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Last week, the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to advance in the Senate by a vote of 52-47. The legislation was introduced as a way to close the pay gap that supposedly exists between men and women, but, in reality, this was yet another salvo in the manufactured war on women.
In the weeks leading up to the Senate vote, we heard a lot from the White House and Senate Democrats about how this piece of legislation was needed to level the playing field for women. They took to the media with talking points claiming that women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn and they deserve “equal pay for equal work.” As is often the case in politics, there is more to these talking points than meets the eye.
If there is indeed a discriminatory pay gap, and there are differing opinions about this, the answer is not to enact more burdensome legislation when there are more-than-sufficient laws already in place. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law by President Kennedy and prohibits wage disparity based on gender alone. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides further protections against gender-based pay discrimination. Most recently, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which further clarified the rules preventing pay disparity based on gender. (It’s interesting to note that President Obama seems to not heed his own legislation, with female White House staffers being paid less than their male counterparts. And many Senate Democrats are even worse at practicing what they preach.)
Is there really a need for a Paycheck Fairness Act? Of course not and the Democrats know that. But this is an election year and they are keenly aware that their grasp on the all-important female voting bloc is weakening. By forcing a vote on a bill they knew was not needed and would never pass, Senate Democrats hoped to bring women voters back into the fold by making them feel that their pay is threatened by Republicans.
The truth is, nothing is more threatening to women than the current economy. May’s jobs numbers were dismal, with unemployment rising to 8.2 percent. May also had the dubious honor of being the fortieth straight month of unemployment over 8 percent. Even worse, nearly 800,000 women have left the workforce in the past few months. No group has fared worse in this ailing economy than women.
And let’s not forget that this same Democrat-led Senate has not passed a budget in well over three years. While women across America are searching for jobs and struggling to keep their heads above water financially, Senate Democrats dither about getting the nation’s fiscal house in order. Women are the overseers of their family budgets and well know there are serious consequences to not setting and keeping a budget. Due to the lack of leadership on the part of Senate Democrats, the nation does not have a plan in place to deal with our skyrocketing debt, which has led to financial crisis and uncertainty. Needless to say, these are not ideal conditions under which to create jobs and put Americans back to work.
Instead of seeing women as a voting bloc to be scared into submission, Democrats should resist the urge to use political straw men like the Paycheck Fairness Act and focus on doing the right thing by the American people.
Teri Christoph is the co-founder of Smart Girl Politics, a non-profit organization for conservative women, and co-chair of She-PAC, a hybrid PAC supporting conservative women candidates. Follow her on Twitter: @TeriChristoph.