By Derek Danneker
February 16, 2017
Hillary Clinton, clad in a crimson pantsuit, holds out a microphone to a small girl at the center of a much larger audience in Las Vegas, Nev., a part of Clinton’s innumerable tours across the United States.
The girl starts, “Do you think that when you’re president you’ll get paid as much as a man?” Clinton’s head throws back, mouth as open as it can, as if her hand had been bitten to reveal her perhaps-once-pearly whites resembling what can only be described as an ass in mid bray. The crowd erupts in applause and electricity, with flashes of knowing smiles beaming at the small one. Clinton encourages the girl to remain standing next to herself as she reiterates, “Did y’all hear her question?” The rest of this scene is uninteresting as Clinton launches into a very boring and predictable routine of confirming the impenetrability and vastness of the gender pay gap with no real facts or evidence as she has become accustomed to doing.
What then, are the facts? Surely they must be quite strong for parents to feed them to a little girl and that same girl to receive thunderous applause upon asking.
Perhaps the first real statistic named in most classrooms when discussing this topic is that, “Women only make 77-79 cents on the dollar that men make.” This number seems to come from the Department of Labor’s census bureau. It’s true, the numbers don’t lie and Department of Labor isn’t pulling any tricks. But, they are simply subtracting the annual median salary of men subtracted by that of men. This same number shrinks to women losing 17 cents when looking at weekly earnings and then 15 cents, hourly.
According to the National Center for Policy analysis, much of the pay gap can be explained through a few simple facts. Men on average work more paid hours than women, are more flexible in dealing with those hours, the hours women work shrink when they have children is and men are more likely to take higher paying career paths like engineering and computer science. Once these facts are accounted for, The National Center for Policy suggests that the number shrinks to about 3.3 cents on the dollar, nearly 89 percent of the original 21 cents on the dollar. Interestingly enough, women who do not have any children actually get paid nearly eight percent more than men the same age. The analysis suggests then that “This comparison implies that any wage gap is rooted more in social trends and tendencies than malicious discrimination by employers. It undermines the justification for government intervention to eliminate the wage gap.”
It is this 3.3 cents less that women make on every dollar that men make that economists refer to as the “unexplained wage gap” and is often thought to be the issue of workplace discrimination. There remains no real way to measure how much real workplace discrimination occurs. Though, You can be sure workplace discrimination happens and it should be furiously fought against, but quoting the “77 cents on every dollar” statistic is playing hide the ball and taking attention away from women with real discrimination issues.
There are perhaps those among the readers who will still shrilly point out “yes, this is simply due to the patriarchal government oppressing women, if only they would institute stronger ‘equal pay for equal work’ laws!” In fact as Milton Friedman, the famous libertarian economist once pointed out, the real world effect of “equal pay for equal work” is anti-feminist.
If it is the the case that a women is better qualified and recognized to be so, then she can compete and earn as good or better wages than men. But if she is somehow less efficient or lacking in experience, the only way for her to get that same job is to work for less money. If that weapon is taken away, the effect will be to hurt women as a whole, as Friedman figures.
Imagine also, Friedman continues, that there is a sexist employer who will only hire men. If he only hires men in a “equal pay for equal work” state, he will not have to pay a price for his discrimination. There is no difference in cost to him if he hires only one sex. In a state with no such regulations, however, a woman competing for a job could offer to work for a sexist employer for less money. In this case, he can only continue in his sexist ways if he is willing to bear the cost.
In the words of Milton Friedman, “I’m on your side, but you’re not.”