President Obama’s so-called Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) thankfully failed in the Senate on a party-line vote last week. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has entered a motion to reconsider the bill meaning that he can bring it back up for a vote at any time. He may force another vote on the misnamed bill in a desperate ploy to paint Republicans as “anti-woman” in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.
Democrats have strategically used the PFA as a way to keep the “War on Women” mantra alive. The expectable defeat of the bill enables Democrats to make false accusations that Republicans support wage discrimination against women. This has little to do with ensuring fair pay for women and a lot to do with dirty political schemes.
Harry Reid’s absurd allegation that “they [Republicans] don’t want women to make the same amount of money” doesn’t match reality. Finding a person opposed to equal pay for equal work would be near impossible. The fight for equal legal rights for women and men in the United States has been fought and won. Now it’s time to move on.
Proponents of the PFA often cite the outdated statistic that women only make 77 cents to every man’s dollar. This highly misleading statistic has been debunked ages ago.
Repeating something over and over does not make it true.
Women do earn less than men, on average. But here’s what Harry Reid doesn’t say—the oft-cited U.S. Department of Labor’s wage gap statistic only compares the median wage of a full-time working woman with the median wage of a full-time working man.
There are numerous factors that affect a person’s pay such as education, years of experience, and the working condition. The Department of Labor’s statistic neglects to hold these variables constant in their statistical study. It does not compare apples to apples.
The PFA is based on the fallacy that the disparity between wages for men and women is based solely on discrimination. But even the same government department that conducts the annual gender wage study finds that claim false. The Department of Labor wrote in a 2009 report that:
“This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
The pay gap does not exist because of gender discrimination but individual choices made by women. Women and men tend to gravitate towards different college majors. Women dominate lower-paying majors such as education, English, and psychology. Men are more likely to choose high-paying majors such as engineering and computer science. This signals that men and women tend to have different interests and values that cannot be controlled.
Not only do women outnumber men by a 4-3 ratio on college campuses but they have more career choices than ever before. Today’s women can choose to be stay-at-home moms or go in the workforce. Regardless if its biological or cultural wiring, women are more likely to value family more than having a high-paying career. This explains why women enter and leave the workforce at a much higher rate than men.
Men are also more likely to have dangerous jobs, high stress jobs, and work longer hours than women. These kinds of jobs tend to pay more. About 93 percent of all workplace fatalities are men. The Department of Labor’s Time Use Survey finds that the average full-time working man spends 8.14 hours a day on the job compared to 7.75 hours for the average full-time working woman.
To determine if gender discrimination is the sole reason for the wage gap, it’s necessary to hold all other variables constant. Believe it or not, this makes the wage gap swing the other way: males are paid less than their female counterparts, on average.
The average annual salary for a female mechanical engineer is $61,100 compared to $60,400 for males. Young, childless, single urban females earn 8 percent more than their male counterparts. Women who have never had a child earn 113 percent of what men earn.
Is there a War on Men?
The Paycheck Fairness Act should be called the Trial Lawyer Paycheck Act. Employers would be forced to submit their pay records to the federal government classified by race and sex. This would make it much easier for any person to file a frivolous class-action lawsuit with unlimited punitive damages against their employer.
President Obama and Harry Reid need to stop perpetuating long-debunked myths about the gender wage gap for political gain. Perhaps worst of all, the PFA would hurt women by increasing the liability employers’ face when hiring them. The last thing we need is a law that makes employers hesitant about hiring women in this stalled economy.
Julie Borowski is a Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Her writings on economic policy have appeared in numerous newspapers and online outlets. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Coalition to Reduce Spending and she launched an independent YouTube channel called TokenLibertarianGirl in June 2011.
She was previously selected to be a Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow with the Institute for Humane Studies where she worked at the Center for Competitive Politics. Most recently, she was a government affairs associate at Americans for Tax Reform.
Julie has volunteered for political candidates in Kentucky and in her home state of Maryland. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Frostburg State University in May 2010 where she studied political science, economics and international studies. She is now located in Washington, D.C.