As Bill Maher so hilariously explained, the three primary servings on America’s debt plate are social security, medicare/medicaid and defense. All other government expenses are just garnish – a sprig of parsley, a caper or two, those tiny corncobs you avoid at networking events and a bit of radish.
Assuming (without admitting) that we need to expend $680 billion annually on military hardware and personnel to defend ourselves against invaders from foreign shores, the only meaningful reductions in spending will have to come from delayed or diminished social security and medicare/medicaid benefits.
We’re not talking about funding for the arts (parsley); Planned Parenthood (capers); or, education (tiny corncobs). We’re talking about monies devoted to the most needy among us. And most of the most needy among us are women.
According to the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, in 2009, nearly 5 million more women than men lived in poverty; 32.5% of families headed by a woman during that year were poor and 14.8% were living in deep poverty. Children living in single female-headed families were more than four times as likely to be living in poverty, and six times as likely to be living in deep poverty, than children living in married couple families.
What then to do about social security?
As the National Organization of Women’s web site advises, “the vast majority of older women and women with disabilities depend on Social Security for a significant share of their income. The average monthly income from Social Security is just under $1200. For many it is their only source of income.” These benefits provide the barest thread of economic stability to our mothers and grandmothers. Soon, they will be critical to well-being of the boomer generation, many of whom lost their retirement funds, their jobs, their homes, or all three, in the economic meltdown of ’08.
Reduced to its lowest common denominator, the question currently pending before Congress is whether the federal government should more heavily tax the people who reaped the greatest benefits from the federal bail-out that socialized the losses of the ’08 meltdown and privatized the gains or take even more benefits away from the Americans who paid for the mistakes of the wealthy.
And yet . . . the political circus continues, with the lower classes inexplicably fighting to continue transferring wealth to the upper.
One in five of all adult American women – 22 million – rely on Medicare for basic health insurance protection. Women currently comprise nearly 60 percent of all Medicare recipients. Medicare makes health care affordable for older women at a time in their lives when they are most likely to have multiple health problems that require ongoing and often costly medical treatment.
In the absence of health insurance, people die. In 2009, for instance, 45,000 American deaths were associated with the lack of medical insurance. The number of deaths that would flow from severe cut-backs Medicare funding is frighteningly unpredictable. As our population ages and the overall health of the nation simultaneously deteriorates, the absence or diminishment of government health care benefits will imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of elderly Americans.
Are you OK with that?
Raise Tax Rates for Those Who Benefit the Most from the American Infrastructure?
In an article entitled Who Rules America? U.C. Santa Cruz Sociology Professor G. William Domhoff explains,
In terms of types of financial wealth, the top one percent of households have 38.3% of all privately held stock, 60.6% of financial securities, and 62.4% of business equity. The top 10% have 80% to 90% of stocks, bonds, trust funds, and business equity, and over 75% of non-home real estate. Since financial wealth is what counts as far as the control of income-producing assets, we can say that just 10% of the people own the United States of America.
The wealthy are doing just fine. Yet the San Francisco Chronicle reports in its article Debt Deal Could Devastate California Budget, “tax revenues are at their lowest level since 1950 [and] tax breaks, from ethanol tax credits to the mortgage interest deduction, cost more than $1 trillion a year.”
Raising revenues from the richest among us (Microsoft, Google and Chevron) to aid the elderly, the desperately poor, the sick and the disabled, is not really even on the table. The question being debated in Washington, D.C. is just how much the government can squeeze the bottom and the middle to benefit the top before the bottom and the middle begin to squeak for economic justice.
And that should be of great concern to America’s women.