Commentary Magazine


Topic: Equal Pay Day

Paycheck Pander All About Trial Lawyers

Senate Democrats are following up on the White House “Equal Pay Day” dog and pony show yesterday with another push designed to highlight their supposed concern for the plight of female workers. The Paycheck Fairness Act that was put to a vote today had no more chance of passage than it did when it was last introduced before the 2012 election. But as it did that previous time, Democrats are hoping that it will serve to feed their fake “war on women” theme that has helped them gain an advantage with female voters while also helping to distract voters from the president’s second term blues and discontent about the implementation of ObamaCare.

Republicans who underestimate the potential impact of this strategy are making a mistake but GOP senators are right not to take the bait. As tempting as it might have been to let this legislation pass in order to undermine the Democrats’ blatantly political motivations, they were right to hold the line on the bill. Just as “Equal Pay Day” attempts to hype an issue based on misleading statistics, the Paycheck Fairness Act does nothing to address the problem of gender discrimination. Even worse, though it is easily understood as a ploy to solidify female support for President Obama’s party, it is even more of a pander toward one of the mainstays of the Democratic Party: the trial lawyers. The law is geared not so much to address inequality as to make it easy to sue businesses for discrimination without proof. While it’s an open question as to whether these maneuvers may save the Democrats in the midterm elections, allowing this bill to pass would result in a windfall for trial lawyers.

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Senate Democrats are following up on the White House “Equal Pay Day” dog and pony show yesterday with another push designed to highlight their supposed concern for the plight of female workers. The Paycheck Fairness Act that was put to a vote today had no more chance of passage than it did when it was last introduced before the 2012 election. But as it did that previous time, Democrats are hoping that it will serve to feed their fake “war on women” theme that has helped them gain an advantage with female voters while also helping to distract voters from the president’s second term blues and discontent about the implementation of ObamaCare.

Republicans who underestimate the potential impact of this strategy are making a mistake but GOP senators are right not to take the bait. As tempting as it might have been to let this legislation pass in order to undermine the Democrats’ blatantly political motivations, they were right to hold the line on the bill. Just as “Equal Pay Day” attempts to hype an issue based on misleading statistics, the Paycheck Fairness Act does nothing to address the problem of gender discrimination. Even worse, though it is easily understood as a ploy to solidify female support for President Obama’s party, it is even more of a pander toward one of the mainstays of the Democratic Party: the trial lawyers. The law is geared not so much to address inequality as to make it easy to sue businesses for discrimination without proof. While it’s an open question as to whether these maneuvers may save the Democrats in the midterm elections, allowing this bill to pass would result in a windfall for trial lawyers.

The problem for Republicans is that even though the facts are on their side when it comes to the debate about gender pay discrimination, the emotional advantage is with the president and his followers. It doesn’t matter that the president’s constant spouting of figures that show that women make only 77 percent of what men earn is completely disingenuous. The number is accurate but the differences are accounted for by factors such as job choices, education and the fact that women often choose to take years off from work to raise families and often seek greater flexibility in hours worked than men. The same factors account for the fact that women who work in the White House make less on average than the men there. Yet the White House says the same justifications for its policies don’t apply everywhere else. The reason they can get away with it is that while the numbers are misleading, most women justifiably sense that they are not always treated fairly by men. Thus, to say, as the GOP has been forced to, against laws that won’t help anyone but lawyers, puts them in the position of seeming like a party of vintage male chauvinist pigs.

Republicans rightly argue that the law of the land already forbids gender discrimination. But claiming that even more legislation won’t help things isn’t as persuasive as Obama’s emotional pleas for more fairness. Yet the problem with the Paycheck Fairness Act isn’t just that it is superfluous, it’s that it creates a legal environment in which bogus claims of discrimination can cause havoc in the business world. According to its terms, the burden of proof in such cases will be on the employers to show that they haven’t discriminated rather than on the plaintiffs to prove they have been victimized. This will not only be a gold mine for ambulance-chasing trial lawyers looking to shake down companies with settlements rather than be put through the cost and the agony of a trial but will also discourage merit pay and flexibility in hiring and hours worked — developments that will materially harm hard-working women.

This is a bridge too far for even those female Republican senators who backed past discrimination bills. They know this is simply a payoff to the trial lawyers as well as a transparent political gesture intended to put the GOP on record as opposing an equal pay bill even though such an assertion is a gross distortion of the facts. Standing up for principle is not without cost. News cycles in which talk of gender discrimination and GOP votes against such bills do feed the “war on women” propaganda being spouted on the networks and contribute the the false notion that the Democrats care more about women. Thus, Republicans must reconcile themselves to being hurt by the issue and hope that, in the long run, the truth about the issue will filter out enough to mitigate the damage and allow them to stay on message about ObamaCare and the president’s failed leadership.

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White House Debunks Gender Pay Gap

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.

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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. 

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