I don't know if any of you caught it on Meet the Press yesterday, but when I saw the video, my eyes about fell out of their sockets. Against all evidence, two prominent Republicans - one strategist and one Romney surrogate (who is also a member of Congress) sat there, poker-faced, claiming that there women do not in fact make less than men in this country, and that the the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a bad idea. Watch:
Let me break this down a little. First, we have this (transcript generated from official rush transcript and from actually watching):
DAVID GREGORY: So what is the right way to be framing this conversation and this debate, which is a very serious debate, because we're talking about the real deciders in the race.A couple of things here. First, notice how quickly Castellanos jumps on Rachel. He would not - at any price - let Rachel finish her point uninterrupted. It's almost like he's been issued instructions not to let anyone finish their point about women's pay disparity. If you have to go to the degree of utter stupidity and plain lie about whether or not women make less than men for the same work, do it. But do not let anyone speaking in favor of women's pay equality ever finish. This must not be focus grouping too good.
RACHEL MADDOW: Policy. It should be about policy. And all of our best debates are always about policy. And it should be about policy that affects women specifically. The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy. Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make. So if--
ALEX CASTELLANOS: Not exactly.
RACHEL MADDOW: Women don't make less than men?
ALEX CASTELLANOS: Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.
RACHEL MADDOW: Wait, wait. No. Don't tell me what the reasons are. Do women make less than men ...
ALEX CASTELLANOS: Actually, No.
RACHEL MADDOW: No? Wow! Okay. No.
But Alex Castellanos actually touches on something following this conversation that should be revealing to anyone who wishes to see what the true values of the Republican party are.
ALEX CASTELLANOS: Men work an average of 44 hours a week. Women work 41 hours a week. Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexibility--It's true that professions like engineering are relatively male-dominated, not least because of conservative social stigma against women and girls. But let's even take that point for a second. Men more often go into professions of science, engineering, drivers, construction, etc., while women tend to go more often into teaching, nursing, child care and secretarial positions. So riddle me this, batman: why are people who save lives (nurses) paid less than research associates at a science lab? Why are teachers worth less than mid-level engineers?
I don't know about you, but I was more than a little astonished at the cavalier attitude with which Castellanos iterated the male-vs-female dominated professions that demonstrate the built-in institutional devaluation of work traditionally performed by women without ever pausing to note that very irony.
And if the institutional devaluation of "women's work" isn't enough to make anyone who even remotely cares about justice for working people upset, how about this little gem of a factoid? Women don't just make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men overall, they make less no matter what the profession is, and whether a given field of work is male-dominated, female dominated (yes, women make less than men even in female dominated professions), or relatively equi-distributed. Here's a quick look at how much less women make in female dominated fields:
How about them apples?
What was even more amazing was how, in the Republican party, loyalty to party now trumps loyalty to justice, or even advocacy for one's fellow women. Romney campaign surrogate Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sat there supportively and quietly as Castellanos insulted women by denying that pay disparity exists as a problem, as well as by recounting that male dominated professions tend to be higher-paying as if that is just fine. When Rachel pointed out that McMorris Rodgers voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, she actually quipped that it was a bad idea.
Speaking of the Republican party, both Castellanos and McMorris Rodgers made clear yesterday that their party does not see women's economic struggles as part of the economy. They both - the Conrgesswoman in particular - claimed boldly that talking about women's pay disparity and the Republican opposition to pay parity legislation is a "distraction" from the economy. I'm sorry, but that is the economy. The economy is not some abstract idea that magically moves up and down. There can be no discussion about the economy without the quintessential debate about just who it is that we want our economy to work for. And if the answer is that we want it to work for everyone who works hard and not just the silver-spooned few, then pay parity for women is one of the most economic issues of our time.
The war on women, it seems, is alive and well. The Republicans don't actually have a problem waging a war on women; they just get upset when you point it out. Too bad. We'll keep pointing it out.