Presentation Portion

Terry O'Neill: Over 100 people have signed up for this webinar. [You can see the interactive PowerPoint presentation here.]

The 2012 budget is a feminist issue. What we are facing right now, and I’m sure many of you are familiar with the announcement this morning, is that the White House is considering a deal on the budget. Before we talk about the compromise deal let’s talk about where we start. Where we start is with the Ryan conservative budget, proposed by the House of Representatives Head of Budget Committee Paul Ryan.

Slide Even before being left behind, women were already vulnerable because of a lifetime of unequal pay.

Slide The Paul budget is so harmful because of the Medicare and Medicaid changes. It would cut the federal government share in Medicaid by 20%. Under the Ryan budget there would also be cuts to Social Security benefits.

Slide Medicare is a feminist issue because more than half of Medicare beneficiaries are women. Of the “oldest old” people (85 and older) on Medicare, 70%  are women. Women are more likely than men to report having three or more chronic conditions, which shows that they utilize Medicare more than men do.

Slide Medicaid is a feminist issue because 70% of Medicaid dollars support nursing homes and families with disabilities (like a family with a child who has autism). 80% of nursing home residents are women. Nursing home employees are also mostly women. One state estimated that if the Ryan budget were to pass in its original form, which was voted for by every Republican in the House of Representatives, hundreds of nursing homes would have been forced to shut down in their state alone. That means that residents would be thrown out as well as employees getting laid off, and most of those people are women.

Slide Regarding Social Security, women are 57% of beneficiaries. Social Security provides more than 60% of the total income for women 65 and older. More than half of the total income is provided from men, so over the past 30 years men’s dependence on Social Security has gone up, but women’s dependence outweighs that. Social Security keeps women out of poverty too, it’s a middle class program that keeps women in middle class.

Slide Ryan’s budget also cuts family planning clinics, Pell grants, job training, Head Start, childcare programs, and WIC nutrition programs, an entire range of social service programs that clearly serve women predominantly.

Slide People don’t focus that social service programs employ women disproportionately as social workers, healthcare workers, childcare workers, and educators, so when these programs are cut, women get laid off.

Slide This adds insult to injury because women get laid off in addition to being left behind in the first place. Since the Great Recession ended in 2009, men have added a net of 768,000 jobs, but women have lost a net of 218,000 jobs. Women are clearly being affected. Women are overrepresented in the public sector and those are the ones that are contracting, because governments at all levels are getting rid of workers.

Slide This comes against the backdrop of women having fewer fallback resources in the first place because of the persistent gender-based wage gap. Women have less in savings. Unequal pays costs women, on average, between 400,000 and 2,000,000 over a lifetime. Think what you could do with that money.

Slide Women of color are especially vulnerable to unemployment, especially at the wage gap, because they suffer from race-based and gender-based discrimination. Wealth is defined as what a person owns minus what a person owes. Unmarried African-American women’s median wealth is $100. Unmarried Latinas’ wealth is $125. Unmarried white women’s wealth is $41,5000.

Slide The African-American household wealth median is $31,500. Latino/a household wealth is $18,000. White household wealth is $167,000. These statistics are stark and not moving in the right direction, they are a real indication of a country economically struggling on the wrong track. The Bush years put us onto the wrong track and it’s very difficult to get off.

Slide The National Women’s Law Center has said that it’s hard for women. Economically, women’s wages are essential to the entire family because most two-parent households are entirely or partly based on women’s wages. As a result, entire families suffer from women’s unfortunate economic state.

Slide There are good budget principles that we should fight for.
  1. One is jobs. Jobs programs that must be established are in soft infrastructure (healthcare, education, childcare), which is also known as human capital. Soft infrastructure jobs make it possible for people build hard infrastructure like bridges that we depend on. Even if it means making the federal deficit worse in the short term, economists agree that we would be better off if we had a strong jobs program and put money in people’s pockets even if it means losing money.
  2. Before cutting programs, rich people have to pay the money they should in taxes. A key reason for the economy today isn’t Medicare or Medicaid or social service programs, so if we want to set the economy right again then we have to make rich people pay their fair set.
  3. We should also cut military spending too. It’s destructive to spend so much. Spend it on social services instead, because that leads to better people and society.
  4. A key budget principle must be healthcare. It’s a fundamental right, not privilege that can be voucherized or block granted. Every person is entitled to it.

Slide If subject is budget, leave Social Security out of it because it has nothing to do with the federal budget. It needs to be improved for women. For example, a program for women who drop out of workforce to take care of their kids should get credit in Social Security. They shouldn’t be cut.