While the mainstream media fawns over President Obama's rather boring commencement speech to Barnard College (they actually paid that speechwriter for those predictable bromides? My favorite line: "Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table!" Oh, please!), Congresswoman Nan Hayworth wondered if the President planned to be honest about the dire economic future facing these recent college graduates.
In this election year, the president's supporters have tried to use the concerns of women as political wedge issues. This divisive and inflammatory approach not only ill-serves the American people; it puts women at a particular, and potentially devastating, disadvantage. It deliberately ignores the issue that poses the gravest threat to their well-being, now and in the future: a weak, dysfunctional economy that is headed straight over a fiscal cliff as of 2013.
Women have suffered in the job market of the past four years. Fewer of them are employed today than when President Obama first took office. Of the 572,000 jobs lost since his inauguration, 567,000 were held by women. Millions of women struggle to find work, while others have given up looking altogether. And Americans who do have jobs are working harder and getting paid less for it. The human toll of the weak economy is alarming. Last year, the poverty rate among women was the highest in 17 years, and more women than men are living in poverty.
Adding to the miseries of shrinking or disappearing paychecks, the cost of living and doing business in our Hudson Valley becomes ever harder to bear. One conspicuous example: the 2010 health law has resulted in a significant increase in premiums for health insurance, which is disproportionately difficult for small businesses to afford. The large number of women who choose to run their own small businesses, so that they can better balance work with family life, have been done no favor by this misguided attempt to let the federal government run their health care.
The health care takeover will also take a toll on women over the age of 65, already burdened by the fact that fully three out of five cannot pay for their basic needs in this bad economy. As the only woman physician who is a Member of Congress, and as the daughter of seniors who depend on their Medicare benefits, I'm especially troubled by the fact that the 2010 law shifted half a trillion dollars away from Medicare in order to pay for a massive new entitlement program whose projected costs are at a stratospheric $2.6 trillion and rising. Objective estimates of Medicare's rapidly dwindling trust fund put the program's bankruptcy as early as 2016, at which point seniors will face the disastrous prospect of an abrupt and steep increase in their premiums that many of them will be unable to afford.