Republicans have struggled with a gender gap for quite a while, but in 2011 and 2012, the problem intensified. Indeed, the phrase “Republican war on women” did not materialize out of thin air.
In a short period of time, we saw GOP officials restricting contraception; cutting off Planned Parenthood; requiring state-mandated, medically-unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds; forcing physicians to lie to patients about abortion and breast cancer; fighting equal-pay laws; and temporarily defeating the Violence Against Women Act. When it came time for House Republicans to pay for lower student loan interest rates, GOP officials decided to get the funding by cutting access to breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings.
But that was before. USA Today reported last week that the party has a new idea, included in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) rebranding campaign, it hopes will resonate with some of the women who ran away from the party in recent years.
House Republicans are targeting popular “mommy blog” websites in a digital ad campaign beginning Tuesday as part of an ongoing effort to repair the GOP’s image with certain voting blocs – in this case swing female voters – who have sided decisively with Democrats in recent elections.
The banner ads will be featured on over 100 websites popular among women and geo-targeted to be viewed by residents in 20 Democratic-held congressional districts targeted by the GOP for 2014…. The $20,000 ad buy, running on sites including Ikeafans.com and MarthaStewart.com through Friday, will call on Democrats to vote with House Republicans next week on a bill to give hourly private sector workers more flexibility to choose between compensatory time and cash payment for overtime work.
Yes, the rebranded, new-and-improved Republican Party thinks private-sector flex time is the key – or at least, a key – to closing the gender gap.
There are, of course, a couple of problems. For one thing, this is a pretty modest policy step, which doesn’t come close to compensating for the rest of the GOP’s regressive social agenda.
For another, the proposal itself isn’t any good.
The basic idea behind the “Working Families Flexibility Act” is empowering private-sector employers to make a trade with workers – instead of giving employees overtime pay for extra work, businesses can compensate workers with some additional time off.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the new Republican idea isn’t new at all – Alex Seitz-Wald noted that House GOP leaders pushed identical measures in 1996, 1997, and 2003, and it was a favorite measure of Newt Gingrich’s.
OK, but what are the substantive downsides? Seitz-Wald explained:
What labor advocates are more concerned about is that the bill supposedly aimed at helping working families might actually hurt them by undermining the 40-hour work week and “increasing overtime hours for those who don’t want them and cutting pay for those who do,” as Center for Economic and Policy Research economist Eileen Appelbaum wrote. The National Partnership for Women and Families said the “mis-named Working Families Flexibility Act will mean a pay cut for workers without any guaranteed flexibility or time off.” […]
In Cantor’s “Making Life Work” speech in February, he explained that, “In 1985, Congress passed a law that gave state and municipal employees this flexibility, but today still denies that same privilege to the entire private sector. That’s not right.” But that move was to cut costs for government, not provide workers with more freedom, Judith Lichtman of the National Partnership for Women And Families told the AP. And government employees generally have the protection of both a union and civil service laws.
And as Ezra Klein noted, if the problem is that working parents don’t have enough free time with their kids, then why not give them more by guaranteeing paid vacation days to employees? The U.S. is the only developed country that doesn’t have a law ensuring all workers get vacations, thanks to fervent opposition from Republicans and corporate interests. “Instead, Cantor is saying that the way to solve the problem of working parents not having enough time with their kids is to give them an incentive to work more overtime,” Klein wrote.
The House is likely to pass the bill sometime this week, though it almost certainly won’t become law, at least not anytime soon – the White House issued a formal veto threat yesterday.