Posts Tagged ‘economy’

AAUW regularly receives updates from alumnae about their work and significant milestones in their professional lives. A few weeks ago, we received a very unique and profound update from Evgenia Mylonaki, a 2009–10 AAUW International Fellow. Although AAUW is a non-partisan organization, her take on Greece’s financial crisis highlights the importance of remembering how global and national issues affect individuals, especially when most global news coverage reflects a detached, high-level perspective. We welcome your thoughts and reactions in the comments below.

“One Paid Song,” courtesy of the artist, Eirene Efstathiou, and Eleni Koroneou Gallery

People plan like this: We say, “If it rains, I will not go to the park.” We wait to see what happens, and then we act.

Three years ago, life in Greece started depending on other kinds of things — things that people couldn’t avoid or plan for.

First it was the bonus cuts: If I don’t get a Christmas bonus, I will not have my teeth fixed. Anger.

Then it was the pay cuts: If I don’t get a 30 percent pay cut, I will save for my daughter’s college tuition. Pain.

Then it was the layoffs: If I have a job next month, I will pay back my loans. Frustration.

Then it was unemployment: If I find a job next month, I will pay the new tax on my electricity bill. Anxiety.

Then it was borrowing: If no one gives me a loan, I will end up on the streets. Panic.

Then it was the new taxes and more loan payments: If no one does anything to change this whole situation, I will not be able to live. Despair.

Before 2009, time in Greece used to move along linearly like yours: First I go to school. Then I get a degree. I find a job. I make a family. I have kids. I help them through school. And finally, I retire to enjoy the rest of my life. After 2009, this time line for Greeks was violently replaced by spikes of anger, pain, frustration, anxiety, panic, and despair.

But not everyone in Greece lives on this new time line. There are corporations in the country right now that are growing, but they still cut paychecks and lay off employees. Those who support the corporations say that profit exists in the present only if the gains are visible in the future.

And not everyone in Greece experiences each point of this new time line in the same manner and at the same time. Some are laid off later than others. Some find lousy jobs, but some find no jobs at all. Some move to their parents’ houses, while others take to the streets. Some can no longer afford to have a car, and some can no longer afford to feed their children on a daily basis. Some migrate, some kill themselves.

In the beginning, some people hoped that the new time line would not affect them. They simply waited.  But most realized that the disruption is unrelentingly approaching, coming their way, threatening them and their lives.

People asked themselves the question of politics. If the old political order is not re-established, I will be disabused of the illusion that my silent sacrifice had a point. Claustrophobia.

If a new political order is established, I may get disappointed yet again. Fear of hope.

The first elections came, and claustrophobia gave way to hope. You should have been here to see the smiles. Then we got ready for another election.

There was a fork in the time line.

If Greece were to be thrown out of the eurozone, I would not be able to think about the future of my life. The unthinkable.

If Greece is not released from austerity measures — which take away our jobs, our pensions, our houses, our social security benefits, and the future of our children — I will not be able to live the life that befits a human being. The unlivable.

Some representatives of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund said that Greece could stay in the eurozone only if the Greeks voted to inflict more austerity measures upon themselves. And these institutions said that the Greeks were free to choose between austerity in the eurozone and life outside it.

The second elections came. Fear won over hope by a small margin. We who fight for hope look at each other, and we see human beings in need of freedom.

We say that austerity in the eurozone is unlivable and that life outside the eurozone is unthinkable. And we say that no human is free who is called to choose between the unlivable and the unthinkable.

This post was written by 2009–10 AAUW International Fellow Evgenia Mylonaki.

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The war on women is everywhere these days. We’ve seen a parade of Mad Men-era ideas that have shocked women down to our toes, and the pay-gap issue has not escaped such ridiculousness. Yesterday, the Senate voted along party lines to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have taken real steps to get employers to follow the law and deter pay discrimination before it even starts. But the senators who opposed the bill didn’t stop the fight for equal pay — all they did was create a lot of mad women!

Lilly Ledbetter and AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz meet with senior White House staff.

I had the privilege of lobbying yesterday alongside fair-pay icon Lilly Ledbetter, who flew up from her home in Alabama to campaign for the bill. She and I spent the whole day talking with White House staff, members of Congress, and the press about the importance of fair pay to women and our economy. Over and over, we told legislators that the pay gap is real and has real consequences. A woman is far more likely than a man to spend her golden years in poverty, in part because the pay gap starts as soon as she throws her graduation cap in the air. AAUW’s research has shown that just one year out of college, women working full time already earn less than their male colleagues earn — even when they have the same major and work in the same field. Our research found that the gender pay gap shows up in 107 out of 111 occupations regardless of education level — and women get the short end of the stick.

From left: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and Lilly Ledbetter speak at a Senate press conference

The Paycheck Fairness Act could address this, and that’s what’s so frustrating about yesterday’s vote. Not only do women deserve equal pay for equal work, they need equal pay to support themselves and their families. When women are paid unequally, everyone suffers.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to fight until every woman is treated equally and until she is paid according to her worth rather than outdated stereotypes.

It’s time for our paychecks and our national policies to catch up to the 21st century and to leave the nostalgia to television. Unequal pay has no place in today’s world.

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In a Huffington Post article published late last week, AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman shared her thoughts on 2011’s most critical moments for women.

As 2011 comes to a close, it seems almost nonsensical to have to mention, let alone devote an article to, gender barriers. While women have made great strides, we still have a long way to go. Given the struggle to maintain our place as a leader in the global economy, why would anyone want to place any kind of barrier in front of women (or men) who could help our country compete in the world marketplace?

Continue reading…

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A recent report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed that many states have enacted deep, dramatic cuts to their K–12 and higher education budgets and that nearly all states are spending less money on education than they did in 2008 (after inflation). This is despite the fact that the demand for education is growing — the Department of Education predicts that in the next school year there will be about 260,000 more K–12 students and 1.5 million more public college and university students than there were in the 2007–08 school year. AAUW strongly believes that quality public education is the foundation of a democratic society and that education should be adequately and equitably funded. Yet, according to the report, our nation’s schools aren’t, and they are shortchanging our students and future.

At least 23 states have made significant cuts to K–12 education funding, preventing children’s access to critical learning opportunities and making class sizes even larger. As the CBPP put it, “In many cases, these cuts undermine school finance systems that are intended to reduce disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts so that the largest impacts may be felt in communities that are least able to compensate for the loss of funds from their own resources.” The cuts to K–12 education are shortsighted and ultimately harmful to both children and the states’ own finances. Providing a foundation of strong early-childhood education will help improve and sustain achievement in later years and save precious taxpayer dollars down the road by setting children on the path to success.

The report also found that at least 25 states have made large cuts to funding for state colleges and universities, increasing tuition and the burden placed on students. This will pose a particular challenge to the growing number of nontraditional students — those who are part time, working, older, or parenting — as they struggle to pay for their education and will very likely cause student debt levels to increase even further. Since 1998, the average debt level for graduating seniors has nearly doubled, with the average student owing approximately $23,200. Because women are more likely to borrow money for college than men and will earn less on average after graduation, women graduates are more likely to struggle with their loan debt.

At the current rate, the United States will add over 16 million jobs  by 2018 that require at least some postsecondary education and 2.5 million jobs that require a graduate degree. As the knowledge requirements of jobs continue to increase, so too should students’ access to quality education. Even in these difficult economic times, AAUW believes it is critical that we invest in higher education, which is hands down the most direct route to innovation, job creation, and long-term economic self-sufficiency.

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Yesterday, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act, lifting the nation’s debt limit and avoiding a government default. The final law came after months of acrimonious negotiations and faced criticism from both parties. However, this issue is far from over — what happens over the next four months will have an enormous impact on America’s citizens and economy. (You can read AAUW’s explanation of the debt limit debate here.)

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The legislation allows Obama to increase the debt limit by up to $400 billion immediately and requires that nearly $1 trillion in spending cuts be implemented over 10 years through caps on discretionary spending. This includes programs such as Head Start, K–12 education, family planning, job training, and services for the elderly. However, changes in student loan financing mean that the maximum Pell Grant award level will remain intact for at least the next two years.
  • A bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers (six from the House, six from the Senate) will form the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the so-called “Supercommittee”) to identify deficit reduction amounting to about $1.5 trillion. This committee can look at both spending cuts and increasing revenue, including possible further cuts to discretionary spending and cuts to entitlement programs, such as changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated.
  • This committee must report its deficit-reduction proposals by November 23, and Congress must vote on the group’s package by December 23. Congress will not be able to amend the committee’s proposals.
  • If the committee fails to come to an agreement or if Congress doesn’t pass the committee’s package, automatic across-the-board spending cuts worth about $1.2 trillion will begin in 2013 — with 50 percent coming from defense and 50 percent coming from domestic programs — in order to raise the debt ceiling by an equivalent amount. Key safety net programs such as food stamps, Social Security, and Medicaid will be exempt from cuts if this “trigger” is enacted.

During the debt ceiling negotiations, AAUW paid close attention to the status of our priorities — especially retirement security and education funding — and AAUW members kept the pressure on their legislators to protect important programs like Social Security. These are very tough budgetary times, but AAUW is guided by the principle that balancing the nation’s budget should not come on the backs of vulnerable Americans, including students, women, and working families. AAUW will continue to work to protect women’s opportunities and rights.

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Debt ceiling. Government default. Increased revenues versus spending cuts. It’s enough to make you want to ignore the political gridlock dominating Washington these days. However, as tempting as that may be, what happens in our nation’s capital over the next week will have a major impact on our economy and government and will play an important role in the 2012 presidential election. So here’s what you need to know.

Congress and President Obama are fighting over raising the debt ceiling, which is a cap on the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow to fund the federal government. The debt ceiling is currently set at $14.3 trillion. When Congress votes to raise the debt ceiling (as it has 74 times since 1962), it authorizes the Treasury to borrow the money needed to pay the bills incurred running the federal government. The cap covers federal debt owed to the public (i.e., anyone who buys U.S. bonds) plus debt owed to federal trust funds such as those for Social Security and Medicare.

The Treasury estimates that the United States will run out of funds to pay these bills, i.e., hit the debt ceiling, on August 2. When, or if, that happens, the United States would be unable to pay its bills, and there would be a government default. Despite myriad predictions, no one really knows what a government default would look like, but it wouldn’t be good. At a minimum, a default would hurt market confidence in the United States, affecting U.S. bonds, the strength of the dollar, and the U.S. stock market.

Despite the fast-approaching deadline, leaders in Washington appear unable to come to an agreement on how to solve this problem. Since there is no consensus on a “clean,” or unconditional, lift to the ceiling, Obama and Congress, particularly Republicans in the House of Representatives, are locked in pitched negotiations on the conditions under which the debt ceiling should be raised. The president has stated that any spending cuts must be accompanied by increased revenues, i.e., taxes, particularly on high-income earners, while House Republicans, led by Speaker of the House John Boehner, are insisting on deep spending cuts, such as changing the way Social Security benefits are calculated to reduce the benefits paid to retirees.

No one knows how this debate will end, but rest assured that AAUW will be there to protect the interests of women. Although AAUW recognizes that these are tough budgetary times, balancing the nation’s budget should not come on the backs of vulnerable Americans, including students, women, and working families. Politically motivated cuts to critical government programs would threaten our economy’s ability to recover from recession and volatility, create serious problems for the solvency of Social Security, and very likely force enormous cuts in programs that millions of Americans rely upon, such as welfare, Medicare, and Medicaid. These cuts would hurt ordinary Americans and have a lasting, detrimental impact on America’s economy.

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There have been numerous reports documenting the achievement gaps in education in America. Some focus on the racial gap, others on the gender gap, and AAUW’s own Where the Girls Are, released last year, focuses on gaps in educational achievement and attainment by gender as well as race and family income. McKinsey & Company recently released a new report that adds an important and new perspective to this topic. The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap, as the title indicates, looks at the economic impact of the various achievement gaps in America.

Briefly, the report describes the gap between American students and those in other nations, the gaps between American students of different races and income backgrounds, and the systems-based achievement gap. The latter highlights differences in performance between similar groups of students (based on race and income) in different school systems. Not only does this report provide new information to those of us already well versed in the size and persistence of the gaps in education, but it also invites a broader audience to join the conversation because all of a sudden we’re talking about money.

Educators have fought to bring attention to the seriousness of achievement gaps for decades, hoping that a collective sense of moral outrage would create a sense of urgency to address the issue. But the truth is we often end up preaching to the choir. The truth is that most Americans aren’t aware of the severity of achievement gaps, especially if their children aren’t “underperforming.” Even those who have a basic awareness think of it as differences in test scores, not differences in years of learning and opportunities to learn. However, everyone understands money, especially given the current economic crisis. The McKinsey report estimates that the racial and income achievement gaps alone result in a 6 to 9 percent drag on GDP, which is larger than any post-WWII recession up to the current recession. That means that if we had closed the race and income gaps in educational achievement, we may have been able to either prevent or at least greatly minimize the negative impact of the last few recessions.

Most educators did not need an economic analysis to understand that closing achievement gaps in education should be a national priority. However, it helps to have it. The McKinsey report points out that “educational gaps impose the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession.” So along with the bank bailout and the auto bailout, maybe it’s time for an education bailout?

This guest post is by Andresse St.  Rose, AAUW Research Associate.

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