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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/2/10

Unspoken Consequences of Bunning's Obstruction

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The immediate consequences of Jim Bunning'sunconscionable move, cuttingpeople's unemployment and COBRA aid in the middle of the worst recession since the Great Depression - not to mention various transportation projects as well - are obvious. The unemployed, the uninsured, commuters, people living in rural areas, will all have to go without.

The right's championing of Bunning's destructiveobstruction is right out of the playbook described by George Lakoff, in which the poor are deemed to be undeservingby virtue of their poverty.

But there are unspoken, secondary and tertiary consequences of Bunning's actions, which are a classic outgrowth of Grover Norquist's goalto shrink government "down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

The first consequence, is an increased burden on women, who perform most of the unpaid labor - not only to their own families, but to their communities, as well. Marilyn Waring,a feminist economist, has been a tireless advocate for the formal recognition of unpaid work by women, that has been systematically ignored by traditional economists.

When families are squeezed, they are less able to pay people outside of the family to do the work that women often do for free. When it becomes harder for family members to receive health care, women are often called upon to care for sick family members. In some cases, women will be forced to juggle increased unpaid work with paid work, leaving children other dependent family members to fend for themselves.

And that doesn't even count the volunteer work -
oftendone by women - that communities rely upon, whether it's PTA activities, or stepping in to take care of others' children in emergencies, or simply being there when the school bus lets out. I've personally observed many of these functions personally as a stay-at-home mom. I've seen school systems rely on the PTA to deal with matters such as landscaping and trash removal, and on the help of parents in transporting children in various situations. A single mom I know told me that stay-at-home moms in her neighborhood put out "helping hand" signs as a signal of their willingness to help out - and that she had relied on that help. This is work that is vital, taken for granted, and unpaid. Actions such as Bunning's increase the pressure on these volunteers, many of whom are women.

But what happens when even that safety net falls apart? This leads to the second unspoken consequence of attempts to drown government in the proverbial bathtub: increased reliance on religious charitable organizations.

During the George W. Bush Administration, the push for the Faith-Based Initiative was opposedby civil liberties organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church & State. Unfortunately, many failed to distinguish between Bush's program, and the religiously affiliated charitable organizations that had been providing assistance for decades, with constitutional safeguards in place. For instance, while the previous regime required separation between the "pervasively sectarian" aspects of religious organizations and their charity arms, the new programs proposed by Bush sought to blur those lines. The result is greater risk of religion-based discrimination, and pressure on recipients of aid to take part in religious activities. I remember watching CNN when the so-called "God Squad" -Monsignor Thomas Hartman of the Rockville Center Long Island Diocese and Rabbi Marc Gellman of Beth Torah Synagogue in Melville, New York.,were being inteviewedby Wolf Blitzer, and they were asked asked about Bush's Faith-Based Initiative. Despite their collective knowledge of religion, they displayed a classic misunderstanding of this distinction. Hartman argued that the Faith-Based Initiatives is no big deal, since organizations like Catholic Charities had been doing that type of works for years.

When this debate was going on, I was living in a small town where religious minorities were very small. As a result, most of the charitable funds available went to a particular religious denomination. Under Bush's Faith-Based Initiative, those needing aid in that town, would be more vulnerable to religious pressure and discrimination.

So, while Bunning's heartless obstruction has the immediate consequence of hurting working class families, it also has the effect of putting greater pressure on women and religious minorities.



 

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Amy Fried applies her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior to writing and activism on church-state separation, feminism, reproductive rights, corruption, media and veganism.

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