Denver — Most Americans feel underpaid. Many are. (Ahem.) And so it’s no surprise that the Left can continue to get away with the lie that women are somehow systemically discriminated against when it comes to salaries. Their appeal to gender grievance is an ill-fitting mask for what at bottom are radically redistributionist economic policies.
The unequal-pay lie has been a staple at the Democratic convention here in Denver. Most prominently, during his acceptance speech on Wednesday, Joe Biden announced that Barack Obama will “never, ever, ever give up until we achieve equal pay for women.” Obama himself has used the misleading “women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men” standard. The problem with the slogan is that it’s not quite true.
That salary-disparity factoid is based on Department of Labor data that compares the median wages of a full-time working woman to the wages of a full-time working man. Yes, the woman’s wages are regularly about three quarters of the man’s. Yet that tells us little about discrimination, since it doesn’t compare workers with similar jobs, duties, years of experience, or education. When these factors are taken into account, the wage gap shrinks considerably. Even a report by the liberal feminist group the American Association of University Women acknowledged that personal choices create most of that wage gap.
If Barack Obama is promising that every man and woman be placed in comparable jobs working comparable hours, then he is either promising fantastically intrusive regulation of the U.S. labor market, or revealing his total ignorance of the realities of that market. “Did she take time off to raise kids?” is one big reality he seems not to have considered. Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum has considered some other under-considered factors:
Politicians and feminist activists fixate on one data point — median weekly earnings — and ignore the many other factors that influence that number. They don’t take into account the average number of hours worked per day (the average full-time working woman works about a half-hour less for her employer than the average full-time working man). They don’t consider differences in occupation, years of experience, education, amount of travel required, level of danger, distance traveled to the job, benefits, level of fulfillment, or any of the many other factors that affect earnings.
Some feminists actually want men and women to be paid the same for different work. The former head of the National Committee on Pay Equity has said: “Yes, women leave at 5:00 to go home and look after their children. But they’re still working, just not for their employers. Why should they get paid less?”
Most Americans see that as radical, not an attempt to remedy actual injustice. Democrats shouldn’t get away with lying to them. Joe Biden should be ashamed of himself — but there’s little chance of that. Thursday night he was lauded as the father of the Violence Against Women Act, which was an overemotional and expensive omnibus package that offered regulatory responses to rhetorical problems, both real and imagined — the real ones of which already had law-enforcement solutions.
With his selection of Joe Biden, Barack Obama is trying to make up to whining women for the fact that he defeated a woman and that he’s not running with a woman. Biden’s in the perfect pandering position. With the girl-power bona fides he’s displaying at this convention, Biden makes clear that he buys into the most radical feminist views — like those of Catharine MacKinnon, who believes that men are “a group sexually trained to woman-hating violence.”
But Biden’s start as vice-presidential nominee for the Democrats gives the lie to John Kerry’s contention that Barack Obama is going to end the “politics of distortion and division.” Sounds like the same old feminist-Left, Marxist nonsense to me.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.