At the third GOP presidential debate on Wednesday night, CNBC moderator Becky Quick asked Ted Cruz how he would “try and help” the working women in this country who “still earn just 77 percent of what men earn.”
Cruz expressed his sympathy for working women, citing women in his own life, single mothers. His mother raised Cruz alone for a time before his father—“thank god,” he said—”came back to my mom and me, and we were raised together.”
Marriage was an odd way to frame an answer about helping women economically, but Cruz has other solutions in mind, as well:
“Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and all the Democrats talking about wanting to address the plight of working women, not a one of them mentioned the fact that under Barack Obama, 3.7 million women have entered poverty. Not a one of them mentioned the fact that under Barack Obama and the big government economy, the median wage for women has dropped $733. The truth of the matter is, big government benefits the wealthy, it benefits the lobbyists, it benefits the giant corporations. And the people who are getting hammered are small businesses, it's single moms, it's Hispanics.”
Cruz wants to cut business taxes while also cutting a slew of federal programs for the poor. Later in the debate, in response to a question about downsizing the Federal Reserve, Cruz tied in the question about working women and inequality. Cruz argued that “loose money” and rising prices is what’s hurting women. To help them, Cruz called for a return to the gold standard. “I think the Fed should get out of the business of trying to juice our economy and simply be focused on sound money and monetary stability, ideally tied to gold.”
His answer on the gold standard might have come from left-field, but otherwise Cruz's thinking is standard fare for how Republicans view gender inequality. And there is no evidence that cutting business taxes benefits women, or would have any impact on the wage gap. We know the factors driving the wage gap, which include years in the workforce, career field, and discrimination. Some policies, like anti-discrimination laws, are designed to prevent and correct sexism in the workforce—that’s what conservatives like Cruz dismiss as politicizing the issue. But if conservatives want to ignore discrimination as a factor in the gender gap, then there are a host of other policy proposals on the table, such as paid family leave, paid sick leave, childcare services, and the minimum wage.
He opposes each policy at the federal level, of course. “I think maternity leave and paternity leave are wonderful things. I support them personally,” he said in September. “But I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of mandating them.”
Unlike the hope that tax cuts will somehow trickle down to help women, however, policies like paid leave would have an immediate effect on millions of working women, whether they are single or married, childless or mothers.