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The “Fair Pay” Hoax

Posted By Tait Trussell On November 30, 2010 @ 12:02 am In FrontPage | 7 Comments

Oprah Winfrey is paid $386 million a year, much more than the nation’s top paid corporate executive, Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison. The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of CEO pay this year says Ellison takes home only $184 million. But aren’t women always paid less than men? That’s the long-held political verity.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Nov. 18 groused: “Senate Republicans today disrespected America’s working women by voting to prevent any debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act,”

An avid protector of women, Trumka probably hadn’t kicked any non-union woman in the kneecap all week.

Of all the least important and solely kowtowing pieces of legislation for the lame-duck Congress to be acting on, the Paycheck Fairness Act probably headed the list. The House-passed measure failed by two votes to reach the 60-vote supermajority needed to break a Republican filibuster. Congress decided to go home for Thanksgiving instead of acting on the most crucial issue at hand—what to do about the Bush tax cuts.

Boss Trumka charged that the cruel Republican male Senators “encourage discrimination against women in the workplace.”(GOP Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas, all females, also voted against the “fairness” legislation).

The old cliché was dragged out about women earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by a male worker. Trumka on a high rhetorical pedestal whined, “Efforts like this legislation to close the income gap in our country are an essential component to long-term economic recovery (Actually unemployment is higher among men than women). He added indignantly that “Republicans in the cold pursuit of their political goals and interests of their Wall Street allies…have one message to the elderly, the unemployed, the uninsured, and now even women: ‘NO.’”

President Obama reacted to the Senate vote as if in high dudgeon. He vowed to “continue to fight for a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work,” as if the rationale of the bill—supposedly perverse sexual discrimination in the workplace—was as self-evident as universal suffrage, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out in an editorial Nov. 19.

The legislation was intended as a gift to the Democrat-supporting trial lawyers. Under the legislation, businesses would have had to prove that their pay policies were not the result of workplace bias. It also automatically drafted women as plaintiffs in class action suits when lawyers sue employers.

What campaigners for equal pay call the gender wage gap, to the extent that it still exists, is mostly a factor of occupational choices and the composition of the workforce—heavily influenced by the wide-open fact that it’s women who have babies. And most females of all races, creeds, or other distinctions stop working to care for their children, at least while the kids are young. So many inevitably lose experience, seniority—and compensation.

The wage gap that still exists is partly explained by the fact that many older women work in jobs still marked by attitudes of the past. In contrast, young women reflect women’s social and legal advances and are paid close to men’s pay for the same work.

True, decades after women entered the work force en masse, pay disparity between men and women has fallen but not disappeared,

according to the Labor Department. The Government Accountability Office said the pay gap has declined mainly because men’s and women’s experience as well as educational attainment has become more similar.

But the truths about gender pay difference have always been blurred by politics. Democrats, particularly, and Obama specifically, have enjoyed kneading the dough of this political issue. Last year, Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier to file charges against employers for discrimination in paychecks.

Blowhard Trumka knows full well that union pay increases are based on seniority, not on who works better or faster or more efficiently. Union contracts suppress the wages of more productive workers and raise the wages of the less competent–be they male or female. If women can be paid less for the same job, why aren’t all the union employees women?

One of the most serious and scholarly studies of women’s pay and progress was published several years ago by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI), where I once served as vice president. The book, now in its second edition, is “Women’s Figures,” by Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba.

To shoot down myths of the glass ceiling, the wage gap, the pink ghetto, the authors document how in key areas of education and employment women have substantially achieved equality with men.

In the preface, the authors say, “A major thesis of popular media culture is that women are victims of their social condition (and) suffer from substantial discrimination that leaves them less well-off than men. The apostles of this women-as-victims perspective use selected statistics and anecdotes to illustrate their theory. For example, women are depicted as earning consistently less than men. The corollary to that theory is that only government intervention can eradicate such discrimination to achieve parity between men and women.

In debunking “feminist tropes about women in the workplace,” the book reveals faulty methodological assumptions behind the “conventional wisdom.” They conclude that complaints about systematic economic discrimination against women simply do not square with the evidence. They also highlight some of the many areas where women have made considerable gains: in education, in entrepreneurship, and in electoral politics, for instance.

A few citations:

“Even if women are getting equal pay for equal work, the fact is we’re not getting equal work. Aren’t we stuck in dead-end fields? Simply because one can find a higher concentration of women in certain occupations, it does not follow that they are being discriminated against. Instead if may reflect the needs of certain women to choose career paths that allow them flexibility in raising children without significant costs to their careers.”

“Do women-owned businesses receive government contracts? Government contracts are primarily made with publicly traded corporations, which have significant female ownership. Women also benefit from special government set-aside programs for minorities and women.”

In challenging the “image of women as helpless victims in American society,” significantly, the book stresses that “the best antidote for possible discrimination…is increase in job creation….Profits fall if they turn away qualified candidates.”

Much as Obama may yearn to do so, he cannot change the law of supply and demand.


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