Recent reports from around the country indicate that women, and especially poor and minority women, are suffering harder than ever before as the result of the policies of Republican and Republican Lite politicians over the the past two decades.

From New York (Use caution – .pdf file):

Women in New York State fare worse economically than they did in 1989, according to The New York Women’s Foundation’s (NYWF®) new report, The Economic Status of Women in New York State.

The report, researched and authored by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), examines how women in New York State fare in two areas: employment and
earnings and social and economic autonomy. While the report finds substantial potential for women’s economic progress, it also depicts a stark and alarming portrait of poverty in a wealthy society, particularly for women of color.

“We are deeply troubled by the growing gap between the rich and poor in our state. It is unacceptable that in such a resource-rich environment thousands of women and families live in poverty. If we are to eradicate poverty, we need to come together to identify and
support lasting solutions,” said Foundation President and CEO Ana L. Oliveira.

According to the report, women in New York are more likely to live in poverty than their national counterparts (15.2% versus 12.7% of women nationally), placing the state at 40th in the nation on this indicator and down from 30th in 1989. The picture of poverty in New York becomes bleaker when one considers the inadequacy of the official poverty measure.

From Iowa:


Poor women in Iowa are much more likely to suffer from postpartum depression than their wealthier counterparts, a new University of Iowa study shows.

In the study of 4,332 new mothers from four Iowa counties, UI psychologist Lisa Segre found that 40 percent of Iowa mothers with a household income less than $20,000 suffered from clinically significant postpartum depression. In contrast, only 13 percent of new mothers with a household income of $80,000 or more were considered clinically depressed. […]

“Women who are poor already have a lot of stress, ranging from poor living conditions to concerns about paying the bills. The birth of an infant can represent additional financial and emotional stress, and depression negatively impacts the woman’s ability to cope with these already difficult circumstances.”

From the University of Chicago:

The cause of low birth weights among African-American women has more to do with racism than with race, according to a report by an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“If there were such a thing as a (pre-term birth) gene, you would expect the African women to have the lowest birth weights,” David said. “But the African and white women were virtually identical,” with significantly higher birth weights than the African-American women, he said.

The researchers did a similar analysis of births to black Caribbean women immigrants to the United States and found they gave birth to infants hundreds of grams heavier than the babies of U.S.-born black women.

For black women, “something about growing up in America seems to be bad for your baby’s birth weight,” David said.

Another argument against a genetic cause is that children of American black women rate higher for all the major causes of death in the child’s first year.

“Genetic diseases pop up at random in different (racial) populations,” David noted. “But one group is taking all the hits. If this were a genetic problem it wouldn’t fit that pattern.” […]

One reason African-American mothers have babies who weigh less at birth is that they are at greater risk for such conditions as high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

Also, minority women are subject to stress caused by perceived racial discrimination, the researchers said.

From Save the Children:

American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found. […]

“The United States has more neonatologists and neonatal intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but its newborn rate is higher than any of those countries,” said the annual State of the World’s Mothers report.

From the Department of Medicine and Pediatrics, Washington University:

Women who resided in states with the highest income inequality (odds ratio=0.80; 95% CI: 0.73 – 0.89) and women who lived in states with the lowest levels of investment in community infrastructures were less likely to be screened for breast cancer than their counterparts. The association with income inequality remained (odds ratio=0.76; 95% CI: 0.64 – 0.90) while controlling for all individual-level variables and those representing community infrastructures, resources, goods and services. The effects of income inequality were most pronounced among women whose income was less than $25,000 (odds ratio=0.70; 95% CI: 0.64 – 0.90).

What does all this mean? It should be pretty obvious. Everywhere you look women are suffering as a result of the policies that Republicans and Conservatives have promoted over the past 30 years and to which some on the Democratic party have also subscribed: less government investment in human services and greater tax relief for the wealthiest Americans. And the women suffering the most are poor and minority women, and their children.

Frankly, I don’t know how much an Obama adminsitration can accomplish to turn these disparities in income, life expectancy and health outcomes around, nor do I know if these trends can be reversed if he is elected. I do know that John McCain is proposing to continue the same policies, and even expand them (such as his call for even more tax benefits for the wealthy), which have led to our national decline. Where once we had the one of the greatest life expectancies across the board, now we are declining rapidly. Where once we had a vibrant middle class that allowed women to receive opportunities that had historically been denied to them, now we have an incredibly shrinking middle class, with ever mounting pressures on those at the bottom of the income scale, a bottom predominantly populated by women.

I see the anger in many, many women at what they perceive to be an injustice done to the candidate with whom they identified most strongly this year, Hillary Clinton. One can debate the justification for that anger and outrage all you want, but that doesn’t seem a productive use of our time, in my opinion. The anger is real for many women. They believe their candidate was shafted and denied the nomination because of her gender, and there is no question that Hillary Clinton endured a tremendous amount of sexism (as well as anti-Clinton backlash) in her run for the Presidency. I’m not going to deny their pain or claim that I know for certain that they are wrong in blaming Senator Clinton’s loss on the sexism she faced in the media and elsewhere.

What I am going to argue, however, is that a vote for John McCain will do nothing to help the millions of women who are suffering today, as we speak, because of of a lack of decent health care, good jobs, racism and poverty. Quite the contrary. Votes for McCain only increase the odds that these women and their children will suffer even more over the next four years, since a President McCain will be able to prevent the passage of much legislation that might provide them some degree of assistance and alleviate some of their suffering. If you think John McCain will do anything more than throw the occasional symbolic bone to his female supporters, I have to respectfully suggest that you are deluding yourself.

So the question becomes this for those who would protest Senator Clinton’s defeat by voting for the known misogynist Republican candidate, Senator McCain: what matters most to you? Revenge against Barack Obama for what you see as his and the Democratic Party’s actions in denying Senator Clinton her rightful place as President, or the ability to pass legislation through Congress, and have it signed into law, which might actually do some good for the millions of women and children living near or below the poverty line thanks to decades of neglect by politicians in both parties who, for one reason or another, allowed conservative policies and proposals to be implemented?

I know what the compassionate, reasoned answer to that question should be.

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