Preparing for International Women’s Day

Posted March 01, 2011, at 7:01 p.m.
Last modified March 02, 2011, at 12:48 p.m.

I’m working on my celebrations for March 8 and I hope you are too. No it’s not just Mardi Gras I’m celebrating; Tuesday is International Women’s Day. And it’s not just any International Women’s Day, it’s the 100th anniversary. So drop what you’re doing and start making plans.

After all, over the last hundred years there have been a whopping 100 of these days when women are allowed to – and even encouraged to – shine. And really it seems only fair seeing as logic dictates that there’s been a resultant 36,425 similar days for men since the custom began in 1911.

Sadly, those hundred days haven’t been enough.  In the course of this past century we haven’t made much of a positive impact providing equity for women around the world. According to The World Bank, “Gender inequalities are a major source of multi-dimensional poverty.”

I’d like to see every other day become International Women’s Day and the guys can have the other ones. Maybe if we can’t make every other day “women’s day” we could at least bump up the recognition to once a month.

But to be fair, we are talking internationally. And those studies include places like sub-Saharan Africa and India; surely our one day of appreciation for women has yielded better results here at home.

Alas, we all know that’s not so.

According to the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, “29.9 percent of households headed by single women are poor while 16.9 percent of households headed by single men are poor.” And our society isn’t just beating on young families. Our elderly women are in worse shape than our elderly men.

According the Social Security Administration, elderly women are nearly twice as likely to be impoverished as older gents, “11.8 percent compared with 6.9 percent.”

So with all that in mind let’s plan our celebration.

Drop everything you are doing and contact Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and tell them that you want women adequately represented in this country by opposing HR 1. It may be necessary to remind them that these draconian cuts to our nation’s housing essentials disproportionately hurt women. You can remind them that it’s very similar to the way that their support for the extension of the Bush tax cuts disproportionately helped wealthy men.

Here are some of the provisions of HR 1 that you should mention and don’t forget to reminded them that these are the largest across the board domestic cuts in history.

Firstly, HR 1 cuts section 811 housing by 70 percent and section 202 housing by 71 percent. If you don’t know what that is that’s because you aren’t elderly or disabled and impoverished. For folks who are these programs provide housing assistance.

Secondly, HR 1 cuts Community Development Block Grants by 62 percent. CDBG has for a long time provided affordable housing, anti-poverty programs and infrastructure support to communities. In fact it’s one of the oldest HUD programs in existence.

Thirdly, public housing will be cut 43 percent in capital and 3 percent in operating costs. Depending on the regions where these cuts are made two-thirds of those affected will be the elderly and disabled; the rest are economically disadvantaged singles and families.

Fourthly, housing and foreclosure counseling will be completely eliminated. OK, so let’s give them that one. According to Portland’s largest newspaper, Maine’s already eighth in foreclosures across the country, so really it looks like most poor folks aren’t keeping their homes anyway.

I could go on with the list of valuable necessary housing programs that HR 1 slashes but I won’t. I must however list one more glaringly cruel and reckless cut: LIHEAP.

According to Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s Web page, 50,000 Maine households received LIHEAP assistance in 2008. Well HR 1 cuts LIHEAP 66 percent. No worries, I’ll do the math for you.  That’s a cut of 33,000 homes.

33,000 homes!

So yeah, in honor of this one hundredth celebration of women around the world, contact two of the most powerful women in the world’s largest economy and voice your displeasure that they would support tax cuts for the wealthiest among us and then support measures that would perpetuate homelessness and poverty among their constituents.

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com.

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