What Kind of Economic Stimulus Do American Women Want?
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The NWLC cited a host of measures -- funds for childcare and early education, expanded unemployment insurance for low-income workers, child support, healthcare, direct assistance for low-income households, education and job training, job opportunities for women, tax benefits for those who really need such relief -- to argue that "the Conference Agreement on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes a number of measures that are especially important for women and their families."
All true. But let's get some perspective. The legislation only funded $2 billion for childcare, even as the United States spent $52 billion on nuclear weapons and weapons-related research in 2008 alone. Mass transit and major infrastructure projects, moreover, were shelved to increase tax cuts, in a nearly futile effort to appease Republicans.
It's quite clear that Republicans would rather let the ship go down than help Obama succeed, even though the stakes are so very high for all workers. The Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman warns: "Let's not mince words: This looks an awful lot like the beginning of a second Great Depression". So far, his (cautious) predictions about the American economy, since at least 2004, have turned into the very reality he hoped might be averted.
In this political climate, women remain pawns in the struggle between the two parties. Nevertheless, hope remains alive because advocates for gender equality know they have a president on their side. Asked whether the Obama administration was friendlier to women's advocacy groups than the last administration, Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), laughed and replied: "Are you kidding? The difference is like night and day."
Women leaders, scholars and activists are not going away. Once mobilized, they intend to remain visible and vociferous, reminding legislators that they are not "a special interest-group", as both parties tend to view them, but half of the nation's citizens.
Ruth Rosen is a historian and journalist who teaches public policy at UC Berkeley. She is a senior fellow at the Longview Institute.