Women are ready to fight

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Before I got to the Senate, I was a teacher and a researcher. I taught classes mostly about money: contract law, banking, bankruptcy – and I studied why working families were going broke.

Women are the main breadwinners, or joint breadwinners, in two-thirds of the families in America. And in my academic research, I uncovered some grim facts:

  • Having a child is the single best predictor that a woman will end up in financial collapse.
  • Single moms are more likely than any other group to file for bankruptcy – more likely than the elderly, more likely than divorced men, and more likely than people living in poor neighborhoods.
  • And in case you think I’m just talking about young single moms who dropped out of school, I’ll also point out: single moms who have been to college are actually 60% more likely to end up bankrupt than those with just a high school diploma.

So why was this happening? Why are women still getting slammed? The deck has been stacked against working women and moms for years. And with the Republicans in charge, it’s getting worse – a lot worse.

Young women are doing exactly what we urged them to do: They work hard, play by the rules, and now are attending college at a higher rate than men. But the cost of college is through the roof, and that means more and more women are struggling with tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt. So I want to stop here to make a policy point: the Republicans are blocking our bill to refinance student loans.

Once women get into the workforce, they still only make 78 cents to the dollar that her male colleague earns. African American and Latina women earn even less. And women can be fired just for asking what the guy down the hall makes. So let me stop to make another policy point:  The Republicans are blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act.

We know more about what it means to be a working mom.  Moms are ten times more likely than dads to take time off when their kids are sick, and 60% are not paid for that time off. Too many women fear losing their jobs because they are stuck having to choose between work or caring for someone they love. So let me stop again to make a policy point: The Republicans won’t even let us have a vote on paid sick time and family leave.  

And what about women who are struggling to make it paycheck to paycheck? Minimum wage workers haven’t gotten a federal raise in seven years, and today nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Mothers of very young children disproportionately work low-wage jobs in every state in the country. So let me stop to make another policy point: Republicans are blocking every effort to raise the federal minimum wage.

And what happens after a lifetime of work? Because women make less than men throughout their lifetimes, they receive, on average, about $4,000 less a year than men in Social Security benefits. This really hurts because women are less likely to have other assets, so they rely more heavily on those checks to keep them out of poverty. So I’m going to stop for another policy point: Republicans still threaten to cut Social Security for women and families.

I could keep going like this for hours, but you get the point: Across the board, issue by issue, women’s issues are economic issues, and women’s values are Democratic values.

Donald Trump was right about one thing: the game is rigged. It’s rigged for rich guys like Donald Trump. The system works great for those who can hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists, but it leaves women and families behind. A system in which Republicans work tirelessly to rip away health care from millions of women and defund Planned Parenthood health clinics, while giving away billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil. A system that cuts Head Start programs and NIH medical research, but protects tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations.    

For me, this is personal. Growing up, my family had a lot of ups and downs. My daddy sold fencing and carpeting at Montgomery Ward. When I was 12, he had a heart attack and the medical bills piled up. We lost our family station wagon, and we were about an inch away from losing our home. My mother, 50 years old, pulled on her best dress and walked to Sears to get a minimum wage job answering the phones. It saved our house, and it saved our family.

When my mother did that, it was a time in America that a minimum wage job would keep a family of three afloat. Today a full-time minimum wage job won’t keep a momma and a baby out of poverty. The policies we fight for matter. They matter to women, to families, to human beings all across this country. They are more than policies – they are the living embodiment of our values.

I truly believe that if we fight for those values – today and every day – we will win. I’m ready to right. Women are ready to fight. And America is ready to fight.

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