Sep 08 2010

Does the Obama Administration take Sexism and Women’s Votes Seriously?

That has been brought into question by the White House decision to accept Alan Simpson’s “apology” for his offensive ans sexist letter to Ashley Carson of the Older Women’s League. Donna L. Wagner, President of the Older Women’s League, sent a letter to President Barack Obama calling for Mr. Simpson to be “canned” and questioning the Obama Administration’s stand on sexism and sexual discrimination.

OWL’s members believe that choosing to keep Mr. Simpson as your co-chair sends a message that your Administration does not take sexism seriously and also that you are not concerned about Mr. Simpson’s views regarding Social Security. There are a number of occasions where racial discrimination appeared both within government and elsewhere, and where your Administration acted swiftly and appropriately to correct wrongdoing. Why is one form of discrimination any different from another?

As Jane Hamsher says, “Ouch”.

This is looking like a pattern of sexism in this White House. While the President has several women in his cabinet, only Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, can really be considered a close advisor with daily contact and immediate access. Yes, he has successfully appointed two women to the Supreme Court neither is really a liberal nor will be counsel to Mr. Obama.

Dawn Johnsen’s nomination, a more than qualified lawyer to head the Office of Legal Council, was left to languish for 14 months before she withdrew her name in frustration. The administration opined that her appointment was held up by holds from Republican and Blue Dog Senators but when Mr. Obama proceeded to make several recess appointments, Ms. Johnsen was not among them. Why?

Then there is that little matter of the President’s Economic Advisor, Larry Summers and his Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner and that now has the appearance of an “Old Boys Club”. Summers’ history of sexism is well known and the primary reason he was forced to resign as President of Harvard. The resignation of Christina Romer from the Council after her sage advice about the stimulus package size was completely eliminated from the report to the President, her access to the Oval office limited, as well as, testy clashes with Summers, is consistent with Mr. Summers’ past behavior towards women. Mr. Geithner doesn’t fare much better. His condescending exchanges with Elizabeth Warren during hearings by the Congressional Oversight Panel on TARP, are revealing in his contemptuous tone.

As has been pointed out by others this was not Timothy Geithner’s “first clash with women in power”.

One of his first acts in the role of Treasury Secretary was to attempt to push out FDIC Chairwoman Shelia Bair. As Rep. Barney Frank observed: “I think part of the problem now, to be honest, is Sheila Bair has annoyed the ‘old boys’ club…we have several regulators up in the tree house with a ‘no girls allowed’ sign…”

The other major problem the Obama Administration has is the recent passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which is a major set back for women’s reproductive rights and access to safe, affordable abortions. The bill allows states to ban on abortion coverage in private insurance exchanges which are already  restricted in various federal medical programs. Now President Obama is seeking to ban access to abortions in high risk pools that puts women with life threatening health issues at even greater risk should they need the procedure as a life saving measure.

Michelle Chen of Colorline pointed out that is even worse for poor, minority and immigrant women

According to Raising Women’s Voices, while the federal subsidies and Medicaid expansions will broaden women’s access to the mainstream health care system, the new benefits come at the expense of reproductive health for the most vulnerable:

   * Women on Medicaid and those who will become eligible for Medicaid in 2014 will not be able to use their coverage for abortion services in most cases, except in the circumstances stated above, or if they live in one of the 17 states that use state-only dollars to provide abortion coverage under Medicaid.

   * Low-income women receiving care at Community Health Centers still will not be able to receive federally-subsidized abortion services, making it more difficult for CHCs to provide this care.

   * New funding for ineffective abstinence-only sex education. Title V, the federal abstinence-only-until-marriage program is resuscitated and given $50 million a year for five years.

Additionally, immigrants, regardless of legal status, will continue to face discriminatory restrictions under the pending health reforms. This includes a five-year mandatory wait to qualify for federal Medicaid services for green card holders, along with a total ban for undocumented women.

The health care system is at the cusp of major changes in the coming years, delivering a mix of help and hurt. But for the women whose reproductive health needs have always been ignored in Washington, the biggest change they’ll see could be from bad to worse.

These men and polices are supported by the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress. If the President and the Democrats expect Independent, Liberal, and moderate Republican women to continue to vote for them, this isn’t the way to get their votes.

h/t to Jane Hamsher @ FDL

Glenn Greenwald @ Salon

Michelle Chen @ Colorlines

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