J’accuse —The Women Speak Up
I tried fighting him off, while yelling at him to stop, but instead of stopping, he began squeezing my neck, attempting to force my head onto his crotch…”
The Excuse — Dirty Old (and Young) Men Respond
“I don’t know [the accuser] from anyone. I never talked to her. This never happened, they know it never happened and, obviously, you don’t wait 40 years to bring up something like this.”
The Federal Government to Women —You’re Not Our Problem
“It is fundamentally unjust and discriminatory for the [U.S.] government to deny women on Medicaid the same reproductive health options as women with economic means” In 2017, the 1976 Hyde Amendment prohibits 13.5 million women of child-bearing age from using their Medicaid health insurance to cover the cost of an abortion. Since 1977, over one million women have been forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term.”
“Let me count the ways” American women are systematically demeaned and abused most visibly at the hands of rich, privileged men who use their power over the lives and fortunes of vulnerable young women to prey on them. These bozos are finally being outed by women who are no longer afraid to point fingers. Entertainment industry bigwigs, Silicon Valley moguls, media (including public media) personalities, politicians, even the sitting president are accused and who knows how many more elitist males wait with fingers crossed hoping their depredations will remain hidden.
In the wake of the truth telling, the media had an epiphany. Who would have thought that accusations of sexual impropriety, misbehavior and rape by glamorous young women could turn into media gold? Before long the mainstream media made the women’s crusade into a happening. But in the capitalist world of profit at any cost, women whose stories don’t have the pizazz of Hollywood starlets and other big name personalities found themselves out in the cold. These unbankable women remain in the shadows. Who are they? Many are undocumented, working as wage slaves in sweat shops and on farms, millions belong to the U.S. underclass — low wage workers routinely abused by their employers. Sexual predators (and there are lots of them) aside, they have another adversary, a more menacing foe—the big, bad, U.S. government. No succor here as the empire pours the wealth of its citizens into war industries and the military, more armaments, more bombs, more weapons systems, more killer drones. Left out in the cold — those bereft of economic and social power. Wealth moves mountains, need barely registers. Sexual abuse is no match for the viciousness of the officials in Washington whose funding priorities doom 16% of the 157 million girls and women in the U.S. to near starvation diets (the federal bean counters’ official euphemism: “food insecure”)
How did we get to this ugly state of affairs? Consider it the social contract American style —waging war on women from the dawn of the republic —preventing women from divorcing violent predators, from claiming custody of their children, from owning property or voting or sitting alone at a bar. In twenty-first century America, women are still the underclass, making 78¢ for every $1.00 earned by men and excluded from the executive suite in business, industry, and politics. Only 6% of the biggest companies in the U.S. (the Fortune 500) are run by women. Although 51% of the U.S. population is female, only 21 of 100 senators are women. The breakdown in the House of Representative is even more dismal. Of 435 representatives, 84 or 19% are women.
While economically advantaged women feel the sting of sexual assault and stunted advancement opportunities, less advantaged women, and there are millions of them, inhabit a special hell. Political leaders from both sides of the aisle target these women for special privations. The history of two federal programs —Food Stamps and Medicaid —tell you all you need to know about the empire’s commitment to the health (Medicaid) and welfare (food stamps) of these women.
Hoving to the left, we find the democratic wing of the business party and their “man for all seasons” former Prez Obama. With a passel of economists at his beck and call, he had to know how miserable life was for poor women and their families. The bottom line — 25.6 million women (56% of all recipients) rely on food stamps to feed their families. Being an ambitious politician, Obama found himself on the horns of a dilemma. How to keep his liberal humanitarian credentials intact but not piss off his masters —the lords of Wall Street. He found his answer trolling the history of other successful democratic politicians facing the same conundrum. The opening gambit —rhetorical posturing on the order of “[Welfare recipients] didn’t cause the financial crisis, recklessness on Wall Street did.” (as though anyone besides Obama and his Wall Street cronies thought they did). The denouement —punish the innocent and reward the guilty. To the tune of “God Bless the USA,” Mr. “Hope and Change” slashed $12 billion out of the food stamp budget (in two bi-partisan budget “compromises”) and showered $10 trillion (or more) on the guilty (bankers and other oligarchs).
With the cunning and skill learned from a lifetime of shape-shifting, Obama managed to sell-out one of his major constituencies and emerge with his popularity more or less intact. How did he do it? He and his democratic shills in congress failed to protect the food stamp budget in 2013 allowing it to revert to 2008 pre-crash levels. The need wasn’t so obliging. While 26 million needed food stamps in 2007 as a hedge against starvation, post-crash 47 million were on the food stamp rolls. The democrats were shocked. “Democrats Protest $5 Billion Food Stamp Cut They Voted For (Huffington Post). That’s how FDR’s legacy turned into the Obama doctrine where the ultra-wealthy make out like bandits and the precariat (bottom 20%) languish, one step from homelessness, starvation, and death.
Two months later, the ex-community organizer wielded the budgetary axe again cutting an additional $8.7 billion out of the Food Stamp budget over the next ten years. Some might see it as an obscenity for the richest country in the world to deny millions of its citizens desperately needed aid. For Obama and his enablers in Congress, a dandy example of bipartisan problem-solving. Here’s Obama congratulating himself: “Congress passed [no mention of who signed it into law] a bi-partisan farm bill that is going to make a big difference in communities across the country.” You got that right. The “difference” —850,000 U.S. households saw their already puny food stamp allocation depleted by an average $90/month.
As the world turns, we go from the frying pan into the fire. Enter the unhinged newest occupant of the Oval Office, Donald Trump who needs no road map to unmitigated viciousness, proposing a budget that includes a $193 billion cut —25% of the entire budget — in Food Stamps over the next decade. Another proposal floating around the Trump ecosphere —replacing cash stipends with a “box” of food, cheap and non-nutritious. In the victimizing of women sweepstakes, Trump jumped the shark and one-upped Obama by several light years.
Leave it to the least (merciful) among us, Ben Carson, failed Republican presidential candidate, right wing ideologue and Trump Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, to put his finger on the real dilemma for U.S. policy makers: “[the country] is in severe financial straits and they have decided to use their resources to build the military rather than feed their people…”
No, Secretary Carson hasn’t had an epiphany or lost his far-right marbles. The country he was referring to? North Korea. The irony, probably lost on Carson and Trump, is that North Korea shares that distinction with the U.S. Politics becomes satire when, according to the global hunger index, the U.S. winds up on the same rung of the hunger ladder as Russia whose “evil designs” on “our” democracy are a favorite liberal meme.
If starving poor women isn’t Machiavellian enough, Trump has proposed to cut the already bare bones medical coverage (Medicaid) that passes for healthcare in the richest country in the world. Parachuting off Obama’s $72 billion Medicaid cut, Trump’s budget plan, according to Senator Bernie Sanders, “would result in $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, [over ten years] which will throw 15 million people off of the health insurance they currently have.”
Dante’s nine circles of hell (on earth) could barely contain all the rich and powerful “movers and shakers” accustomed to abusing women without fear of reprisal. Happy to report “the times they are a-changin.” No longer do the abusers control the message. Even their former mouthpieces, mainstream media, are having a “Come to Jesus Moment.” Time Magazine recently anointed the women who stepped forward to denounce their abusers and attackers, its 2017 “persons of the year.”
Sadly, not much has changed for the women we don’t get to enter the charmed circle. They’re still poor, still at the behest of male dominators—denied the right to control their bodies, lacking free day care for their children, making do with diminishing benefits from food stamp and other aid programs, enduring skimpy heath care allowances that leave them and their children vulnerable to sickness and death, knowing their children will never be able to afford higher education and will remain on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder.
Sexual battery is repugnant, unforgiveable, but sadly not the sole source of women’s lack of status. What of the women who are regularly and systematically beaten down by a government where inequality has become the norm, where the social safety net is fast disappearing and the health and welfare of millions are in jeopardy? The lucky ones, those with the power and the glamour to capture media attention, have the abusers on the run. What happens to those millions of women too poor to be media darlings? Who will speak up for them?
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