Questions for Democratic Women Championing Equal Pay

by Carrie L. Lukas

The Washington Post reports today that Republican female candidates are counteracting the Democrats’ push to make the mid-term elections about “equal pay” by refocusing on Obamacare. That’s a sensible tactic: Voters should consider how the Democrats’ signature health-care legislation has worked in practice, and has contributed to our other biggest problem of intractable joblessness. 

Yet Republicans may also want to push back more specifically on Democrats’ calls for more equal-pay legislation. After all, Democrats had claimed that the Lilly Ledbetter Act would advance the cause of “equal pay.” Voters should be encouraged to ask: How has that new law worked out? Did we get any closer to the goal of Equal Pay after passing that? Why would a new equal-pay law work any better?  

Republicans should also remind voters that there are laws on the books that make sex-based discrimination illegal, so women can and do sue employers who pay them less than men for the same work.   

Republicans should highlight who would really benefit from bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the newest “equal pay” legislation championed by the Left. It’s lawyers. Do Americans really think that the best way to boost women’s economic prospects and earnings is to encourage more class-action lawsuits? Do Americans really think that women will have more job opportunities and higher pay if the Department of Labor begins requiring companies to fill out paperwork explaining their compensation practices? What American businesses really need to create more jobs is more red tape?

The much lamented “wage gap” (that’s short hand for the differences between men and women’s earnings) is primarily caused by the different choices men and women tend to make about work. That may be a tough message to get through in today’s media and political environment, but at least it has the benefit of being the truth. 

Republicans need to remind voters what equal-pay legislation really is: It’s legislation that grows the bureaucracy and encourages more lawsuits against employers; it has very little to do with boosting women’s earnings at all.