I feel your pain—how many times are we going to hear that between now and the midterm elections? Republicans and Democrats all know that the economy weighs first on people’s minds, and they all pay lip service at least to the idea of doing something for Main Street. What’s ahead—months of millionaires making pledges?
Most notably businesswomen—Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, the latest incarnation of a familiar breed, the faux feminist populist. You go, girl—the slogan was already snagged by Sarah Palin.
Want to spare us the months of hypocrisy? Congress could do it. Earlier this year, Democrats passed something called healthcare reform, but while we wait for it to kick in, COBRA health benefits for the recently unemployed are running out and Medicaid is stretched thin. Unemployment insurance and the TANF program (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, what used to be called welfare) isn’t picking up the slack. And most of this burden falls on women. In the last year women became the majority of the workforce despite still making less than men. More than ever, families are depending on women more, and that means depending on women’s lower wages.
State budgets, most of which cannot operate at a deficit, are cutting because they can’t cover the shortfall. Congress needs to step in.
And that’s where the rhetorical rubber hits the road. That nasty screeching sound is the sound of a Tea Party howl for smaller government—crashing into the claim to stand up for the working woman (and man). Want to keep Congress, Democrats? Put the faux feminists and their allies on the spot. The National Women’s Law Center and other groups are calling for action on unemployment and COBRA, TANF and Medicaid. Are monied women now running for office going to put their tight-fist fiscal conservatism or their faux feminism first?
Congress should embrace the fight. Elections or no, it’s time for politicians to prove that they’ll actually do something for struggling families. The crisis isn’t over. Not by a long shot.