On Mother’s Day, more people went out to eat than usually do at any other time of the year. It’s a way to give our moms a break from having to make another meal. Being a mom can be the hardest job in the world. Most of the work a mother does is unpaid and if she is bringing home a paycheck, it will be less than men simply because she is a woman. Finding childcare is always a struggle, and on top of all this, there is a daily threat of violence that hangs over all women. Mother’s Day is one of the only days some moms will receive any acknowledgement for all of the extra burden that comes with being a woman and a mother in this society.
The reality is moms do it all. They’re day care workers, housekeepers, cooks, janitors, therapists, a taxi service, and more. Even when both a man and a woman are working, the woman still does the majority of the housework. For women, being a mom is like working an unpaid second job. According to Salary.com, stay-at-home moms put in close to 100 hours of household and childcare work every single week. If they were paid for any of this, their average salary would be $113,586 a year. And for working moms, on top of 40 hour work weeks, they spend an extra 58 hours on household and childcare work, and would earn an additional $67,435 if they were ever paid for all of this work.
And for the work women are paid for, it is still less than men. Through struggles over the years, women have been able to decrease the wage-gap between men and women a little but it’s still a far cry from equal. And working mothers face even more wage discrimination.
There is a larger wage-gap between mothers and women without children than there is between women and men. It’s as if women are punished for being mothers. Women without children can expect to earn ten percent less than men while mothers earn 27 percent less than men. And single mothers earn between 34 percent and 44 percent less than men. As a result, it takes the average woman 16 months to earn what an average man earns in a year.
In addition to all the work mothers do, paid or not, there’s the extra insanity of trying to arrange childcare while scraping a living together. The waitlists for childcare programs never seem to end and further cuts to food and housing assistance have only made a bad situation even worse. It’s not like mothers can afford not to work and still take care of the kids. But many women are forced to do just that. For working moms, it often means leaving a child at home and going to work to put food on the table. And with wages so low, usually women are trying to do all of this while working two jobs. So it’s down to just hoping everyday that things work out at least until tomorrow.
And on top of all this, mothers and all women face the daily threat of violence that comes with being treated with inferior status. More than 1,000 women are killed per year by their male partners or ex-partners. The leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. is being murdered by their male partners. One in five women will be raped in her lifetime. This is a chilling level of violence that no woman is able to ignore. The more women are treated like the property of men, and the more they are expected to be the servants of the household, the easier it is for men to commit violence against them.
All mothers should be acknowledged on Mother’s Day for the impossible work they have had to do. But mothers deserve more than a day of acknowledgement and relief from their extra work. A real celebration of mothers would be a society that doesn’t make being a mom the hardest job in the world.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Anytime our loved ones are killed and taken from us it is a tragedy. And the bombings at the Boston Marathon are no different. Three people died, over 170 were injured and maimed, and hundreds of thousands were traumatized for life. From the FBI, the police, and the National Guard, the city of Boston was put under a state of military siege, told to stay locked in their homes as a sweeping manhunt for two people unfolded outside.
Meanwhile, we’ve been bombarded by government officials and media spokespeople telling us how violent terrorists are out to get us, how we need armed military personnel and surveillance at every large event in the country. We’re expected to live in fear at the threat of foreign terrorists, supposedly hiding in plain sight, ready to kill at any place at any time.
There is some truth in the hysteria that the media is stirring up about terrorism but it isn’t the terrorism of violent individuals living in the U.S. It’s the terrorism of an economic system that puts the making of profits above all else.
Some of this terror is produced by the poverty this system sentences people to. In the poorest cities across the U.S., thousands are murdered each year by this kind of violence. In Oakland, 131 people were murdered last year – that’s a death toll equal to having a Boston bombing every week. But this kind of violence is accepted and even expected in poor cities all over the world.
Two days after the explosions in Boston, there was an even bigger and deadlier explosion that took place in the town of West, Texas at the West Fertilizer Company, killing 15 people, injuring over 200, destroying over 75 homes. The explosion shook houses as far as 50 miles away, registering a 2.1 magnitude earthquake by the U.S. Geological Survey. It leveled buildings and homes within five blocks, destroying a nearby nursing home, apartment complex, and a middle school. The blast left a crater 93 feet wide and 10 feet deep.
The facility hadn’t had a safety inspection from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) since 1985 even though it had 270 tons of explosive ammonium nitrate – 1,300 times the amount required to be reported to the Department of Homeland Security. The facility made so many illegal cutbacks it didn’t even have fire sprinklers, shut-off valves, fire alarms or blast walls, all of which could have prevented the destruction from the explosion. This was a tragedy waiting to happen.
None of this is surprising when every year over 4,500 workers die in the U.S. from workplace accidents. The government has continuously cut funding on workplace safety. In 2011, a person was 270 times more likely to die from a workplace accident than from a terrorist attack but the budget for OSHA was $558 million while it was $47 billion for Homeland Security. OSHA is so understaffed, with only 2,200 inspectors for over eight million workplaces – it could only inspect each workplace once every 129 years.
And the situation is even worse for workers around the world. Just last week a garment factory in Savar, Bangledesh – producing garments for Walmart and other U.S. and British companies – collapsed, killing over 400 people. The facility was in such bad shape the local police ordered it evacuated but the management ignored the order, forcing 2,000 workers to keep working.
Every year over 2.3 million workers die from workplace injuries around the world. Corporations cut corners to cut costs, putting our lives at risk in the process. Safety laws can only go so far as no law can change the fact that corporations make even more money under unsafe conditions.
There is a terrorism and a tragedy that we all face on a daily basis but it is not the tragedy that comes from the terror of lone individuals. It is the tragedy from the terror of a system organized to defend the interests of corporations, a system that terrorizes our lives for profits.
That time of year we all dread has come and gone again. For most of us filing a tax return is nothing but a headache, a time when we see how much money was taken from us. Some of us dislike filing taxes so much we will even push getting them done to just before the midnight deadline.
Where’d I put the W2s? Which forms should I use? Should I do itemized or standardized deductions? The tax code is a confusing maze that is more and more designed for the rich who are able to hire lawyers and accountants to use the system to their own advantage.
For workers trying to save money on their taxes, the deck is stacked against us. Taxes are designed so that the more money you make, the more money you keep. How many butlers did you have this year? Deduction. Were you able to buy a new house or yacht? Deduction. Did you buy solar panels or new appliances for your mansion? More deductions. The only way to get a break from taxes is if you made enough and those who make the most money will always get the most breaks.
Workers are shouldering a heavier share of taxes while corporations, more profitable than ever, are getting away with robbery. It used to be that corporations were taxed at a higher rate than individuals, paying $1.50 for every $1.00 we would have to pay. Now corporations pay around 22 cents for every dollar we pay and complain that even this is still too high.
And this only includes the corporations that actually pay anything at all. The reality is that corporations will rarely even have to pay this lower rate. Between 2008 and 2010 there were 78 companies that paid nothing in taxes and received money back. And during this time, the 280 most profitable companies got $224 billion of our money in subsidies. This means corporations are able to rob us twice: once with our low wages and then again when our tax money ends up in their pockets.
In the beginning of the year, taxes on the rich were raised four percent from 35 percent, but this increase was nothing but a joke. Taxes on the ultra wealthy during the 1970’s were at a peak of 71 percent – and they were still considered the wealthy. Even with this slight tax increase, workers still end up paying more in taxes. For workers 35 percent of our wages is a huge loss, especially when we’re barely scraping by as it is. But for millionaires and billionaires, they’re still left with more money than they can even spend.
In 2012, the richest people in the world had an estimated $21 trillion just sitting in offshore accounts – this is completely untaxed income. This is more money than the entire economies of the U.S. and Japan combined. Much of this money held offshore belongs to wealthy people who live in the U.S., and about $10 trillion is hidden by U.S. banks.
As April comes and goes, and we tally up all the money that was taken from us, we can’t help but wonder where it all goes? Last year, for every dollar in taxes we paid, about 48 cents was spent on the military and war. About eight cents of every dollar went to government agencies to pay their salaries and pay some of the interest on the national debt. But only 40 cents for every dollar is left to pay for any of the services we actually need.
And now, all we hear from the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, is how much further they want to cut these amounts. The latest discussions are about how deep they are ready to cut Social Security and Medicare and other forms of assistance to working families.
Tax day is no different than how our society works all of the time. We do all the work, we generate all the wealth – but we don’t see any of the benefits. Everything that we want our taxes to be used for is being sacrificed while our money is handed over to corporations and the rich. Tax day is the robbery that returns every year.
Last week, North Dakota passed the strictest limits on abortion in the country – banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. This is usually around six weeks or earlier and before most women even know they are pregnant. So if this law is enforced, it will likely mean a ban on all abortions in the state.
The new laws are part of a nationwide effort by religious fundamentalists to chip away at Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting the right of women to have abortions. In 2011 and 2012, 135 states passed laws further restricting a woman’s ability to have an abortion, including lowering the number of weeks when an abortion can be legally performed, requiring unnecessary ultrasounds, requiring unnecessary counseling, requiring parental consent, increasing the number of visits to a clinic before a woman can have an abortion, and many other restrictions.
In North Dakota, the law would impose a 5-year prison sentence if doctors perform an abortion once a heartbeat is detected. But the only way a fetal heartbeat can be detected at this early stage of pregnancy is through what is called a transvaginal ultrasound – a procedure whereby a doctor must insert a probe into a woman’s vagina. Even though these procedures are not medically necessary, increasingly states are requiring them by law as a way to pressure women not to have an abortion. Many doctors have refused to carry out these procedures, risking fines, imprisonment, and a loss of license. Many doctors have protested the requirement of this unnecessary, extremely invasive procedure, explaining that it is like requiring them to rape their patients.
While Roe v. Wade allows abortions up to 24 weeks, or longer if a woman’s health is threatened, in some states politicians are trying to ban abortions altogether. The North Dakota legislature has approved a state constitutional amendment that would grant so-called “personhood rights” for a fertilized fetus. This is an attempt to ban all abortions by declaring a fetus a citizen at the point of conception. This would mean that women and doctors could be charged with murder for ever having or performing an abortion.
These laws will be devastating to women. Abortion rates don’t decrease when they are illegal but are only forced underground, becoming more dangerous. When all abortions were illegal, women were forced to carryout abortions through all sorts of dangerous and life-threatening methods, often dying from internal bleeding, infection, or poisoning, or being injured or disfigured for life.
The need for women to have access to abortions is undeniable. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. every year are unintentional and unwanted. Most women who have abortions are not irresponsible teenagers using abortion as birth control – as many religious fundamentalists claim. Most women who have abortions are in their twenties. Over 50 percent of women who have abortions were using a form of contraception when they became pregnant. Six in ten women having abortions have already had a child and many have had two or more. About 35 percent of all women of reproductive age in the U.S. will have had an abortion by the time they are 45.
Most often women decide to have an abortion because they don’t have the money or they don’t feel ready to take on the responsibilities of raising a child. Seventy-five percent of women say that having a child would conflict with their ability to work, go to school, or take care of other children. In 2008, four in ten women having abortions were below the federal poverty line. Too often women are forced to handle the physical, emotional and financial burden of raising a child alone.
Whether or not to carry out a pregnancy and raise a child is a major decision for every woman. And it is their right to choose – for any reason –whether they want to bring a child into this world. But we all have the responsibility to make it a world they would ever choose to bring a child into.
Lately we’ve been told that everything is turning around, the economy is recovering, unemployment is going down, and everything will be getting better. But when it comes to our lives, it sure seems like everything is getting worse. Work is getting harder, our bills are going up, and we are not bringing home any extra money.
In celebration of this supposed recovery, Obama and the Democrats are even talking about raising the federal minimum wage to a whopping nine dollars per hour. Working 40 hours a week that only adds up to $18,720 a year, barely above the federal poverty line for one person and below it for anyone with two people living with them. What Obama is calling the pathway to the middle class is in reality only keeping us in poverty.
A measly nine dollars per hour isn’t even half of where the minimum wage would have been if it had kept up since 1970. Since then we have increased our work by over 80 percent and have not had any real wage increase. If the minimum wage kept up for all of this and inflation, it would be $20 an hour today. And if the median wage kept up since 1970, it would be $92,000 a year, not $50,000. All this talk about nine dollars an hour is an insult.
As the politicians and the media keep telling us everything is getting better, we know things are getting worse. Most household wealth has declined between 28 and 45 percent over the last decade. This has translated to nearly one in three people in the U.S. living in poverty or being only a paycheck away. And California, the wealthiest state in the country, has a poverty rate of 25 percent, the highest in the U.S. At the same time 50 million people are considered “food insecure,” which means they are regularly unsure where their next meal is coming from.
So obviously this isn’t our recovery. Every time prices go up for groceries, gas, bills, health care, we feel it as another pay cut. We wait longer to get our cars or health checked out because we couldn’t afford what might be wrong anyway. We juggle which bills to pay late and which meals to skip so we don’t fall more than one check behind.
It’s not getting any easier either. Politicians may keep trying to point out that jobs are being recovered but it’s never mentioned what kind of jobs. And the jobs we are finding are harder to come by and pay even less. Peaking in 2008, 27 million people were unemployed but now 22 million still have no work – so only 5 million people have been able to find any work at all. And of the jobs found since 2008, 58 percent are low-wage, paying between $7.69 and $13.84 per hour. Month after month they tell us jobs are being added but in fact full-time jobs are disappearing. It’s only part-time jobs that are being added.
The only recovery happening is at the top. While we’re told that we’re lucky to even have jobs at all, our bosses are making more money than ever. It’s always the same lies about how they are struggling and need to cut our hours, wages, benefits, sick time, staffing and more. CEO pay has increased 27 times faster than workers’ pay since 1978 and profits are the highest they have ever been in history. Corporations have about $2 trillion of cash just sitting in banks, the largest amount at any time in the U.S. And after-tax corporate profits have grown 171 percent under Obama – faster and higher than under any U.S. president in history.
It’s not a coincidence that as we’re scraping the bottom, the rich are reaching new heights. The only minimum wage corporations are interested in is the one that is not enough to live on but just a little too much to die. The only recovery that means anything for them is a recovery of their profits – and they have never been doing better. And the only source of this recovery, the only way these corporations can make all this extra money is to take it from us. If they keep recovering like this, soon we’ll have nothing left for them to steal.
Once again we’re supposed to believe that the government is broke and must make our lives more miserable as banks, corporations, and the super rich make record amounts of money. We’re supposed to believe the politicians are desperately at work trying to fight each other on our behalf. What a joke.
The idea that the Democrats and Republicans even disagree in the first place is laughable. They’ve never disagreed over who will feel the impact of these cuts. Instead, they made the decision to cut unemployment insurance, food assistance to low-income women and children, and federal education programs. We’ve always been the target of these cuts. Their only challenge has always been to get us to go along without a fight.
At the same time, thousands of federal jobs are being threatened with automatic furloughs, keeping Air traffic controllers, TSA agents, federal inspectors all on edge as to whether they’ll be able to make next month’s rent. This is just another pay cut when we’re already struggling enough as it is. How arrogant of them to think they can just jack us around like pawns in their game of budget chess.
The Democrats repeatedly say they are willing to cut anything the Republicans are – they just claim they want to close some tax-loopholes to increase revenue. In other words, as far as the cuts are concerned they are already in agreement – they are just nit-picking over how deep they can be.
But all this talk is just a show for the Democrats to appear tougher than the Republicans. It makes no difference whether they close any loopholes. They have already agreed to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to at least 28 percent. So even with the supposed loopholes removed, corporations will still bring home more money than they are now.
Right now the total cuts amount to $85 billion. But what happened to the tax money that was supposed to come from the increases passed in December? Back then the fake crisis was called the “fiscal cliff” and the politicians agreed to increase our payroll taxes two percent, and they put a tiny increase on people making over $450,000. Those increases were supposed to generate $150 billion per year. We were told the whole point of the tax increases was to increase revenue to reduce the cuts. But now we’re told once again, the government just doesn’t have any money to pay for these vital services that we rely on.
But where did all the money go? After-tax corporate profits have gone up 171 percent under Obama, the highest increase under any president in U.S. history. Profits haven’t ever grown that fast, which makes these manufactured crises the best thing for profits since sliced bread.
All this pretending to fight over cuts is only preparing us for even deeper cuts and they’ve made this very clear. Both Democrats and Republicans are already in agreement to cut at least $1.2 trillion from social programs over the next ten years, over $100 billion per year. And Obama and the Democrats have made it clear that they are ready to slash Medicare and Social Security.
So what’s really going on here? Corporations and the wealthy are making more money than they ever have in the history of this country. At the same time, the government has given banks and corporations record levels of bailouts and a bottomless line of credit to use however they want.
And they expect us to be the ones to pay for all of this. We’ve been paying at work as our wages are cut, as part-time jobs replace full-time ones, as new two-tier wage scales are put in place, and as any benefits we might still have are being taken away. We’ve been paying too much for too long.
But there is no such thing as enough for them. They want to take away money for our kids to go to school, for our retirements, for our health care, for housing – for everything that we need on a daily basis. They want to take us for all we got.
It doesn’t matter how much Democrats and Republicans pretend to disagree. We are in this situation not because of any budget crisis but because Republicans and Democrats acted for who they have always represented: corporations, Wall Street and the wealthy.