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Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill
April 9, 2013
On Equal Pay Day, the National Organization for Women has a message for Congress: Do not follow President Obama in cheating the women of this country. After facing years of wage discrimination, women cannot afford to be swindled yet again when it comes to their Social Security. Keep the chained CPI out of the federal budget!
The president and the Democratic leadership in Congress may think most voters aren't bright enough to figure out what's going on, but they're flat-out wrong. Voters who helped elect these leaders are now feeling betrayed, as they see supposedly progressive politicians turn their backs on the most vulnerable among us. Recent reports indicate that when President Obama introduces his 2014 budget proposal tomorrow, it will include the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI), in what is either a highly cynical move to bargain with right-wing legislators or a willfully misguided move to undermine our Social Security system.
The chained CPI is a benefit cut for current as well as future Social Security beneficiaries -- in other words, all of us -- and the ill effects would grow worse over time. Women, particularly women of color, would suffer disproportionate harm. The reason for this is illustrated every year at this time, when fair pay activists call attention to the gender wage gap. Equal Pay Day highlights the fact that it takes women in the United States more than three additional months to catch up with what U.S. men were paid during the previous 12 months. On average, women are paid 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Women of color, who experience a racial wage gap as well, fare far worse. African American women are paid just 70 cents compared to all men, while Latinas are paid 60 cents.
Because of the wage gap, and time taken out of the paid workforce for caregiving, hardworking women retire with less money than men -- often with no savings or investments to sustain them other than Social Security. Those who say the chained CPI won't make much of an impact are either hopelessly dense or just plain deceitful. Also, the idea that we can somehow shield the oldest and poorest Social Security recipients from these cuts is demonstrably unworkable.
Let's face it: Instituting the chained CPI is like tripping someone at the end of a race after forcing them to run on the outside lane the whole way. Can this be the same president who proudly signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act back in January of 2009? NOW activists will be protesting in front of the White House today and registering their disapproval in the coming days and weeks -- until President Obama and Congress reject any cuts to Social Security benefits.