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AAUW: Congress needs to protect middle class from collapsing

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POTSDAM - The American Association of University Women (AAUW) urges the member of Congress to get on with the work of adopting a budget that protects women and families.

Congress has returned from its long summer recess facing the looming deadline of September 30 to adopt a budget or the federal government risks going into “shutdown” mode. Shutting down the government is no more of solution to our national fiscal needs that was sequestration.

While these are difficult times to prepare a federal budget, domestic spending has already been significantly cut to reduce the deficit. Unless Congress acts, the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration will continue throughout the next decade.

Sequestration has real impacts: In the last year alone, school districts across the country have lost $3 billion in federal education funding. This cut has meant larger class sizes, elimination of after-school programs, fewer Head Start seats, fewer teachers, and fewer resources for kids who need the most help.

Even worse, the damage will only grow each year that sequestration continues, as will cuts to other important programs such as cancer screenings, services for domestic violence survivors, federal funding for low-income schools, and food assistance programs for women and children.

These are difficult time for most Americans, as well. The gulf between the richest 1 percent and the rest of America hasn’t been this great since the Roaring ’20s. The very wealthiest Americans earned more than 19 percent of the country’s household in¬come last year — their biggest share since 1928, the year before the stock market crash. And the top 10 percent captured a rec¬ord 48.2 percent of total earnings last year. US income inequality has been growing for al¬most three decades.

The American middle class is on the verge of collapse. The class that once helped the U.S. economy grow and prosper is coming apart at the seams. They are not buying or spending like they used to and the collapse of the housing market has taken a devastating toll on them. American families have stopped buying at middle level retail stores and moved to low-end retailers like Dollar General.

For more than 10 years now, since 2000, the real disposable income per capita in the U.S. economy (adjusted for inflation) has been declining. A vibrant middle class depends on good jobs that are plentiful and rising incomes – both have all but disappeared.

Congress has the power to act. Congress must adopt budget policies that further the principles of fairness and fiscal responsibility and protect women and their families.

Membership in the St. Lawrence County Branch, founded in 1927, is open to anyone who supports the mission of AAUW: Advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

For more information about AAUW in St. Lawrence County, contact President Jennifer Ball at 268- 4208 or jball@clarkson.edu or Public Policy Chair Kathleen Stein at 386-3812, kstein1@twcny.rr.com, or visit the branch website, http://www.northnet.org/stlawrenceaauw/index.html.

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