From one point of view, President Barack Obama's invocation of the hoary "77 cents" myth regarding the relative earnings of women and men was a shallow and cheap political pander. Democrats, eager to maintain their advantage with women voters, stoke grievance. It's the same playbook they've used to solidify their standing with black voters -- suggest whenever and wherever possible that Republicans are racists. It's crude, offensive and libelous -- but effective.
Yet Obama fancies himself an intellectual. Campaigning against Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia, the president chastised the Republican for challenging climate change, saying, "It has to do with what's true. It has to do with facts. You don't argue with facts." Many in the press and in progressive circles regard this president as a bit of a thought leader.
So it's remarkable that he is willing to betray how out of touch he is with social science by peddling the decades-old and utterly outdated idea that our great challenge as a society is ensuring women equal pay for equal work. He could not be more dated if he were issuing calls to improve phonograph needles.
Conservatives like Christina Hoff Sommers, Charles Murray and Kay Hymowitz, have long been drawing attention to the declining fortunes of boys and men in American society. They have been joined recently by nonconservative scholars and researchers as well.
A paper by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology economists, "Wayward Sons," published by the center/left think tank Third Way, outlines the startling decline in the fortunes of moderately to poorly educated men over the past several decades. The title of the opening chapter is direct: "Women Gain Ground, Men Lose Ground." Starting with the cohort born in 1951, a gender gap in high school completion has opened up and continues to grow. More girls than boys are graduating from high school.
The college picture is even starker. Whereas the high school graduation rate for males has stagnated (while women's has improved), college attendance for males has declined while women have advanced. "Females born in 1975 were roughly 17 percent more likely than their male counterparts to attend college and nearly 23 percent more likely to complete a four-year degree." Young women are also more ambitious and have higher hopes for their futures than young men.