By Betty Mills
On a list of issues concerned with the lives of women, the American Association of University Women analyzed critical votes by members of the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate in the first session (2011) of the 112th Congress. The legislation included campus safety, education, jobs (women make up 76 % of the teaching profession), the paycheck fairness act, reproductive health, and several bills concerned with the budget.
AAUW is hardly a gang of wild-eyed radicals. They are college educated women concerned about educational issues and the lives of women. The programs they tracked for this voting analysis had as their basis programs to “encourage students to pursue education from preschool to the university level, provide access to job training and health care, protect workers against discrimination and help elderly Americans stay in their homes.”
For example, they point out that one of the proposals approved by the Republicans would make big cuts in the Pell grants for college students, noting that in 2007-2008, 66 percent of the students qualifying for Pell grants were women. Given increased tuition and the necessity of more than a high school diploma to get a well paying job, Pell grants can be the vital link for many women.
North Dakota’s two Republicans in Congress, Senator Hoeven and Congressman Berg, voted against AAUW’s position on every one of the measures listed – across the board – nothing but negative voting on legislation important to women. How strange, unless of course they are simply voting according to a Republican game plan which, sadly, does not include protecting and improving the lives of women.
If so, why bother for these men to have offices anywhere? All they need is an internet connection to the voting machinery of Congress. Then when the Republican bosses say “Vote,” they can punch the proper keys and save taxpayers the expense of offices, secretaries, salaries , health care benefits, etc.
It’s both dismaying and eerie to see that straight negative line march across the chart. Is that really what voters had in mind when they voted to send these men to represent us in the U. S. Congress? That they should just vote according to some Republican power base that may or may not have anything to do with the lives of the citizens back home?
We are noted for a certain independence of attitude here on the great plains. Have our Republican congressional representatives somehow bought into the political and economic game plans of people who have most likely never set foot on a hunk of prairie grass, or given even an idle moment of thought to the availability of adequate health care in sparsely populated areas of the country or know why North Dakota banks didn’t endanger their stockholders while some of the big boys went belly up?
Congressman Berg even signed the Grover Nordquist pledge never to vote for increased taxes. Nordquist has a very broad notion of what is a tax increase and a one track mind about what is good for the country. He recently toured North Dakota campaigning for a lower oil tax, claiming otherwise the oil companies might leave. I made a trip last week through the oil patch in North Dakota and have a hunch Mr. Nordquist needs to clean his crystal ball. Who voted for him in North Dakota anyway to give him control of the votes of our Congressman?
What happens if you cross the power boys, a.k.a Nordquist? They march into your electoral district with millions of dollar to see that you are defeated in the primary. And now that the Supreme Court has so misguidedly taken the restrictions and the disclosure equirements off corporate spending in political campaigns, that’s motivation in its rawest political form to do what the big boys say even if you’re not sure who they are.
Those who pay attention to stuff like political corruption claim that the old fashioned political bribery is pretty much gone –those big bags of cash that used to be delivered before a vote. But dig deep into your notion of ethics and is this just bribery in an updated form?
The current Republican anti-woman attitude illustrated by the AAUW compilation is particularly dismaying, proving among other reasons that we need to have more women elected to government because it does make a difference.
By their life experience, their motivations, their understanding of the critical issues affecting our lives, most women have a different take on what matters by way of government that many men miss, or even more dismaying, dismiss.
Since North Dakota’s has become the second largest oil producer in the 50 states, big benefits and big problems naturally follow. Now more than ever we could use representatives in Congress
(Betty Mills has been a newspaper columnist in Bismarck for 26 years.)