As we reflect on what the past year has meant for our families, it’s clear that President Obama’s policies are hitting women especially hard.
Since the president took office on January 20, about one million women have lost their jobs and today the unemployment rate among women is at the highest level in over 25 years. But perhaps most concerning of all, the president’s economic policies have severely harmed the small business community, which has traditionally been the part of our economy that propels us out of recession and is increasingly being used by women as a means of career advancement and financial independence.
According to the U.S. Census, women are starting new businesses at twice the rate of men and today 23 million Americans are employed by women-owned businesses. Unfortunately, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress are creating an uncertain economic environment in which small businesses lack the confidence to hire new workers. The Democrats’ $787 billion stimulus bill has raised investor fears that America will be unable to meet its debt obligations. Meanwhile, the president’s threats to enact a cap-and-trade law and impose a government takeover of America’s health care system have heightened anxiety among our entrepreneurial class — a class increasingly made up of women.
The health care reform bill, in particular, has created fear among women of all political persuasions. After all, women are responsible for most health care decisions and spend two out of every three health care dollars. The overwhelming majority of health care workers are women, including 95 percent of home health care workers, 90 percent of nurses, and the majority of first year medical students. In November, women around the country reacted fiercely when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women ages 40 to 49 should not be routinely screened with a mammogram for breast cancer. It seemed the federal government was telling young women to just roll the dice when it came to this deadly disease.
The truth is that mammography screening for women aged 40 and above is one of the major health care advances of the past 40 years. With the onset of mammography screening, the death rate from advanced breast cancer has decreased by 30 percent since 1990. That’s why the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure have made it clear they will not change their guidelines urging women to be screened starting at age 40.
We recently called together a bipartisan forum of women to discuss how the debate over health care affects them. Speakers included former Assistant Secretary of Defense Victoria C. Clarke, former New York Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey, former Congresswoman Susan Molinari,(R-NY), Mariam Atash Nawabi of AMDi International, and small businesswoman Amy Nichols, president and CEO of Dogtopia.
They agreed that the federal task force recommendation against breast cancer screening was a legitimate reason for millions of American women to be concerned about the government’s attempt to take over one-sixth of the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, as many of us predicted, the “recommendations” over mammograms are becoming mandatory. In California, the eligibility age for state-subsidized breast cancer screening has been raised from 40 to 50 by the state government, which will also temporarily stop enrollment in the breast cancer screening program.
For thousands of struggling women in California, the task force recommendations have quickly metastasized from a suggestion to an edict. We cannot allow that to happen to women in all 50 states. And that’s why stopping a federal takeover of health care is so essential.
If we can get the president to abandon his goal of seizing control of America’s health care system, we might be able to persuade him to start re-focusing on the economy. Specifically, that would mean abandoning his spend-and-borrow economic policies and putting small businesses, not Wall Street, at the top of his priority list.
For women, there is nothing more empowering than to own a small startup company like Dogtopia, or a new restaurant, or one of the hundreds of businesses being started by women every day. Women-owned small businesses are the fastest growing segment of the economy, an engine of job creation and prosperity. Yet that jobs engine has stalled out. The time has come for Washington to restart that engine, instead of overburdening it with new taxes and regulations.
With a new year upon us, let us recommit to giving American women an economy that creates jobs, strengthens small businesses, and leaves health care decisions in the hands of the women who know how to make them. If we do that, 2010 will be a better year for everyone.