Posted in Students & Educational Issues, The AAUW Community, Women & Economic Security, Women and Civil Rights, Women and Work, Women's Health, tagged Action Network, budget 101, civil rights, education, fiscal cliff, higher education, sequestration, women's healthcare on January 2, 2013,|
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In this installment of our ongoing Budget 101 blog series, we’re exploring what was in the “fiscal cliff” package passed by Congress over the New Year’s holiday. Late last night, the House of Representatives passed the Senate bill to pull us back from the fiscal cliff — the combination of tax and spending changes that were set to go into effect today and could have sent the U.S. economy back into a recession. But the deal, which President Obama is expected to sign, dealt only with the tax changes and merely delayed the spending cuts known as sequestration.
AAUW commends lawmakers from both parties for coming together to reach a true compromise (look up how your senators and representative voted). Like any compromise, the deal is far from perfect, but it includes several AAUW-supported provisions that will help women and their families, such as
- Returning to the Clinton-era tax rates for high-income earners while continuing the current rates for individuals earning less than $400,000 and families earning less than $450,000
- Extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an AAUW-supported $2,500 tax credit to help college students and their families pay for tuition and related expenses
- Ending the payroll tax holiday and returning to the previous rate of withholding, therefore protecting Social Security’s long-term solvency
- Extending federal unemployment insurance for another year, benefiting those unemployed for longer than 26 weeks
- Delaying the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts for two months, giving Congress more time to find a way to protect key programs like K–12 funding, Pell Grants, and family planning from sequestration
Although the automatic spending cuts have been delayed, they are still dangerous. In the next two months, Congress will need to find a solution to avoid deep cuts to important investments such as education, funding for civil rights enforcement, women’s health programs, and workforce training programs.
The 113th Congress, which begins on January 3, is in for a bumpy next few months. The sequestration delay is projected to end at roughly the same time the United States hits its newly set debt limit (early March), setting the scene for a pitched political fight. This will likely be followed by another battle when the current appropriations bill that is funding the government expires in late March.
AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. AAUW members will continue to press Congress to support budget policies that further the principles of fairness and fiscal responsibility and protect women and their families.
Make your voice heard! Sign up for AAUW’s Action Network and speak up for women and families.
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Posted in Students & Educational Issues, The AAUW Community, Women & Economic Security, Women's Health, tagged budget 101, Bush tax cuts, civil rights, fiscal cliff, nondefense discretionary programs, tax cuts on December 19, 2012,|
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Welcome back to the Budget 101 blog series, where we explore the federal budget and how it affects Americans’ lives. In this installment, we’ll look into the possible cuts to important domestic programs that would occur if we go over the “fiscal cliff.”
AAUW believes that any agreement made in Washington must take a balanced approach and not include further cuts to critical nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs that expand educational and workforce training opportunities, defend civil rights, protect women’s health, and promote gender diversity. NDD programs have already been cut to reduce the deficit, and AAUW strongly believes future cuts should come from other budget areas, such as Pentagon spending. An analysis by a nonpartisan organization found that there is no room to make additional NDD cuts “without threatening the government’s ability to provide crucial benefits and services and perform core public functions.”
If we go over the fiscal cliff and the dramatic cuts known as “sequestration” happen, women and girls will feel the impact. For example
- K–12 funding would be reduced, meaning fewer teachers, larger class sizes, and reduced resources for school mental health counseling, anti-bullying programs, and other safety programs.
- Higher education programs would be cut, affecting Pell Grants and student aid opportunities and limiting students’ ability to access postsecondary education. Although Pell Grants are exempt from the first round of sequestration and would therefore not face automatic cuts, the program actually needs additional funding just to continue serving current participants.
- Women seeking workforce training would be hurt. Department of Labor programs fund the Women’s Bureau, One-Stop Career Centers, and other efforts that provide grants to help unemployed workers retrain for their industry or enter nontraditional fields. Cutting these programs means workers won’t get that training, and our economy will continue to suffer.
- Women and girls’ civil rights protections would be in danger. The sequester would automatically cut funding for federal civil rights agencies, reducing their ability to enforce the law. An across-the-board cut would mean that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would have fewer resources to enforce fair pay protections and that the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights would have less agency to enforce Title IX’s protections against gender-based discrimination.
- Critical civil rights data would be lost. For example, AAUW relies on the American Community Survey and other surveys for our research on the gender pay gap; women’s underrepresentation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and other issues that hinder gender equity and civil rights in our society. Policy makers need this information to make informed decisions.
- Women’s health would be endangered, as funding cuts would reduce the number of women able to access the Title X Family Planning Program. This program, which was signed into law by President Nixon, provides reproductive health services to low-income women. Cutting it would make it difficult for those women to access necessary medical care.
- Programs that promote gender diversity in STEM would be threatened. Despite substantial progress since the enactment of Title IX in 1972, women remain underrepresented in STEM careers. Cutting programs that encourage girls’ engagement would likely lead to further stagnation or even declines.
AAUW is a nonpartisan organization, but we’re also multi-partisan, representing a variety of political affiliations and viewpoints. Despite our differences, AAUW members come together to get things done and serve our communities. Congress should do the same. Decisions about our nation’s budget and deficit will only get harder if a solution is deferred. Take action and tell your representative and senators to protect these important programs!
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Posted in The AAUW Community, Voter Education, Women and Civil Rights, tagged Brennan Center for Justice, civil rights, enfranchisement, Its My Vote, Outlook, Public Policy, racism, Sexism, Texas, voter-ID, voting, Voting Rights Act on September 4, 2012,|
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On Thursday, a federal court blocked a Texas voter-identification law that the three-judge panel said would unnecessarily burden poor, minority citizens from exercising their right to vote. The court cited the fact that many Texans would have to travel up to 250 miles round-trip to get a free “election-ID certificate” and that the $22 cost to obtain an ID without a birth certificate was too much of a burden. The judges said, “A law that forces poorer citizens to choose between their wages and their franchise unquestionably denies or abridges their right to vote. … Simply put, many Hispanics and African Americans who voted in the last election will, because of the burdens imposed by [the voter-ID law], likely be unable to vote in the next election.”
The Texas law is one of a handful of such voter-ID laws that have been passed or proposed throughout the country in the last two years. But the upcoming presidential election will mark the first time that many of these measures will be exercised, which means lots more voters will face the new rules for the first time.
Voter-ID laws are written and passed on the premise that voter fraud is a widespread problem. But it isn’t. A recent study showed that you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than to commit voter fraud. Even after a five-year U.S. Justice Department survey and the slew of new laws, “the number of prosecutions [for voter fraud] have been practically nonexistent,” says Elisabeth Genn, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program.
These laws don’t demonstrably protect against fraud and certainly don’t provide the legal basis for significant prosecution of fraudulent voters, yet the laws have the potential to disenfranchise many voters this November. An Associated Press study found that in Indiana and Georgia — which have some of the most stringent voter-ID laws — more than 1,200 legitimate votes weren’t counted in the 2008 presidential election, and hundreds more ballots were blocked in this year’s primaries in those states and Tennessee.
And though having ID might seem like a simple requirement, 11 percent of voting-age Americans don’t have ID. That’s 21 million people. The numbers are scarier for the elderly and women: 18 percent of people over the age of 65 don’t have a current ID, and only 66 percent of women voters have proof of citizenship that reflects their current name. The vast majority of women change their names if they get married, and most voter-ID rules require that your registration name match your photo ID name exactly. Genn says that while some women do have access to the entire chain of documents that connects their current name with birth name — including birth certificates and marriage licenses — that’s not always the case.
Texas might not join the states where these laws are implemented because of a crucial provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 5 of that law mandates that states with a history of discrimination at the polls have to clear voting changes with the Justice Department before putting them into practice. The recent lawsuit was the result of the Justice Department blocking the law in this “preclearance” phase. A few other such laws have been stalled because of the rule, which along with state laws and state constitutions is on the front line of fighting these laws. And AAUW has been doing just that for decades.
Genn says that women should be especially concerned about these laws in our current political climate. “This has been a difficult several months for women. Women have seen their rights be at risk in certain ways,” she says. “There’s a connection to be made for women’s right to make their voices heard. We should be particularly wary to make sure any population can participate equally at a time when that group is facing particular or unprecedented challenges.”
Check out the Fall issue of Outlook for more on the laws that AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz calls a “21st-century poll tax” and why they basically amount to old-fashioned voter suppression.
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