JFK signs the Equal Pay Act into law, June 10, 1963


JFK signs the Equal Pay Act into law, June 10, 1963

It’s National Equal Pay Day, Do You Know Where Your Paycheck Is?

Less money means less control. No wonder the GOP is banking on keeping women woefully shortchanged.

This article was made possible because of the generous support of DAME members.  We urgently need your help to keep publishing. Will you contribute just $5 a month to support our journalism?

Did you realize that today, April 8th is National Equal Pay Day? I didn’t. The day of the year changes as the date is determined by how far into the new year women would have to work to earn the same in the previous year as men did. That’s right.

When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963 by JFK, women were earning 59 cents to every dollar paid to men. Now, 45 years later women are paid on average only 77 percent of what men are paid. Not surprisingly women of color fare even worse. African American women match up at 64 cents while Latinas take home 55 cents for every dollar the white man banks.

Do the math. Yes, it’s taken half a century to close the pay gap 18 cents. Or slightly less than half a penny a year. Half a penny for 45 years! (And they say women aren’t good at math. Look at how far we’ve been stretching that penny.) The Institute for Women’s Policy Research figures that at this pace women won’t achieve parity until 2058.  

Today, women make up nearly half of the American workforce. Women are surpassing men in education, in jobs, and are the primary breadwinners in four out of ten families with children under 18. Yet, women make less money. Always have, and if the GOP—sorely out of touch with the needs of women—has their way, always will.

Yesterday President Obama signed two executive actions on equal pay. Obama, who passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, continuing his commitment to equality wrote, “I will continue to push the Congress to step up and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, because this fight will not be over until our sisters, our mothers, and our daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.”

Which is all well and good if everyone comes to the table this week when the Senate is scheduled to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. They have voted on the bill twice before, and if history repeats itself, as I expect, they will filibuster it to death. The GOP-controlled House—doing what they do best—will as they have in the past, decline to vote on it at all. They will choose to go on ignoring the calls for women’s equality, and instead say a prayer that we will all just go back to our desks and be grateful we have jobs at all.

They are hoping we aren’t paying attention. Distraction is the name of the game. Katie Packer Gage, a Republican consultant employed to help the Grand Old Pecker party tailor their un-female-friendly messages to be more appealing and less hostile to women voters, told Politico that’s she’s advising candidates to keep hammering the “distraction issue.”

The GOP would prefer to keep your focus on their label, the party of “Family Values.” Forget that the only “value” here is the value employers are getting out of paying women less to do the exact same work as men.

The message the Good Old Boy Party is sending to the ladies: Stop focusing on the bucks and buck up

What is the GOP doing in response? What it always does, which is first deny there is any problem at all. There are those who dismiss the pay gap as just hooey, crazy talk—you know, like climate change and evolution.

Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum says, “The president, Democratic lawmakers, and progressive activists use this faux holiday to convince women they are routinely suffering massive wage discrimination.” (Clearly women are just stupid and easily lead.) She adds that comparing what men and women earn is fully akin to “comparing apples to oranges.” Wait which ones are apples and which ones are oranges?

If and when the GOP does grudgingly admit there is a problem, the Grand Old Penny Pinchers refuse to admit it’s a real problem. Slick Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and GOP presidential hopeful, called the wage gap “misleading” and “nonsense,” the push for paycheck fairness a ploy to “distract the public from substantive issues”—substantive meaning what exactly?

Having rejected Democrats Eat Babies! as a midterm election theme the GOP is now preaching, “Democrats are Distracting!”

Since the Obama administration exceeded their goal of getting 7 million people to sign up for health insurance the GOP has had to drop the argument that the administration is focusing on pay equity in order to distract America from the failure of people to sign up for Obamacare.

Wait, wasn’t health care a substantive issue?

Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), the top-ranking GOP woman in Congress, claims that the discussions of equal pay are “politicizing women….” While Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) insists that, “Many ladies I know feel like they are being used as pawns and find it condescending that Democrats are trying to use this issue as a political distraction from the failures of their economic policies.”  

The second line of defense against protests about pay inequality is to patronize us. “Perpetuating the myth that women are a victim class harms women and makes them feel weak,” Schaeffer said in a conference call on equal pay Monday. I think what she means is weak with hunger. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel weak when I protest injustice, if anything I feel more powerful. (Let’s keep that between us.)

When in doubt frightening women is also a useful tactic. The GOP’s go-to-girl Mika Brzezinski, co-host of Morning Joe and spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee explained that the GOP’s resistance to paying men and women equally is the fear that it places an “unnecessary burden” on employers, which will actually end up hurting female employees.

This unnecessary burden? Didn’t we hear this exact same language in the health care debate? Asking employers to treat their workers like human beings is a burden. And how annoying is it to hear the wage-slaves singing sad songs in their shacks at night!

How much harm could paying women the same as men cause? Women will be able to buy groceries, pay the heating bill and the rent and buy clothes for their children! (Hmm… that leads to feelings of self-reliance, which is always dangerous.) Perhaps not having to work so much meant mothers could regularly eat dinner with their families. (Hmm… dinner hour hijinks sometimes lead to women frowning, which leads to wrinkles, and wrinkles make a woman look old—which decreases her sex appeal. Boo, to that.)

Mothers who don’t have to work so late could be home to help with schoolwork, which is proven—along with eating meals together as a family—to have a direct impact on a child’s future academic success. (Hmmm…some mothers might be threatened by a child who can use bigger words than she, which would lead to a drop in self-esteem which would lead to the bottle and then what, the needle?) I could go on and on…

My guess is that the GOP thinks that women will be harmed by male co-workers who will resent being paid equal to women, and this will make them cranky and unpleasant in the workplace? On the job sexual harassment will skyrocket? Oh please, save me.

Seriously, a new  National Partnership for Women and Families puts the pay gap into perspective. If full-time working women in Ohio were paid as much as men, they could afford nine more months of mortgage and utility payments. If a working mother in Louisiana earned equal pay she could afford 21 more months of rent, or two and a half years’ worth of food for her family.

Money makes the world go around. As we know. No place is this more the case than in politics. You want more change in your pocket? Make change in your life. You want to send a message to Capitol Hill? Hit them where they are most vulnerable. That’s right, square in the wallet. Don’t give your hard-earned, hard-fought-for, 77-cents-to-the-dollar cash to politicians who don’t support your right to equal pay for equal work. Shut that down.

Before you go, we hope you’ll consider supporting DAME’s journalism.

Today, just tiny number of corporations and billionaire owners are in control the news we watch and read. That influence shapes our culture and our understanding of the world. But at DAME, we serve as a counterbalance by doing things differently. We’re reader funded, which means our only agenda is to serve our readers. No both sides, no false equivalencies, no billionaire interests. Just our mission to publish the information and reporting that help you navigate the most complex issues we face.

But to keep publishing, stay independent and paywall free for all, we urgently need more support. During our Spring Membership drive, we hope you’ll join the community helping to build a more equitable media landscape with a monthly membership of just $5.00 per month or one-time gift in any amount.

Support Dame Today

Become a member!