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Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security

Joan Entmacher

Joan Entmacher is Vice President for Family Economic Security at the National Women's Law Center, where she leads a team working to improve policies important to the economic security of low-income women and their families, including tax and budget, child care, child support, unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Social Security. Ms. Entmacher is a leading expert on issues affecting low-income women. She has been invited to testify before Congress on several occasions, written numerous analyses and reports on income support policies and their impact on poor women, and spoken frequently at conferences, briefings, and to the media. Prior to joining the National Women's Law Center, Ms. Entmacher served as Director of Legal and Public Policy at the National Partnership for Women & Families, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College, Chief of the Civil Rights Division of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, and attorney in the U.S. Department of Labor Solicitor's Office. Ms. Entmacher is a graduate of Yale Law School and Wellesley College.

My Take

Let’s Talk Turkey: Busting Myths on Taxes, Social Security, and Medicaid in Time for Thanksgiving

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.


After 40 Years, Time to Modernize SSI

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: October 31, 2012 at 03:33 pm

This week is the 40th anniversary of the Supplemental Security Income program, SSI. We celebrate SSI’s vital role in providing support to the elderly poor and to poor adults and children with disabilities. It’s a particularly important program for women, who make up over two-thirds of all beneficiaries 65 and older.

Forty isn’t very old. Our Social Security system is 77, and it’s an American classic. But key parts of SSI have barely changed in the 40 years since it was enacted – and it urgently needs to be updated.

For example, with the exception of $20 per month, every additional $1 in Social Security benefits means $1 less in SSI benefits. This amount hasn’t been changed since the program was created 40 years ago – but what you can buy with $20 sure has. Adjusting for inflation since 1972 would raise this amount to $110 per month, allowing individuals with very low Social Security benefits – disproportionately women – to get a more meaningful benefit from their years of work and contributions to Social Security.


$19 a Month to Keep Up with the Cost of Living Doesn’t Sound Too High to Us

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: October 16, 2012 at 12:06 pm

The Social Security Administration just made its annual announcement of what the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security would be in 2013. Drumroll, please: benefits will increase by 1.7 percent starting in January. For the typical single elderly woman whose monthly benefit is only $1,100, that amounts to $19 per month to meet the rising costs of food, gas – and health care.

No one who tries to make ends meet just on Social Security benefits – as millions of women do – would think that was too much.

The COLA is an important part of Social Security. It helps prevent the value of Social Security benefits from being eroded by inflation over time. But even the current COLA underestimates inflation for the elderly and people with disabilities because it doesn’t take account of their greater health care spending.


No, Senator Simpson, We Won't Quit Talking about the Poor and Vulnerable

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: October 05, 2012 at 04:00 pm

Senator Alan Simpson wants us to shut up. The Huffington Post reported Simpson's comments at a recent event sponsored by "Face the Facts USA":

"Could you please cut out the babble? Would you quit talking about the poor, the vulnerable, the veterans, the old ladies going over cliffs, the hospices, the bedpans? I mean, what the hell? We all know, all of us know, that that's the people you want to take care of."

You can't blame us for taking it personally. We've had a lot to say recently about women who are still poor, without health insurance, and paid less than men. We've had to point out that cutting programs that serve low-income people especially hurts women and their families, and that the House-passed budget plan slashes these programs in the name of deficit reduction while giving trillions of dollars in new tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. And we've had to explain the impact of a stealth Social Security benefit cut proposed by the Simpson-Bowles report – reducing the cost-of-living adjustment by changing to a new consumer price index, the "chained CPI."


For Single Elderly Women, Poverty Increased

Posted by Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security | Posted on: September 13, 2012 at 09:45 am

NWLC’s analysis of yesterday’s Census data shows poverty rates generally stabilized after three years of increases. But one notable exception is the significant increase in the poverty rate for women 65 and older living alone, which rose to 18.4 percent in 2011 from 17.0 percent in 2010.

We can’t yet explain why poverty increased for this already vulnerable group of women; the poverty rate for all women 65 and older was unchanged from 2010 at 10.7 percent. But we do know that single elderly women are especially reliant on income from Social Security. So we’re worried that policy makers continue to look to the Simpson-Bowles report as a model for deficit reduction, including its proposal to reduce Social Security’s annual cost-of-living adjustment by changing the measure of inflation to the “chained consumer price index,” because this proposal would especially hurt women.

Some politicians seem particularly intrigued by this idea, since it sounds like a technical change that might not be recognized as a benefit cut, and it starts out small. But the cut from the chained-CPI gets deeper every year. That’s particularly harmful to women because they live longer than men.