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The War On Women Is a Class War

The upcoming "fiscal cliff" talks will open up another front in this seemingly endless struggle.

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While it doesn't sit well with the mentality of American exceptionalism, many of these statements are equally true of the United States. These proposed cuts would impose a particularly heavy burden on both lower-income and middle-class women, depriving some of much-needed resources and others of much-needed jobs:


4. Cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be especially hard on women.

Women live longer than men, which makes Social Security and Medicare an even more important part of their financial security in old age. Yet John Boehner has insisted that cuts in these programs be a part of any deficit deal.  As a study by the National Women's Law Center shows, one in four elderly women depends entirely, or almost entirely, on Social Security as their means of support.

What's more, women receive less in benefits on average than men do. While the average male recipient receives $16,000 per year, which is hardly a princely sum, the average female recipient receives on $12,000. Social Security cuts would affect women who have worked and paid into Social Security throughout their working lives, as well as disabled women and those whose spouses have been killed or disabled.

Social Security lifted more than 20 million women out of poverty in 2009. Without it more than half of the nation's elderly women would live in poverty. The Law Center study shows that Social Security has also been a critical lifetime for disabled women, especially disabled women of color.  Elderly women are twice as likely to be poor as elderly men.

There's a simple, clean solution to Social Security's (relatively mild and very long-range) funding imbalances: scrap the payroll tax cap, which currently applies only to income of approximately $110,000 and less. The "War On Women" crowd is likely to oppose that, however, since that would present an slight imposition on the enormous financial resources of their base: the ultra-wealthy.

5. Those top-earner tax breaks would primarily go to men. 

Here's the  other side of the coin: All of these cuts are designed to protect and expand exorbitant tax breaks for the wealthiest and highest-earning Americans -- a group that's disproportionately male.

The higher up the income scale you go, the greater the benefits of these tax breaks becomes:


We don't have charts for the ultra-wealthy billionaire class, since the Census Bureau data isn't broken out for those who earn above $250,000. But it's safe to say that relatively few of the billionaires who benefit the most from these tax breaks -- and from others, such as the hedge-fund managers' loophole -- are women.  

Which brings us to our final point:

6. A "One Percent" economy is an anti-woman economy.

All the growth in our economy -- both before and after the financial crisis and the public's bailout of the big banks -- went to the wealthiest among us:


Households on the lower end of the scale actually lost ground.  That's not random or accidental. It's the result of government policies -- in areas that include taxation, education spending, job creation, public health, and even childhood nutrition.  By hurting the lower-income people among us, these policies have hurt women.

As Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization For Women (NOW), commented: "The growing inequality of income and wealth, which has had a devastating impact on women, especially women of color, must be reversed."

Ultimately that's what discussions like this "fiscal cliff" debate are about: Whether we're going to reverse this massive upward redistribution of wealth to the already-wealthy, or whether we're going to let it accelerate. The effect on all of us -- and on women most of all -- could be dramatic.