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2012 will be a critical election for women if they are to retain both their rights and the ability to take care of their families. Republicans and the Tea Party have proven themselves to be anti-poor, anti-middle class, anti-elderly, anti education, anti-union and extremely anti-woman. Here’s how current legislative agendas affect women's futures:

Union Busting

This past year has seen a nationwide effort by politicians to strip unions of bargaining rights. Why is this important to women? Because in 2010, almost half of union workers were women, and of those women 61.5% were employed in public sector jobs such as education, libraries, and training. In the next decade, women will likely gain majority status in the labor movement.

The right loves to refer to unionized public employees as “government workers” which, while technically true, misleads by creating an image of Washington bureaucrats, and that’s no accident. If they can get Americans to believe that the majority of public sector union jobs are in government, people will be less likely to sympathize with those having their benefits cut.

Public employees are continually vilified by politicians and Republican hacks as overpaid burdens on taxpayers. Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) stated that the quarter of a million “government workers” who would have lost jobs if the debt ceiling wasn’t raised’ would “need to go find a real job”.  (Rep. Broun by the way has been MIA for 111 roll call votes in 4 years; guess he doesn’t consider his a “real job” either.)

The right claims that public workers’ pay greatly outpaces that of private workers and uses catchy little phrases like “runaway public sector” and “weight around taxpayer’s necks”; resorting to political talking points instead of facts. It’s a typical conservative tactic to make Americans resent each other. As economist Robert Reich explains:

“The Republican trick is to compare apples with oranges -- the average wage of public employees with the average wage of all private-sector employees. But only 23 percent of private-sector employees have college degrees; 48 percent of government workers do. Teachers, social workers, public lawyers who bring companies to justice, government accountants who try to make sure money is spent as it should be -- all need at least four years of college.

Compare apples to apples and you'd see that over the last fifteen years the pay of public sector workers has dropped relative to private-sector employees with the same level of education. Public sector workers now earn 11 percent less than comparable workers in the private sector, and local workers 12 percent less. (Even if you include health and retirement benefits, government employees still earn less than their private-sector counterparts with similar educations.)”

Linda Lowen points out:

“Not every woman can go to college, and for those who work in the expanding service sector, unions can close the wage gap between workers with four-year diplomas and those without.”

John Schmitt, a Senior Economist at the Center for Economic Policy and Research sees union membership as

“essential for women in the workforce, especially those in low-wage jobs”.

The threat to Republicans and their corporate masters is that unions have been proven to help raise wages for non-union workers.

Regarding Social Safety Nets

The current recession, which according to some began as early as 2006,  has resulted in 44 million people currently using food stamps (SNAP) compared to 26 million in 2007. Conservative minions post a quote and a graph, add a few lines blaming Obama of course, and thus fulfill their only purpose - to pander to the party.  

They don’t need to discuss why it’s happening or who it’s happening to because, quite frankly, they don’t care. Their job is not to inform, it’s to incite. So I’ll inform:

48 % of recipients were children and another 8 percent were age 60 or older.
Only 14 percent had income above the poverty line, while more than 41 percent had incomes at, or below, half the poverty line.
The majority of SNAP households did not receive cash welfare benefits.
The maximum benefit for a family of 4 was $588 or 147.00/wk during the first half of the year and $668 or 167.00/wk after the implementation of ARRA.

Kate O’Beirne, that paragon of pseudo-Christianity, had this compassionate take on poverty:

“…what poor excuse for a parent can’t rustle up a bowl of cereal and a banana?”

Even more ignorant was Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion for the 16 million children who could go hungry over the summer without school meals:

“…there's always the neighborhood dumpster. Now, you might find competition with homeless people there, but there are videos that have been produced to show you how to healthfully dine and how to dumpster dive and survive until school kicks back up in August.”

This from a man who has obviously never missed a meal or the leftovers of anybody else’s for that matter.

Those “Lazy” Unemployed

The unemployment rate was 9.1 % in August.
You can’t just decide one day to quit your job and go collect unemployment; you must become unemployed through no fault of your own. So do Republicans complain about the corporations that are outsourcing jobs, moving facilities out of the country or keeping billions of dollars over seas instead of investing it here? Of course not, but they sure can put up a fight when it comes to extending unemployment benefits; because as everyone knows, people love living on half or less of what they used to make, seeing their homes foreclosed on and being denigrated by politicians on top of it.

Women have not only lost their jobs, but many have seen their husbands, partners, children or parents lose theirs as well. We have 14 million Americans out of work; yet the most important issues to the Tea Party and Republicans still remain protecting their corporate puppet-masters from taxes, eliminating family planning funding and stopping gay marriage.

The Big Social Security Lie

Republicans like to paint Social Security as a major factor in reducing the size of our current debt. This isn’t just a falsehood; this is an orchestrated lie to the American people. It’s time to get educated.

The finances of the Social Security program are separated by law from the rest of the federal government...

The Christian Science Monitor pointed out:

“…Social Security is becoming a popular target for fiscal hawks. But Social Security will never add a dime to the debt, and Washington ought to be paying more attention to an actual crisis: the retirement income deficit…Our current problem is that in practice, Social Security is the lion’s share of retirement for most Americans: it’s half the income for two out of three retirees and virtually all the income for one out of five…In 1980, two out of three American workers participated in traditional pension plans with guaranteed, lifetime benefits. Now, it’s one out of five and falling as employers cancel these plans, rescinding long-standing promises to workers and increasingly turn to do-it-yourself 401(k) plans.”

In 2009, the average annual Social Security income received by women 65 years and older was $12,155. (This is 253.23/wk)
In 2009, 45 percent of all elderly unmarried females receiving Social Security benefits relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
Women accounted for 56 percent of adult Social Security beneficiaries in 2010.

Women typically earn less in the workplace for a variety of reasons, which I won’t go into here, which means they’re able to put away less in retirement funds than men. But personal Social Security earnings aren’t even the most compelling reasons for women to worry about the program.

What will happen to families if benefits are cut or eliminated along with Medicare and Medicaid? Many of the elderly will not be able to maintain their independence, and will most likely need assistance from their families. Women (who are historically the majority caregivers) will begin to shoulder the weight of a job as well as care of their family and their parents or in-laws. For most, the choice to leave the workforce to handle these additional responsibilities will not be an option.

Education Policy

Recently, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont)referred to Pell Grants as “the welfare of the 21st century”;  the fact is students and their families are watching college costs move further and further beyond their reach. As CNN reported:

Tuition and fees at public universities, according to the College Board, have surged almost 130% over the last 20 years -- while middle class incomes have stagnated.

Are people like Rehberg really too stupid to understand the return on investment from Pell Grants? There’s been an increase in these grants recently, as many out of work Americans are going back to school. This will mean higher earning ability; more taxes paid and better job security in the long run. We owe at least the opportunity for an education to every generation regardless of wealth. As parents join the swelling ranks of the unemployed their dreams of providing for their children’s education are fading rapidly.

Reproductive Freedom

I’m going to sidestep the hot-button issue of abortion for now and focus on the simple matter of birth control. Since when is it Conservatives’ business what insurance coverage or prescription plans a woman or a woman and her partner opt to pay for? Why do the Evangelical Conservatives condemn birth control yet give a pass to the abuse of Viagra and the use of fertility treatments. They bounce all over the family planning issue like pin balls.

You shouldn’t have children you can’t afford (duh), but you shouldn’t have access to affordable birth control either.

They claim abstinence only sex ed. works (Bristol?), yet try to mandate vaccines for HPV, even though supposedly no one will be having sex with unchaste partners.

They don’t want unmarried college students getting pregnant and dropping out, but they forced the pharmaceutical companies to quadruple the price of birth control on campus.

They don’t want to subsidize family planning, but choose to use federal dollars instead to provide contraception for – I kid you not – wild horses.

But to quote the best living example for the use of birth control:
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), in a speech on the House floor opposing insurance coverage of contraceptives declared,

“Preventing babies from being born is not…constructive to our culture and our civilization.”

Tell that to Phyllis Schlafly.
Freaking’ lunatics, every one of them.

For women, it all comes down to quality of life. Not just their own, but that of their parents, children, brothers, sisters and extended family. Some people who voted for Obama are understandably frustrated at what he hasn’t been able to accomplish; but do we hand the reigns over to more of these right wing nuts? Do we elect one of their candidates for President that's signing pledges all over the place to deny rights to certain groups in our society? Or do we make it clear that no one will be treated as second class citizens? For all of the insanity I’ve mentioned and more, we need to vote the Tea Party and Republicans out in 2012, so the government can actually function again and accomplish something for the American people, of which by the way, women are the majority.


Originally posted to A Reasoned on Mon Sep 12, 2011 at 08:56 PM PDT.

Also republished by Abortion and Community Spotlight.

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