The White House celebrated “Equal Pay Day” today with a dog and pony show that featured President Obama signing executive orders mandating that women be compensated as much as men while scolding congressional Republicans for blocking passage of legislation that would further the same goal. This was all intended to highlight the Democratic Party’s “war on women” theme that helped reelect the president in 2012 and might mitigate their losses in this year’s midterm elections.
But there was no mention at today’s festivities of the embarrassing exchange yesterday in which White House spokesman Jay Carney was forced to explain why women who worked in the executive mansion were also getting paid less, on average, than their male counterparts. Carney’s explanation was that those who cited the statistic that said Obama’s female staffers were paid 88 cents for every dollar doled out to men were comparing apples to oranges and that those who did the same work got the same pay. He’s right, but the same can be said of the bogus statistic Obama spouted this morning when posing as the defender of women against the male chauvinist pigs of the GOP.
The mainstream media has largely bought into the figure of 77 percent those seeking to portray women as the victims of gender discrimination in the workplace have sold the public. According to those numbers, April 8 is the day that women would have to work until before they start earning as much as men. But, as Carney observed when trying to prevent the Obama White House from being hoisted on its own feminist petard, in order to believe such statistics you must ignore the truth about the different sorts of jobs and work schedules men and women have. As Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs pointed out in a definitive debunking of this myth in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, once you start breaking down the numbers, this supposedly definitive evidence of bias melts away just like a Jay Carney rationalization. But while liberals who never let facts get in their way when they have a good grievance to pursue against business or the Republicans, Carney should have blushed with shame at the way his boss leveled accusations that could just as easily been leveled at his own staff.
As Perry and Biggs point out, both the 77 and 88 percent figures are utterly useless. Once you dig deeper into the Bureau of Labor Statistics data it becomes quickly apparent that the differences between male and female pay are the function of differing circumstances, not traditional prejudices. Women are more likely to work fewer hours than men, choose professions that are compensated more poorly, take less dangerous work and, most importantly, seek more flexibility in hours in order to take care of their children, or interrupt their careers for periods at home to raise their families, a trend that a new Pew survey shows is growing. Unmarried women without children make almost exactly the same, on average, as men. That means all or nearly the entire 23 percent gap between male and female pay is accounted for by factors that have nothing to do with gender discrimination. Indeed, it is, as they point out, entirely possible that once you have accounted for these varying situations that such discrimination disappears.
As Perry and Biggs also write:
These gender-disparity claims are also economically illogical. If women were paid 77 cents on the dollar, a profit-oriented firm could dramatically cut labor costs by replacing male employees with females. Progressives assume that businesses nickel-and-dime suppliers, customers, consultants, anyone with whom they come into contact—yet ignore a great opportunity to reduce wages costs by 23%. They don’t ignore the opportunity because it doesn’t exist. Women are not in fact paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.
Of course, you don’t have to believe the Journal or the American Enterprise Institute with which both of these scholars are associated. You can just listen to Carney’s explanations of the White House pay disparity to understand that that statistics about that workplace, like every other one in the country, can paint a misleading picture if taken out of context.
But these truths and Carney’s own alibis were not allowed to spoil the “Equal Pay Day” fun at the White House today. Obama has built his presidency on the notion that a flawed America that is sunk in bias can only be redeemed by a bigger government run by a messiah of hope and change. But like the case for ObamaCare or an increased minimum wage, arguments for measures to address a mythical gender pay inequality gap are built on a flimsy foundation of out-of-context statistics and outright lies. The genius of this administration is not so much its ability to weave tales of outrage out of whole cloth but, as these last two days have proved again, in the ability to do so without shame.