February 16, 2000
President Clinton has just proved again why the feminists, during
all those embarrassing months last year, continued to defend behavior
that no sane woman would tolerate in a public official, a boss or a
husband. He is willing to support their most outrageous ideology
wrapped in costly big-government legislative proposals.
The feminists' latest demand is for wage control, but it's not
just ordinary socialist-style wage control. Wage control with a
feminist twist means getting government apparatchiks in the bureaucracy
or the judiciary to raise the pay of women while freezing the pay of
men and hiring 1000 federal "staff inspectors" to "train" employers to
Clinton started off by parroting the tiresome feminist slogan that
women "get paid only 75 percent for the same kind of work" that men do.
"The average woman has to work," he whined, "an extra 17 weeks a year
to earn what a similarly qualified man in the same kind of job makes."
Having prevaricated on national television about what the meaning
of "is" is, he found no problem in hedging the truth with three weasel
phrases in the same sentence: "average," "similarly qualified," and
"kind of job."
The pay of the average American women includes millions of women
like me who spent 25 years raising my children without any personal
cash income and therefore will never reach the pay level of similarly
qualified men. The pay gap in America is not between men and women at
all, but between married women and other women and men who spend their
lifetimes in the workforce.
That's primarily the result of a voluntary domestic division of
labor, not workforce discrimination by a conspiracy of male
chauvinists. Women who remain single and childless, spend their
college years more productively, stay in the labor force, and work long
hours earn about as much as men.
Married men with children earn the most, while married women with
children earn the least. As the number of children increases, a
married man works more hours in the workforce and a married woman works
fewer hours, and there will never be male-female pay parity so long as
most women spend part of their lives caring for their children.
"Similarly qualified" is usually measured by the number of years
in college without recognizing the significant pay differential
produced by different degrees. A degree in education or women's
studies simply doesn't earn the same pay as a degree in engineering or
science, yet more women persist in choosing the former and more men the
"Kind of job" obscures the fact that the feminists are not
actually seeking equal pay for equal work, which has been the law of
the land since the Equal Pay Act of 1963. They want equal pay based on
some bureaucrat's subjective evaluation of "kind of job" or its "worth"
Americans don't believe in the Marxist notion of equal pay for
everyone; we believe in equal pay for equal work. People who work more
hours, or work at more difficult, unpleasant or risky jobs, earn more
and they should, yet government statistics are based on 35 hours as the
work week even though many (especially men) work far longer hours and
men suffer 90 percent of occupational fatalities.
To carry out their assault on men in blue-collar jobs, the
feminists use the code words "comparable worth" or "pay equity." The
feminists invented the imaginary "glass ceiling" in order to intimidate
employers into promoting women into executive and professional jobs.
Comparable worth is the concept of comparing the worth (not work)
of groups of women with groups of men and, therefore, doesn't reveal
anything at all about justice to the individual. To use an analogy, if
I tell you that women are only 90 percent as tall as men, you still
will not have the slightest idea how tall I am.
The concept of comparable worth is that some commissar (or might
we say commi-czarina) of wages should use the power of government to
make the wages of groups of jobs held traditionally by women (such as
office clerks) equal to the wages of groups of jobs held traditionally
by men (such as prison guards). Which jobs get raises and how much,
and which get pay cuts and how much, would be within the subjective and
arbitrary discretion of the bureaucrats making the decisions.
The comparable worth notion assumes that people are (or should be)
paid what they are "worth." But almost everyone thinks he is worth
more than he is being paid.
Each of us is paid a compromise between what we think we're worth
and what someone is willing to pay. Those millions of decisions add up
to what we call the free market economy.
Why are football and baseball players paid more than the
President? Lawyers more than ministers? Rock stars more than
musicians in major symphony orchestras? Should government decide what
they are worth?
If it were really true that businesses pay women less than men for
the same work, then cost-conscious bosses would hire only or mostly
women. Since that doesn't happen, there must be other factors.
The proper role of government is to provide equal opportunity, not
preferential treatment based on warped social theory, especially when
that theory is so demonstrably false.