Perhaps more than anywhere else in the country, Texas is home to a spirited argument over pay equity. Lately, it’s an argument the right has been losing.
Last week, Cari Christman, the executive director of a political action committee for Texas Republican women, got the ball rolling when she struggled to explain her party’s opposition to pay-equity laws. She said women don’t need measures like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, in part because “women are extremely busy.”
Soon after, Beth Cubriel, the executive director of the Texas Republican Party, said women are to blame for receiving unequal pay for equal work. She argued that if women “become better negotiators,” the problem will take care of itself.
Yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) appeared on msnbc and seemed annoyed by the entire subject, calling the debate “nonsense,” and urging Democrats to focus on “substantive issues” – as if this issue isn’t substantive at all.
Perry was asked about the debate flaring up in the battle between Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis. In the latest volley in the weeks-long fight, Davis on Monday continued attacks on Abbott for not supporting fair pay legislation, with Abbott saying he supports equal pay but laws already on the books deal with the problem.The Republican governor backed up the man trying to succeed him in 2014. “I vetoed that bill the last session of the Legislature,” Perry said. “Why do we need to muddle up our statutes when we already have laws on the books that clearly take care of this?”
The answer is that the laws on the books aren’t “clearly taking care of this.”
For example, as Laura Bassett noted last week, Abbott, the Republican gubernatorial candidate and former state attorney general, has “actively fought against equal pay legislation in his career, successfully defending a state college that had paid a female professor less than her colleagues for the same work.”
For that matter, in Abbott’s Texas office, “most female assistant attorneys general make less on average than do men in the same job classification.”
The pay gap is real. Women continue to receive unequal pay for equal work. That’s not “nonsense”; that’s just reality.
The question is what policymakers intend to do about it. In Texas, Rick Perry doesn’t want to “muddle up our statutes” with laws to prevent wage discrimination. So what’s the governor’s alternative remedy? Beyond, of course, dismissing the debate itself for not being “substantive” enough for him?