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.
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.