The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

Who will speak for women?

In Political world on March 28, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Here’s a shout out to Lynn Parramore of New Deal 2.0, whose Saturday post, Our Grandmothers, Ourselves: Social Security Under Fire, eloquently spoke to a matter of concern regarding the president’s Fiscal Commission:

Amid the myths and fear-mongering, women have a particular reason to be on high alert. We rely on Social Security more than men, but are getting sidelined in decision-making.

Obama’s Fiscal Commission has been created to propose ways to reduce the current deficit, including possible cuts to Social Security. But there is only one woman among his five appointees, Alice Rivlin. And there is only one woman, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, among all the other appointments made by McConnell, Reid, Boehner, and Pelosi. Two women out of 18 appointees? That’s 11 percent. It’s an outrage, considering that women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older, and 69 percent of beneficiaries age 85 and older.

Why aren’t women invited to the table when our economic security is being decided?

Women’s participation in the workforce has skyrocketed since the 1950s, but it seems to have settled at around 70 percent for married women of working age (higher for single women), still far below the rates for working age men (over 90 percent). The incontrovertible fact is that women alone have babies, and they still bear the primary burden of childcare. Most women still leave the workforce after having children for at least a short time, and many leave for years. This means that women usually get lower Social Security benefits than they would have received if they had worked steadily, as most men do. And yet we live longer, and often have special burdens caring for children and grandchildren.

The lack of women on the Fiscal Commission is particularly insulting given that it was a woman who worked tirelessly to bring us Social Security in the first place. It was Frances Perkins, President Roosevelt’s indomitable Secretary of Labor, who was responsible for encouraging FDR to include Social Security as part of the New Deal and benefit us all with one of the greatest pieces of social reform in American history. We can’t allow deficit hawks and Wall Street greed to shred the critical social safety net that this inspirational woman, often called “FDR’s conscience,” managed to weave amid fear-mongering just as fierce in her day as it is in ours. Obama, are you listening?

Congress, are you listening? Country, are you listening?

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