As we discussed yesterday, Democrats are hoping to replicate their successful 2012 playbook by shifting voters' focus onto ancillary issues, and away from the political fundamentals. This week they're trotting out equal pay for women in an effort to underscore their "Republican war on women" meme. President Obama is signing two executive orders related to the issue today, while the Senate will debate the Paycheck Fairness Act:
Obama's latest foray into the issue also comes with the Senate set soon to consider the Paycheck Fairness Act , which would impose new regulations on how companies pay employees in an effort to ensure women are not unfairly earning less than their male counterparts...While the Paycheck Fair Act legislation has little chance of gaining traction, the White House is counting on the issue to resonate with women--particularly racial minorities--whose turnout will prove to be critical to Democrats chances in the midterm elections.
This is all smoke and mirrors. First of all, the very first bill Obama signed into law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act -- was supposed to have fixed this problem. Obama's speech at the signing ceremony was peppered with the same rhetoric and statistics that's being dredged up again today. Secondly, numerous economists have determined that the infamous pay gap isn't caused by "unfairness," but rather by choices women make of their own volition:
The supposed pay gap appears when marriage and children enter the picture. Child care takes mothers out of the labor market, so when they return they have less work experience than similarly-aged males. Many working mothers seek jobs that provide greater flexibility, such as telecommuting or flexible hours. Not all jobs can be flexible, and all other things being equal, those which are will pay less than those that do not. Education also matters. Even within groups with the same educational attainment, women often choose fields of study, such as sociology, liberal arts or psychology, that pay less in the labor market. Men are more likely to major in finance, accounting or engineering. And as the American Association of University Women reports, men are four times more likely to bargain over salaries once they enter the job market. Risk is another factor. Nearly all the most dangerous occupations, such as loggers or iron workers, are majority male and 92% of work-related deaths in 2012 were to men. Dangerous jobs tend to pay higher salaries to attract workers...In a more comprehensive study that controlled for most of these relevant variables simultaneously—such as that from economists June and Dave O'Neill for the American Enterprise Institute in 2012—nearly all of the 23% raw gender pay gap cited by Mr. Obama can be attributed to factors other than discrimination. The O'Neills conclude that, "labor market discrimination is unlikely to account for more than 5% but may not be present at all."
Some people at the White House even seem to understand that this isn't an issue of discrimination, yet they're willing to obfuscate the truth in order to exploit the irresistible political optics. "I agree that the 77 cents on the dollar is not all due to discrimination. No one is trying to say that it is," said Betsey Stevenson, a member of Obama's council of economic advisers, in a recent interview. But as National Review's Patrick Brennan notes, Democrats are seeking to "fix" this highly misleading problem via anti-discrimination laws. Finally there's the "physician, heal thyself" angle to all of this. The White House and top Congressional Democrats pay female employees less than men, based on their own tortured calculation standards. Why are these Democrats discriminating against women? Emily Miller highlights some additional ironies:
Mr. Schumer, Mr. Reid and the others in the Senate Democratic leadership — Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Conference Secretary Patty Murray — are hypocritical in saying they want women to have equal seniority and pay. Not one of them has a female chief of staff or communications director, the [people] spearheading this week’s publicity stunts. Mr. Reid's spokesman, Adam Jentleson, did not respond to a request for comment...On the contrary, Senate GOP leaders demonstrate gender equality in the workplace. The top two leaders have female chiefs of staff — Sharon Soderstrom for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Beth Jafari for Minority Whip John Cornyn. These women are also the highest-paid chiefs of staff in leadership, which is commensurate with their positions. These high-power jobs usually are not family-friendly, yet two of these women are working mothers. Furthermore, these women are paid an average salary of $124,000, which is about $18,000 a year more than Democrats pay men doing the same job.
I'll leave you with a report from Ed Henry, in which spokesman Jay Carney tries to explain why the White House's pay gap is just fine:
Carney's points make sense, but don't those exact same arguments apply to the big, bad corporations Democrats are targeting? Of course they do. But that's not the point.