Equal pay for women? It's a campaign tactic

Equal pay for women. It’s been the law since 1964. But it’s just too good a campaign issue to drop.

Posted on April 12, 2014 at 11:02 p.m.

Equal pay for women. It’s a campaign issue that will probably never die.

For one thing, statistics will always show that there is a difference between genders in dollars earned. And that difference can be run through propaganda machines to be re-formed and put into palatable packages for popular consumption. As a campaign issue, that’s delicious.

I’m starting to doubt that Republicans are ever going to learn how to cope with “fairness” issues. I have a question for the GOP: “What is wrong with you people? You should be out front on this.”

Excuse me. Sometimes it helps to vent.

It comes to this. The 2014 mid-terms are coming, and it appears as if the war of “the war on women” is gong to be fought once again. President Obama is firing heavy salvos of pay-inequality ammo from his bully pulpit, and statistical hand grenades are being lobbed by his troops in the Senate.

Statistics are all over the place. The discredited claim that says “women earn just 77 percent as much as men for doing the same job” is being used even though it is acknowledged to be inaccurate and misleading.

When a 2012 ad for the president made that statement, PolitiFact.com called it “not true.” So when Obama gave his State of the Union address he left out the part about "the same work as men" and simply said that women “make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns."

But that statement is deceptive in so many ways that it barely justifies debating. It does inflame passions, though, and that’s all it takes to stick around in political rhetoric.

The Daily Beast.com called the 77 number a “massively discredited factoid.” They pointed out that “it doesn’t account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week.”

Surely everyone knows it is illegal to discriminate according to gender. That law was passed more than 50 years ago. And at the time, all of the Republicans in Congress, and almost all of the Democrats, voted for it. It’s hard to imagine that level of consensus today.

So if there is still a wage gap, and if everyone wants to affect that gap, why don’t the fine lads and lasses on both sides of the aisle pinpoint where the problems lie and then work on solutions?

It is not a single-cause problem. Here’s what they would find, if they checked studies by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and other groups.

In general, women currently make about 82 percent as much as men, but in and of itself that statistic means very little. A primary reason women make less is that they make up about 76 percent of those working in the 10 lowest-wage jobs. It would seem education and job training might be helpful to tackle that problem.

Even in job fields dominated by women, though, women still earn only around 91 percent as much as men. It has been suggested that is because women tend not to ask for advancement and raises on the same level as men. It would seem some career counseling would be helpful.

Among the higher-paying sectors, women with MBAs earn about 83 percent as much as men, but that seems to be largely out of choice. In fact, 10 years after graduation that number drops to about 60 percent as more and more women opt out of full-time work.

Opportunities exist to honestly make a difference in gender pay differences. But making a difference would have to be the priority instead of making political points whenever an election is looming.

Equal pay for women. It’s been the law since 1964. But it’s just too good a campaign issue to drop.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.

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