In a debate largely centered on tax reforms, calls for small government, and some verbal boxing with the moderators, we heard the Republican candidates during Wednesday night’s debate evoking single mothers, working women and working families in their talking points, without putting forward many concrete policy solutions to address the real challenges that families are facing every day.
Those of us working as advocates for women and families were thrilled to hear moderator Becky Quick of CNBC pose a pointed question to Sen. Ted Cruz about how he would propose to close the wage gap if elected president. While Cruz was quick to state that the “struggle of single moms is extraordinary,” he used his time to explain his own family history, erring on the side of generalities over specific proposals.
With women in this country being paid 78 cents to a man’s dollar, Black women 64 cents and Latina women 54 cents, and pay inequity costing the average American full-time woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her lifetime, voters are looking to the candidates on both sides of the aisle to propose a real path towards pay equity.
This includes increasing transparency by making relevant information about wages by job category available so that employees can make sure they are earning equal pay for equal work, passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would hold employers who do discriminate accountable and stopping companies from retaliating against employees who raise concerns about gender wage discrimination, and raising the minimum wage to at least $12 an hour and eliminating the separate sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. If women earned equal pay for equal work, our economy could grow, boosting the GDP by 2.9 percent or $450 billion. So, it’s also just smart economics.
While all of the candidates spent the debate mentioning the women in their lives and the value of working women in their communities, they simultaneously called for the dismantling of social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicaid that are vital to millions of women. Women represent about 56 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 66 percent of beneficiaries age 85 and older.
The women’s vote will continue to be highly coveted over the next 12 months. Any candidate who wants to be president will need to demonstrate themselves as a champion for women and the full slate of issues they care about. This will mean more than mentioning women in their talking points, but rather championing the policy solutions and driving the conversations that make up a comprehensive agenda for change. Women, after all, do not live single-issue lives. In addition to the pocketbook issues of living wages, equal pay, access to high-quality and affordable child care, paid family leave and paid sick days, candidates will need to speak directly to curbing the near-constant attacks on our reproductive health care, as well as substantial reforms to policing and criminal justice abuses.
Voters are ready for more than just talking points, we are ready for real change.
Photo via Flickr user William Joyce licensed under Creative Commons 2.0