COMMENTARY | Somewhere in all the political rhetoric and posturing, an inkling of what might be a fundamental truth might glimmer but never take hold in one's conscious mind. Sometimes, though, it bursts through like a runaway train. Such was undoubtedly the epiphany experienced by MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow when she discovered that the reason Republicans have no interest in fixing the wage gap between women and men or keeping in place -- or enacting -- laws to protect against gender payroll discrimination is due to the fact that most Republicans do not believe that such a gap exists.
Maddow spent considerable time on a segment on her show earlier this week outlining the very real problem of wage discrepancies, a gap between male and female in nearly every profession one wishes to consider. In fact, she noted that a Bloomberg report that crunched the numbers of the most common 20 held by men and found that those jobs saw men paid more than women in 19 of the 20. A like survey of women indicated similar numbers. Women were paid less in jobs that are most commonly held by women.
"Women get paid less than men do, seventy seven cents on the dollar on average, that's true," Maddow said. "Democrats know that's true. It is the accepted truth by anybody who is looking at the facts of the matter. Republicans do not know that's true. This seems important. I finally see this now, and it's important both in terms of the facts, but also in terms of the politics. I think this is why this debate has been so talking past each other, so incoherent and dissatisfying."
Maddow went on to show U. S. Census statistics that indicated that out of the 265 major occupations in the U. S., men were paid on average more than women.
But Republicans do not see this. In fact, they reject it out-of-hand. It was evident the day before, when Maddow and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos squared off on NBC's "Meet The Press." It was there that Castellanos opened Maddow's eyes to the real problem with the Republicans and not just the gender wage gap but also the overall "war on women" -- they reject it as nonexistent because it does not fit their version of reality.
Maddow insisted that the reality is that Republicans have made it policy to legislate against the best interests of women, tossing out examples of nationwide defunding of women's health care programs and invasive laws regarding abortion. She said protecting the wage gap was part of the policy.
Castellanos told Maddow that liberals were simply "manufacturing a crisis." Previously, he maintained that if you considered single women between the ages of 40 and 64 made more than men and that if women truly made 77 cents on the dollar, why weren't employers hiring more women and saving themselves money on their company payroll?
As Maddow noted on "The Maddow Show," cherry-picking the data can get you mostly what you want if you try hard enough. But when the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U. S. Census Bureau, and the Congressional Budget Office all agree that women make less than men on average across the board and provide statistical facts, denying that women are not discriminated against becomes an untenable position.
Unless one simply ignores the empirical facts of the American workplace and its workforce and posits whatever fits into one's economic and political ideology.
But it shouldn't even be an issue. As Maddow, Lily Ledbetter, and countless other women have noted over the years, a woman doing the same job as a man and holding the same experience should be paid commensurate with the wages of the man. Not less and never less.
But it is an issue, just as other discriminatory legislation against women have become basic policy for the Republican Party (read: defunding Planned Parentfood and enacting laws that would force women to take pregnancies to term even in cases of rape and/or incest). With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's signing of a law that repealed his state's Fair Pay legislation, discrimination in the workplace just became a little easier to effect. And, sadly, it sets an unhealthy precedent.
But Maddow and many Americans (mostly women but also men who believe women should receive equal pay in the workplace) were forced to look at a harsh reality this week. Republicans don't care about the gender wage gap -- because, to them, none exists -- or the laws that protect the leveling of the workplace playing field (like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009). Why make it more difficult on employers when there's nothing there but a liberal "manufactured crisis?"
Which leaves one question: Can true equality exist when a prevailing popular ideology refuses to see the actual presence of inequality?
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