mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Tyranny Over The Most Vulnerable”: Women Are Bearing The Brunt Of The GOP Shutdown Fallout

The “non-essential” programs that are currently unfunded due to the shutdown are in fact essential for many women and children.

The GOP likes to say the war on women is a myth. But the government shutdown, now in its 11th day, is just the latest evidence that it is indeed alive and well. It should be no surprise that women are among those hurt most by the closure, which, predictably, is in part a reaction to the benefits that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature achievement, guarantees women, as we wrote last week.

From the nation’s elite institutions to the oft-neglected rural areas of this country, women and their families are caught in the middle of a political impasse that has furloughed an estimated 800,000 government workers, threatens to upend the global economy, and has left critical government programs and services scrambling to secure emergency funds in order to serve America’s most vulnerable populations.

The shutdown threatens a number of programs and funding streams, including domestic violence shelters and service centers; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); the Woman, Infants, and Children Program (WIC); School Lunch; Head Start; and Title IX investigations of sexual assault on college campuses. This will have a serious impact on the health, physical safety, food security, and economic stability of women and their families.

Physical Safety

As Bryce Covert wrote last week, funds for domestic violence programs designated under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have been suspended since October 4. (It should be no surprise that many of the House members leading the shutdown also voted against VAWA itself earlier this year.)

Small centers without access to independent funding – those that serve women with the fewest options – will only be able to weather the storm for so long. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing economic downturn, violence against women has been on the rise, with eight out of 10 shelters reporting increases in the number of women seeking help, and 74 percent of domestic violence victims staying in unsafe situations because of economic insecurity.  Demand for these services is increasing, while funding is being cut from every source. Nearly four out of five of domestic violence service providers have reported decreases in government funding over the past five years, and since October 1, many have closed their doors completely or limited their services.

The shutdown is also affecting the safety of women on college and university campuses across the country. An increasing number of institutions are under investigation for ineffective handling of sexual assault cases adjudicated under Title IX.

And with the shutdown, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has suspended investigations into alleged violations and has halted campus visits necessary for holding institutions accountable.

Food Security

The shutdown threatens the food assistance on which millions of America’s most vulnerable women and children rely. At this point, federal funding for TANF, WIC, and school lunches has been suspended. State and USDA reserve funds are being reallocated so that states can continue to provide these essential services, but they will only be able to function with these limited resources for a short time.

States are shouldering the burden to keep TANF running while the government is shuttered, but last week, 5,200 eligible families in Arizona did not receive their monthly check. Thus far Arizona has been the only state to deny this important benefit for families in need, but every day the program is more strained.

WIC, the federal program that most crucially provides formula and breastfeeding assistance for mothers in need, has also been left in the lurch. On Tuesday, officials announced that no additional WIC vouchers would be issued in the state of North Carolina, where approximately 264,000 women rely on the program. In Utah, the WIC program shut its doors and only reopened four days later because the USDA provided a $2.5 million emergency grant. Other centers are sure to face the same challenges so long as workers are furloughed and grants are on hold.

Economic Security

Head Start programs that provide childcare and education for 7,200 low-income children ages 0-5 did not receive grants due on October 1. Thousands of low-income women are able to go to work every day because their children participate in Head Start programs. Without them, women already struggling in low-wage jobs and lacking benefits are forced to miss work, because no one else is able to care for their children. For women, secure employment is contingent on secure childcare and education for their families. The New York Times reported that programs in six states had closed due to the shutdown and then reopened temporarily thanks to a $10 million gift from a couple in Texas. Head Start will continue as a result of this short-term rescue, but private philanthropy will not be able to do the job of the government over the long term.

In sum, what some define as non-essential government services are, in fact, essential to the economic and physical well-being of America’s most vulnerable women and their families. It’s just another variation on the old adage that one man’s public interest may be another’s tyranny – in this instance, largely tyranny over women and children.

 

By: Andrea Flynn and Nataya Friedan, The National Memo, October 13, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Truly Essential Government Services”: Military Death Benefits, The Shutdown And The Importance Of Government

It gives a tragic new meaning to the term “death tax.” Families whose sons, daughters, husbands, wives and parents lost their lives in Afghanistan are now being denied the benefits traditionally given to defray the cost of funerals and travel costs to retrieve the remains. The funding cutoff, first reported by NBC News, is due to the government shutdown, which has stopped all but “essential” government services.

The House is set to pass a special bill restoring that cash. It’s unclear what the Senate will do. While expenditures involving the troops – especially fallen troops – are sacrosanct to lawmakers in both parties, Democrats have been loath to approve what they view as a GOP policy of releasing one hostage at a time while politicians fight over whether and how to reopen the government.

But the gut-wrenching impact on military families does serve one purpose. It reminds people of what their government does.

The understandable discontent with Washington has ballooned into a disgust with government of any kind, and a rejection of anything that has the word “government” attached to it. And it’s easy to point to government programs that may be bloated or outdated, or regulations that may do more harm than good.

But government programs are not just the big things – Social Security and national defense, for example – or even the smaller, but more controversial things, such as foreign aid or food stamps. It’s stuff like death benefits for families who have lost loved ones in conflicts they had nothing to do with authorizing. It’s things like payment for the Women, Infants and Children program – something that may be a budget item for those lucky enough not to need it, but which represents a life necessity for poor pregnant women and mothers.

We don’t all benefit directly from every single government program. They’re there because they represent  who we are – a nation that cares for its own, whether it’s hungry people or a family who needs to bury a servicemember.

Lawmakers can certainly debate the structure or funding level of such programs; that is, of course, their job. But it’s important to remember that much of what government does seems invisible – not because it’s not working, but because it is working.

Give LIHEAP assistance to low-income people who can’t afford to heat their homes, and it can appear to a hardline fiscal conservative like the aid is not doing any good. But take it away, and have an elderly person freeze to death in her home, and suddenly, the program seems useful. The National Transportation Safety Board might seem like just another government bureaucracy. But when a deadly bus crash occurred in Tennessee, and a Metro worker was killed while doing repair work over the weekend in Washington, D.C., the absence of a functioning NTSB becomes more evident. Sometimes, the value of government programs is the absence of disaster and pain. Military families are just one casualty of trying to function with almost no government at all.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 9, 2013

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Federal Government, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Sequester Will Help The Economy”: Another Right-Wing Fairy Tale Debunks Itself

Remember all those fearless predictions by the usual grinning idiots on the right about how the sequester was going to work miracles for the economy? Well guess what? That never happened.

I know, I know. I’m trying to recover from the shock.

The sequester took effect on March 1, so we now have three months’ worth of jobs data that have been released in its aftermath. The results have been underwhelming, to say the least. As Brad DeLong observed this week, we are still in a depressed economy. And as Ed noted yesterday, the latest monthly jobs report was thoroughly mediocre.

I particularly wanted to highlight the point the New York Times’ Annie Lowrey made: that the report shows that the sequester is already, specifically beginning to have a negative impact on employment. Yesterday’s report shows that the federal workforce, which has suffered cutbacks due to the sequester, is shrinking at a dramatically accelerated rate:

Federal employment had been on a downward trend since the start of 2011, with the government shedding about 3,000 or 4,000 positions a month through February. Then sequestration hit on March 1. And in the last three months, the federal work force has shrunk by about 45,000 positions, including 14,000 in May alone.

Those newly unemployed federal workers, of course, now have less money to spend, which will also slow down the economy. In addition, the sequester is also causing cuts in programs like unemployment benefits and benefits to low-income people such as aid for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Benefits to the unemployed and low-income folks act not only as a social safety net, but also as stimulus, since poor people and the jobless are likely to spend every penny they’ve got. Now, less of that money will be going into the pockets of those people and thus into the economy at large. That will also hurt the economic recovery, such as it is.

So, for those of you keeping score at home? The right wing/free market fundamentalists/austerity caucus? They are wrong. Again. And once again, they are continuing to drive the economy, and the country, into the ground.

 

By: Kathleen Geier, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 8, 2013

June 9, 2013 Posted by | Economy, Sequester | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Common Sense Becomes Impermissible”: Among The First To Suffer The Pain Of Sequestration Will Be Hungry Children

The difference between a natural disaster and a disaster caused by politicians is that the latter will almost always hit the poor and the obscure most heavily, while a hurricane or a flood will at least sometimes spread the suffering more evenly.

As the “sequester” unfolds in Washington, we see this same old pattern holding firm: Republican leaders, now hustling to shirk responsibility for the catastrophe they predicted, insist those automated budget axes won’t do any damage at all.

Has anyone felt any pain yet?

Not during the first few days, of course, but when the cuts begin to bite a month or so from now, the first to feel it will be the unemployed and the destitute, for whom a few dollars of government support mean so much in their daily survival calculation. A decent policy would seek to spare them the brunt of political mistakes made by other, far more comfortable people, but this process permits no such choices – and the most vulnerable will by definition be hurt most.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which began to warn of sequestration’s very real impact weeks ago, the government will have to turn away as many as 775,000 women and children who qualify for WIC, the “highly effective” national nutrition program. Back when there was bipartisan opposition to letting people starve, legislators of both parties worked to ensure that WIC funding was sufficient to enroll every qualified family. Everyone seemed to agree that the program’s cost was trivial compared with the social, moral, and yes, economic benefits of properly feeding all hungry infants and children.

Not under the sequester, when common sense and compassion become impermissible. Not under the sequester, which not only enforces the cruel cuts but allows their perpetrators to deny ownership of the specific consequences.

What makes the automatic cutback in WIC funding even worse is that the amount involved is small in modern terms. The WIC budget will have to be reduced by about $699 million compared with 2012, or the same amount as the projected price of one “Littoral Combat Ship,” the Navy’s latest vessel project.

Evidently a principle is at stake that can be vindicated only by taking food from the mouths of pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants, however. Enforcing this decision – and it is a decision – are men and women who will assure voters of their fervent religious piety as well as their absolute devotion to America’s beleaguered families.

Or some of America’s families.

 

By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, March 5, 2013

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Sequester, Sequestration | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gov Rick Perry’s Abysmal Record On Women’s Health

If you’re a woman from Texas—or indeed, any  woman—there’s a lot to dislike about Gov. Rick Perry.

The vanity.  The boorishness.  The belief you’re too  stupid to make your own medical decisions. The weird resemblance to Animal House’s Niedermeyer in his college  photo.

Perry reminds me of the scene in Thelma and Louise in which  Thelma (Geena Davis) says of her  n’er-do-well husband, “He kind of  prides himself on being infantile.” Louise (Susan  Sarandon) responds,  “He’s got a lot to be proud of.”

So as we all prepare for the media barrage surrounding  Perry’s  presidential announcement on Saturday, and in tradition of my idol   Molly Ivins, I’m going to start a new group, Texas Women Enraged by Rick  Perry—TWERP for short.

As TWERP’s organizer, I feel  obliged to point out that on a  practical level, Rick Perry has made it pretty  lousy for women in  Texas, especially for women at the bottom of the economic  ladder. He’s  also made it pretty lousy for anybody who doesn’t look like him.  As  Eileen Smith wrote  in the Texas Observer, “In  just one session, Republicans managed to  screw children, women, gays,  immigrants, teachers, the elderly,  Hispanics, the unemployed and the uninsured.  The only people who got off easy were white guys. Can’t imagine why.”

The numbers tell the tale. Texas is dead last in the number  of  non-elderly women without health insurance, and 6th nationally in  the  percentage of women in poverty, according to the Texas  Legislative Study Group.  One in  five Texas children lack health insurance, the highest rate in  the nation. And  if that weren’t bad enough, Perry tried to opt out of  Medicaid, which provides  healthcare to the most vulnerable Texas populations, including pregnant women  and children.

When it comes to reproductive healthcare, the state budget guts  family planning, leaving 284,000 Texas women without birth control or access  to basic reproductive healthcare. This will also likely increase the abortion  rate, sonograms or no sonograms. And of course there’s the standard right wing assault on  Planned Parenthood. Women needing prenatal care fare no better.

As reported in the Texas  Tribune, “Texas has the worst rate  of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the  first trimester,  according to the report commissioned by the Legislative Study  Group…And  though Texas has the highest percent of its population without  health  insurance, the state is 49th in per capita spending on Medicaid, and   dead last in per capita spending on mental health, according to the   report.”

So if you’re a working class Texas woman, Rick Perry doesn’t  want  you to have access to birth control or reproductive healthcare to  prevent  unintended pregnancy, but once you’re pregnant the state  mandates a sonogram  and a lecture to convince you of the error of your  ways. After that sonogram  and lecture, if you need prenatal care,  you’re SOL. And once the baby is born,  Texas is 47th in monthly benefit payments under the Women, Infants, & Children program, which  provides nutrition assistance.

This is Rick Perry’s vision for women in the United States. Limited  healthcare, little birth control, low  income women and kids left to  fend for themselves, a bunch of bureaucrats  telling you what to do—and  the very real human suffering that goes along with  it. TWERP might be  an understatement.

By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, August 11, 2011

August 12, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Economy, Education, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Governors, Health Care, Human Rights, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigrants, Income Gap, Lawmakers, Media, Medicaid, Middle Class, Planned Parenthood, Politics, Press, Pro-Choice, Racism, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Teaparty, Unemployed, Uninsured, Voters, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: