The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel describes the effects the Trump budget proposal will have for women. Ivanka Trump’s parental leave program will not make a dent in the damage
Sharmini Peries: It’s The Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The budget proposal that the Trump administration released this week has many women’s organizations outraged. One of the reasons is that budget cuts would reduce Medicaid by about 47%, food stamps by 25%, and welfare by 13%. These are the programs that women who are the backbone of their family benefit from, from managing their households with children and particularly poor women. Also, the Trump administration has eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood and institute a global gag order or gag rule that defunds international NGOs if they provide abortions or abortion advice. However, Trump’s proposal does include a modest provision for a six-week parental leave program. This is something that the Trumps’ daughter Ivanka Trump has been championing. On to talk about the effects of the Trump budget cuts on women is Katrina vanden Heuvel. Katrina is editor and publisher of The Nation magazine. She has also recently written a column for The Washington Post, which is actually a regular column that she provides to The Washington Post on a weekly basis, and the article this week is titled “Trump Escalates the War on Women.” This article can also be found on thenation.com. Katrina, thank you so much for joining us today. Katrina V.: Thank you for having me on. Sharmini Peries: Katrina, as I mentioned, several of the Trump budget cuts that have a particularly strong impact on women, if these provisions were to pass Congress, and at this time it is uncertain that it will actually come to be passed, but what overall impact would it have if it did pass? Katrina V.: Horrific, cruel rolling back civilizing, human, economic rights that women have fought very hard for in these last decades. I was struck the other day that even the leader of the Freedom Caucus, the Tea Party Caucus opposed Donald Trump trying to cut Wheels on Meals, a food program for elderly people, many of them women. So I think we’re looking at a war, a war on the well-being, on the security, the real security, the economic security, the health security of women. I’m hoping that at least a younger generation steps up, stands up and begins to protest and speak out, and that some of those who voted for Trump, let’s not forget that many women who voted for Trump voted for Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012, that they begin to see that their real lived experience is going to be brutish, perhaps shorter mean if they don’t find their way to oppose Trump and Republicans who seem to want to take back the rights, as I said, of women. Sharmini Peries: Katrina, what about the long-term effects of something like these austerity measures on the population in general? Whenever the population is suffering, women suffer the most. But what are the long-term effects of this? Katrina V.: You mentioned, I think, Medicaid. Well, you mentioned the budget. Let’s not forget the other big piece of legislation is this healthcare legislation. In the attempt to eviscerate Medicaid, low-income poor people, people of color, women will be hit especially hard. It will hurt states which are already being squeezed by American austerity, American carnage of a real kind. I do think there’s the possibility of some pragmatism, some moderate Republican governors, for example, or even senators who see how horrifically short-sighted this is, how it will hurt the very people who support that, so their self-interest. So I think we need to keep an eye on that, and I think we need to keep an eye … Again, I begin my column by quoting a young woman, Deja Foxx, 16 years old, Latino in Arizona at one of the town halls, which have been raucous and spirited, confronting her senator, Jeff Flake. She says, “I’m a woman of color, a young woman, 16 years old, and you’re a White man, privileged, and you’re going to defund and take away Planned Parenthood funding? My reproductive health care?” I take heart in her standing up because I think what we’re witnessing is the reengagement of millions of people who’ve been shafted before but aren’t going to take it anymore. We need people to speak up and stand out and stand up against this austerity, this cruel, cruel austerity being inflicted, as you said so well, not just on women. The women hold up half the sky. Women’s right are human rights. Women often are the canary in the coal mine, first hurt, and are often the spine of their families and communities. So I think it’s a really ugly moment, but people are waking up. Sharmini Peries: Right. Katrina, the gag rule that’s been applied to NGOs doing abortion services or abortion counseling, and these are international organizations, so it’s not only affecting us women here in the United States, but it’s affecting many women across the world. Talk about the impact this is having on these programs, these organizations and, of course, the women. Katrina V.: It’s beginning to be rolled out, but the scope and the scale of it, Sharmini, is so horrific. If you think about George W. Bush imposing a global gag rule, it was of the scale of about 600 million. Trump’s global gag rule will maybe $9 billion. What it means is more women around this world will die because it ties into not just abortions but family planning, contraception, keeping women secure. So all this talk about the “Let’s relaunch and refight the War on Terror” when you have women dying from the terrorism being inflicted by Trump rolling back something that is needed by millions of women, not just in this country but around the world, as you said. I think it’s part of what’s going on … I saw today the United Nations, however flawed, has very important programs for women and women’s health and refugee help, and the Trump administration like so many Republican administrations before, but this even on a bigger scale, is trying now to defund some of those programs. We’re witnessing not only an attack and assault on women in this country but an attack globally on women. Sharmini Peries: Right. Katrina, tell us about the maternity leave or parental leave being proposed as a offer of peace to women. Is this significant? Katrina V.: To be honest, I have followed carefully the exciting number of pieces of legislation around this country being passed by city councils, state level to increase paid family leave, paid sick leave. My sense of what Ivanka Trump, who’s taking the lead on this, and the Trump administration is doing, is it’s a very kind of upper-middle class program. It doesn’t have the provisions that would really extend out to the full range of women and families in this country. So it’s kind of giving, but as you, Sharmini, described what I wrote in my column, how do you give in this arena but then take back so much, roll back so much? It’s very much window dressing. It’s very Ivankian. It’s very Trump Ivankian. So I’m suspicious, but I am for all the people watching you going out in their communities, cities, states to really push legislators to drive these family leave, sick leave policies. Sharmini Peries: Katrina, you eloquently said what this budget does is really evoke and outrage the women’s community enough to come out and fight back as they did during the Women’s March right after the inauguration. What do you think needs to happen next in terms of that movement? Katrina V.: I think the Women’s March, the largest political protest in U.S. history, was a powerful beginning, but I think … I was struck yesterday in New York state, a woman named Christine Pellegrino won in the 9th state assembly district in Long Island. It was a district that went for Trump big time, but she was a Bernie Sanders delegate. She spoke about corruption, she spoke about inequality, she spoke about women’s right as economic rights, and she won big. I think we’re going to see more women, we already are, deciding they want to step up and run for city council, for mayor, for Congress, and I think that’s really powerful and especially if it’s in alliance with some of the movements run by women and heavily organized by women. But I think women are getting involved in all kinds of ways, and it’s going to be around cities, communities, and states in this country, and also at the national level. Not just electoral but organizing, organizing, and giving voice to lived lives and to, I hate to say it, but to showing the damage, the destruction so that people see the need to fight for their rights and fight for these ways forward. Sharmini Peries: All right, Katrina, I thank you so much for joining us today, and I thank you for the good work that you are doing on behalf of all of us. Katrina V.: Thank you. Sharmini Peries: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.