August 8 2014
This president will hold on to the “women as victim” mantra until the day he leaves office.
This week the Obama Administration took a major step toward mandating “comparable worth,” or “pay equity,” by instructing the Department of Labor to draft regulations, which would require federal contractors to reveal pay data based on gender, race, and other demographics in an effort to close the so-called wage gap.
On the face of it, data collection sounds relatively harmless – what’s a little more red tape for businesses already used to endless regulations? But one doesn’t have to take a far leap to see how such data collection will quickly morph into new workplace regulations and government standardization of pay.
Not surprisingly, employers will be encouraged to see their compensation decisions through the eyes of a government bureaucrat who won’t understand the many variables businesses consider when making compensation decisions. Employers will have an incentive to move toward one-size-fits-all compensation packages and consolidating their workforce to minimize the costs and headaches associated with hiring women and minorities. And ultimately this move by the White House will strip an employer of their most basic rights of controlling their hiring decisions.
This is just the most recent – but very concerning – move by the president, who continues to tout the pay gap – that women only make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns – as a serious threat to women’s progress.
Of course the White House itself has acknowledged that this statistic – which is a comparison of averages of full-time working men to full-time working women – is grossly misleading. In fact on Equal Pay Day this year, Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council for Economic Advisors, conceded that the wage gap was overstated: “If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke….I certainly wouldn’t have meant to say that.” And it’s liberal feminist supporters have also (quietly) acknowledged that the wage gap is, in fact, far smaller – somewhere between 4 and 6 cents. All of which begs the question: Do we really need Washington to mandate “equal pay?”
The answer is undoubtedly no. The fact is the wage gap is not the terrifying threat feminist outlets, progressive activists, and Democratic lawmakers make it out to be. And what’s more, portraying the workplace and society as hostile to women doesn’t actually help women earn more. The real reason for wage differences is because of different choices men and women make, from choosing their college major, to job preferences, to time spent out of the workforce.
Americans see this, and they understand that more government meddling in the labor market would result in serious unintended consequences. That’s why in experimental research IW conducted, when respondents learn about the economic impact of trying to mandate wages through laws like the Paycheck Fairness Act, support for the law drops overwhelmingly. What’s more, while women’s groups on the left might see this issue as a political homerun for Democrats, that’s not in fact the case. The debate over this issue actually diminished support in our research for the president among weak Democratic and Independent women by 13-points, perhaps because it reinforces the notion that Democrats see women at best through a lens of victimhood and at worst as political pawns.
When taken together, it becomes clear why Democrats have failed to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which stalled in the Senate for the third straight time 53-44. But unable to move equal pay legislation through proper legislative channels, the president is now taking this back door approach through an executive order to establish official wage standards.
Perhaps it’s time for the president to stop trying to legislate perfection. Women and girls in America today have more freedom and choices than ever before, and that’s something to celebrate. Rather than talking about women as if they are perpetually mistreated – and pushing policies to address problems that are minor at best – the White House should focus on economic growth so that men and women will have greater opportunity to find the job that really is the best fit.