Making The Budget A "Women's Issue"

After age 64, men earn an average of $31,000; women earn an average of $16,500.

That statistic was cited in a letter from women's political groups complaining that women have been left out of budget discussions, even as they're disproportionately affected. A Tuesday meeting with Vice President Biden, a handful of congressmen, and senior economic officials, lacked any high-ranking women. The letter from groups like NOW and the National Women's Political Caucus suggested Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius be included: "It is not simply enough to send a few privileged men to the table to ‘solve' the nation's budget problem."

The irony is that Senate leaders are already making the Republican budget, spearheaded by Rep. Paul Ryan, a "women's issue." Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said on the Senate floor yesterday,


"Women often work part time or leave the workforce while raising families. As a result, they have less average savings for retirement and lower Social Security benefits. For these women, Medicare is a critical source of financial security. It keeps many of them out of poverty. The House Republican proposal will end that security."

Politico suggests that Democrats are looking to score political points, since they got so much traction with the Planned Parenthood defunding showdown, but that "the connection to women's health care is somewhat more tenuous for Medicare and Medicaid than it is for Planned Parenthood." Still, "Fifty-five percent of Medicare beneficiaries are women, and 70 percent of those who receive Medicaid are women."

Republicans have also proposed getting rid of 11 percent of this year's budget for the Women, Infants and Children program, which plainly hurts low-income women. The budget is expected to come to the Senate for a vote this week. Maine's two Republican senators (both women) have said they will vote against it.

Meanwhile, last night's special election in New York state's 26th district (vacated by the bad behavior of Republican Rep. Chris Lee, as exposed by our brother site) was a battle waged by two women over the same issue — Medicare in particular — and the Democrat, Kathy Hochul, won. That's despite the fact that the district had previously gone for John McCain and has given Republicans as much as 70 percent of its votes.

Hochul told voters she would "fight the Republican budget that aims to decimate Medicare and any Republican efforts to privatize Social Security...I will stop at nothing to protect the guarantees we've made to our seniors over the last seventy-six years." As the Nation's John Nichols pointed out, nationally voters had rejected the Ryan plan: "Polls suggested that roughly 80 percent of Americans thought Ryan's approach was wrong. Overwhelming majorities favor taxing the rich or cutting Pentagon spending as alternatives to cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security."

Senate Dems: Ryan Budget Hurts Women [Politico]
Women Warn Budget Talks Should Not Be All Male [Roll Call]
Kathy Hochul Wins NY-26 As Paul Ryan's Medicare Plan Costs GOP A House Seat [The Nation]
Budget Cuts Most Likely To Affect Women, So Why Aren't There Any Women On The Budget-Slashing Committee? [Alternet]