Watch out — the war being waged on women, the middle class and the poor just took another dark turn. Those connecting the dots will recognize the progression from the calamitous shock to the economy perpetrated by Wall Street to the systematic looting of public assets and families’ pocketbooks by conservative lawmakers in Washington and various states.
We must ask whether political calculation motivated Standard and Poor’s (S&P) to announce its negative outlook for the U.S. yesterday. Right-wing legislators wasted no time jumping on the announcement as ‘proof’ that the U.S. must cut Social Security benefits, voucherize Medicare, block grant Medicaid, and target a host of other social programs that disproportionately serve and employ women — not just family planning but also assisted housing, student loans, Head Start, nutrition, prenatal and infant care and hundreds of other important programs.
Women rely on these programs especially because the recovery, which is anemic to begin with, is leaving them behind. While women accounted for one-third of the jobs lost in the recession, men have picked up almost 90 percent of the job gains. The wage gap — women on average are paid only 77 cents on the dollar paid to men — makes it even harder for women to make ends meet. And women of color, subjected to race-based as well as gender-based wage discrimination, are at particular risk.
But conservative politicians and their corporate backers are oblivious to these realities. No surprise there — this is the same crowd who converted the federal budget surplus to a massive deficit in the Bush/Cheney administration. They were the cheerleaders when the U.S. was led into unnecessary and catastrophically costly wars. They engineered the huge tax breaks on the wealthiest, and then deregulated Wall Street, which soon went out of control and drove the U.S. economy off a cliff, creating the worst unemployment crisis this country has seen in generations.
We hear repeatedly that the ‘serious’ approach to reining in the U.S. deficit and lowering this nation’s debt is to slash spending. But that ignores the revenue side of the budget, conveniently drawing attention away from the need to require multimillionaires and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes and to generate income-tax-producing jobs. This is not rocket science: Jobs mean income; income means income tax; income tax means revenue to pay down the deficit. Seriously, who doesn’t get this?
But the forces at work here don’t give a hoot about lowering the debt or creating jobs. They are too busy making the ridiculously rich even richer while decimating government programs that give women and other disadvantaged people a chance at a decent life.
NOW calls on our elected leadership to stand up for our nation’s most admirable principles — those of fairness, equality and opportunity. Women will support those who do.