Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Women & the Economic Crisis: Getting Beyond the Corporate Media Narrative

Abby Scher, sociologist and editor of Public Eye, the quarterly magazine of Political Research Magazine.

It opens the question of what stories do we tell? The structural and personal stories need to be bridged. How do we educate ourselves so that we can be more knowledgeable when we write about economics?

Julia Hollar, managing editor of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting's magazine, Extra!
Susan Feiner, professor of Economics and director of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine.
Darlene Lombross, Sisters for Action in Power, documentary film-maker, made a doc about the Filipina women's movement

Julia: FAIR is a media watchdog group that advocates for a greater diversity of voices in the media. Our analysis of the MSM is that it is pro-corporate and pro-status quo. The liberal media is a myth that the right likes to propagate. Journalists tend to lean to the left on social issues and to the right on economic issues. What journalists believe isn't all that relevant to what is published. The idea of journalism is that you're supposed to be a conduit of information without injecting your opinions. We measure media bias by sources: the people that get to say their opinion in the media. Who gets to talk on these issues? Study after study it skews very heavily white, male, government officials and corporate representatives. On economic issues that skew is even greater.

On PBS NewsHour, economic segments during a six month study, 1/3 of sources were women. Almost 1/2 of female sources were in one segment about Walmart. Remove that one and only 1 in 5 sources were female and they were all white.

There's corporate ownership and sponsorship that is fundamentally invested in continuing the economy as it is: a capitalist economy where women and people of color are increasingly marginalized. What we see in stories today is talk about what the government is doing for corporations. There is a lot of coverage of the stock market: this idea that the Dow Jones Industrial average is an opinion poll. For someone like Chris Matthews, the stock market is probably a big issue but for most citizens it isn't as immediately relevant.

Health care is a huge economic issue and a huge women's issue. Single-payer would be a huge benefit for women but it's basically off the table for most corporate media. There were hundreds of stories about health care before Obama's summit, but there were only 5 advocates quoted. You were more likely to hear an anti-single payer person bring it up as a bogey man than hear a pro-single payer quoted.

The coverage of the economic stimulus: Rep Baynard came out and said the reproductive health provision would cost millions for abortion and that was picked up and run by MSM outlets without questioning it. That caused the Democrats to pull the provision out of the bill, without ever questioning the validity of his statement: it was a completely fabricated talking point.

Susan: I want to talk about taxes. The MSM and corporations have hijacked the discussion about tax reform. "Middle class" and "middle income" do not match up. Middle 20% of income is $25-40,000. State taxes are very regressive: the lower your income, the higher % of income you pay in taxes. If we wanted to help lower and middle income people, we would go to state and local legislatures and demand that they make the tax structure progressive and fair by removing the burden from sales taxes. We certainly don't hear much discussion of this. The idea of tax burden being different depending on your income level is wrong.

Corporate Watch has a website that will show you how to investigate what sort of tax give-aways the corporations in your state are receiving. David K. Johnston's Free Lunch gives info on how to do this research.

2/3 of tax units pay more in payroll tax than income tax. If you're trying to do stories on women's economic status, you must understand payroll tax. They've becoming massively more regressive over the last 30 years.

Payroll taxes come out of your paycheck automatically that you have no say over. They have 2 components: there's the part that comes out of your paycheck and then there's a portion that the employer pays supposedly on your behalf. The amount that's put on your employer is really put on you in the form of lower wages.

5 line items on the worker share: (this is very American and the tax structure is different in Canada and Europe)

Social Security tax: 6.2% of all earnings up to $94,000. On your whole income. If you earn $180,000, you only pay 6.2 on the first $94K and nothing on the rest of your income. This is called a single-income bias: if each partner earns $90K, you pay 6.2% on all income, but if the income is earned by one person, you pay 3% tax.

Medicare contribution: 8.3% of employee earnings (employer also pays 8.3%, which they pass through in

Estimated federal income tax and estimated state income tax are taken out.

Your public library always has tax helpers there, don't go to H&R Block, it's a rip off.

What the employer pays that you don't see is an unemployment tax. The federal government sets the guidelines for unemployment insurance and then the states do whatever the hell they want. Unemployment insurance is paid for out of state pools. 6.2% of the first $7,000 is taxed. What each employer pays per worker per year on average is $56. Rather than get an income tax refund, a payroll tax holiday for the next 6 months would immediately give you more money to spend. Cutting taxes is always skewed upward because income taxes are not really collected on low-income workers.

There is a burden on women journalists to expose how lop-sided this issues is.

Taxes are a Women's Issue: Reframing the Debate by Mimi Abramovitz and Sandra Morgen
Taxing Women, by Edward McCaffrey - more of a Nerve book. more for people who like the details.

Another important thing to remember: dividends are not taxed the way payroll is. So wealth created from capital, which is skewed male, is another area of discrimination.

Darlene: I'm an organizer. I'm the co-director of Community Labor United. I feel like one of the roles of an organizer is getting information out to the community. We work in the Greater Boston area to address the growing gap between the rich and the poor. We're seeing very extreme wealth and extreme poverty. It's the greatest gap since the Great Depression. CEO's make 344 times middle-class workers and 866 times minimum wage.

Blackstone CEO makes $400K an hour.

Massachusetts is the 2nd worst gap between rich and poor in the country (NY is first).

Kirball Institute looked at opportunity structures in various neighborhoods across the country. 90% of African Americans and Latinos and 55% of Asians live in low-opportunity neighborhoods: access to schools, health care, etc.

United for a Fair Economy (and others) stats:
Foreclosures and predatory lending has led to the biggest loss of wealth for people of color ever. Up to $213 billion loss of wealth for African-Americans and Latinos. 3 times more likely to have a predatory loans, women 33% more likely to have a predatory loans, 66% of black women's loans are predatory.

The face of the Montgomery bus boycotts could not be a Claudette Colvin, 15-year old pregnant girl. The Women's Political Council decided to choose Rosa Parks as the face of the boycotts because she was more media-friendly face. See this overview of the boycotts. The point is that activist history is silenced and individuals are remembered as the only creators of change in history.

Be strategic about which images to put out to the media. Not to sugar-coat the issue, but to create a face for the issue who does not incite backlash. Can't put the black woman, single mother up front in corporate media. Older blind man taking care of his sister was chosen as the face of the campaign which led to an important victory with Fannie Mae changing the way homeowners are being worked with. This work was done with City Life Vida Urbana: tenants' rights organization.

Community Labor United is organizing the Green Justice Coalition. Coalition of unions, environmental organizations, and environmental justice organizations to talk about green justice. How resources have been extracted from communities of color or waste facilities placed in communities of color. What we're doing is trying to make sure that the dollars that put into dealing with the climate and unemployment crises are accessible to poor communities.

Women in unions have a higher access to health insurance and pensions than women who have 4-year degrees. Because of the shift from manufacturing to service industry in the US, unions are now 45% women.

We are talking about sustainability in its broadest sense. We're talking about power relationships: an important opportunity to change power relationships and utilizing what will be the largest influx of government funding into the economy for dealing with justice and equity issues in our communities.

Abby: Employee Free Choice Act: a union-created name. Libertarian language to win people over to say if 51% of employees sign cards saying they want to be in the union that employers must accept the union.

Unions are not making the alliances that they should. They were really caught off guard by the backlash. They lost Sen Arlen Specter. The person who did the best reporting on this issue was Laura Flanders on Grit TV:


  • This article is very timely and relevant. As I quote Cameron Muir, an economist, "Home sales are unlikely to fall much further..That being said we expect home sales not to decline much further."

    But it's never too late, with the right business plan set up, it will lead to valuable outcome. This is what most counselors would give as an advise.

    By Anonymous COACHING BY PETER, at 6:31 PM  

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