Debt Deal Could Disproportionately Harm Women Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill
July 22, 2011
The National Organization for Women is concerned that President Obama is about to agree to a deficit reduction package that disproportionately harms women -- without even bothering to consult with women leaders in Congress.
Rumors indicate that a deficit reduction deal is being finalized that will slash trillions over 10 years in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid in addition to cuts to family planning, prenatal care, food stamps, women/infant nutrition, student loans, child care subsidies and dozens other important domestic programs -- while extending tax cuts for the rich.
Women will not be the only ones who lose out as a result of a so-called "grand bargain" that trades away the economic security of seniors, children, people of color, persons with disabilities and millions of low-income families in exchange for continued tax breaks for the wealthiest. Elected officials, including the president and Democrats, who have claimed to embrace the values represented by Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, will surely lose out as well.
The 11th hour budget negotiations reportedly include agreements on a variety of changes to critical programs, such as a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) change that would reduce Social Security benefits across the board, dramatically cutting benefits for the oldest seniors -- who are mostly women. This reduction in Social Security income would most egregiously harm persons with disabilities who often depend exclusively on their Disability Income check.
Most reprehensible are reports of reductions in federal funding of Medicaid, placing more of the burden on states that are already experiencing extreme fiscal challenges. Deep cuts would result in the closing of literally thousands of nursing homes around the country, as Medicaid is a key funder of those facilities. Women are 76 percent of nursing home residents and are the overwhelming majority of nursing home staff. Medicaid is also the largest government program providing reproductive health care for women. More than one in seven persons receive health care through Medicaid and more than eight in 10 children (about 2.9 million) with autism, cancer and other special health care needs rely on Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program as a primary source of coverage.
NOW has long insisted that any deficit reduction plan must require corporations and multi-millionaires to pay their fair share in taxes. I hope that President Obama will do the right thing -- which the vast majority of people in this country support -- leave Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other essential programs alone and out of the debt deal.