Mona Charen

In practice, the law may actually damage women's opportunities as employers weigh whether to hire a woman or a man and consider the costs of a possible lawsuit by a disgruntled female hire.

Thanks largely to the Democratic Party, we've created a skein of laws and regulations to ensure equal pay for women. But just as with federal programs that provide food to the poor in an era of obesity, the feds are addressing a nonexistent problem. The feminist establishment endlessly hawks its "77 cents" figure, the phony statistic purporting to show that women are paid only about three-fourths of what men earn. But those global comparisons fail to account for key distinctions such as the competitiveness of the industries, work experience, and crucially, hours worked per week. Women consistently work fewer hours than men (for excellent reasons such as caring for children). If you control for marriage and children, as former Congressional Budget Office Director June O'Neill has demonstrated, the pay gap between men and women disappears. Even among some women with children, incomes are continuing to rise. Slate magazine recently wondered what to make of the new phenomenon of marriages in which wives earn more than their husbands (22 percent among those aged 30-44 and rising).

Here's the secret reason that mothers earn less than fathers -- because they want to. Gasp! It isn't the patriarchy scheming to pay women less than they are worth. It's because women value time more than money. A 2007 Pew Survey found that 60 percent of mothers with minor children said that part-time work was their ideal. Another 19 percent preferred not to work outside the home at all. That's nearly 8 in 10 women who would prefer not to work full time while their kids are growing up.

So the Romney campaign shouldn't let The New York Times and the feminist establishment bully them into expressing support for the witless Ledbetter law. That's their agenda, not women's.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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