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Women business, and threat of overspending

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On this day in 1920, women won the right to vote. The constitutional amendment granting women this right was the result of years of hard work by brave, dedicated, informed women who refused to accept as fate the status quo. We should use this occasion to recommit to actively shaping our government and our country's future. The need for an informed, engaged citizenry has never been greater.

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As a woman business owner, I know firsthand that the past three or four years have been tough for American businesses. But there was strong sense that, if we could just hang on for a bit longer, the economy would bounce back and things would get better.

Regrettably, I've felt this sense of hope about the future increasing give way to uncertainty and fear about what is to come -- and admittedly, a fair amount of resentment about what has already occurred.

American business owners like myself have spent the past few years pulling our belts ever-tighter in a fight to survive: we cut corners, cut pay, cut benefits, laid off or let go of good employees. We did whatever it took to keep the doors open, and to get ourselves in an economically viable position for the future.

But as it turns out, while we in the private sector were making the painful choices necessary to stay afloat, our federal government was spending our tax dollars like they were "play money."

Of course, this behavior isn't new. Years of irresponsible governing by both parties -- particularly habitual overspending -- has landed our nation more than $13 trillion in debt. With the economy continuing to struggle, and millions of baby boomers beginning to retire and collect benefits, the situation just gets worse from here.

What's Washington's plan? Incredibly, it doesn't have one. In fact, for the first time since 1974, the House of Representatives failed not only to pass a budget -- but even to write one. Can you imagine trying to run your business without a budget? Your government is running your country without a budget, and both parties are to blame!

No wonder we're in such a mess, and no wonder our economy is still floundering. With no idea what Washington will do next, businesses are afraid to act. We're holding on to whatever resources we have with clenched fists. And that makes it pretty tough to grow and create jobs.

In the end, it will be America's moms, workers, and businesses who will suffer the consequences of Washington's fiscal recklessness via higher taxes, higher costs of living, and higher borrowing costs, all of which will mean more business contraction, slower growth and fewer jobs in the future.

What's a woman to do? Draw from our past. And today is the perfect day to start: until the 19th Amendment was ratified, women had little choice but to live with the consequences of other peoples' decisions. The women of the early 20th century stood up and said, "enough!"

Today, thanks to those brave suffragettes, women wield tremendous political power: we cast the majority of votes and increasingly are seeking office and directly shaping public policy. Women can change Washington by learning about the issues that affect us as mothers, workers, and business owners, and by using our knowledge to spur action. We need to demand that Washington get its fiscal house in order by cutting wasteful spending immediately. It's our time, and this is our fight: to preserve our nation's economic and fiscal future, as well as our own.

Terry Neese is a serial entrepreneur and founder of Terry Neese Personnel Services in Oklahoma City. She is also former national president of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

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