The Sum Volume #3: Don’t Shhhh Me!

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis. Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt.

The Sum of this week is voice.

To put a positive spin on it, we’ve had many examples of the power of a woman’s voice.

It started last Sunday during the Tony Awards, when best actress in a musical, Bette Midler, kept speaking her piece long after the escalating music signaled she should get off the stage. She took her time, thanked the women who came before her, and imperiously waved the orchestra off, declaring she had the floor. The way she took her time and space to make her voice heard felt outrageous and liberating at the same time. Her assertive presence must have made Amy Cuddy proud.

We’re accustomed to seeing women engage not by such screeching vehicular feats of daring, but equally intense though too often silent tests of their personal agency. Cultural norms die hard. May this one rest in peace.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #3: Don’t Shhhh Me!”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Sum Volume #2

“The first responsibility of leadership is the creation of meaning.”—Warren Bennis. Welcome to the Sum, where I share my take on the meaning of sum of the week’s parts. I want your voice too. Leave comments here or @GloriaFeldt.

It’s about power this week.

Of course with me, every day of every week I’m obsessed with women’s relationship with power.  That’s because it’s so central to the decisions women make to aim for those higher salaries and leadership positions, elective offices, and grander entrepreneurial ventures – or not. The relationship is so profound, it’s almost spiritual, and often fraught with ambivalence.

The news of the week reveals the two kinds of power I talk and teach about as the basis for changing the power paradigm: power over versus power TO.

Continue reading “The Sum Volume #2”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Boston Leads the Metropolis Charge to Erase Gender Wage Gap

Boston Women InitiativeEinstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Every year, we hear the same report, that women make 77 cents to men’s dollar. Sometimes 78, but basically, we get the same handwringing commentary and nothing changes. In fact, Catalyst just released its 2013 census reporting that there is still no progress for women as leaders. 

That’s why I was so excited to learn about Boston’s new initiative, designed to do something different to close the wage gap.

According to WNPR’s All Things Considered, “Boston thinks it has a solution. The city is working to be the first in the country to completely erase the gender wage gap. But will it work? That’s our cover story today.”

In April of 2013, Boston Mayor Menino established the Women’s Workforce Council. The council is made up of hard workers across all employment sectors, and their mission is to make Greater Boston the premier place for working women in America by closing the wage gap and removing the visible and invisible barriers to women’s advancement.  Their priority is to come up with new and creative ways of achieving this mission. The NPR story reported on progress to date.

The Women’s Workforce Council has created a compact to which businesses and companies of Boston are asked to pledge to pay their employees equal wages.  It’s a simple enough request.  But since the country seems to be having trouble moving the dial on pay equity, how is it that in Boston the council has already persuaded over 40 businesses to sign their pledge?

Companies that sign the pledge agree to take three concrete steps:

Step 1: Each company is asked to open their books and assess their own wage data.  As Cathy Minehan, Chair of the council, said in her NPR interview, “Sometimes people reject the idea that we have an issue until they actually see their data.”

 
Seattle provides a great example for the importance of this first step.  When Seattle mayor Mike McGinn read the April issued report from the National Partnership for Women and Families, he found that Seattle had the widest gender wage gap out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the country. Seeing this information and being able to assess it in front of his own eyes lead him to assemble a task force.  This task force has a four step plan that hopes to launch a Gender Justice Initiative by January 2014. 

 Step 2 of Boston’s plan: Pick three strategies to improve pay equality. The council provides suggestions which include increasing wage transparency, actively recruiting women to executive-level positions, and offering subsidized childcare.

Step 3: Sharing wage data anonymously every two years so the city can measure progress.

Boston Women Initiative2

 The catch, says Minehan, is that none of this is required – it’s all voluntary. Businesses need to find it in their own interest if this initiative is to succeed. So it’s still up to women to advocate for themselves by delivering that message along with the now-ample data to support it.

Mayor Richard Berry of Albuquerque, New Mexico signed a bill in late November that would give a break to contractors working with the city if they would implement equal pay regulations.  A task force headed by women’s rights advocate Martha Burke is currently working to establish new guidelines for combating the wage gap within the city.  While this bill only helps to effect firms bidding with the city in the public sector, the hope is that it will encourage employers in the private sector to pay equal wages as well.

By the end of the year, the Women’s Workforce Council in Boston expects to have 50 companies on board with their initiative. They have one month left to rack up those last 10 companies, and at the rate they’re running, why shouldn’t they succeed? Seattle will soon have an established initiative to move forward with, and hopefully Albuquerque’s first steps will influence positive next steps.

And hopefully these three cities, fronting active change for women’s rights, can influence cities, states, and the national government to not only support change for women, but positively act on making changes for women.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Start Your Own Game: Muriel “Mickie” Siebert — Leadership Lessons for Women from Wall Street

muriel

A few days ago, I went to the best funeral I’ve ever attended.

It’s unusual to say that about an occasion normally considered sad and somber. But the memorial service for Muriel “Mickie” Siebert, a well-known finance executive in the U.S. and the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, goes down in my book as a perfectly delightful send off.

Mickie founded her brokerage firm, Muriel Siebert & Co, Inc. which became part of Siebert Financial and went public in 1996. She also served as New York State’s Superintendent of Banking (referring to herself in her 2008 autobiography Changing the Rules as the S.O.B.). Mickie’s career has lessons for all women, no matter their occupation:

  • Have a dream and go for it.
  • Start your own game if those in power won’t let you into theirs — or even if they will but you prefer your vision of how things should be.
  • No matter how high you climb, help other women rise and keep them close to support you.

muriel2Mickie’s was a life well and publicly lived. When Cantor Angela Buchdahl started belting out “My Way” to the mourners packing Manhattan’s cavernous Central Synagogue, a communal knowing smile spread as fast as spilled water. (This made me start planning what music I want at my funeral.)

And when Rabbi Peter Rubenstein observed that Mickie did not depend on God for anything, nor did she “suffer from undue humility,” laughter erupted.

There were many stories.

Her New York Times obituary headline initially said she was 80 at the time of her death. I told my husband she appeared to be somewhat older. Turns out my assessment was accurate. The Times later issued a correction.

For Mickie was actually 84. She gave her age as four years younger than she was. In fact, White House security once refused her entry because her birth certificate and driver’s license dates didn’t match.

Oh, there were plenty of tears amid the laughter. The Kleenex boxes thoughtfully placed at the ends of pews traveled back and forth. Hundreds of women and men from various parts of Mickie’s life dabbed their eyes when U.S. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) talked about how Mickie “rewrote the rules to make them fairer.” And more tears as David Roosevelt recounted how his grandmother Eleanor had been a role model to the “pugnacious” Mickie, who had driven from Cleveland Ohio to New York in an old Studebaker with nothing but $500 and a dream back in 1954.

Speakers included people she had worked with, Friends in High Places (apparently her political friends were mostly Democrats though she remained a “bleeding heart” Republican), and women from “new girls’ networks” she’d started, and in which she remained active until her death from cancer.

That all her honorary pallbearers were women reveals why I frequently tell Mickie’s career story when I speak or teach about women and leadership. She realized it wasn’t enough to be a female “first.”  So what if you’re accepted into a formerly all-male bastion, you still need your network of women who support you. And you in turn have a responsibility to bring other women through the door you have opened.

As her friend, public relations executive Muriel Fox  said, “Muriel Siebert was one of the few prominent women in the business world who proudly said, ‘Yes, I am a feminist.’ Mickie proved that outspoken feminism is not a handicap, but is a powerful asset, in achieving business success.”

According to the Wall Street Journal , she was “…an outspoken advocate for financial literacy and for women’s advancement on Wall Street, she often did that both through encouraging others and bucking a system intent on keeping her at the margins.”

At the funeral, I sat with colleagues from the New York Women’s Forum in a section set aside for us. Though I had long admired her legendary shattering of that Wall Street glass ceiling in 1967, I knew Mickie primarily from the organization’s holiday parties. She hosted them every December, holding court with her beloved dog Monster Girl, in her elegant apartment on the East River.

Inevitably, Mickie, who famously loved to sing, would whip out song sheets. Everyone had to join in the anthem with lyrics by Forum founders including Siebert,  Fox, and Elly Guggenheimer. Sung to the tune of “One” from A Chorus Line, it starts, “We. Are. Feminist achievers, everybody knows our names (kick, kick). We are positive believers (kick) in the power of dames (kick kick kick)…”

Having seen her in that social setting, I was moved to hear a business partner Suzanne Shank recount how they’d started Siebert Brandford Shank  in 1996 and grew it to the largest women-and minority-owned finance firm. Others lauded Mickie’s commitment to transparency in finance.

These are not values normally associated with Wall Street. That her business associates chose to speak of them indicates that despite the kind of success that so often corrupts, and despite her vaunted toughness or perhaps because of it, Mickie retained her integrity and sense of social justice through a long and storied career.

What clearer evidence can there be that anything is possible if one has the vision to see the possibility, the courage to go for it, the will to persist, and the competence to carry on successfully? “The real risk,” she once said , “lies in continuing to do things the way they’ve always been done.”

The flags on Wall Street were flown at half-mast for Muriel Siebert on the day of her funeral.

“If you can’t play with the big boys,” she was fond of saying, “start your own game.”

Because she did it her way, women today routinely enjoy workplace choices she had to fight to attain.

Though Mickie’s voice is stilled, her impact — like the songs she loved — go on. We poured out of the synagogue, stepping into the bright August sunshine to the lively beat of “New York, New York.”

Be sure to watch this video on Mickie Siebert

(Originally published on www.TakeTheLeadWomen.com)


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s Equality Day and the Civil Rights March

It was all over the news for days. Every pundit, every political talk show, every newspaper march-on-washington-widerunning big retrospective spreads. Op eds galore, and reminiscences of what it was like to march together toward equality.

Today, August 26 is Women’s Equality Day, the day that commemorates passage of the 19th amendment to the US constitution, giving women the right to vote after a struggle that lasted over 70 years. A big deal, right?

Right. But that’s not what all the news was about. In fact, though President Obama issued a proclamation and a few columnists like the New York Times’ Gail Collins gave it a nod, hardly anyone is talking about Women’s Equality Day. At least not in consciousness-saturating ways that garner major media’s attention, as Saturday’s March on Washington commemorating the 50th anniversary of a similar Civil Rights march.

Yet the two anniversaries are rooted in common values about equality and justice for all. They share common adversaries and aspirations. Racism and sexism are joined at the head.

And as League of Women Voters president Elisabeth MacNamara’s article in the Huffington Post explains, both movements today share the challenge of maintaining the right to vote, earned with such toil and tears and even bloodshed.

Like many people who participated in the 1960′s Civil Rights Movement, I celebrate how far America has moved toward racial justice in the last 50 ‘years. I am grateful to the Civil Rights movement for calling our nation not just to fulfill its moral promise to African-Americans, but by its example of courage and activism inspiring the second wave women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and so much more.

I remember having an epiphany while volunteering for a multi-racial civil rights organization called the Panel of American Women, that if there were civil rights, then women must have them too. That awareness ignited my passion for women’s equality which has driven my career ever since.

But just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s galvanizing “I Have a Dream” speech thundered, “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood,” (emphasis mine) and sisters were not mentioned, women have yet to rise to full equality when it comes to honoring women’s historical accomplishments and current voices.

And just as the commemorative March on Washington was a necessary reminder of how far we have yet to go to reach the full vision of the Civil Rights movement, so Women’s Equality Day is best celebrated by committing ourselves to breaking through the remaining barriers to full leadership parity for women.

Check out Take The Lead‘s two posts on The Movement blog calling attention to the auspicious anniversary.

The first is Susan Weiss Gross’s delightful personal story–the tractor being a perfect metaphor — of how she overcame her internal barriers to equality. The second comes from author and Ms Magazine founding editor Susan Braun Levine. Suzanne will be writing about “Empowerment Entrepreneurs” and how empowering each other is the latest development in women’s equality.

Read, enjoy, and then get to work along with Take The Lead, which I co-founded along Amy Litzenberger early this year,  in our 21st century movement to prepare, develop, inspire, and propel women to take their air and equal share of leadership positions across all sectors by 2025.

As the March on Washington twitter hashtag exhorted us to do, “#MarchOn!”


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Young Politica: Guns on Campus

If you, like me, have come to look forward to Maegan Vazquez’s “Young Politica” columns on Heartfeldt, you are going to miss her interesting take on the world through the students’ lens. During the past two semesters that she has interned for me, it has been my pleasure to see her grow and her writing develop.

Enjoy her last column here.  I told her I predict we’ll be reading her in the Washington Post in a few years.

Today, airsoft rifles closely resembling AK-47s were found in the dorm room of a New York University student, according to the New York Post. The psychology student, Bernard Goal, 20, allegedly assembled and sold them for up to $500 each. collegecrime

The story may not have been at the top of my radar (nor on the radar of the New York Post a few weeks ago, but in a post-Boston Marathon and post-MIT shootout world, I have become hyperaware of all things ammunition on campus—especially when that campus is my own.

As a member of the media, it would be naive of me to cite this as a reason for stricter gun laws on campus. Even I know that when in search for stories, a journalist often writes about what is most concerning to their audience at that moment in time. Right now, almost anything guns is a-go.

Up until recent events, campus gun laws were not an issue I was concerned with; mainly because my college doesn’t have a real campus. Rather, students take classes in buildings scattered across lower-Manhattan. What I associated with mass school shootings was a closed-off, centralized area where students typically congregate. And that’s just not an element of campus life NYU can really facilitate. But when I realized that a student from my school could potentially be selling guns within student housing for months without faculty noticing, I became concerned for my safety.

I, along with 91% of Americans, agree that it is time to instate universal background checks for new gun owners. Universal background checks may not have prevented NYU’s snafu, nor would they have the power to prevent current gun owners from having their weapons taken away. But in the long run, universal background checks would have the potential to save lives being taken by those who should not have weapons in their hands.

Unlike those who want to take the second amendment in its purest form, I would be willing to make the sacrifice of a single universal background check if it meant that innocent lives were saved.

Last week, a bill to support universal background checks failed by six votes. The bill finally made the floor four months after the Sandy Hook shooting, and nine months after the Aurora movie theater and Wisconsin Sikh temple shootings. When lawmakers take this long to fail a bill that would only have the power to benefit the American public, there’s no doubt of the power that rich lobbyists, like the NRA, have over Washington.

I never imagined that gun laws on campus would be an issue in a place like NYU, in Bloomberg’s New York City, where even moderates are castigated for their supposed lack of tolerance or unfeasible economic beliefs.

When a student at a residence hall just down my street is illegally making and selling guns from his dorm room, I had to ask if no-tolerance rules were the only rules that mattered in when it came to the safety of students. Strict gun rules on college campuses are prevalent across the country, but students would reap the benefit of safety if universal background checks were put into place.

Thank you so much for following me on my journey towards political self-discovery. I’ve loved your feedback and I am so grateful to have had this unique opportunity. Many thanks to my mentor, Gloria Feldt, for assisting me with the column and for championing my growth as a writer, feminist, and activist.

If you’d like to know what I’m up to, you can find me on Twitter (@maeganvaz) or you can find me studying and working in Washington D.C., where I’ll (finally!) be “walking the walk” this fall.


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s Campaign Fund Won’t Settle for Less Than Half

Monday night I attended the bipartisan Women’s Campaign Fund’s  annual “Parties of Your Choice“.

Changetheplayers600

As always, they begin with a raucous reception at Christie’s for several hundred guests, after which we all scatter around town for intimate dinners in beautiful homes. At each party, there are several WCF-endorsed candidates or elected officials who tell their tales and make their pitches.

Here are a few photos I took during the evening, which was peppered with chants of “Change the players. Change the game.”

Gala guest Ilene Wells "Wearing the Shirt"
Gala guest Ilene Wells “Wearing the Shirt”

Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress
Valeria Arkoosh of PA wants to be the first female MD in Congress

Sam Bennett, President of the Women's Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders
Sam Bennett, President of the Women’s Campaign Fund, cheers on the dozens of WCF-endorsed candidates and officeholders

MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC'd
MSNBC host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, MC’d

Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset
Youngest NY State Assemblywoman, Nily Rozic, bucked the Queens political machine and won in a surprise upset

Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner 'liked' this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name
Clarkstown councilwoman Stephanie Hausner ‘liked’ this picture of her that I posted on Facebook, even though I misspelled her name

 

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

Women’s History Month: Why Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior Could be a Historic Win

Sally Jewell is a one-woman powerhouse. The REI CEO has just been approved by a bipartisan United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee by a vote of 19-3, according to the New York Times. Her next stop—a full review by the U.S. Senate.

“She is going to give each member of this committee her ear and her expertise that comes from having managed to pack a host of professional careers – petroleum engineer, C.E.O. and banker, to name just a few – into just one lifetime,” Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, told the committee.Jewell

Jewell’s diverse experience has made her a unique contender for the job. In comparison to her possible predecessor, former Senator Ken Salazar, Jewell has no government experience. However, just as Salazar made a historic impact by becoming one of the first Hispanics to earn a spot in the Senate, Jewell’s confirmation would make her the second woman to hold the Interior Secretary position.

An avid environmentalist these days, Jewell, 56, is not afraid to say that she started off as a petroleum engineer for Mobil Oil. Her range of experience provides her with a widened perspective. She has worked as a foreman for drill crews, an investment banker, and is now the CEO of a highly successful outdoor sports corporation. She’s a Jane of all trades—a banker, a boardroom member, and a mountain climber. She takes heed to both economic fronts and conservation efforts.

“She knows the link between conservation and good jobs,” President Obama said during Jewell’s nomination earlier this month. “She knows that there is no contradiction between being good stewards of the land and our economic progress.”

Her duty as Interior Secretary would include management of on- and off-shore drilling, overall energy use, and overseeing 1/5th of the country’s land—which includes national parks, wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management holdings. Jewell has helped lead the way for advocating the exploration of the outdoors to more women, young people, and people of color.

But can she reinvigorate the U.S.’ interest in the outdoors?

Jewell is the only woman formally nominated for Obama’s second term Cabinet. If confirmed, she might end up serving her term with as few as only two other women within the administration.

As of yet, President Obama has protected less land than any of the previous four presidents, according to the Center for American Progress. By getting Jewell, a business-savvy woman in the Interior role, the GOP may ease their previous halt on conservation initiatives. And the outdoors industry expert could be the secret to getting Congress to finally act on climate change, a key initiative Obama raised during his State of the Union Address.

 

 


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

The Young Politica: What’s Next for Student Loans

In my last column, I wrote about how the sequester could deeply impact students of all ages—by cutting education jobs, programs like Head Start, food stamps, and limiting financial aid. Well, once again, kids trying to get an education are at risk of being undercut by the federal government.

studentdebt

The interest rate of new federally subsidized Stafford loans will revert to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent. The rate subsidized loans, which go to low-income households, was supposed to rise to 6.8 percent back in June 2012, but the rate’s expiration was postponed for a year. This year’s extension lasts until June 30, 2013. If Congress does not act to change the rules or extend the loan rate expiration date, an estimated 7.4 million college students will be affected.

Note that each year the date to change the rate is extended, the federal government loses out on about $6 billion in revenue. But students don’t necessarily have to be the ones paying the price. If there would have been more oversight on the financial aid process, the federal government could have prevented a loss of $200 million in federal student aid fraud since 2009.

What’s a good solution? Rather than postponing the expiration again, the House Education and the Workforce Committee argued that Congress should reevaluate their rate-setting process for all government-issued college loans.

FoxNews.com reports that the Department of Education has also been sending out letters to inform Direct PLUS Loan borrowers that their fees are being raised as a direct result of the automatic budget cuts (or the sequester) that happened after the federal government could not come to a fiscal agreement. Fees for loans issued after March 1, 2013, will have an adjusted loan rate fee—from 4.0 percent to 4.204 percent.

Students are taking more and more hits, but at least they’re putting up a fight.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are not ruling out suing the Obama administration for disproportionately affecting their students with new financial aid policies. The policies, which were enacted in October 2011, allow a Direct PLUS Loan borrower’s credit to be checked back five years—rather than the previous 90-days standard. This limits many students, especially students from a low-income background, from being able to take out these loans without having a parent with a spotless credit history.

On the upside, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced new rules that will be enacted to protect borrowers from federal loan servicers, which collect debts from student lenders.

The new rules will require all servicing firms to be subject to audits by the CFPB, according to the Huffington Post. The new rules aim to make servicers accountable by investigating possible reports that may mislead borrowers on their rights and terms of their loans. The end goal for the borrower is to avoid ruining their credit.

Today, the nation’s student loan debt surpasses credit card debt.

Maybe a complete overhaul of the system may seem like the next step, given that nothing else seems to be working. But instead of only impacting students who are striving to get an education, maybe we should be focusing on oversight the federal government has slacked off on instead.

 

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com

The Young Politica: Students Should Brace for the Sequester

Once again, we’ve waited until the last minute to try and fix our fiscal problems. This time, it’s the sequester that will go into effect on March 1st unless Congress acts. sequester

If the sequester goes into effect, about one trillion dollars of federal spending will get cut—half of the cuts going towards defense ($42.7 billion). These cuts may cause furloughs in defense sectors (military, airport security) and other cuts may leave many teachers out of jobs.

About $3 billion of sequester  cuts will go towards education. According to the National Education Association the sequester will result in: 

  • Services cut or eliminated for millions of students.
  • Funding for children living in poverty, special education, and Head Start slashed by billions.
  • Ballooning class sizes.
  • Elimination of after-school programs.
  • Decimation of programs for our most vulnerable—homeless students, English language learners, and high-poverty, struggling schools.
  • Slashing of financial aid for college students.
  • Loss of tens of thousands of education jobs—at early childhood, elementary, secondary, and postsecondary levels.

However, the education cuts can be made smarter in a smarter way. Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education, suggested reallocating funds may ease the blow for students. He cites a previous change in budgeting:
“We took $68 billion that was going to subsidize bankers from our student loan program…put about $28 billion to cut the deficit…$40 billion to increase Pell grants. We’ve gone from six million Pell recipients to about nine million Pell recipients without going to taxpayers for a nickel.”

The sequester was built to be an ultimatum that forced politicians to revisit the government’s budget. However, delay towards addressing the issue has created bipartisan distaste for the imminent measures. Neither side wants this plan to become permanently enacted. Yet, neither wants to see their side lose, even a little bit.

Why has there been such a delay? Well, for starters, President Obama wants to replace the sequester with a new deal that includes increased taxes and spending cuts. Another option would have been John Boehner’s plan B, which would reallocate cuts towards food stamps, the Affordable Care Act, and Dodd-Frank. While plan B seems to be a manifesto of Republican ideals for government spending, these cuts most likely will not go through this time around.

As the decision date nears, schools are handing teachers pink slips that say they will not be able to return next fall. It’s not just the workers that need to worry; it’s students, too. With decreases in financial aid, special education programs and Head Start losing funds, students of all ages will be losing out on their education if the sequester is enacted as is.

The problem with the sequester dates back to 2011, when it was passed as part of the debt ceiling compromise. When a deal was reached to stop us from falling off the fiscal cliff, the sequester was subsequently delayed until March. We’ve known about this problem for about two years, yet we’re only trying to fix the cuts about a week before they go into effect. Way to go, Washington.

It is time for each party to make some sacrifices and compromises for the benefit of the American people.

 

 

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com