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Listening to Women — Obama’s Jobs Proposal

Listening to Women — Obama’s Jobs Proposal

 

By Ellen Bravo

The jobs plan President Obama presented to Congress this week recognizes that out-of-work women need targeted help.

Darlene, a Milwaukee elementary school teacher, was one of hundreds laid off this summer because of the draconian cuts to education from Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. She was also one of the women cheering about the latest jobs proposal from President Barack Obama, which he submitted to Congress on Monday this week.

“I was afraid he’d just talk about ‘shovel-ready’ jobs,” she said. “There aren’t many women at the other end of those shovels. But there are a lot of us who might get back to work if this proposal passes.”

The president’s plan would invest $30 billion to save jobs for up to 280,000 teachers. Given that women make up about 78 percent of teachers in this country, that’s a huge investment in women’s employment.

Special funds to train women, people of color

The American Jobs Act does include a lot of construction jobs, and—unlike the 2009 Recovery Act—$50 million in funds specifically geared towards job training for women, people of color and other under-represented groups in those jobs, targeting workers in the local areas where the jobs will be done. They would be trained for transportation-related activities, including construction, contract administration, inspection, and security. Another $10 million will help minority-owned and disadvantaged business enterprises gain better access to transportation contracts, in turn helping strengthen and grow small businesses that help drive local economies.

Jobs would also be created to fix the nation’s crumbling schools. The proposal calls for a robust $25 billion investment in school infrastructure that will modernize at least 35,000 public schools—that means creating jobs that have a direct tie to improved learning for our kids. Funds could be used for a broad range of purposes, including repair and renovation projects, greening and energy efficiency upgrades, asbestos abatement and removal, and modernization efforts to build new science and computer labs and to upgrade technology.

President Obama is also proposing $5 billion to modernize community colleges—another area with many female employees—and to rehabilitate homes.

Several other features of the proposed plan would benefit women:

  • Extending into 2012 additional unemployment benefits. That could help 2.6 million American women currently receiving unemployment insurance from losing their benefits as they continue to look for work.
  • Extending the payroll tax cut, putting more money into workers’ pockets.
  • Supporting legislation prohibiting discrimination against the long-term unemployed.
  • Expanding work-sharing to help avoid layoffs. This would save jobs by allowing workers who reduce their hours to receive unemployment benefits for that time, and all stay on the job.

As the Institute for Women’s Policy Research has pointed out, the so-called recovery hasn’t worked for most people, but men are going back to work “at about three times the speed of women….Since October of 2009 when men’s and women’s total jobs numbers were virtually equal, women have failed to gain any jobs, whereas men have gained 1.6 million. The gap between women’s and men’s employment in August is currently 1.6 million.”

The point isn’t to slow down recovery in areas that benefit men, but to pay attention to the gender and racial impact of the current disastrous economic situation, and target programs accordingly. This time around, the administration has done a better job of getting input from women’s groups, and listening to their recommendations.

Social Security, Medicare changes will hurt women

Here’s what else women’s groups are saying that must be heard: women will suffer from any changes to Social Security or Medicare that delay the age of eligibility or otherwise make these programs harder to use.

Instead of cutting these programs that working women and middle class families rely on, Congress should focus on cutting tax breaks for those who earn more than $106,000, the current wage base on which Social Security taxes can be imposed. Those who can afford to do so should pay their fair share.

Likewise, we need to close corporate tax loopholes that let giants like General Electric get tax refunds, and axe the right-wing suggestion to cut the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps the working poor climb out of poverty.

We also need job retention policies like paid sick days and paid family leave. Bad times are the worst time to lose a job for being a good mother. Policies that protect working women will help strengthen our families and help the economy grow.

President Obama knows what we all know—this Congress is not about to pass the majority of his jobs proposals. That makes it all the more important to name the policies we really need.

If Congress doesn’t follow the president’s call to pass the American Jobs Act, it’s the responsibility of all of us to hold them accountable in the 2012 elections.

This post first appeared on the blog of the Women’s Media Center

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34 comments

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7:36PM PDT on Sep 15, 2011

Thanks for this.

2:52PM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

The general wisdom re this resession is the % of men that have been laid off compared to the % of women, in fact it has been discribed as manession yet no mention of equality of opportunity for men.

10:55AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

As long as women pay the same for rent, food, other expenses, then they should be paid the same. No discounts exhist for them because they are female. Actually, their costs are higher because their needs cost more, but they are paid less. This bill could help a lot of people!

Contact your Congress people and tell them to think of the country and its' citizens before their party, for one!

10:50AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

Women are equal to men and deserve the same advantages men take for granted...

9:39AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

Equal pay equal opportunity.

9:15AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

If you do not write or call your member of congress to support Presidnet Obama's bill you are part of the problem.

9:00AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

great article

8:26AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

We the people must see that this Bill gets through Congress intact. Call you Representives and Sentors, I have. The President is taking his program to the people, do your part, make sure Congress knows what we, the people want.
Call Congress untill they get sick of listening to us and do what the President and the people want and act accordingly.

8:21AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

Andrew C. Agree completely. Thanks

6:49AM PDT on Sep 14, 2011

The Obama plan is a good plan, but like the New Deal under Roosevelt, its primary effect will be to help the United States through a serious economic depression rather than provide a full healing of all economic ills.

In a capitalist economy, governments cannot end the crises caused by economic cycles, but they can alleviate the worst effects of an economic downturn. Even former President Bush realized this when he proposed the economic stimulus plan that was added to by President Obama.

The best thing that can happen now is for people to write, email and telephone their "representatives" in congress and demand passage of the President's economic passage. These politicians can save their politicking and electioneering until next year – preferably late next year.

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