Mandatory Credit: Photo by MICHAEL REYNOLDS/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11656667e)
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi walks from the House floor to her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 21 December 2020. United States congressional leaders are trying to pass a coronavirus stimulus and relief package worth approximately 900 billion US dollars. The COVID-19 stimulus relief package has been tied to a funding bill that would fund the government through September 2021.
Congressional leaders work to pass a coronavirus stimulus package in USA, Washington – 21 Dec 2020
On the heels of passing a long-overdue legislative relief package, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was accused of being out of touch for saying that she believed a $600 stimulus check was a consequential sum of money to working people. “I would like them to have been bigger,” Pelosi said of the stimulus checks on the House floor on Monday. “But they are significant and they will be going out soon.” As her comments — and Pelosi herself, a multimillionaire — became the subject of online scrutiny, a theme emerged as some people defended Pelosi by calling her critics “misogynists.” This made us wonder: Is it sexist to call Nancy Pelosi rich?
Let’s be clear here: No, it’s not. It’s absolutely not sexist to call a millionaire rich, even if that millionaire is a woman. Pelosi’s celebration of $600 as being enough to significantly impact the lives of working people is tone-deaf coming from someone who makes more than that in a single day from her House Speaker salary alone ($223,500 annually, according to a congressional salaries brief). This isn’t even taking into consideration her $114 million net worth, which Pelosi revealed in a 2018 personal financial disclosure report.
Of course, even though Pelosi is one of the wealthiest, she isn’t the only rich member of Congress. According to a report shared by The Independent, the majority of Congress members are millionaires. The annual salary of both senators and representatives is currently set at $174,000. They essentially spent nine months arguing over whether Americans deserve to get what each of them makes in a day. Meanwhile, millions of people are struggling to pay for basic necessities like food and housing. According to The New York Times, nine million fewer people are employed right now than at this time last year, and based on median housing prices nationwide, $600 pays the average rent in exactly zero states. So being critical of someone like Pelosi, who says that this stimulus check will make a significant difference n people’s lives is not sexist — it’s just math.
Originally, Pelosi and fellow Democrats supported a version of the HEROES Act which would have included a $1,200 check, as was given out in the first stimulus bill, but Republicans successfully fought against that. Finally, after months of gridlock, while hundreds of thousands of people died of coronavirus-related deaths, the House and Senate came to an agreement to pass a $900 billion aid package. While huge, it’s considerably smaller than the CARES Act in March that totaled $2.2 trillion and was responsible for those $1,200 checks. Furthermore, fewer people qualify for these checks, and the revived supplemental federal unemployment benefit of $300 per week, that will be given until March 14, is only half what was offered in the last package.
The criticism of Pelosi isn’t because she’s a woman, but because she is out of touch with the needs of her constituents. That has nothing to do with misogyny. In fact, California governor, Gavin Newsom, has also faced harsh criticism about how out of touch he’s been during this pandemic. The anger directed at both Pelosi and Newsom (and countless other politicians) is warranted, and is an example of the dire state of wealth inequality in the United States. Economic inequality, whether you choose to look at it from the perspective of earned income or held wealth, continues to grow in this country, and has done so with alarming rapidity during the pandemic. The ramifications of this inequality include a decrease in political influence for the disadvantaged and stagnation of economic growth — pretending that anyone who is angry about the state of things is just a knee-jerk misogynist only perpetuates these problems. I
f we refuse to criticize the decisions of wealthy politicians as being out of touch, legislators with millions of dollars in their bank accounts will continue to think that $600 is enough. We don’t necessarily have to eat the rich, but we can at least make them eat their own words. There’s no need to protect the rich from reality. Their money does that for them already.
Click HERE to read more from Refinery29