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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Equal pay: not just a problem for Democrats

Congress is often referred to as a “good ol’ boys club”— and for good reason. The current Congress has more women than at any other point in history, with 104, a little less than 20 percent. Women are similarly underrepresented in corporate America, with women making up only 19.2 percent of S&P 500 companies’ board positions in 2014.

There are many theories as to why women are not rising to the top of the ladder in both public and private sectors, from informal factors such as sexism and stereotypes to formal, institutional barriers such as unequal maternity and paternity treatment and, of course, unequal pay. In this year’s State of the Union address, President Barack Obama said “that’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid as much as a man for doing the same work. … It’s 2015. It’s time.” After this statement, many Republicans, including women, refused to stand or applaud.

These partisan politics aside, it is time to pass equal pay. It’s 2015, and women could still be making around 23 cents less per dollar than a man for the same work — white, able-bodied women, that is. According to the 2013 U.S. Census, Latina women make only 54 cents on the dollar. In California and Texas, the two states with the highest numbers of Latina working women, that number drops to 44 and 45 cents, respectively.

Women make up half of the country and more than half of educated workers. With half of the country systematically making less money, we do a disservice to our economy. By passing an equal pay act, families will have more money to fuel the American economy.

Fair compensation practices are not just women’s issues; they are societal issues.

“We know that women make 80 percent of the financial decisions for the household,” said Hannah Lozon, the coordinator of Social Justice Education for Residence Life, “so they are really controlling the purse strings for the economy.”

With UA students entering the labor force by the thousands each year, it is of the utmost importance to see some form of an equal pay bill pass. If equal pay were to pass, families would have more money to spend on things such as college tuition and family expenses, Lozon asserted.

But will it pass? The short answer is: not in this Congress. When the Speaker of the House can’t even clap for a reasonable solution to pay disparities, it is pretty obvious there are obstructionist politics at play. In fact, equal pay hasn’t been able to pass for years. The 113th Congress tried to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2013, but it never made it past the bill introduction on the House Floor. The main opponent of the bill? Partisan politics.

If anything, partisanship will be worse in the newly seated 114th Congress, where Republicans hold a majority in both the House and the Senate. Though on an individual level many Republicans may support equal pay, as a party, they don’t.

As Betsy Palmer, an adjunct lecturer in political science, pointed out, “If President Obama said, ‘Hey, there’s a way to clean the air for free,’ they’d still oppose it.”

Since the president has no way of feasibly passing equal pay in this Congress, why would he bring it up in the State of the Union? It’s the president’s largest forum for publicly discussing the laundry list of things he wants to accomplish.

“[Equal pay is] something Obama truly believes in,” Palmer said. “It is something that activates his base.”

Partisan politics should not drive this conversation. Republicans should be able to support equal pay for men and women. It’s fiscally responsible and morally fair.

It’s time to find some middle ground in Congress again. Politics are about compromising, but lately, both sides are so far apart, it’s hard to see where the middle falls. Common sense solutions like equal pay could be achieved with compromise on both sides, but it takes two to make Congress work.

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Maddy Bynes is a junior studying political science and history. Follow her on Twitter.

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