Republicans play into Democratic hands

I’m not the biggest fan of the whole “war on women” narrative that the Democrats are using, but if the Republicans are so foolishly going to play into it, more power to them.  I’m all in favor of wage transparency as it clearly plays a role in preventing gender-based wage discrimination.  As I said yesterday, I suspect it plays a very small role, but I think there’s nonetheless a strong argument to be made for it.  So, the Democrats have tried to pass a bill in the Senate that broadens what Obama has just done with his executive order.  Ultimately, pretty small potatoes on changing the wage gap– but again, a step that I clearly think should be taken.  And yet, the Republicans are so in thrall to the Chamber of Commerce– “we’ll pay our employees what we damn well want and keep it a secret, damnit!!” that they’ve successfully filibustered the attempt:

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked legislation meant to close the pay gap between men and women, framing an election-year fight between the parties over whose policies are friendlier to women.

The bill was an attempt by Democrats to press what they see as their electoral advantage among women in the coming midterm elections, but they fell short of the 60 votes they needed to prevent a filibuster and advance the legislation.

“For reasons known only to them, Senate Republicans don’t seem to be interested in closing wage gaps for working women,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in a floor speech.

Republican lawmakers have said that given existing anti-discrimination laws, the legislation is redundant and is a transparent attempt by Democrats to distract from President Obama’s much-criticized health care law.

Supporters of the bill, called the Paycheck Fairness Act, say it would bring transparency to worker pay by making it illegal for employers to penalize employees who discuss their salaries and by requiring the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers.

Mr. Obama signed executive measures on Tuesday that imposed similar requirements on government contractors.

Republican leaders assailed Democrats’ attempt to paint them as unsympathetic to women in the work force. The Senate Republican Conference on Wednesday called the pay equity legislation “the latest ploy in the Democrats’ election-year playbook.”

It may be a “ploy” but why are the Republicans playing right into the Democrats’ hand on this?  Perhaps the Republicans are being painted as “unsympathetic to women in the workforce” because they are, you know, unsympathetic to women in the work force.  It’s not at all clear, either, how this legislation is redundant.  Furthermore, the whole distraction from Obamacare argument is so stupid.  Are Republicans going to say that about every single Democratic initiative?  (Survey says… yes!)

This isn’t exactly a “war on women” but you’ve clearly got one side interested in creating more workplace fairness and the other side, not so much.  As long as Republicans continue to play along, the Democrats are politically wise to push the agenda to motivate women voters for the Fall.  Of course, the Republicans could make this all moot by actually supporting legislation that helps fairness in the workplace.  I’m not holding my breath.

Photo of the day

From National Geographic’s “best of February”

Picture of a horse in the woods in SpainA Winter Walk. February 4
Photograph by Marisela Murcia Navarro, National Geographic Your Shot

Fox and climate

Surprise, surprise, Fox News does not actually accurately cover climate change.  Here it is in handy graph form via Media Matters:

Union of Concerned Scientists

Also interesting is the amount of coverage of a recent report by network:

Media Matters

I don’t really watch any cable news at all, but if I did, I think I might go with Aljazeera America, based on what I’ve seen read so far.  (They certainly have good taste in political experts).  I don’t know how they are doing, but I still cannot help but think that they are never going to thrive in America without a serious re-branding.

Obama and the gender wage gap

Enough with the $.77 on the dollar already!  This has got to me the most misleading/most over-used statistic in politics.  So frustrating to hear Obama– who surely understands the issue on a far more sophisticated level– to go on and on about this.  Sure, we should do what we can to shrink the gender pay disparity, but I would argue that most of the disparity is not actually about public policy.

So, so far I pretty much love Ezra Klein’s new Vox site.  Here’s a nice article on what exactly Obama is trying to accomplish on the pay gap via executive order.  Basically, it focuses on requiring transparency so that women can see when they are getting screwed and do something about it (or prevent employers from screwing female employees because the information will be transparent).  Okay, all well and good, but I’m going to guess that of the supposed 23 cent gap, the lack of transparency counts for a couple cents at most.

Anyway, what I really loved at Vox– here’s your value-added– was a great set of “cards” that really explain the gender wage gap and the research behind it.  A far better summary of the key issues involved I’ve seen most anywhere (than perhaps my lecture on the topic 🙂 in Public Policy).  To wit, this key bit:

Researchers argue endlessly over this question. Figures that only take annual, weekly, or hourly wages into account, for example, ignore the fact that men and women have differing levels of educational attainment and also tend to work in different fields.

Some studies have attempted to adjust for or measure these effects. A 2012 study from the American Association of University Women, for example, found a wage gap of 18 percent among recent college graduates. However, after adjusting for factors like occupation and college major, the study found a gap of 6.6 percent remaining.

$.07 on the dollar of real discrimination is still $.07 too much.  But that strikes me as a far more manageable problem than the idea that women barely make 3/4 of what men do in the same job– a very erroneous and very widely held misbelief.  And there’s also this very true statement:

These studies can be illuminating, in the sense that they show that both measurable and immeasurable factors contribute to wage inequities in the US. However, simply adjusting for factors like college major and occupational choice can obscure deeper forces in the economy that push women into lower-paid occupations or to spend more time raising children.

Yes, indeed.  It’s a super-complicated set of interactions between cultural beliefs about women’s role and women’s and men’s own choices in the workplace.  I hate to see it so simplistically boiled down.  In fact, men typically work more when they have children– putting the emphasis on parenting via supplying resources rather than actually taking direct care of the children.  We know that women work less and and take more part time jobs and more time off from work because they do more actual parenting.  Sure, in some cases society is not-so-subtly steering them in that direction, but is it necessarily women who are making the “lesser” choice here?  Perhaps the problem is men’s choices to work more and not be as involved in their kid’s lives.  I guarantee you I could find a job where I make more money than I do know.  I also guarantee you that with that job I would see less of my kids.

Anyway, we should address real problems through policy where we can– I think major investment in quality childcare would be the best start policy-wise– but we need to recognize that this gap exists in a complicated space where truly eliminating the gap means major changes in society that have no easy policy fixes.

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