Equal Pay Day – April 10, 2018 – is the approximate date in the New Year to which the average US woman must work to make what the average US man earned at the end of 2017. Of course, for African American, American Indian and Latina women this day comes around much later in the year. As we mark this day each year, it drives home the persistence of the gender pay gap and the failure of our current laws to address it. What policy changes are necessary to achieve the intuitive and popular goal of “equal pay for equal work?”
President Trump has taken many by surprise with his recent threats to impose global tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Presumably seeking to deliver policy goods to his political base, the remarks appear aimed to support the principally white male workers in the steel and aluminum industries. But if these tariffs are imposed, negative consequences will hit a whole host of other workers, and women workers in particular. Trade, too, is a gendered policy area. Trade issues formed a central pillar of Trump’s campaign promises, which emphasized re-negotiating multilateral and bilateral trade agreements and increasing tariffs on imported goods from specific countries (China, Mexico) as well as across the board. These promises appealed to voters who saw globalization generally and free trade deals in particular as detrimental to American jobs and workers.
On January 5th, 2018, Secretary Ben Carson and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced a delay of an Obama-era fair housing rule, the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) measure, until 2020. Instituted in 2015, the rule was meant to extend pieces of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) of 1968 that were never actualized—measures that call for communities to review and account for racially discriminatory housing policies or face sanctions such as the loss of community block grants and fair housing aid. Secretary Carson has called the AFFH “failed socialism” and “social engineering,” while U.S. Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) characterized its delay as an attack on “minorities, women, families with children, and persons with disabilities.”
Federal infrastructure spending is generally popular across the political spectrum – but with research-informed policy-making, that infrastructure spending could be more effective in achieving multiple policy objectives, including greater gender equity. A large part of President Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan is slated for improvements to our transportation system. With significant public and private partnerships envisioned, policy choices at all levels of government and within private sector organizations are important for achieving a more gender equitable public transportation system.
Broadly, the tax bill before Congress (in both its House and Senate versions) proposes to cut the standard corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, reduce personal income tax rates, reduce a range of tax preferences, including the deductibility of state and local income taxes, and increase the child tax credit and the standard deduction. The “sunsetting provisions” of many of the changes in the personal income tax suggest that the most important long-run effect would be the reduction in the corporate tax rate, and experts agree that the bill will bring disproportionate benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthiest Americans. It’s difficult, though, to see how the tax bill will perform in terms of gender equity. All we can say for sure is that it represents a missed opportunity to move toward a more gender-neutral individual tax system or to use the personal income tax to better support working women.
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