The War On Women Is a Class War
Last week the voters delivered their verdict on what has come to be known as "the Republican War on Women": They're against it.
We've had decades of relentless class warfare from above, in the form of wealth distribution from the many to the few. Finally, class-related issues have helped to deliver a resounding defeat to scores of candidates who represented the interests of naked greed. (See WageClassWar.org).
Women's issues and women voters were critical to this election. That's not coincidental. The War on Women has many dimensions -- social, cultural, psychological -- but in many ways women's issues are class issues. That makes the war on women a class war, among other things.
The upcoming "fiscal cliff" talks will open up another front in this seemingly endless struggle. Here are some reasons why:
1. There are much fewer women than men at the top of the pay scale.
Take a look at this graph:
Roughly two-thirds of Americans who make $10,000 per year or less are women. The gender balance only reaches 50/50 status as it approaches the income levels we commonly think of as 'middle class.' From there on up it skews heavily in favor of men. Nearly two-thirds of the people who earn between $100,000 and $249,000 per year were male.
The disparity is even more striking for earners above $250,000: Less than one out of four Americans making $250,000 per year or more is a woman. And the key issue in this "fiscal cliff" conflict is taxation for people in this group.
The artificial fiscal-cliff "crisis" has gender implications at every income level.
2. Cuts to anti-poverty programs disproportionately hurt women.
How would the GOP pay for those continued tax breaks? Most of the money would come from cuts to programs for lower-income Americans. Women are more likely to be poor than men are, and single mothers are more than twice as likely to be poor as single fathers. Approximately one out of every six American women lives in poverty.
And, as we've seen, women make up nearly two-thirds of those who earn $10,000 per year or less:
These cuts will fall on them the hardest. As the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities observes, nearly two-thirds of the GOP's proposed cuts come from low-income programs.
Anti-poverty programs are a lifesaver for millions of American women -- sometimes literally. Proposed cuts to Medicaid, financial assistance, food and education programs would strike their households especially hard.
3. Austerity cuts are harming women worldwide.
A study entitled "Impact of the Global Economic Crisis and Austerity Measures on Women," conducted for Public Services International (PSI) by Jane Lethbridge of the University of Greenwich, concluded that austerity measures of the kind now being debated affect women's employment in both public and private-sector jobs.
Lethbridge notes that public-sector job cuts disproportionately affect women, an inequitable effect that's made even more unfair when wage freezes or pay cuts are imposed on women who are already making less on average. The short-term effect on women's employment is only part of the problem, since these measures also have a long-term impact on women's participation in the labor force.
The report adds that that "one feature of many austerity packages is a reduction in welfare benefits," which is "expected to have a dramatic effect on women, especially single women with children," pushing them "further into poverty." It also concludes that "many cuts in public services are reducing services such as social care, libraries, further and higher education, early years care services, sexual/reproductive health services, all of which are used by women," and that "reductions in funding for legal aid and organisations that promote women's rights are also affected, which will impact on the promotion of women's rights."