Ever since encountering the following quote from A. Philip Randolph—the founder and leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters for more than a generation—I have been impressed with its profound wisdom, wisdom that I believe applies to the struggle for justice for women as well: “Salvation for a race, nation, or class must come from within. Freedom is never granted; it is won. Justice is never given; it is exacted. Freedom and justice must be struggled for by the oppressed of all lands and races, and the struggle must be continuous, for freedom is never a final fact, but a continuing evolving process to higher and higher levels of human, social, economic, political and religious relationships.”
The #MeToo hashtag—referencing women’s experiences of sexual harassment and abuse—has recently reached roughly half the Facebook accounts in America.
on this development the senior politics editor at Yahoo News, Garance Franke-Ruta, noted that its consequences have just begun to unfold:
“And while some have criticized it as just another blip in
the viral outrage factory
, of sparking acts of
from men wanting to be seen as supportive and
from women who might otherwise prefer to be silent, it has begun to have real consequences offline. For the first time ever, there is a real solidarity around these questions. Not a performative solidarity — though that certainly exists — but the real solidarity that comes from hearing the stories of your real-life friends. Men are chiming in in shock, wondering what to do. And women are learning things about their female friends, their colleagues, even their relatives, they did not know before.”
Beyond the need for civility and compassion in the sphere of our immediate conduct as individuals toward other people, there is a need for civility and compassion in a society with its own brutalities and structural injustices. Some of these can be reached by governmental policies but others run deeper and will require a moral revolution in this country to begin to address.
The crisis of loneliness in our country, for example, especially among the elderly, and especially among elderly women, is largely beyond the reach of government, but no less important for that.
According to HUD data created during the Clinton Administration a 75-year-old woman in the United States has an eighty percent chance of living without relatives as she copes with chronic diseases. A 75-year-old man has an eighty percent chance of living with loved ones as he ages in place.
Social Security payments to women take no account of time spent in rearing children, or homemaking, and so would provide systematically lower assistance to most women relative to most men even if society guaranteed equal pay for equal work.
In 2017, the maximum of taxable earnings helping to sustain Social Security was $127,200. Removing this cap and taxing incomes above this would provide sufficient resources to strengthen the solvency of the system and allow for its expansion. This would benefit the elderly generally, and ultimately everyone in the society, but would especially benefit elderly poor women, many of whom are alone in particularly vulnerable circumstances.
Over two-thirds of nursing home patients are women, with even higher percentages occurring in rest homes. The Trump administration has recently repealed an Obama administration regulation that prevented nursing homes from insisting on binding arbitration of disputes as a condition for admission. This will make an already vulnerable population subject to mistreatment even more vulnerable and mistreated.
As a member of the House of Representatives, I would introduce legislation to make binding arbitration clauses in commercial contracts unenforceable. Increasingly, the “rules of the game” which are intended to insure fair treatment for all in the society are being corrupted by the power of money. Such binding arbitration clauses are a powerful example of a larger problem: the unwillingness of the 1% and its enablers to play by the rules and their determination, instead, to seek to rig the rules in their favor.
In an earlier newsletter, I advanced the idea of placing a 1% tax on short-term debt (debt with a maturity of less than a year) so as to diminish overleveraging of the kind that corporate giants indulged in before the Great Recession. I noted Luigi Zingales’ calculation that this tax could be expected to raise $21.5 billion dollars annually from the nine largest institutions alone. I favor busting up the “too big too fail,” but would retain this tax to help discourage excessive leveraging even after they are broken up. The monies raised, I suggested, could be used to begin to develop a national Montessori-style pre-K for all. Here, again, is a program that would eventually benefit everyone in society, but which would particularly benefit working moms and their children.
The strategy of seeking what government can do that is good for everyone in the society, but which will also particularly benefit those who need help most, was the strategy behind A. Philip Randolph’s
in the 1960s—the idea of a budget that would seek to finance progress toward social justice out of the resources of a growing economy and contribute to the further growth of that economy in its turn, and which Randolph argued could eliminate poverty in America within a decade.
I believe it is time for a Freedom Budget for the 21st century—a Freedom Budget for the poor, the working class, and the middle class. Such a budget will not, by itself, bring justice to the women of America, but it will help them in their struggle for justice and it will help the American people as a whole.