Maddow, Heroine, Tilts at Windmills
In championing the Paycheck Fairness Act, she rides roughshod over the truth.

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow


Betsy Woodruff

Given how vocally Maddow defended the bill, one would think she took the time to fully explain this fairly complex piece of legislation to her audience. And one would be wrong.

Here’s an example of how Maddow characterized the bill, written by Steve Benen for her blog, and quoting a New York Times op-ed:

The bill would “enhance the remedies available for victims of gender-based discrimination and require employers to show that wage differences are job-related, not sex-based, and driven by business necessity. The measure would also protect employees from retaliation for sharing salary information, which is important for deterring and challenging discriminatory compensation.”

From that description, the legislation sounds pretty benign. But, alas, the devil is in the details. As I explained back in early June, this policy would place the burden of proof on employers to show that pay discrepancies are a “business necessity,” rather than requiring plaintiffs to demonstrate that they face discrimination. The bill would also eliminate the current $300,000 cap on discrimination suits, incentivizing trial lawyers to press as many cases as possible in hopes of a few big wins. And it would make class-action suits work on an opt-out basis, which means that all the women in a business could automatically be included in a suit unless they voluntarily rejected the possibility of a windfall. These are all details — and not trivial ones — that, to my knowledge, Maddow never mentioned.

One aspect of the bill that she emphasized, though, is that it ensures workers’ right to share their salary information. And here’s one more detail that hasn’t come up on The Rachel Maddow Show: Thanks to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, workers already have that right. Staffers from the offices of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D., Conn.), have not responded to National Review’s requests for an explanation of why workers’ rights to share salary information isn’t adequately protected in current law. 

So we’re left with a piece of legislation designed to fix a problem whose scope and causes we don’t even agree on. And this law, which leaves businesses vulnerable to enormous class-action lawsuits with unlimited penalties, is to be implemented during one of the country’s darkest economic times since the invention of the VCR. It’s awful to contemplate, but if this bill had been passed, June’s unemployment numbers could have been even worse.

But at least we have Maddow and the Democratic party to defend the truth from those lady-hating Republicans.

She put it this way: “The Democratic side is making a bet that . . . the average general-election voter does not live in Republican world, but rather in the reality-based community, where facts are useful for understanding what problems are and policy is useful for solving those problems.”

As an inhabitant of Republican world, I can only conclude with this: Maddow is fond of suggesting that conservative voters are delusional dum-dums who see only the facts they like, which they use to support exclusively ideological ends, rather than solutions to real problems. It’s up to you to decide who fits that description best.

— Betsy Woodruff is a William F. Buckley Fellow at the National Review Institute.