Friday, March 16, 2012

The Other War Against Women

The war against women is nothing new, and it isn't limited to the GOP misogynists who don't want us to have access to birth control. The war against women is really an economic one, waged by the .01 percent against the rest of us. The real war is the class war being waged against the women, men and children of the 99%. The birth control battle, while odious, is just a part of the larger oppression of poor women, working women, and minority women. Wealthy white women get treated with dignity and respect, regardless of the medical circumstances. Paris Hilton will never be forced to undergo an ulstrasound if she doesn't want one. 

You don't get the big picture by reading or watching the mainstream media accounts. The debate that rages is whether it's false equivalence to compare Rush Limbough's vitriol with Bill Maher's potty mouth. Liberals are torn between championing the hate machine's right to free speech and calling for its silencing. Reactionary politicians are trying to out-do each other in creative medievalism, turning routine ob-gyn visits into torture. There is not a little pornography in the current political discourse.

And meanwhile, American women are still only earning about 82 cents to the man's dollar -- an apparent increase from just a few years ago, when we got 75 cents to the dollar compared to men. However, that increase is mainly due to the fact that men lost more jobs during the meltdown; the hard truth is that everyone's wages have shrunk. Men's pay decreased by two percent, while women lost an average of .09 percent. Moreover, black women still earn only 70% of what white men get, and Latinas, just 60%.

The  Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, much vaunted by the Obama Administration as one of his signature legislative accomplishments, really has had nothing much to do with the very slight improvement in the pay scales of working women.
As a matter of fact, Lilly Ledbetter herself is having trouble making ends meet on her meager retirement benefits. In an interview with WNYC this week, she said her income has fallen by over 50% since her husband died in 2008. Despite her fame and her seat of honor at the State of the Union address, she is "just scraping by."  You can listen to the interview here. Instead of contributing to politicians who are co-opting this brave woman for their own ends, you might want to purchase Mrs. Ledbetter's new book. It's called "Grace and Grit." As she says in the audio, income discrimination is not just a woman's problem -- it's a family problem. I highly recommend listening to the whole thing. It will open your eyes and make you mad as hell. You'll find out how she did all the work herself to get the law changed, and that she didn't earn a single extra penny as a result of her efforts.

Jenny Brown of Labor Notes writes that over her lifetime, the typical working woman loses $379,000 because of the continuing income gap. And as Lilly Ledbetter has experienced, this loss carries over into retirement. Social Security benefits are predicated on the amount of lifetime earnings. And then too, wage discrimination is usually built right into jobs that are traditionally held by women.

Hospitality and retail jobs are a big part in the "improving" employment statistics, because the increasing wealth of the one percent has given them scads more money to burn in hotels and restaurants and stores. So of course thousands more servants and lackeys are needed to meet the needs of the very rich. And service industries are dominated by low-paid female workers. The average wage for a restaurant server is only $2.13 an hour -- well below the legal minimum wage, but exempt from the law because tips theoretically compensate. Only they often don't, because employers don't make up the difference as they are required to do. Some bosses force the wait staff to pool their tips among the cleanup crews and even pocket their own cut.

Then there's the hotel business. The Hyatt Chain, owned by the wealthy Pritzker family, is notoriously anti-union and anti-woman. Management ordered heat lamps turned on striking workers outside the Chicago hotel during a heat wave last summer. At the Hyatt hotel in Santa Clara, California, bosses celebrated “housekeepers appreciation week” last September by grafting photographs of housekeepers’ faces onto bikini-clad bodies on surfboards. If Hyatt employees want health insurance, a $400 monthly premium is deducted from their checks.

Yet Hyatt heiress, Forbes billionaire and Obama bundler Penny Pritzker has a seat of honor at the White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. That should immediately suggest that this hilariously named in-house lobby of CEOs and a few token, co-opted big labor leaders has absolutely nothing to do with jobs. When you hear the word "job creator" in Washington, it refers to an oligarch who not only wants to keep more of his/her hoarded wealth, but wants to make sure what little the rest of us have left is taken away through "shared sacrifice."

President Obama was happy to pose with Lilly Ledbetter at a few photo-ops, and never hesitates to use her name as a campaign talking point. But he also never dreamed of appointing her to his phony jobs council. She might have spoken too many inconvenient truths. She might have made Penny Pritzker uncomfortable.

The war on women is bipartisan. The Republicans just have an uglier and more vocal way of expressing it. 

A Study in Contrasts: Ledbetter (top) and Pritzker


Kat said...

Folks, do not pay attention to what campaign mode Obama is saying. Pay attention to who has his ear.

Zee said...

@Fred Drumlevitch--

While @Valerie suggested in her final comment on the now-disabled thread “Fear, Loathing and Allergies,” that it was time to move on to Ms. Garcia's more recent posts, I am never one to let go of a bone that still has meat on it left to chew. Moreover, Ms. Garcia has in the past expressed some tolerance for carrying old threads forward, so I'm going to ask for her indulgence once again.

In your final post on that same thread you once again stated with remarkable precision much of the reason that I am participating in this forum. What follows expands upon an earlier discussion that we had on a January 9 Open Thread on Reality Chex, parts of which I would eventually like to reproduce in this forum with your permission.

“...I hope that your [Zee's] very significant empathy, and activism, can extend further afield, to people with whom you have no acquaintance, and to rights possibly relevant only to people that you do not know.” – @Fred Drumlevitch

“I understand your point, Zee, which emphasizes the "local" element of politics. However, the powers that be... have become truly accomplished in the time since 1945 at effecting divide-and-conquer. And a defense of rights based on one's "local" concerns, rather than either broader concerns or the totality of all local ones, will too often cause the greater picture and the necessary epiphany of scope to be missed by most people, leading to an inadequately-unified defense, and ultimately, to most rights being lost.” – @ Fred Drumlevitch

I believe that I am a person capable of at least some empathy, and I'm certainly capable of activism when motivated. I would indeed like to extend these characteristics “further afield.” But I am not a person capable of infinite sacrifice in order to do so.

There are aspects of my character—I call them “conservative values,” but as both you and @Kat have pointed out, labels are too confining—that are very deeply held. They make me who I am. These values are not entirely inflexible, but neither will I abandon them totally.

Under our current form of “winner-take-all” politics, the powers that be have, indeed, become very good at dividing and conquering us.

Because I am incapable of total surrender on certain fronts, I have often in the past found myself allied with people I don't like very much. That's the nature of “winner-take-all,” and the efficacy of “divide-and-conquer.” I understand both tactics all too well.

As you and I have discussed before, I'm looking to break out of that pattern by participating here. It's not my intention to try to hijack Ms. Garcia's forum to become a Conservative-Progressive dialogue, or worse yet, a slugfest. It's her blog and she holds the moderator's keys. So I try to keep my remarks—both assenting and dissenting— relevant to her posts, or to remarks made by other commenters as I'm doing now.

It's an awkward way to look for common ground, but that's the way it has to be. And common ground and compromise there must be if we are to present an “adequately-unified defense” of all our rights.

I think that I have found some common ground in exchanges with you and several other commenters here, but I'm always looking for more in order to accomplish a larger, shared objective.

Valerie said...

This is really excellent journalism, Karen. Rather than beat the old pro-choice horse to death as is all I seem to be hearing from the Democratic Party these days (and as I am expected as a liberal woman to be all about) - you have really brought to light the TRUE issues of discriminatory policy and practices that affect women (and people of colour for that matter) in America. And as usual, the Corporate Democrats led by Obama are no different from the Corporate Republicans on this issue.

Who cares if Obama is pro-choice and pro-getting insurance companies to cover birth control pills if women are getting the shaft everywhere else in American society? We are focusing on one of the smallest pieces of the pie and neglecting the biggest, and for most of us who aren't going to have an abortion and can pay for our own birth control, the most important.

Denis Neville said...

Kat said... Don’t pay attention to what campaign mode Obama is saying. Pay attention to who has his ear. Indeed.

The manipulation of populism by the elitist Obama

Obama and the "Queen of Subprime Loans"

Obama’s career was largely the product of the support of Penny Pritzker. She was known as the “Queen of the Subprime Mortgage,” the financial “genius” who took the solvent Superior Bank and helped destroy it. Under Pritzker, Superior Bank went heavily into subprime home mortgages, which were then packaged into securities and sold to investors. She championed these subprime mortgages until Superior Bank was seized by regulators in 2001. She never admitted any wrongdoing although her family paid out $460 million to defray the cost of the bank’s collapse. Many of Superior’s borrowers and depositors suffered financial losses.

Obama’s refusal to deliver real “change.”

Pritzker made vast fortunes on subprime mortgages and raised mega bundles of cash for Obama. And he has returned the favor by protecting elite fraudulent financial CEOs from prosecution. It is any surprise that Obama is in the pocket of the banksters? They created him.

In the meantime, America’s ever-growing army of the “working poor,” soon to lose their health insurance, if they even had it, continues to slide into poverty from the middle class, while the richest among us grow ever richer.

Fred Drumlevitch said...


I'll try to be brief here so as to not distract too much from the important topic of Karen's current post, and we can continue the discussion at some future time when it is more relevant to the focus of the post.

Zee, I've found your reasoned perspective useful both in reducing my stereotyping of those to the right of my beliefs, as well as a spur to clarify my own thoughts. Indeed, it should be amply apparent, to anyone who takes the time to read and think about the posts and comments on this fine blog, that stereotyping as just "left" or "right" is counterproductive in a multi-dimensional situation. And most insidious in the current political reality may be the favorable stereotyping of the politicians of our own political parties as our champions, when in fact they have all too often acted abysmally with regard to the vital areas of proper national priorities and infrastructure, broad economic well-being, military restraint, and civil liberties.

Thanks for your comments and compliments. Consider yourself free (with Karen's permission as blog owner, of course) to, at the appropriate time, quote here for purposes of discussion anything I've said here, at RealityChex, or on my own blog. I'll look forward to a continuation of the discussion.

The Black Swan said...

As far as the R's and D's are concerned, I'd rather get punched in the face than stabbed in the back.

Denis Neville said...

Obama and the job creators

Obama and labor

• Penny Pritzker, notoriously anti-union and anti-woman, receives a seat of honor on Obama’s White House Council on Jobs and Competitiveness
• GE CEO Jeff Immelt selected to chair Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Ordinary workers look at this cozy corporate-government arrangement and conclude that it is not fully committed to the best interests of working people.
• Obama pledged that if workers’ rights were ever under threat, he would get on a picket line, but when Honeywell workers were locked out, flew to India with David Cote CEO of Honeywell
• Unsafe radioactive waste storage and those “comfortable shoes” that Barry promised to wear in support of public sector unions during his campaign…
• The Steelworkers' Union, which blew the whistle on Honeywell executives for blatantly ignoring safety laws, claims that many of the workers at the Honeywell plant contracted cancer and died due to radiation exposure over the years. For voicing its concerns, the union was locked out of the plant by Honeywell CEO David Cote.
• So much for those “comfortable shoes” that Barry promised to wear in support of public sector unions during his campaign.
• David Cote, Honeywell CEO, one of Obama's favorite CEOs, was appointed by Barry to serve on the Cat Food Commission. Cote was also a past executive of General Electric, another of Barry's favorite, corporate tax-evading companies of all time.
• Obama has never made a single major speech on the issue of workers’ rights and improving collective bargaining rights
• abandoned Employee Free Choice Act
• passed an anti-union FAA reauthorization bill making it harder for airline and railroad workers to form unions
• and so on and so forth

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people." - Oscar Wilde

Don’t pay attention to what campaign mode Obama is saying. Pay attention to who has his ear.

Anne Lavoie said...

Obama is using Penny Pritzger, as he does so many other women. It came out in the latest Stratfor Wikileaks (she was referred to as billionaire bunder Mrs. P), that she had been promised the Secretary of Commerce position after the election, but Obama dumped her when there allegedly was some resistance to her nomination.

Serves her right for falling for President Smooth-Talking Liar. He is so charming that she re-upped to be a bundler again. Who knows what he promised her this time around. Something big no doubt.

Suzan said...

To Anne Lavoie, re Penny P:

I think her treatment by the Suave One is really indicative of his treatment of all but his rich backers.

She gets promised a nice post for the moolah, but is stiffed like the rest of us who gave him our votes and support.

It's pretty easy to see whom he surrounds himself with, however. Every single one is deeply entrenched and working to ensure his future success (no matter how short a period it turns out to be before his greater audience wises up).

The Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, GE, hedge fund, Rubin-trained boys have been given the keys to the kingdom.

And the Christians (without a clue) are dancing in the streets.

Thanks for continuing your incisive commentary, Karen!