On International Women’s Day, the National Organization for Women calls upon leaders in the United States to firmly reject the austerity model that has been economically devastating to our sisters in Europe. Call it what you like — austerity, sequester, deficit reduction, balancing the budget. I call it a stealth attack on women.
The headlines tell the story of what’s happening abroad: “Women are paying the price for economic austerity.” “Greek crisis hits women especially hard.” “Women bearing the brunt of austerity in Britain.”
In both the U.S. and many European countries, women make up the majority of employees in the public sector, and women also rely disproportionately on social service programs. Cuts to government spending invariably target these areas for a number of shameful reasons. First and foremost, women, people of color, people with disabilities and all of those struggling to get by are underrepresented in the halls of power and therefore easy scapegoats. Second, the proponents of such cuts are often beholden to big business, the wealthy and the military industrial complex, so those money-hoarders are off the hook. And third, shredding the safety net is already at the top of these guys’ agenda, so they’re only too happy to use government debt as an excuse to slash even deeper.
In the coming days and weeks, NOW and women across this country will speak out loudly against this latest assault on our livelihood. The U.S. must not make the same mistake as Europe. Now is not the time to cut spending. Now is the time to invest in the people of this country by putting women and men back to work with livable wages, good benefits and equal pay for work of equal value. Balancing the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it is not only counter-productive, it’s immoral.