted to these new private accounts, creating a solvency problem that could lead to immediate benefit cuts for current beneficiaries. A reduction of benefits could mean economic disaster for elderly women. In 2013, almost half of all unmarried elderly women receiving Social Security depended on it for at least 90 percent of their income.

On the campaign trail, Trump suggested that he would not cut Social Security benefits, but actions may speak louder than words. Trump not only picked Mike Pence—a champion of privatization while in Congress—to be his running mate, but Trump’s original transition team included a former lobbyist and advocate for privatization at the helm of the Social Security portfolio.


Gaylynn Burroughs is the Policy Director at the Feminist Majority Foundation.

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  1. 12/28/16
    In the last days of 2016 I find myself wondering: Am I going to have it as “good” for the next 4 years as it was the past four years? If the Antichrist cuts into my Social Security, the answer is no. Realize that this pittance is all that stands between me and freezing to death on a sidewalk. And do I want it to expand? Yes; no, I don’t want cuts in it.. I have to stretch it to the max as it is. For those who complain: I’ve seen the paycheck stubs, I feel your pain, now I think some of you may enjoy my chosen field, and the wise freebies emanating therefrom. So let’s all do a little emanation, and save Social Security from the bogeyman.

  2. Cinthia Acosta says:

    Women have been working for as long as we remember. Most of the work goes unvalued or is underpaid as we continue to see today. Because policymakers make decision based of national accounting figures, women’s work should be valued accordingly. Much of the work that women produce is not taken valued equality when compared to the work of men, hence the reason why the policies that are drafted often dont benefit women. Women make-up about 40% of the workforce, yet still hold two-thirds of women are getting the minimum wage of $7.25. Most feminist agree that achieving a great deal of equality starts by empowering women economically. Unfortunately economic empowerment will not be granted when working for $7.25. We also continue to see the gender pay gap between men and women. Women get paid 80 cents to the dollar when performing the same job as men. For that reason, women and men must fight for women to get equal wages and to demand the federal government to put in place a living minimum wage. Whether a person is a male or female it is but a human right to receive a living wage in this country.

    Social security is a federal program that has allowed the elderly to retire with the peace of mind that they receive a monthly check that can guarantee paying the rent and buying groceries, among many other things. Privatizing social security could be a complete disaster; it will not assure the elderly that they will retire with a monthly check; rather, it will be at the mercy of the market. It is crucial that we fight and request that government maintain social security program in place and guarantee the elderly that they can retire without being afraid of not having the necessary means of supporting themselves.

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