The GOP Wants to Renegotiate Women’s Place in the Economy
By Domenica Ghanem

A lot has changed since 2011, the year I graduated high school. TikTok was invented, there are now 12 Kardashian grandchildren, and I’m about to turn 30. But some things never change. The GOP’s crusade against spending on an economy that lifts all workers is one of them.

Back then, at the height of the Tea Party era, conservative Republicans would stop at nothing to ensure the first Black president’s agenda did not infringe on the ability of white rich men like them to bloat their pockets at the expense of everyone else. They especially would not stand for the economic success of women of color — President Obama’s most loyal voters — eating into their profits. So they threatened to default on the U.S. debt — not reduce it, mind you, but default on it — unless they could choke federal spending that makes the economy work better for everyone. If you’re experiencing deja vu, it’s because they’re now doing it again, threatening to tank the economy unless they get deep, harmful social spending cuts.

And as we near the end of Women’s History Month, it’s impossible to ignore the impacts this will have on women in particular, especially women of color. These right-wing lawmakers are essentially using their old playbook to renegotiate women’s place in the economy.

Let me explain. The pandemic exposed a child care system on the brink of collapse, a widespread lack of paid leave options for workers, and a gutted social safety net that left millions without food, health care, or enough cash to pay the rent. During that emergency, we had to rapidly rebuild a foundation to help ordinary people survive the economic downturn and public health emergency that affected all of us. Thanks to pressure from grassroots organizing, President Biden’s American Rescue Plan took some important steps in that direction.

For women in particular, this law was a vital lifeline.

States got funds they could use to make child care more affordable and pay the child care workers – who are mostly women – a living wage, stabilize rents for the workers who were laid off  – again, mostly women – as businesses shuttered, and expand the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to women who hadn’t gotten them before. Likewise, last year’s Inflation Reduction Act expands access to healthcare and lowers prescription drug costs for millions. The older women who make up the majority of our senior population will especially benefit.

This terrifies corporations and their friends in Congress. They’re threatened by the idea of an American economy that reverses our decades-old formula — one that only benefits the few at the expense of the many. So they’re weaponizing the threat of default, which really just means they don’t want to pay for the policies Congress already voted to pass with enthusiastic support from the majority of Americans.  They’ll argue that we don’t have the money. But just recently, more than 70 Republicans introduced a bill to make the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy permanent — remember, no Republicans voted for the expanded child tax credits that largely went to benefit their own working class constituents.

Funding for non-defense programs is already effectively 9 percent below 2010 levels. But these lawmakers want further cuts to the federal funding that supports our child care subsidies, our paid leave, and our job training programs. All this after the right-wing Supreme Court already eliminated women’s rights to reproductive health care, which is not only a violation of our human rights but can also have devastating effects on our earning potential.

President Biden has said he’ll refuse to negotiate with the new House Republicans about the debt ceiling. And hopefully his next budget proposal will reflect his continued commitment to leveling the playing field for women, especially women of color.

The pandemic took us back all on its own — we don’t need the Tea Party on steroids to push us even further. If these extremists had their way, my bank account would look as empty as it did in high school and I’d have 12 kids much less-fortunate than the Kardashians running around. It’s 2023. As I step into my 30s, there’s no way I’m letting a few old men and an imaginary story about the debt ceiling put another glass ceiling over my future.

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How We Acknowledge the Contributions of Women

This Women’s History Month, we’ve committed to uplifting the voices of women. Whether that be in action campaigns on the state level or videos sharing their journey, we know amplifying women’s voices is the first step to improving our economy.  

  • We’ve re-launched for the second year our Women of Color on the Front Lines video
    produced in partnership with Shelterforce. The series profiles women who are fighting today’s most pressing issues in communities across the U.S.—including in New Jersey, Michigan, Louisiana, California, and Washington state. Meet Jennifer Made, the first woman we honor this year and a native of Newark, New Jersey. Jennifer started organizing in her community at age 13 and in her adulthood formed the Newark Community Action Network. This organization provides warm meals and resources to the community at large. You can learn about the women we honored last year and look forward to more stories here.
  • On March 11- 18, Moms Deserve The Credit week of action was led by the Economic Security Project to rally support for expanded state Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit policies. We came together with the Economic Security Project,  Economic  Security for Illinois, Prosperity Now, New Jersey Policy Perspective, Public Assets, and Voices for Vermont’s Children to amplify the message that states can lead the way on cash for families. Moms, who do invisible work every day, are underpaid, overworked, and contribute more to household duties than their partners. As the costs for groceries, housing, and child care continue to increase, we’re saying loud and clear: MOMS DESERVE THE CREDIT!

And looking back to some fun work we did last year that has recently gained recognition. Community Change influencer Ryze Hendricks (@ryzehendricksmusic on TikTok) won Best Social Media Video – Political Campaigns at the Center for Digi Strategy Awards! Not only does his song share the overlooked and underpaid work of women and caretakers via social media, it was created to energize our national Day Without Child Care action in 2022. 

What's Needed Next for Black Safety

In response to the murder of Tyre Nichols, the Black Freedom Collective (BFC) held an in-depth conversation addressing questions about Black safety and providing a clear historical and political analysis as we heal and build a path forward. In a webinar on [date], BFC partners and special guests from Black With No Chaser and Community Movement Builders defined what safety means to them and their communities, discussed the role of media in Black safety, suggested how we can begin to demand safety for our communities, and provided ways to move toward safety.

The webinar was accentuated with a moving spoken word performance of “What a Blessing” by 2022 Emerging Change Champion Osyrus Bolly, the Co-Director of Little Rock Freedom Fund. Executive Director of Emergent Justice Elisheva Johnson’s joyful moderation of the conversation distilled two recurring themes throughout the discussion: self-determination and autonomy.

For Black folks and our communities, Black safety means self-determination and autonomy over our bodies, lives, and the institutions that have historically harmed us. Emancipate NC Executive Director Dawn Blagrove said it best: safety is “Black people having the bandwidth and autonomy to thrive, not survive.” And Aramis Sundiata, founder and executive director of People’s Justice Project, captured the essence of our vision when he told us we have to provide a vehicle for people to express themselves in the political arena, where they can win – and once they win, they will learn they can, and it will become intoxicating. Watch the discussion and find out what’s needed for Black safety.

Learning From Our New Mexico Partners

Earlier this month, Community Change and Community Change Action boards of directors convened in New Mexico for their first in-person meeting since 2019. During their time together, the boards met with two of our local partners, OLÉ and Somos, to take a dive into their work on the ground and our partnerships. OLÉ leaders, staff, and members spoke about the 10 years of organizing and strategizing in the lead-up to the 2022 early childhood education constitutional amendment they won in the state and the positive impact the amendment has already had on folks in the community. Somos leaders, staff, and members dug into their work on immigrant and workers’ rights in rural areas, specifically lifting up the extreme dangers to and exploitation of workers, often immigrants, in the booming oil and gas industry in New Mexico.




There Is A Lot Of Joy In What We Are Trying To Build

On this episode of the podcast Power Station, Community Change Chief of Programs Afua Atta-Mensah shares stories of community-based organizations across the nation that are building the relationships and policy solutions needed to make transformative change possible. We may not hear about these achievements on the nightly news, but we should.

America Is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own

“We once had ambitions about poverty abolition,” says Community Change Co-president Dorian Warren in the New York Times opinion piece “America is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own.” Read the full piece to learn how we could fund powerful anti-poverty programs through sensible tax reform and enforcement.

The Unsung Heroes of the American Economy: Grandmothers

Read about the role that grandmothers play as the unsung heroes of so many families across America and in the American economy.

Change Wire: This Tennessee Immigrant Rights Group Never Gave Up on Getting Justice for Meatpackers in Illegal Workplace Raid

Explore with us what organizers won five years after the news-breaking raid at a Tennessee meat packing plant. Community Change Senior Organizer Isaias Guerrero writes about how our grassroots partner Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC) worked from day one with the families affected. Finally, on February 27, 2023, a federal judge held a final approval hearing on a classwide settlement in a lawsuit challenging the raids. The settlement provided over $1 million to affected workers.