The debt ceiling agreement reached by the White House and congressional leaders over the weekend deals a serious blow to women's economic security. If approved by both houses of Congress, the agreement will impose $1 trillion in cuts to programs such as family planning clinics, food stamps, college tuition assistance, child care and a host of other programs that disproportionately serve and employ women. But that is just the first part of the agreement.
This initial set of cuts is to be followed by an even more ambitious deficit-reduction package designed by a "super committee" composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress. The super committee's proposal would be put to an up-or-down vote later this year -- thus relieving elected officials from doing their job of crafting legislation through a deliberative, committee-based process. So-called triggers in the super committee's charter are designed to make it more likely than not that the ultimate product will include cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and possibly Social Security (and possibly military spending), but not meaningful taxes on the wealthiest or corporations.
This two-step plan attempts to balance the federal budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country -- disproportionately women and especially women of color. And for what? Not for a balanced budget. Sadly, this punishing "deal" will not actually solve our deficit problem, which was caused by Bush-era tax cuts for top income earners, unfunded and ill-conceived wars, and reduced federal income tax revenue due to high unemployment. Those are the root causes that must be addressed.
In addition, this deal is sure to further depress the economy, lead to higher unemployment and further limit consumer spending, which is the reason the economy is not growing. This phony crisis -- forced by conservatives in Congress -- robs middle- and lower-income families in order to give a free pass to multi-millionaires and big corporations. It is a right-wing, anti-government solution that will lead to even more serious economic problems for the U.S. and will disproportionately impact women.
We call on Congress to reject any deal that fails to require the wealthiest to pay their fair share in taxes, cut wasteful military spending, and protect programs that women rely on in these tough economic times. The Obama administration and allies in Congress must stand up to the conservatives and Tea Party activists who are threatening the economic well-being of this country and apparently do not care if millions suffer thanks to un-called for cuts to vital government programs.