There were several poor questions in Tuesday night’s second presidential debate, but this might have been the worst:
In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?
The statistical gap between average female and male earnings is a favorite talking point of the left, which believes it is evidence that business owners are greedy jerks. Obama talked about a law he passed to fix the gender gap, and Romney talked about how he went out of his way to hire women when he was governor.
There Is No Big Gender Gap
Unfortunately, neither candidate addressed the fundamental issue that the statistic is simply incorrect:
The comparison is bogus, for two reasons. First, it lumps together men and women who work different numbers of hours — any hours above 35 hours per week. On average, full-time women work fewer hours than full-time men, often because they prefer it…
Second, the gap claim averages for each gender earnings from many and disparate vocations. For example, it averages women who work as social workers with men who work as investment bankers; female elementary school teachers with male engineers; and male loggers with female administrative assistants.
For their own reasons, many women enter so-called “helping professions,” such as nursing, teaching, elder care, health services, nutrition, social work. These occupations pay less than do some more dangerous and physically-demanding lines of work that attract more men — engineering, mining, operating construction machinery…
It would be stereotypical to assume that any given woman doesn’t want to work in a higher-paying, male-dominated field, but it’s also a fact that a majority of women don’t seem to want to work in some of those fields, and so of course this affects the average reported wages. As the above article points out, when discrimination does exist, “federal law forbids discrimination, and permits such suits.”
This doesn’t mean there is no discrimination-based gender gap. Another analyst tries to account for some of the above factors and believes there’s still an unexplained 9% gap, along with some evidence that women receive fewer opportunities in certain situations, etc, etc. This 9% gap might be explained by discrimination, or by some other unknown factors. Either way, it’s clear that there’s not truly a gaping 23%+ wages penalty just for being a woman.
Of course, it should be obvious that there’s no big gender gap. The underlying assumption is that business owners are greedy people who think they can get away with paying women less. But if it were legitimately true that a greedy business owner could pay women 77% or less of a man’s wages to get the same amount of work done, why would he hire men at all? Any business owner could instantly increase his profits by 23% per employee by firing all of his male employees and replacing them with women!
We don’t really see this happening in the real world, which implies that most business owners aren’t paying their female employees 23% less. Some of them might try, but since there are other businesses that don’t, women are inclined to leave the sexist employer to work for someone else. These self-correcting market forces constantly penalize discrimination in the workplace.
It’s Not A Problem Government Can Fix
There are powerful natural market forces that punish discrimination and reward equality, but this doesn’t mean discrimination is nonexistent; indeed, it’s easy to find a few specific examples of it. In general, though, it seems to be a much smaller problem than many liberals would like to believe, and this makes it much harder to identify.
This in turn makes it much harder for the government to fix, especially if a lot of it has to be with cultural pressures and the subtle “bigotry of low expectations.” Maybe too many women are discouraged by their peers, parents, and teachers from becoming investment bankers, but maybe most of them just don’t want to. Maybe too many male supervisors pass women over for promotions because they are afraid they might become pregnant and leave the workforce for several months, but maybe some of them have seen it before and think they’re making a rational business decision, and maybe some of them are doing it subconsciously without even realizing it. How can the government positively identify whether or not any specific management decision has to do with discrimination when there may be hundreds of involved factors?
Of course, it should be obvious that the gender gap is not a problem the government can fix. Obama is championing his signing of the Lily Ledbetter Act (even as he lies about the need for it), which was supposed to help provide equal pay for equal work. At the same time, he is still quoting the same statistics about the gender gap! How can Obama claim that he signed a law to fix the problem while simultaneously claiming that it’s still a problem he needs to fix? It reminds me of that classic Lawrence Reed quote:
Maybe the government’s fixes can’t fix the problem because it’s not such a big problem after all.
Obama’s War on Women
It seems that Obama needs women to believe they need him to save them from the dangerous forces of greedy businessmen. It’s not just your wages that are in danger – birth control is too. In the same debate discussion about the gender gap, Obama also said he believes “insurance companies need to provide contraceptive coverage to everybody,” while Romney “feels comfortable having politicians in Washington decide the health care choices that women are making.”
Apparently if politicians don’t require your employer to pay for your birth control pills, they are making health care choices for you! The vast majority of women can easily acquire birth control cheaper than a monthly cell phone bill. If the government doesn’t force your employer to pay your cell phone bill – but instead lets the employer give you money that you can spend on a cell phone if you so choose – are they “deciding” electronic “choices” for you? Of course not. But Obama needs you to be scared about birth control so he can swoop in to save you. (He also needs to lie about Planned Parenthood providing mammograms so you’ll be more scared of Republicans cutting their small percentage of federal funding.)
Fortunately, some women aren’t falling for it. Corie Whalen went on a mini-Twitter-rant this week:
Yesterday, I saw the Obama ad that condescends toward women – as if absent gov’t funding our every move, we’ll be helpless. Pathetic.
I don’t get how women could be swayed the pat-you-on-the-head “don’t worry, sweetheart, we know you can’t do things by yourself” messaging.
Contemporary leftist condescension toward women makes me sick. This is what feminism has been reduced to? Gov’t dependency=empowering? Ugh.
I don’t think is merely a conservative exaggeration. Several months ago, Obama’s own website released a bizarre slideshow called “The Life Of Julia,” highlighting all the ways the government could be involved in securing a wonderful life for this imaginary woman. See, women, see how much you need the government?
And Obama’s still stuck on it. Just yesterday he whipped up a crowd with a clever little pun:
“You know, if you say you’re for equal pay for equal work, but you keep refusing to say whether or not you’d sign a bill that protects equal pay for equal work, you might have ‘Romnesia,’ ’’ Obama said. “If you say women should have access to contraceptive care, but you support legislation that would let your employer deny you contraceptive care, you might have a case of ‘Romnesia.’ ”
Apparently one of the most important issues of our time is whether or not a political candidate would sign a bill that doesn’t fix a problem it’s supposed to fix! Apparently another important issue is whether a political candidate should “let your employer deny you” something that’s cheap and easy to buy by giving you money to buy it yourself!
If Obama needs to stoop to such hyperbole and outright lies to explain how terrible conservative policies are for women, well, maybe they’re not so bad after all.
Follow @postlibertarian on Twitter to keep up with new posts...