"THE FEDERAL BUDGET is an every person issue," says economist Nancy Gordon "but there are some parts of it that impact more on women than on men."
Gordon is executive director of President Carter's Interdepartmental Task Force on Women, a group be appointed to ensure that federal policy is examined and questioned to find out its impact on women. Gordon says inflation affects women more than men and she says that women have a real stake in Carter's anti-inflationary programs.
"it seems to me that there's an increasing awareness," she says. "There's a greater interest on women's part in political decisions of all kinds," she says. "Women are becoming aware that no matter how important being a mother is to them, there are these other factors in life are also important."
"low-income people have less ability to adjust to increase in prices, especially increases in prices of necessities such as housing, medical care, food, energy, such as we're seeing now. The poorer you are, the harder it is to adjust. Women are much more likely to be poorer than men."
Women have a greater stake in inflation, she says, because unchecked inflation can lead to a recession and unemployment. Unemployment rates for women are already higher than those for men and women will be harder hit by seniority-based layoffs in certain occupations they are now beginning to enter.
"two groups that are more severely affected by inflation are those on fixed incomes and those with assets of fixed value and there are more women than men in both categories," she says.
"my concern is that inflation is really a severe problem for women and women need to get behind efforts to control inflation even though it means we may have to control temporary new programs. If we don't do that, we may be in worse shape."
Gordon says there is a increasing number of "sophisticated women in policy making positions with the federal government" and there is an increasing awareness that federal programs should be analyzed for their impact on women. A similar awareness is growing on Capitol Hill as women members of Congress and women's lobbying groups analyze the Federal Budget as a women's issue.
Women U.S.A., a new lobbying group that wants to represent the unorganized women on issues that affect them, has prepared a list of programs that Congress is now acting on that affect women far more than men. It is a list that argues persuasively that there are big bucks in women's programs and that women ought to pay attention to what is happening to them.
Congress, for example, is being asked to consider $220 million for family planning services, including teen-age pregnancy programs, for 1979 and 1980.According to a fact sheet prepared by Women U.S.A. for its lobbying activities, Congress is being asked to approve cuts that amount to $31.6 million in the Maternal and Child Health programs, which are now funded at $406.6 million.
Women U.S.A. wants funding for the Women's Education Equity Act, which seeks to overcome discrimination in school programs, raised from $10 million to $60 million. It wants to maintain Head Start funding levels of $680 million for 1979 and $700 million for 1980.
It wants Congress to continue providing funds for displaced homemaker centers and to enact legislation providing $65 million for shelters and services for battered women. Women U.S.A. has also taken a look at proposed administration cuts in the social security and welfare programs. The lobbying group is saying that more women are involved in both of these programs than men, and that means that what happens to these programs are women's issues.
Most of the programs that affect women more than men are human resource and social welfare programs. And these, says Patricia Schroeder, (D-Colo.), "are the kinds of programs that are always so easy to come after" by congressional budget cutters. There is, she says, "a constant offense" against programs such as family planning services, help for victims of domestic violence, school lunch programs.
"and there's day care, of course. If you cut the subsidy for day care, you just force the mothers back on welfare, which is more expensive. The number of licensed day-care slots for the number of mothers working is just outrageous," she said. According to Labor Department data, less that 5 percent of working mothers have their children cared for in organized day-care centers.
"the thing that's so frustrating," says Schroeder who is a member of the Armed Services Committee, "is you go down and you fight for 2 or 3 million here or 10 million there and it's like pulling teeth. But during a defense debate if you drop an eyelash, you miss a billion."
Schroeder believe that the Federal Budget has emerged as a women's issue because "we have more of an awareness. We pay the same amount of taxes men pay and yet there are many things we weren't included in. There were military academies we couldn't get into, job training programs that had discrimination. For years there were no women Fulbright scholars. Overseas aid programs didn't include women. We're more aware that we, too are contributing equally and yet we're not getting equal treatment for equal dollars."
The Federal Budget is complicated, often boring reading. It takes hard work to understand what's going on in a process that some of the people directly involved don't even understand. There was a time when economic changes created by the budget deeply affected some groups such as farmers, but only marginally affected the rest of us. That time, clearly, has passed.
"i think we've gotten more realistic," says Schroeder. She believes women now understand that federal money is tight, budgets are being cut here and across the country and women can no longer depend on others to protect their interests. "it's a maturing process," she says, a maturing of the women's movement. "we've moved beyond moaning and groaning and now we're siting down and doing tough analysis as to where the real problems are."