Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obama Sends Mom's Beloved Program to the Gallows

Among the many social programs the Obama FY 2012 Budget targets for elimination is the Women's Educational Equity Act.  This program historically has been underfunded -- and some years it has received no funding at all.  But it has remained on the books and as such has expressed the federal government's commitment to promoting gender equity in education.  In his 2012 budget, the President puts this program in the termination column.  This cut stings --  the savings it earns is a paltry $2 million, so it feels more like a slap in women's faces than a tough decision in favor of deficit reduction.

The fate Obama has assigned Women's Educational Equity also stings because my mother, the late Congresswoman Patsy Takemoto Mink (D-Hawaii), was the original sponsor of WEEA in 1974 and fought for it throughout her years in Congress. Her last effort to secure funding for WEEA was in 2001, a year before her death, when she fought for WEEA reauthorization in the No Child Left Behind Act. If I recall correctly, WEEA was reauthorized in No Child Left Behind, but was zero-budgeted.  In any case, WEEA has been funded since 2001 -- though always at levels far below its programmatic promise.

What my mother loved about WEEA was that it put government in a positive role, nurturing and supporting efforts at all levels of education to improve the educational context for women and girls. In contrast, Title IX, enacted in 1972 and named after my mother after her death in 2002, is a regulatory measure which promotes gender equality by prohibiting discriminatory practices. The two legislative innovations go hand in hand.  Title IX requires educational institutions to avoid and remedy discrimination.  WEEA gives educational innovators tools to eliminate cultural and ideological barriers (such as sex stereotyping in classroom materials and curricula) to the full participation of girls and women in educational processes  while also encouraging programs that advance the incorporation of girls and women into fields that historically have excluded them -- math, science, and engineering, for example.

White House documents that accompany the 2012 Budget state that WEEA objectives will be advanced in other programs.  I hope that's true.  But in my cursory reading of the itemized Department of Education budget, the word "women" appears only once -- with reference to terminating WEEA.

While the Budget saves a whopping $2 million by killing WEEA, notice that it wastes more federal money on Abstinence Education ($50 million) and on promoting marriage and fatherhood ($150 million).

New Bipartisan Consensus Against the Poor?

From http://www.accuracy.org/a-new-bipartisan-consensus-against-low-income-people/:   The president’s budget is a prosaic austerity plan that inflicts disproportionate pain on low income Americans. Fundamental questions about the costs of war and the fairness of tax cuts for the rich have been avoided by the decision to narrowly target non-security “discretionary” spending to bear the weight of deficit reduction. It used to be Republicans alone who sought to balance the budget on the backs of the poor. But Obama’s 2012 budget takes us to the brink of a new bipartisan consensus against low income people. Will progressives go along?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Social Security Is Not A Budget Issue

You can review the infectious, insidious discourse linking social security to our deficit problem here:
Social Security: It's All in the Adjectives | MyFDL

Meanwhile, much of the reaction to the President's just-released 2012 budget takes aim at the budget's failure to "tackle entitlements." The whipping boy, here, is Social Security. Legions of politicos and journalists who know better propagandize the claim that the deficit/debt cannot be resolved without cutting Social Security. Following the principle that if you say it often enough it becomes true, pundits and policymakers persist in pretending that Social Security is part of the general budget and is paid for from general funds. Just because you say the earth is flat doesn't make it so. Social Security is off-budget. It is self-financed, through the payroll tax. It has amassed a trust fund surplus, in fact, which provides a secure fiscal future for the program for some number of years (until 2037). Social Security will encounter solvency issues in a couple of decades, but these are not general budget issues and can be resolved by tweaking the program's financing mechanisms (such as by raising the income cap for the payroll tax).

The President himself fanned the hysteria about Social Security's role in the deficit when he appointed the Deficit/Debt Reduction Commission, selected enemies of Social Security as its chairs, and said everything was on the table, including Social Security. Today, he advances this idiocy further on the White House web page for his FY 2012 Budget. See http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget, which offers an "Explore the Budget" tool that declares Social Security to be part of the budget -- 20% of expenditures, no less!

This is not mere misinformation. It is dangerous misdirection, fueling opportunistic assaults on Social Security.