GIGOT: What does that say about the point in the Romney ad, I was a leader and had bipartisan cooperation. You're saying he really didn't.
FREEMAN: What I'm saying is that his record is -- let's call it a grade C, but it compares well to the president's. Whether you're talking jobs or growth, it's better than --
GIGOT: All right.
Thank you all.
In hot pursuit of the women's vote, Democrats roll out the Paycheck Fairness Act. But does the wage gap between men and women still exist, and can legislation fix it? We'll take a closer look, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Next week, there's a vote in Congress on a bill that would give working women the tools they need to demand equal pay for equal work. Ensuring paycheck fairness for women should be a no-brainer and they need to pass that bill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: That was President Obama last week urging Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Harry Reid and Senate Democrats failed to get the votes needed Tuesday to advance the legislation despite the president's push and often-cited statistic that women earn just 77 cents for every dollar that men make.
We're back with Wall Street Journal columnists, Mary Anastasia O'Grady and Kim Strassel.
Mary, how real is the wage gap and what are is it causes?
O'GRADY: Paul, the problem is that the numbers aren't very clear. We're always told there's a comparison of the dollar versus --
GIGOT: That's true in some sense, correct?
O'GRADY: What it doesn't take into account is the number of hours worked. What you end up seeing happen is that a lot of women who get into the work force end up having children. And when they have children, they want more flexible hours and they want part-time work, because they want to raise -- have a hand in raising their children, even if they use some child care. And this is what distorts that number from 100 to 77 cents. If you look at women in their 20's who are childless and on a career track, they're earning as much if not more than men. So it's hard to argue that it's a big conspiracy.
GIGOT: So the wage gap is real, but the reasons are occupational choices, life style choices, family choices?
O'GRADY: Exactly. I mean, you know, we've done a lot with reproductive science but, in the end, only a woman can bare a child. And as it turns out --
GIGOT: And they're still the principal care givers for children.
O'GRADY: They are. Then you have another problem, which is there are a lot of households where children are born out of wedlock, so if it's a single woman raising a child, again, she's going to need something with more flexible hours, so forth. Even if you look at countries, like Scandinavian countries who provide a lot of child care, you still find a wage gap. The reason is a lot of women prefer to have a hand in raising their children. So you're not going to fix the problem by forcing them into this system that would basically take their children away at birth so that they wouldn't -- so they could work as many hours as men.
GIGOT: Kim, you've looked at this issue for many years and written a book about it. What about this particular remedy that Democrats were offering to fix this problem, the Paycheck Fairness Act. How would it try to address it?
STRASSEL: What it would have done, fundamentally, is require all companies to comply with a whole new raft of regulations that would have forced them to justify all of their pay decisions. And what the bill fundamentally was -- this is why Democrats viewed it as a political winner, Paul, was because you both tried to get the women's vote by saying, we care about your issues. You're also paying off a key constituency of the Democratic Party, which was the trial lawyers. What these regulations fundamentally did was set up a situation whereby trial lawyers could sue any company that did not adequately justify its pay decisions and would there would have been a class-action breakout on this.
GIGOT: So you would have also had -- I think you've made the point in print, but this would have basically made it harder for companies to have flexible wage programs or bonus programs that accommodated flexible work- time schedules. It would have increased the uniformity --
GIGOT: -- that companies would have had to do. And that might not necessarily have helped women.
STRASSEL: No, the biggest -- the people that would be most hurt by that are women. Because, as Mary said, women -- if you ask them -- and there are polls showing -- they place flexibility over almost anything in their careers. And to the extent that companies can have flexible pay structures and work structures, this benefits women to the extent that this bill was saying everyone has to move more toward a uniform set of pay requirements. It could have ended up in uniform paying mandates across the country. This was only detrimental to the women looking for that flexible.
GIGOT: Briefly, Kim, the politics of this, is this going to be a big issue in the election or will it just fade away?
STRASSEL: They lost the vote this week obviously, just as they lost the vote in 2010 when they tried to push it through in a lame duck. This was done entirely -- again, part of the contraception debate and everything else, to get women's vote, and we'll see if it works.
GIGOT: Thank you, both, very much. You know a lot more about this than I do.
We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits and Misses" of the week.
GIGOT: Time now for "Hits and Misses" of the week.
Mary, first you.
O'GRADY: This is a hit for the Senate Intelligence chair, Dianne Feinstein, who this week called for an investigation of an avalanche of leaks from the administration on U.S. national security interests. She said it demoralizes our allies, it puts Americans at risk, and it jeopardizes the war on terror. And I think she's right. And I applaud an adult in the Democratic Party for standing up to the White House.
RILEY: This is a miss for the first lady. Michelle Obama was asked recently in an interview who she would be if she could be anyone else, and she answered Beyonce, which is the answer you might expect from a 12-year- old, Paul, but not the first lady of the United States.