More scary things are happening with federal finances. Rep. Nancy Pelosi is meeting with President Obama tomorrow to discuss the debt limit and potential cuts to Social Security.
Why is Social Security a feminist issue? Several reasons – watch me rock some intersectionality.
First, because these cuts will hit older women disproportionately hard, and it gets worse the longer they live. The National Women’s Law Center breaks it down thusly:
Since women live longer than men, they face deeper cuts in their Social Security benefits under the proposed new measure of inflation, known as the “chained Consumer Price Index,” because the cuts from this reduced COLA [Cost of Living Adjustment] get deeper each year. Women rely more on income from Social Security, so these cuts would represent a larger share of their total retirement income. And since older women are already more economically vulnerable than older men, these cuts would leave many of them unable to meet basic needs.
“This proposal is a stealth attack on the economic security of older women,” said Joan Entmacher, NWLC Vice-President for Family Economic Security.
Second, women of color will be even more disproportionately impacted by the cuts. They depend more on Social Security because they are less likely to work for employers that offer employment benefits and they tend to earn less than whites.
Additionally, low-income seniors would suffer terribly. Strengthen Social Security, a broad coalition of feminist, labor, disability, senior, and children’s organizations of which NOW is a member, reports that about one-third of beneficiaries depend on Social Security for more than 90 percent of their income. Furthermore, Social Security’s current COLA formula already is too low because it does not take account of the higher health care costs that seniors face. So any further cuts would be disastrous for these most economically vulnerable older folks.
And Social Security is not just for seniors. People with disabilities receive these benefits, too. (If you need a quick primer on disability issues, UC Berkeley has some great stuff online.) Social Security helps people with disabilities live independently and get the care they need to manage their conditions. Unsurprisingly, people with disabilities have greater medical needs than those without them, and the COLA formula doesn’t take this into account, either. Social Security also halves the poverty rate for families with a disabled worker. That is a big deal! And even if you don’t have a disability right now, you could have one at some point in your life. The Social Security Administration estimates that a 20-year-old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement. So this is everyone’s issue!
In other words, if these cuts are implemented, all kinds of folks defined by the dominant culture as less than or Other – women, people of color, seniors, and people with disabilities – would lose benefits and fall into poverty, and it won’t even help the deficit. It’s just an ideological giveaway to the far right. Not just no, but HELL, no.
So please call or email the White House today and urge President Obama not to back down on these vital benefits for women, people of color, poor folks, seniors, and people with disabilities!