A well known Kenyan proverb states, “When elephants fight it is the grass that suffers.” The direction of the current deficit debate drives the painful meaning of this proverb into the bones and hearts of women and children living in poverty. Millions of women depend on their social security checks each month for such human basics as food, electricity, and shelter. As the average Social Security benefit for a woman over 65 is $12,000, her entire annual income would be eaten up by the Medicare cost-shifting indicated in the House-passed Ryan budget.
It is women and children who will suffer the most regardless of how the elephants fighting in D.C. finally exhaust themselves (and our country). Women have so very far to go! This week marked the 163rd anniversary of the First Women’s Rights Conference held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848. It was 72 years later that women in the U.S. won the right to vote (August 26, 1920). Women aged 18-64 (17 million women) make up three quarters of adult beneficiaries of Medicaid as a male-only gang of six offers possible budget compromises. Because of poverty, 70% of people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid are women. Women and children living in poverty hang by the thinnest of threads.
Some taking our current fiscal measurement say it is already too late to make a difference before the August 2nd deadline. Others appear to want to see our government and country fall so they can claim this was something other than the biggest partisan blood-letting of our country.
What can you do? First, find the email of your own elected congress people by typing into any search engine: “*your state* congress representatives.” Tell them to solve the problem or lose their jobs. For goodness’ sake, they are working *for* us. Second, tell the President what you need him to do. Ask your representatives and the President to protect poor women. Please, ask them to protect the children. Also, visit the National Council of Churches’ Poverty Initiative to find links to make your voice heard in other ways.
Inez Torres Davis is Women of the ELCA’s director for justice.