The Repeal of Wisconsin’s ‘Equal Pay’ Bill, And The Failure Of The Republican Political Imagination
When we talk about laws that mandate equal pay for women, we need to keep in mind that most reasonable people agree that two equally competent individuals should be compensated equitably for their work, regardless of their gender, or any other character trait, for that matter. I don’t know anyone, of any political persuasion, that doesn’t think this should be the case.
With that in mind, I think most reasonable people can also agree that, if a law is unnecessary or outdated, then repealing it is no crime. If Scott Walker et al. could make the case that this law is no longer needed, and that similarly situated men and women are receiving equitable compensation, then there would be absolutely nothing wrong with repealing this law. Indeed, there is no point in filling up state codes with laws that are unnecessary or cumulative. If employers are treating men and women equally, then we needn’t fatten state codes with pointless provisions.
But Walker and his Republican peers have completely failed to make that case; which is interesting, because there is certainly research out there that that suggests the gap in earnings between similarly situated men and women is greatly exaggerated. The analysis doesn’t end there, of course. But the fact is that Walker and his peers are not even trying to make that case. Instead, they’re talking almost entirely about the impact of “baseless” discrimination lawsuits on the cost of doing business; and apparently, while they’re at it, citing Ann Coulter as an authority. Which is problematic for reasons obvious enough that they need not be pointed out.
I think this is another good example of why I’ve always been turned off by the intellectual culture of the modern Republican party. Even when a reasonable case could be made for their policy position, they completely fail to make it. The people who the Republicans need to convince in order for repeal of the Wisconsin “Equal Pay” bill not to become a political liability are the women who the law protects. There’s no question that the constant threat of lawsuits makes it more difficult to run a business. But if those lawsuits are vindicating a right that couldn’t be vindicated otherwise, then they might be a necessary evil. Walker and his peers had an opportunity before repealing this law to make the case that Wisconsin women don’t need this bill. Instead, they talked about the negative effect that the “Equal Pay” law had on business owners, which makes it look like they don’t care about protecting female employees. That may not be true as a matter of fact, but that’s certainly how it looks. And they have nobody but themselves to blame for that perception.
This is a huge political failure by Walker and his Republican allies in Wisconsin. Their decision to repeal Wisconsin’s “Equal Pay” law will become yet another political liability for Republicans nationally come November. And they could have prevented this by speaking directly to the women affected, and trying to convince them that they’ll be ok without the bill. They didn’t do that. And they deserve every electoral defeat they receive as a result of that oversight.