05/03/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain: Government? Lawsuits? Blaah. Ladies, Back To School

Women need more schooling, said John McCain yesterday, explaining his opposition to a bill that would reverse a U.S. Supreme Court decision that makes it tougher for employees to sue for unlawful pay discrimination.

"They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else," he said.

More education is nice. Problem is that women who spend the same amount of time studying still come out behind men when it comes time to collect paychecks.

One year after graduating college, women working full time earn 80 percent as much as men do. A decade later the difference is even greater-- women in their thirties earn 69 percent of what men in thirties earn, according to a 2007 study by the Association of University Women. In Colorado, the pay gap between college educated men and women is 72 percent.

Even when you throw in controls for how many hours women work, the occupation they choose, whether or not they have children, and other factors, women with college degrees still take home less bacon than their male peers.

McCain didn't show up for the vote on H.R. 2381 in the Senate the other day, and the bill failed to get the 60 votes needed to move forward. His presidential competition, Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) both voted "aye."

Interestingly, nearly three-quarters of McCain's large campaign contributions ($200+) come from men, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In contrast, Clinton gets 51 percent of her contributions from men and Obama, 58 percent.

The legislation aims to reverse a 5-4 decision in the case Ledbetter v. Goodyear, which held that employees who believe they have been paid less because of their religion, gender, or race must file their complaint within 180 days after the employer sets the pay rate in question.

This standard is unrealistic. An employee opening her paycheck doesn't necessarily know immediately that she is getting less than her colleagues. Salary levels are typically not that transparent. Building her case could easily take longer than 180 days-- and by then, under the present ruling, she'd no longer have a case. According to McCain, the best recourse for her is to go back to school.