Women's organizations speak out

Message to Congress: Respect women, protect Medicare, reject harmful budget cuts.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD, 4th District) discussed the letter she and 69 of her Democratic colleagues sent to President Obama today. The letter urged Obama not to consider Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security cuts and emphasized the need to protect entitlement benefits. “When I think about my congressional district, I think about the thousands of women, particularly for whom there is no such thing as a 401k plan or private pension, those whose homes have lost value.” said Edwards. “Social security is their security. ”

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), believes that “If we’re really serious about cutting the deficit, then our leaders must look at the real causes of the deficit.” Instead of targeting programs that benefit women, O’Neill believes there are three key sources for the deficit that Congress should focus their attention. A lack of jobs and unfunded wars are at the forefront. Both Edwards and O’Neill targeted the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest as another source of economic strife.

O’Neill also condemned the proposed chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) because by 2020, 73,400 more people would be in poverty, and of that number, nearly 54,000 of those affected would be women.

Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) backed up the campaign’s claims with facts. According to NWLC, women have lost over 300,000 jobs in this so-called recovery period while men have gained over 800,000. It’s true that men lost more jobs over the recession, so you would expect them to gain more jobs, but Entmacher argues that fewer women are employed today than when the recession started. “This is the first recovery in history where women are doing so much worse than men two years into the recovery.”

NWLC may not be able to pinpoint all the factors for women’s disproportionate unemployment but they have been able to focus on two factors: the loss of women’s jobs in the public sector and the too-small gains in the private sector. Entmacher suggests one possible reason for these unequal numbers: “One possible factor that women have said is a bit like what happened to women after the Second World War: where women had entered the labor force and were replaced by men through people who thought it was more important that men go back to work than women.” Entmacher continued, “But the one thing we do know is that the latest job numbers should be a wake-up call to policy makers. “

The panel concluded with a poignant story of one older, uninsured woman’s job search troubles. As a retired worker who relies on Social Security, Margie Metzler, a board member of the Older Women’s League (OWL), provided a voice to the people who would be most affected by these proposed cuts. “For women, being older is more of a deficit than for men. When I walk into the door and the guys —especially young men in the high-tech field— recognize that I am not a kid, you can see their eyes rolling immediately.”

To the people who say that her income should be on the table, Metzler provides a sharp rebuke: “The reality is that there is no spare income, so what they’re saying is that you should die. From my standpoint, how can I feel anything but terrified and angry? But I also feel galvanized into action, because I’m the kind of person that says I’m not sitting still for this. ”

  • The "Respect, Protect, Reject" campaign was launched today to protest potential budget cuts.

On Tuesday, the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO) held a tele-press conference to promote the launch of the national “Respect, Protect, Reject” Campaign . Moderator Susan Scanlan, chair of NCWO, said the campaign would call on Congress “to respect women’s contributions to the economy and their need for economic security; protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and programs that disproportionately serve and employ women; and reject budget plans that threaten to send women, particularly older women, into poverty.”

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