Only One Woman on the "Super Committee"? Ouch!
by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
Only one woman on the "Super Committee"?
Here's the math: Women are 50.7% of our population, only 17% of Congress, and an appallingly low 8% of the Super Committee.
This lack of representation on the debt ceiling Super Committee which is charged with cutting $1.5 trillion from the federal budget is pathetic, particularly given that critical programs -- like Medicaid, Medicare, child care, education, food assistance, and Social Security -- which have the biggest impacts on women and families are at stake.
The solutions that come out of the Super Committee need to reflect the needs of Main Street, and not just greedy Wall Street corporations.
Why is it an 'ouch' that there's only one woman on the Super Committee?
Because, as news outlets report, "When women aren't at the table, programs that disproportionately benefit and employ women -- like child care, education, food assistance, and Medicare -- are often the first to go."
It's also a problem that there's only one woman on the Super Committee because numerous studies have found that when women don't have equal representation at negotiating tables, the outcomes are worse for everyone. For example, NPR recently reported, "Psychologists have found that when groups are predominantly male, individuals tend to act in increasingly aggressive ways... They show off."
Further, the Harvard Business Review recently reported, "If a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises."
Every bit of American ingenuity possible is needed to fix our economy -- and not having equal representation of women on the Super Committee hurts us all.
Our nation simply can't afford to continue the way we're going with tax breaks for millionaire CEOs and corporate jet owners, while the rest of us pay an unfair portion of the taxes and have poorer schools and services.
With unemployment at a high 9%, we know corporate tax cuts aren't sparking job creation for average workers. In fact, right now many corporations are paying increasingly outrageously high upper management salaries: Top executives at big companies made an incredibly high average of $10.8 million each last year, a 23 percent pay increase from just 2009. In contrast, the average worker made just $752 a week last year, or $39,104 per year, and many people can't get jobs at all.
(And while this is happening, the number of female CEOs is falling. There were 15 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 last year, and now there are only 12 female CEOs in the Fortune 500 companies. This drop is despite the fact that a 19-year Pepperdine University survey of Fortune 500 companies showed that those with the best record of promoting women outperformed the competition by anywhere from 41 to 116 percent. Our economy needs every bit of entrepreneurship possible, and disproportionately leaving out women hampers our nation's success.)
In short, pay for CEOs is sky rocketing, while the wages of real people are stagnant, decreasing, or worse, non-existent.
Our economic system is out of whack: A Northeastern University study recently found that since 2009 "corporate profits captured 88% of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1% of the growth in real national income. ...The absence of any positive share of national income growth due to wages and salaries received by American workers during the current economic recovery is historically unprecedented."
Clearly the "trickle down" theory isn't working. We need a better approach.
At MomsRising.org our over million members tell us every day that they're struggling to pay for food, to find housing, child care, health coverage, fair pay, a lack of sick days, and more.
- I knew something was wrong in my breast, but I had no insurance. I knew that even if I could scrape together enough money for a mammogram, I couldn't pay for treatment. It would be a pre-existing condition if I got insurance later. So I tried not to worry for 2 years. Finally, my husband heard something on TV about free mammograms for low-income women from the Health Department, so I went in. Yes, it was breast cancer. Yes, it was invasive. And yes, treatment was paid for by Medicaid. Medicaid literally saved my life. My cancer was stage 1, treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormones. It's now been 9 years since my diagnosis. I\'m grateful to be alive. I would never have chosen my own treatment over house payments. My family is more important than my life. Today I'm grateful to have both. -- Gail, Utah
- My husband and I were denied a home loan last year due to my being on maternity leave. It was a tremendously frustrating experience, as I was employed and on a federally protected leave; though was told that in the eyes of the lender, I was unemployed. -- Olivia, California
- As a teacher I have seen many kids come right off the bus in the morning and head straight to the nurse's office. Some parents send their children in regardless of how their child feels because they have to go to work. These children feel miserable all day and end up passing whatever they have along to their classmates and barfing in front of all their peers. Kids get sick everyday but if all parents had paid sick time parents wouldn't feel like they had to tell their kid "you're going to school and if you feel sick later call me". Think about it, as an adult do we like to go to work when we feel bad? Well, going to school is a workday for a child and 6hrs is a long time to sit at a desk and feel sick. Paid sick days would help parents make better decisions when it comes to their sick kids. -- Amy, Washington
- I have worked in health care in NY as a Medical Practitioner and have always been paid over10.00+ an hour LESS than my male colleagues with the same or less experience (this is about 20% less) and was reprimanded for asking about this unfair policy. -- Sharon, New York
There's a serious concern that the members of Congress who were chosen for the Super Committee are out of touch with what's going on in the lives of real people.
It's simply un-American to ignore the needs of constituents while greedy corporations take their profits elsewhere.
Balanced, common-sense solutions for real people are needed. And there's wide agreement that the best way to reduce the budget deficit is by a combination of both cutting federal spending AND by increasing revenues though ending tax breaks to the very wealthy.
Representatives on the Super Committee will need to take a hard look at revenue options--and, quite simply, the Bush tax breaks and war spending can't be ignored because as one study found: "The Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019."
The Super Committee must prioritize putting people back to work in our nation, and not reinforce bad tax break policies for the very wealthiest Americans who can afford to buy political influence while everyday people struggle.
However, looking at the outcomes of the recent past negotiations in a Congress that's only 17% women, without more women on the Super Committee it's going to be an uphill battle to make changes we need to get our nation back on track through this avenue.
Time is wasting.
The USDA reports that 1 in 4 children in our nation are experiencing food scarcity due to family economic limitations.
We don't have time for politicians to show off, to grandstand, or to get in testosterone battles about who signed whose anti-tax contract. (And those anti-tax politicians who are competing to make our government small enough to drown it in a bathtub are in for trouble--don't they know that taxpayer dollars pay for the water that fills their tub?)
Appointing only one woman to the Super Committee was a major mistake.
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This article originally appeared at The Huffington Post.
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner is a co-founder and Executive Director of MomsRising.org, a national organization of over a million members working for family economic security and to end discrimination against women and mothers. She is co-author (with Joan Blades) of The Motherhood Manifesto, which makes the case that it's time for a broad change in America's support for mothers and families. The Motherhood Manifesto identifies and challenges the obstacles facing working mothers today, and proposes concrete solutions. In 2007, The Motherhood Manifesto book won the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize. Rowe-Finkbeiner is also author of The F-Word: Feminism in Jeopardy, which was awarded first place by the Independent Book Publishers Association in the category of Women's Issues.