Whether served as a side dish or not, politics always seems to wiggle its way onto the Thanksgiving table. And because your family may not agree on everything (or anything), we want you to be as prepared for them as you are for the big meal.

And now that the election is over, the public debate is all about the so-called “fiscal cliff,” which refers to the combination of tax cuts and numerous other provisions set to expire at the end of December plus a series of automatic spending cuts scheduled to begin in January.

Contrary to what some commentators might suggest, however, the economy won’t immediately fall into a recession if Congress doesn’t reach agreement on all of these issues by midnight on December 31. Indeed, real and lasting damage WILL be done if Members of Congress allow misguided fears to pressure them into a bad deal that cuts programs vital to women and families and fails to make the wealthiest among us pay their fair share in taxes.

To explain what this means for you – and for Aunt Edith – below are a few key myths and facts.

MYTH: If we raise taxes on the richest 2%, it will kill jobs.

FACT: We’ve seen that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. We had much stronger job growth after President Clinton raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans than after President Bush cut them. And, allowing the Bush-era tax cuts for the richest two percent to expire would generate nearly $1 trillion in savings. This much-needed revenue would allow us to call off the looming – and draconian – automatic cuts to programs that are also scheduled to take place. Plus, it would let us invest in human capital as well as physical infrastructure. When so many Americans can’t find work, it’s important to support programs that create good jobs and long-term economic growth.

MYTH: We have to cut Social Security or it won’t be around for future generations.

FACT: Social Security benefits are already modest. They average just over $12,100 a year for women 65 and older – yet represent the majority of their income. We don’t need to cut benefits that women have earned and depend on to keep Social Security strong. Even if we make no changes, Social Security can pay 100 percent of promised benefits for the next 20 years – and 75 percent of promised benefits after that. We could just about eliminate the entire shortfall with a simple adjustment: ask everyone, including the very wealthy, to make payroll tax contributions on all their earnings, the way the vast majority of Americans do.

Myth: Medicaid is worse than no coverage at all.

Fact: People with Medicaid coverage have better access to health care, including preventive services, are more likely to report being in good to excellent health, are less likely to experience unpaid medical bills, and have significantly lower overall mortality rates than individuals without insurance.  Medicaid covers important women’s health services, including family planning, comprehensive maternity care, preventive care, treatment for and management of chronic conditions, breast and cervical cancer treatment, and long-term services and supports. Many Medicaid programs also cover supportive services that help low-income women access the health care system and manage their health, including case management, transportation, and childbirth and infant education services.

And now for dessert…

We hope your Thanksgiving dinner full of peace and love, but just in case Uncle Bob insists on sharing the blather he heard on talk radio this week, you now have the actual facts about our fiscal situation. Be gentle, be polite – but be prepared. You might just change a few minds! And that’s just as sweet as Aunt Edith’s pecan pie, hot out of the oven (yum).

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