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Posts Tagged ‘federal budget’

Why Social Security Must Be Protected

Posted by egehl on July 22, 2011

The word “budget” seems to be on everyone’s mind these days, especially in the halls of Congress.

Every day there are new twists and turns to the never-ending budget and debt ceiling debacle.   The debt crisis our country faces will impact each of us as Congress makes decision to slash trillions of dollars away from vital programs and services that impact every facet of our society.  In order to address the looming federal deficit, legislators have proposed cutting social safety net programs to reduce spending. 

Programs big and small are on the chopping block, however the bigger ones such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare are the big goliaths that everyone is afraid of touching, but know it has to be done.  The problem is that if poor decisions are made about these important programs now it could be devastating for years to come, especially for women.

Various proposals are swirling around, and many could be quite scary for our seniors.  For example, Social Security benefits could be deeply cut by increasing the full retirement age above 67, possibly to 70, and reducing the Cost-of-living Adjustment (COLA) by switching to the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI).  Unfortunately using the “chained CPI” would cut benefits for everyone immediately and would cumulate over time, so that those who live the longest would suffer the deepest cuts.

Social Security is essential for older women’s economic well-being.  Women disproportionately depend on Social Security because their life expectancy is five years longer than men, they rely more on survivor benefits, they are less likely than men to have income from their own pensions, and because women have lower earnings on average across their lifetime they benefit from Social Security’s generous benefits to lower earners.

Women who are most economically vulnerable, including those with disabilities, live alone or have limited means, face the greatest risk as a result of these proposed cuts.  They face hurdles to gain financial stability on their own because many women cannot find employment at older ages, do not have pensions, and have been unable to save sufficiently because of wage discrimination and time taken out of the paid workforce for care-giving.

The National Council of Women’s Organizations has launched a new initiative to call on Congress to RESPECT women, PROTECT Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and REJECT any budget plans that threaten the economic security of women.  The goal of this campaign is to get the message across to key lawmakers that budget decisions should not be made at the expense of vulnerable women.

My mother is a perfect example of the critical need for Social Security.  I distinctly remember when she turned 65, a year after she was widowed and two months after Hurricane Katrina devastated my hometown, and she lost her job because of the storm.  She and I repeatedly said how thankful and lucky we were that the timing of her birthday coincided with that hard year otherwise the devastation to our home, on top of her job loss, could have put my family in financial straits.  I can’t imagine what we would have done if we had to wait another 5 years until she turned 70 for her to begin receiving benefits.

My mother stayed at home while I was growing up and didn’t starting working full-time until I was in highschool, and never made a great salary.  Therefore her Social Security benefits were fairly dismal and she was thankful she could receive my father’s benefits.  Over the past 6 years Social Security has been at the heart of my mother’s income and given her the means to stay in the home I grew up in, and have the modest lifestyle she wants and deserves.  Therefore I have seen firsthand how Social Security is truly a lifesaving foundation for older woman, and must be protected.

The reality is that our country needs to tighten its belt.  And all of us will have to make some level of sacrifice to make that happen.  However there are common sense ways to accomplish these goals without causing undue detriment to our citizens susceptible to hardship.  I just hope our leaders heed that warning.

Posted in Advocacy, Baby Boomers, Economy, Financial Security, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Finding Meaning in the Numbers

Posted by egehl on May 28, 2009

I have never been a fan of numbers.

Math was the subject I tried to avoid and now as a professional I cringe when I hear anyone utter the word budget.  However there is a particular budget that does matter greatly and has the ability to completely realign our national priorities and refocus our efforts on any particular issue.

Every year policymakers anxiously await the President to issue his federal budget so that they can see whether existing programs will be funded, what new programs might be created and where cutbacks are made.  A President’s budget is the blueprint for his upcoming priorities and without saying a word it has the power to sway emphasis, attitudes and the general direction of our country for better or for worse.

This President’s budget speaks volumes not only for women and their families but also new progressive ideas to combat poverty, spur social innovation, create more service opportunities and tackle our nation’s complicated social problems.

Throughout the budget the President has weaved in funding for new and innovative programs to tackle challenges in the areas of education, housing, volunteerism, sex education, early childhood, and urban redevelopment.

The issues women care about for their own personal and professional success in addition to the welfare of their families has been included and generally funded at a sufficient level in the President’s budget.  First and foremost is the President’s desire to reform our healthcare system and his budget brings the nation one step closer by creating a reserve fund of more than $600 billion to serve as a “down payment” on health reform.

numbersA woman’s reproductive health is of utmost importance to her quality of life and the budget includes not only essential services for women, but preventative measures especially for teens such as sexual education and monitoring.

The prior Administration put too much emphasis on abstinence-only programs and not enough inclusion of solid sex education and this budget eliminates this single-minded view of how to prevent teen pregnancy.

Instead the President’s budget allows states to combine abstinence-only with proven sex education methods through the Medicaid program.  In addition, the budget funds sexual education programs that work and are evidence-based with their success in lowering the number of teen pregnancies.

In today’s economy and faltering housing market, employment, job training and educational opportunities along with housing assistance is more important than ever. Unemployment and housing are top concerns for women because they are closely intertwined with their ability to properly care for their families.

Obama already had directed dollars in the federal economic stimulus package for green jobs and now the President’s budget allocates additional funding for a new green jobs training initiative, a new workforce data quality initiative and job training at community colleges.

In terms of housing, the budget significantly increases funding for rental housing assistance for low-income people.  Finally, it provides $50 million for a new High School Graduation Initiative and proposes large increases in available Pell grant funding.

Our nation’s budget can feel large and complex, not to mention distant from our own personal budget.  However it serves as a compass for the direction our nation is going and whether the issues and programs women care about will be maintained, strengthened or cut.

This is important because families are working hard to get back on their feet and they should not have to simultaneously worry about government eliminating the programs they rely on.  Not only should existing evidence-based social programs receive support, but new social innovation should be proposed so that families, especially those most in need, receive better and more effective services.  That shift is already happening and women will be able to feel the divergence of budgets past.

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Posted in Advocacy, Economy, Education, Families, Health, Politics | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »