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The Ultimate Women’s Issue

Today President Obama addresses the graduating class of Barnard, the distinguished women’s college, at their commencement. I wonder if he will be honest about the dire economic future they face. In this election year, the president’s supporters have tried to use the concerns of women as political wedge issues. This divisive and inflammatory approach not only ill-serves the American people; it puts women at a particular, and potentially devastating, disadvantage. It deliberately ignores the issue that poses the gravest threat to their well-being, now and in the future: a weak, dysfunctional economy that is headed straight over a fiscal cliff as of 2013.

Women have suffered in the job market of the past four years. Fewer of them are employed today than when President Obama first took office. Of the 572,000 jobs lost since his inauguration, 567,000 were held by women. Millions of women struggle to find work, while others have given up looking altogether. And Americans who do have jobs are working harder and getting paid less for it. The human toll of the weak economy is alarming. Last year, the poverty rate among women was the highest in 17 years, and more women than men are living in poverty.

Adding to the miseries of shrinking or disappearing paychecks, the cost of living and doing business in our Hudson Valley becomes ever harder to bear. One conspicuous example: the 2010 health law has resulted in a significant increase in premiums for health insurance, which is disproportionately difficult for small businesses to afford. The large number of women who choose to run their own small businesses, so that they can better balance work with family life, have been done no favor by this misguided attempt to let the federal government run their health care.

The health care takeover will also take a toll on women over the age of 65, already burdened by the fact that fully three out of five cannot pay for their basic needs in this bad economy. As the only woman physician who is a Member of Congress, and as the daughter of seniors who depend on their Medicare benefits, I’m especially troubled by the fact that the 2010 law shifted half a trillion dollars away from Medicare in order to pay for a massive new entitlement program whose projected costs are at a stratospheric $2.6 trillion and rising. Objective estimates of Medicare’s rapidly dwindling trust fund put the program’s bankruptcy as early as 2016, at which point seniors will face the disastrous prospect of an abrupt and steep increase in their premiums that many of them will be unable to afford.

Simply put, the funds taken from Medicare by the health care takeover must be returned. But that will not happen so long as President Obama refuses to consider repealing and replacing his administration’s signature accomplishment. This massive, invasive, and costly law shows the harm that has been done by failing to understand the unintended, but predictable, adverse consequences of giving the federal government ever more power to regulate decisions that we can sensibly make in our own lives, families, and communities

This administration has made clear that it intends to exert that power broadly and deeply, no matter the cost. The case of Solyndra, in which taxpayers were forced to pay dearly–more than half a billion dollars- for a project doomed to fail, is sadly not unique, and it demonstrates how the federal bureaucracy’s political considerations can overwhelm common sense. Americans can’t afford to have their tax dollars wasted on bad “investments” that add to our already crippling $15.6 trillion debt, while the small businesses who are the engine of job growth go begging for customers and capital and find themselves choked by the endless stream of regulations coming from Washington. The new taxes on everything from personal income to medical devices that are due, according to the president’s plans, to take effect as of January 1 will only make matters much worse.

Women in our United States work too hard and care too much to accept a future for their children, their families, their communities, and their nation that will lead only to debt, dependency, and despair. And they are too smart to be fooled by political rhetoric that seeks to deceive, distract, and divide. They need, above everything, a federal government that will respect them, spare their hard-earned dollars, and protect the individual liberty that is at the heart of the American dream. They need new leadership in Washington. That’s why I ran successfully for office in 2010, and it’s why this woman will proudly cast her vote in November for Mitt Romney.

Nan Hayworth, M.D., is a United States Representative from New York’s 19th Congressional District.