The Nation

NOW Sees Dangerous Deficit-Slashing Season Ahead

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Given the chances that the 12-person "super committee" in Congress might cut into the mainstays of the social safety net, NOW and other advocacy groups are keeping a watchful, worried eye on the next three months.



(WOMENSENEWS)--The best outcome for the "super committee" of congressional deficit-slashers could be deadlock, says Terry O'Neill, president of the Washington-based National Organization for Women (NOW), the country's largest women's rights group.

That's because Social Security and Medicare--programs upon which women disproportionately depend--would be exempt from the automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that will go into effect if the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction cannot agree on a plan or if Congress defeats its recommendations.

And Social Security and Medicare are too important to too many women to be on the table say O'Neill and other women's advocates.

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The automatic cuts would be equally drawn from military and domestic programs, the latter of which O'Neill says should also be high on the watch-out list.

"Women's groups will have to work very hard to ensure that programs such as domestic violence prevention, women's health services, child care and job training are not cut," she said in a phone interview. "The next three months will determine the fate of many programs."

The super committee--equally divided among Democrats and Republicans--is charged with proposing at least $1.5 trillion in federal budget cuts over the next 10 years. A minimum of seven votes are needed to approve recommendations that will be sent to the House and Senate for fast track votes by Dec. 23.

O'Neill points out the poor representation of women on the super committee.

"Although women are 51 percent of the United States population and hold 17 percent of seats in Congress, only one woman--Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington--was appointed," said O'Neill.

In the past, women's groups were able to defeat proposals to privatize Social Security and transform Medicare into a voucher program by appealing to the 535 members of Congress, she added. "But this time, all it will take is the vote of seven members of this committee to recommend changes in programs such as Social Security, which has been the bedrock of women's financial security for seven decades."

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Indeed we need to mobilize women across the country to defend the programs so important to women's health and safety. And, watch the budgets of those programs established to protect equal rights and opportunities in the workplace!

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