The women’s movement is gearing up to fight the Bush plan for privatizing Social Security because of the severe negative impact it would have on women. Many women’s groups are weighing in against the Bush plan. Reports have been released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) showing the negative impact of privatization on women. The Feminist Majority and the National Organization for Women (NOW) took part in a rally today on Capitol Hill where House Democrats expressed their resolve to defeat the Bush Plan. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) were joined at the rally by Representatives Shelly Berkley (D-NV), John Conyers (D-MI), Sander Levin, (D- MI) Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), among others.
In his remarks at the rally, Rep Conyers said that no Democrats have changed their position in opposition to Bush’s plan after last night’s State of the Union speech. Bush did not give any details on how much his plan will cost or where the money will come from. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have estimated that the plan will result in future benefit cuts of more than 40 percent and a cost of $2.2 trillion over the next decade. President Bush did, however, suggest in his speech that ideas such as “increasing the retirement age” and “changing the way benefits are calculated” are among the possibilities that should be “on the table” for discussion.
Representative Bill Thomas (R-CA), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has suggested that lawmakers should discuss whether Social Security benefits should be allocated differently for men and women, since women tend to live longer on average. “We never have debated gender-adjusting Social Security,” he told the Washington Post. “This outrageous suggestion would result in lowering women’s benefits, which are already on the average one-third lower than men’s,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “What we should be doing is figuring out how to not penalize women for their time out of the workforce for childcare and care of the sick and elderly.”
Women make up 58 percent of Social Security beneficiaries and, without these benefits, 54 percent of women over 65 would live in poverty, according to the report just released by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).