Dianne Feinstein

Power of Women - March 22, 2006

Dianne Feinstein
March 22, 2006— Century City, California
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Thank you very much. Let me begin by talking about two very powerful images that struck me this week. The first happened in Chile. Michele Bachelet was inaugurated two weeks ago as Chile’s first women President. She is 54 years old. She is a single mother of three. She has appointed a Cabinet of 10 men and 10 women and has designated the governors of Chile of the 12 regions on the same equal basis.

The second occurred in Washington DC. I was asked by the State Department if a woman from Iraq, newly elected to the Iraqi parliament, could shadow me for the day.

Into my office walked Dr. Jinan Jasim Ali al Ubaidi. She is a Conservative Shia. She was entirely clothed in black. She wore black gloves all day. She is a mother of eight children -- two of whom are deceased. She was a practicing physician when she ran on the ticket on the winning party for the Iraqi Parliament. She is bright, she is energetic. In these black robes, she created an image of a woman for the Muslim culture that was very impressive. I think these events demonstrate how much this world has changed in the past generation.

Doors have opened. Barriers have been broken down -- not only in our country, but all over the world. Not only in politics, but in business as well. In every facet of life, women have made great strides. But there is so much more to do.

Women still make but 76 cents on the dollar to men. I remember when it used to be 59 cents, so it is an improvement. We need more women in the House, in the Senate, and in the boardroom as well.

When I ran for Senate in 1992, there were only two women in the Senate, and I went around the State saying that 2% might be good for the fat content in milk, but it’s not good enough for women’s representation in the United States Senate. Well it’s 14% now, something like the fat content in premium ice cream.

Today there are 66 women in the House of Representatives, more than 12% of the seats in Congress. It’s an all-time high.

In the Senate, Susan Collins of Maine heads the powerful government operations committee, a Republican. My colleague, Senator Boxer, will soon be the ranking member of on the Environment and Public Works committee. Nancy Pelosi is the minority leader of the House of Representatives. And Jane Harman is the ranking member on House Intelligence committee. Three women hold Cabinet positions.

There are eight women Governors: Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Washington. Seventy-nine women in executive levels in statewide elective office -- also an all-time high. Along with countless Women who hold positions in state legislatures, in school boards on city councils, on boards of supervisors. They are earning their spurs for higher office later on.

I am asking you to support qualified women candidates. Help them out. Increase our numbers. Continue to open the door for the next generation of women.

I’ll never forget when I was Mayor, I was asked to go to Wells Fargo and meet with the senior officers of the bank. As I sat around the table, I made the comment, “There isn’t a single woman at this table.” I saw all the faces get red, and they said to me we’ll invite you back again and change that.

And they did. Six months later there was change. That’s really how it happens. When one woman succeeds, it creates the atmosphere that women can be just as effective as a man. The door is opened and the threshold is crossed again for all time.

We have made strides in the workplace as well. Women have entered the workplace in record number, joined senior management, opened their own businesses by the thousands. You just have to look around this room to see the careers, the success, the diversity of women in America.

There are over 9.1 million women owned businesses in America -- up from 6.4 million in 1992. In 14 years, there has been a 42% increase in women who own their own business in this county. That’s remarkable.

In American today, one-third of all businesses are owned by women. They generate $3.6 trillion dollars in revenues.

And 1 out of every 5 American workers, for a total of 27.5 million, work for women-owned businesses today. Women today make up almost ½ of the workforce, 48%. That’s up from one-third 50 years ago.

What you’re seeing is a revolution on the home front and in the family. More and more women working, many and most because they have to -- because one salary is not enough.

The workplace in itself is changing because of this new addition. Women are making larger contributions to the economy, and women have gained a strong foothold in the councils of government all across this country. Again once the door is open and the threshold is crossed, the door remains open for all times.

The Bush Administration: Bad for Women and Families

While we are making strides in the private sector and in the governmental sector, this Administration has been worse for women and families than any in my recent memory.

During the Clinton Administration, the poverty rate among women was reduced from 17% to 12.6%. Almost 4 million American women were lifted off welfare rolls and out of poverty.

Under this Administration, the poverty rate decline has actually reversed and is growing. Today more than 20 million women live in poverty. And women are more likely to live in poverty than men. And 90% have children under the age of 18 -- 402,000 of them are single mothers.

This means that today more women are having a harder time making ends meet than in the 1990s. They are more likely to hold the temporary and minimum wage jobs that don’t offer health insurance or retirement benefits.

In California, the great bulk of those new jobs produced are minimum wage and part time jobs. And a woman with two children has to work three of these jobs to be able to afford an apartment that’s adequate. That’s the dilemma of our economy.

The top fifth of society is doing better than ever, and the bottom fifth is actually doing worse. All this while health insurance costs are skyrocketing, companies are slashing retirement benefits, housing prices are on the rise, and the President has proposed a plan to weaken social security which is the only retirement plan for 50% of American workers today is social security.

That is why many of us feel the worst thing that can happen is to have this privatized because the way the economy is going Social security will end up being by far 75% of all retirement for American workers in this county.

A Different Direction: Budget

I believe that the time has come to take this nation in a very different direction. I want to speak about it in two respects. One is the financial situation of the nation, and the second is the war on terror -- specifically the war in Iraq.

The last 4 years of the Clinton administration achieved a surplus in each of the 4 years. When Bill Clinton left office, the surplus was predicted over 10 years to reach $5.6 trillion dollars.

Times have changed. We have unprecedented debt and mounting deficits. This Administration has created as much debt as 40 other presidents combined. This year alone the deficit will exceed $400 billion, and the national debt is upwards of $8.25 trillion.

The Senate just raised the debt limit this past week. It’s a new record. By 2011 that debt will be $11.1 trillion. It’s been deficit after deficit after deficit. You wouldn’t run your businesses this way and we should not run our country this way either.

I pointed out that American Family is facing tough times by almost any indicator:

Household median income is down by $1,669. Health care costs are up 50%.

I just had dinner with a young man who went to a very prominent Los Angeles hospital to have an emergency appendectomy. He was in that hospital for 12 hours, not including anesthesia, not including surgeon, not including any x-rays or anything else, just the hospital costs was $37,000 for that 12 hours. I just got the bill. I’m going to send it to the CEO of that hospital and ask for an explanation. He is covered by Blue Cross, who will pay the bill after some negotiations, but what does this do? It ups the premiums for everybody else.

Gas prices are up 60%, and they are going up again. Local and state taxes are up. College costs are up 57%. Medicare costs up 17%, and 37 million of American are living below the poverty line including 4.7 million here in California. And 45 million are going without health care, including 6.6 million in our state.

Here’s the problem: when you combine the cost of the tax cuts $1 trillion with the cost of the war -- so far $370 billion -- the inevitable result is that all other domestic program have to be cut.

Now let me explain this: Most of the money the federal government outlays in a given year is not controllable. It’s called entitlements, its Social Security, its Medicare, its Medicaid, its veterans benefits. If you are entitled to them you get them. Then there is interest on the debt.

Those things all combined run about 60% of everything that’s outlaid in a given year, so that leaves 40%. Half of which is the normal defense budget and half is everything else. That’s 100,000 employees in the Department of Justice, that’s 250,000 in 22 department in the DHS, that’s the entire Interior Department, that’s all of the Education, health and welfare of the federal government.

That’s where the squeezing is going on. That’s transportation monies, highways monies. That’s everything that builds the American individuals and the American infrastructure to be able to cope with this new global technical, highly skilled economy that we are emerging into.

So you have the situation where millionaires receive $114,000 in tax cuts, food stamps get cut by $272 million. This is the president’s budget. Food assistance for seniors and children cut by $111 million. The COPS program, which has put police on the streets of cities all across the United States, is cut this year by 407 billion or 15,000 police officers nationwide. This will affect Los Angeles with cuts of hundreds of police officers. Community Development Block Grant monies, which I used when I was mayor to fund the fire dept partially, police department, economic development by 25%. Los Angeles will lose $20 million this year alone, especially in job training and education.

The President’s signature education program -- No Child Left Behind --has been under-funded this year by $15 billion and $55.7 billion since it was implemented.

That’s why we’ve got to change direction, and I am very dedicated to doing this. Because domestically we are shortchanging our nation, and it isn’t worth the tax cut for the millionaire.

A Different Direction: Iraq

I believe we have to change the direction in Iraq as well. Monday was the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Iraq remains bitterly divided. Sectarian violence is on the rise. Civil war draws closer every day.

More than 1,000 bodies have been found since the bombing of the Shiite mosque, the golden mosque, on February 26, less than a month ago. Forty-five people pulled off a bus and shot in the head. Twenty-two people in another place shot in the head.

Improvised explosive devises that grow bigger and stronger by the day and kill more and more. Assassinations of Sunnis by Shias and Shias by Sunnis, back and forth, killing and reprisal. Iraq remains unstable.

It is a much more dangerous place today than it was three years ago. Just talk to press who are now confined in Baghdad. Just talk to Senators who visit regularly who tell you they used to leave the Green Zone and walk about Baghdad, and now are confined to very limited places when they go. As I was when went a year ago December, I could not leave the Green Alone.

The time has come to transition the mission in Iraq and begin a structured downsizing of the American troop presence. I believe we should transition the American position there of one of prominence to a secondary role of logistical support capacity.

We are going to be in a war of terror for a considerable period of time. You can reposition men in Kuwait; we need more in Afghanistan where the Taliban has resurgence.

We know there are problems in the horn of Africa, and we know that Southeast Asia remains a place for terrorist and a place for insurgents.

I believe we should redeploy 80,000 troops by the end of 2006, and the remainder by the end of 2007. There are terror cells operating in this country and in some 60 countries so we’re going to be fighting this war for some time to come.

If success in Iraq depended solely on the military of the United States, then the outcome of this war would never be in doubt. We have the finest most technologically advanced, well-trained armed forces in the world.

But success does not depend on a military solution. Success in Iraq today depends on a political solution. It depends on the Iraq government’s willingness to make compromises necessary to turn this civil war chaos from the real brink of major civil war into a unified Iraq where Kurds, Shias, Sunnis and Iraqi Christians can live in peace.

We need a new strategy. I believe we need a new team. I think the president would do well to appoint a new team and chart a new strategy.

Secretary Rumsfeld is a strong leader, but he is also a stubborn leader. He doesn’t admit mistakes. He doesn’t show flexibility. He doesn’t listen to many others. He seemed to really know what he wanted to do and he’s going to do it no matter what the costs. Well the costs is now substantial, and in my view you need a different team. You need a different strategy. I think the president would do well to listen to this.

Once you’re in Iraq, you want to solve the problem. And I think it’s useful to look back, to look at mistakes.

We weren’t greeted as liberators, as we were assured we would be. We went in with too few troops -- not enough to guard the infrastructure, the border, the ammunition dumps that exist by the thousands. Secretary Rumsfeld projected that the war would cost $50 billion. $370 billion has been spent so far in Iraq and Afghanistan. We came in with no follow on force.

Collin Powell was right when he talked about the Pottery Barn rule: “You break it, you own it”. You overturn a government; you have to rebuild a nation.

There was no plan to build this new nation. No plan to rapidly stand up new ministries. No plan to rapidly get new and forceful leaders.

The Iraqi army was disbanded, the Iraqi police were disbanded, everybody in supervisorial role in the ministries, in oil, in hospitals, in sewage, in water, in electricity, in police force, was fired because they happened to be members of the Baathist party, which was required to get a job in the Saddam regime. This was what was called de-Baathification. I think it was a mistake.

When the policies aren’t working, you’ve got to recognize that. You’ve got to change the policies, you don’t blindly stay the course. That’s just what this Administration has done.

Now we are faced with an Iraq on the brink of a civil war. An Iraq that produces less oil today than it did before the war, the electricity is not on in Baghdad 24/7. An Iraq where you still see raw sewage in the streets. An Iraq where water is on and off. An Iraq where security on the streets is abysmal. In Iraq where kidnappings take place at will.

The President should say, “I want a new team. Let’s see if we can change the situation. Let’s see if there are things we can do better.”

The Iraqis must do their part as well. The last election to elect the permanent Iraqi leadership was December 15 th. It is nearing the end of March.

There is no Iraqi President. There is no Iraqi Prime Minister. There is no Iraqi Speaker. Iraq needs to respond. Iraq needs to stand up its government, its ministries and take over. Shia has to come to terms with the Sunni. Sunni has to come to terms with the Shia. We cannot do this for the Iraqis, they must do it for themselves. In a sense we provide a buffer for the Shias to prevent this acumination from taking place.

When Moqtada al Sadr went to Basra recently he accused the Americans of blowing up the Golden Mosque, and he said we must cut the head off of the snake.

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I realized that we become an impediment to the necessary political compromises -- because the Shia, the dominant party, feels we don’t have to make the accommodations.

It was a recognition that no matter what our American forces have a target on their back. So we need to transition the mission. We need to make it logistical and training, upstand the military, upstand the police, reposition forces in Kuwait, use more rapid reaction in forces, and site a new strategy to deal with what is a new reality. You can’t just continue a “bring it on” mentality and expect to solve the problems that exist in Iraq today.

I want to talk just quickly about two more things.

Reproductive Rights

Reproductive rights in America are under attack. It’s happening in Washington, and it’s happening all over the nation. I remain deeply committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose. And the people of California agree. More than two-thirds of the State’s voters believe that our abortion laws should remain the same or be relaxed to make it easier to exercise their rights.

But not everyone feels this way.

I remember a time, when I went to college, when women did not have the rights they have today. I remember passing the plate at Stanford so a very distressed young woman could go to Tijuana for a back alley abortion. Then in the early 1960s when abortion was illegal in California, I was an appointee of Governor Pat Brown on the California Women’s Board of Terms and Parole. I sentenced women who committed illegal abortions to state prison and I saw the morbid and terrible things they did. We cannot go back to those days.

With Justice O’Connor’s retirement, we lost a true pioneer and an important and pivotal vote in the battle to retain choice for American women. I participated in the hearings of both Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. I’m deeply concerned that these two judges will vote to chip away at the rights afforded by Roe v. Wade. I fear that they may vote to overturn that seminal case.

This is more important given what just happened in South Dakota. South Dakota just this month enacted a sweeping ban on abortion. The law outlaws any abortion except when a woman’s life is in jeopardy. Not in cases of rape. Not in cases of incest. Not when a woman’s health is in danger. Sweeping across the board. This is deeply troubling. And many other states are going to follow suit. I’m deeply concerned about what this could mean. It curtails not just our reproductive rights, but our autonomy as well.

As Justice O’Connor wrote in the Casey decision, and I quote, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their own reproductive lives.” End quote.

The time has come for women across America to stand up and fight for what we believe in. We’ve got to stand up for choice. Stand up for autonomy. Stand up for the rights of all women.

Global Warming

I want to touch on one more thing -- what I believe is the most serious, unaddressed environmental problem on the planet today -- and that’s global warming.

The clock is ticking on global warming. If we don’t slow, stop, and reverse global warming soon, we will do irreparable harm to the world around us.

Now there are some who say--is global warming real? Is it caused by humans? But this misses the boat. The science is indisputable. Global warming is real.

And it’s happening.

  • Just look at Antarctica, 36 cubic miles of Antarctic ice is melting into the sea each and every year.

  • Greenland, the glaciers are melting and have increased the melt by 100% in just the past five years. Extinctions of species are on the rise.

  • Habitats have been lost- for polar bears, for sea lions, for tigers, and for dozens of other species.

  • Permafrost is melting in Canada and Alaska. And severe weather is happening, aberrant weather, funnel clouds of the coast of California, which I have never seen in my life before.

  • The strength of hurricanes are increasing due to warmer waters.

  • It is predicted that there will be more volatile weather patterns. Rain, when it rains, the drops are bigger.

  • Hail, when it hails, the hail is bigger.

  • Warmer weather. The past five years have been the hottest on record to date.

  • And the California snowpack is shrinking. It could shrink the snowpack of the Sierra Nevada by the end of the century by an amount greater than the annual water consumption of Southern California’s 16 million people. No water.

So I will be introducing legislation next week on global warming. It will reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 516 million metric tons of Carbon Dioxide a year that’s a 7.25 percent reduction from today’s levels. This is the equivalent, when it's fully in place, of taking 111 million passenger cars off the road. So this would be a major step in the right direction.

And briefly, here’s how it would work.

It would be mandatory. Greenhouse gases would be capped at today’s levels from 2006 to 2010. Beginning in 2011, to give people time to get ready, the cap would be lowered gradually over time: .5% annually from 2011 through 2015 and by 1% annually from 2015 through 2020.

It’s a market-based, cap and trade system, allowing companies to trade credits to discourage any economic loss.

It will encourage comparable action by India and China.

And it will provide significant economic incentives for farmers to make changes in the tilling of their land that will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gases. You can sequester carbon in the soil, and then farmers would gain credits, which they can then trade to companies and make money.

Congress must step up to the plate and do something.

Every effort has been rebuffed to date. And time is marching on and the harm is irreparable.

So please Los Angeles, you just read the front page of the LA Times today about destructive chemicals in the atmosphere and Los Angeles being second only to New York.

We must address these problems. Not to do so is to be grossly negligent.


So there is one thing I know.

This is a moving, dynamic, community of women. You’re on the front lines every day. You juggle a career and a family. You blaze new trails for the next generation. And we together have so much work to do.

We’re going to add women in the Congress. Add them in the boardroom. We’re going to add them as CEOs. We’re going to add them as owners of small businesses. We’re going to fight for better pay and a better economy. We’re going to fight to find a way out of Iraq.

I want you to know I’m with you on this fight, and I look forward to it every single day.

Thank you so much.