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MAKE A DIFFERENCE: VOTE

by Betty Soldz

Tuesday, November 2nd, will make a difference in your life. If you are one of the 22 million unmarried women who, according to the Census Bureau, didn’t vote in the 2000 election, you may help set this country on a new course if you vote in 2004. If you are a woman who didn’t vote because you didn’t think your vote would make a difference, we now know it would have.

There are many reasons why this year’s election is so important to women. I would like to suggest some of the important reasons to vote and some repercussions of this decision.

Health Insurance costs are skyrocketing out of reach. Many women work part-time or in low paying jobs which have no health insurance coverage. The number of women in this position is increasing. Also, more women could find themselves without health insurance as the result of the Administration’s plan to “restructure” Medicaid.

The Bush administration is trying to dismantle Medicare, one of the best run programs in the country. Women who are covered by Medicare were recently offered pharmaceutical coverage which turned out to be a farce. In the US we pay more for our prescriptions than people in any other country. Yet the price of our drugs continues to soar and the Administration refuses to do anything about their cost We need the government to pass a bill that authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for better prices on medicines. The new Medicare bill passed by this administration prohibits such negotiations. Unless we elect people who will work for affordable healthcare, fewer and fewer Americans will have healthcare coverage or the medicines they need. Remember, healthcare is a right. We can make it happen.

Stem Cell research could make life much better for millions of Americans. It is believed that stem cell research may make life better for those who have or will have Alzheimer's, Parkinson’s and numerous other debilitating and incurable diseases. The Bush administration wants to limit stem call research to the lines already in existence. We are all entitled to our beliefs but they shouldn’t hurt others. Stem cell research should be increased, not hindered, as it is now. If we change the administration of this country we will be able to move this research forward and possibly alleviate the suffering of many.

The Bush administration has cut the taxes for the richest 2 % in the country and has plans to cut them even more if returned to the White House. We now have the largest deficit in our history. What does this mean? It means that this debt will need to be paid for years to come. It means less social services and healthcare for those in need . It means we will be leaving a huge debt for our children and grandchildren to pay. It probably means cuts in the amount of social security the youngest of us will receive, as well as our children and probably our grandchildren.

If we return the administration to office President Bush has told us they will begin tinkering with Social Security which is the financial bedrock of women’s retirement income. Social Security is a woman’s issue because women comprise 58 percent of Social Security beneficiaries over age 65 and 71 percent of those at age 85. President Bush would eviscerate our current Social Security system by privatizing it .The Administrations plan would take some of the money workers pay into the Social Security system and divert it into individually owned accounts: individuals would bear some of the risk for how their investments perform. Women in particular would be hurt by the plan. Because women earn less than men they retire poorer and Social Security is the protection they rely on chiefly for protection against poverty. They cannot risk their one protection against poverty in their elder years. President Bush’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security released a report in December 2001, setting out three proposals for changes. All of the proposals, however, imperil the long-term financial stability of Social Security. They all cut the defined benefits for future retirees.

Another problem today is the lack of jobs. If we continue to send jobs overseas and we don’t create more jobs in this country, women will have less to raise their families on and even less to save for their retirement. The Administration says it is creating jobs but what they don’t tell you is that most of those are low paying jobs in the service sector. You can not support a family if you are earning $7.00 or $8.00 an hour and most likely you are not receiving any benefits. We must vote in an Administration that will create good jobs with healthcare coverage.

If we do not vote, the administration will be able to continue damaging our environment: our air, water and wilderness. Carbon Dioxide emissions cause climate changes to our environment which will cause more of us to suffer from air pollution. Instead of searching for alternative fuels this administration will destroy our land by drilling for more oil and continue to fight in places like Iraq to protect oil.

The war in Iraq was started under false pretenses. As I write this, nearly 1,030 American young men and women have died in Iraq . Nearly 20,000 of our women and men have been wounded, some of them grievously. They are our children, our sisters and brothers, our friends. How many more will die? How many innocent Iraqi women and children will die. How much more respect will we lose throughout the world because of this war? We must show how we feel about this war by how we vote.

Whoever the next President is, he will be able to appoint at least two Supreme Court Justices. Do you want two right wing Justices appointed to the Supreme Court? Women’s reproductive rights are being taken away by the Bush Administration-backed laws criminalizing abortion and giving the rights and status of “personhood” to fetuses and embryos. Medical research is being undermined and scientific information distorted to serve an anti-abortion and anti-family planning agenda. This is an important reason women must vote.

American women fought and sacrificed for many decades to achieve the right to vote. Now women have the responsibility to be educated voters and utilize that right. I have given you just a few of the many reasons to vote and some of the repercussions of not voting. I hope you will honor those women who fought throughout their lifetime to give women the right to vote. Voting together women can make this a better country and help protect the hard fought gains women have made over many years.

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