Feminist Fix: The Government Shutdown

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The government shutdown is now in its third week. Women are bearing the brunt of its impact, and vulnerable populations are running out of options. But Feminist Hulk and the women of the Senate may come to the rescue after all.

+ ThinkProgress crunched numbers and found that “though the current budget crisis was created by men and continues to be sustained by men, that’s not the population feeling most of the pain.” From furlough levels to program cuts, women are front-and-center in the populations being hit with shutdown aftermath. PolicyMic observed that “when time and funds are limited, the most vulnerable populations are the first ones tossed into the budgetary guillotine.” Truth-Out also painted a grim picture for American women in these times, especially with free lunch and Head Start programs also finding themselves in a pinch.

+ Terry O’Neill, President of NOW, wrote for the Huffington Post about the bad politics at play in the budget crisis, item-by-item.

Anyone who’s seen a disaster movie set at sea is familiar with the phrase, “women and children first,” meaning they are the first to be put in lifeboats.

But in the real-life disaster that in the Republican Tea Party’s government shutdown, “women and children first” is the order in which victims of the shutdown are selected.

In one sense, the government shutdown is all about the worst kind of politics — right-wing politicians using hostage-taking tactics to advance an agenda that they can’t pass any other way. They have tried and failed to get it through Congress since 2011. The voters roundly rejected their agenda in the 2012 elections. So they threaten to destroy our economy unless they get what they want. Can they get away with that?

I don’t think so. Because in an important sense, the shutdown is not about politics — it’s about people. And people — real people, people you know- -are being hurt.

+ The FMF reported yesterday that the shutdown may soon end DC’s rape kit programdomestic violence shelters are also at risk and closing down during the shutdown. (The Office on Violence Against Women is no longer able to keep them going.) TANF – the Temporary Aid for Needy Families program which supports “the nation’s poorest” – is quickly running out of funds. WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, has already ceased – leaving 8.9 million moms and kids without resources for breastfeeding, healthy food, formula, and clinics.

+ The GOP in the House is also now pushing for an anti-birth-control measure in the debt ceiling deal, which would bring back the “conscience clause” that allows employers to deny birth control coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

+ Steve Pearce, a millionaire and Republican Congressman, posted on his Facebook page that furlougheds employees should consider loans to cover their costs while they run out of money. Instead of offering a solution to the millions of Americans facing destitution without a paycheck, he offered them debt.

“If you are a furloughed government employee, we encourage you to reach out to your financial institution as soon as you worry you may miss a pay cheque,” he wrote. “Financial institutions often offer short-term loans and other resources. Don’t wait until you are behind on a bill; call now and explore your options.”

Steve Pearce is a multimillionaire. He has an estimated worth of $8m, which makes him only the 46thrichest member of Congress. His constituents, in New Mexico, are among the poorest in the country. Over 22 percent of the people he represents live in poverty, including one-third of children. Pearce has voted to deny them food assistance. Many in his district make less than $19,000 per year, which is how much taxpayer money Pearce once spent on a plane ticket.

Steve Pearce is not unique. He is not unique in America, where the majority of elected officials are far wealthier than the average American, and he is not unique in the world. The 70 richest members of China’s Congress are worth a combined $89.8bn while the average Chinese makes $2,425 per year. In Russia, where 110 people own 35 percent of the country’s wealth, parliament is staffed by billionaires while millions suffer in poverty.

As the global employment crisis worsens and income inequality reaches record highs, it becomes difficult to find a government that does not fit this model: a government not by and for the people, but above the people, oblivious and apathetic to their concerns.

Again, this is not unique, nor is it new. Governments above the people are how most systems of rule functioned throughout human history. They are frequently abetted by state censorship which prevents the suffering of citizens from being publicly addressed.

+ Meanwhile, the women of the Senate have formed a bipartisan coalition to “find accord” in this crisis.

+ Feminist Hulk has a lot to say and smash as well.

+ And PolicyMic’s in the front row for the whole performance.

This weekend, with great reluctance, I ventured to our nation’s capital and finally saw the new political theater play everyone’s been talking about.

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