President Obama kicked off a press tour today in an attempt to garner support for raising the minimum wage and closing that gender wage gap. In perhaps his most explicit critique of the status quo, he told attendees at Florida Valencia College:
A woman deserves to take a day off to care for a sick child or a parent without running into hardship. A woman deserves workplace policies that protect her right to have a baby without losing her job. It's pretty clear that, you know, if men were having babies, we'd have different policies. Right?
The White House plans to highlight several economic issues that resonate with women in the coming months, including "raising the minimum wage, narrowing the pay disparity between men and women, and increasing the availability of affordable child care as well as early education programs," USA Today reports. The White House insists that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016 would decrease the wage gap by five percent.
Statistically, women are more likely to support a minimum wage increase, which is why Democrats have been hammering the issue heading into the midterms, when they need all the votes from women they can get. In North Carolina, for example, Sen. Kay Hagan's reelection campaign called her GOP opponent's refusal to support a wage hike an "insult to women."
Obama continued his remarks. "Women are still earning just 77 cents on every dollar that a man does. Women with college degrees may earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less over the course of her career than a man at the same educational level, and that’s wrong. This isn’t 1958. It’s 2014."
He's been workshopping the speech since January at least. During the State of the Union, he said, "A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode." The "men having babies" line might resonate more with women specifically, but the pitch is the same.
Most Republicans do not want to see a federal minimum wage hike, arguing that it would be a job killer. The GOP's new hipster spokesman vaguely made that claim in a promotional video released this week. Speaker of the House John Boehner, who has a fair amount of control over these things, once said he'd rather "commit suicide" than pass a clean wage bill. But then, he's a man.