By John D. Turner
11 Apr 2014

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone over an issue when, just as you thought you were winning the argument, they suddenly switch the topic to something completely different? That is what just occurred with the latest discussion on Obamacare. Just when it looked like Republicans might be winning, with over half the population consistently polling against continuing the takeover of 1/6th of the economy by a government that has consistently lied to our faces about the plan, the Democrats, backed by willing accomplices in the media have suddenly snatched the run out from under the Republicans and changed the discussion.

The new topic is “equal pay for women,” or put another way, “equal pay for equal work.”

Great slogan, but, like most slogans on the left, what does it mean, really?

“Equal pay for equal work” is not a new topic for the Democrats; they have played this tune multiple times in the past. But the Obamacare topic is a not a winner for them anymore with party politicians running from it like a vampire fleeing a mirror. The recent election in Florida, where Republican David Jolly won a surprise victory in a special election against Democratic candidate Alex Sink (the Global Warming candidate), was a wake-up call to Democrats – a foretaste of what might come in the general elections in November unless they come up with a new game plan, as the race was seen as a referendum on Obamacare; a referendum that the favored Democrat lost.

Women make up a key demographic for the Democrats, a demographic that has seen steady erosion since the faults, flaws, and outright lies accompanying Obamacare have been made manifest. So, back to the old “tried and true;” the Republican “War on Women,” exemplified this time by the issue of “unequal pay.” And voila! Out pops a Democratic bill designed to “fix” that problem. And if Republicans object, well, it’s just ammunition for that “War on Women” Republicans are waging, and a way of taking everyone’s mind (and the media’s attention) off the problems having to do with Obamacare.

The new talking points, unleashed this past week, are that men make more than women doing the exact same job and this has got to stop. The government must take action. The assumption here is that when someone is hired, the person doing the hiring (presumably some evil, greedy capitalist man) takes a look at the applicants and says to himself, “I think I will hire that female candidate because I can get away with paying her only 80% of what I would pay this guy over here.”

Even assuming this were true (which it likely isn’t), there would be a positive story here as well; the woman has a job and the guy does not. In this case, wouldn’t the guy have a case for being discriminated against? But no one cares about the guy without a job – it’s the woman only getting paid 80% of what the guy would have been paid if he had been hired that is the problem here. Never mind that 80% of some mythical made up number being supposed by the left is much more than the $0 the guy is getting paid.

And of course, were this really the case, wouldn’t it logically follow that businesses would be hiring women overwhelmingly instead of men, since they would be forced to do so to remain competitive with those businesses who hired women to “cut costs?” And of course, if that were the case, then whatever it was that women were being paid would then become the “norm?”

Of course, other reasons abound as to why men “doing the same work” might, as a group, be paid more than women as a group. You will notice that the Democrats, while pushing this agenda, never say anything about any qualifiers.

One thing that makes a difference between what a man or a woman is paid is experience. People who have been doing a job longer (and are demonstrably good at that job) are typically paid more than people with less experience. This is because they are worth more to the company and because the company wants to retain them. Thus they reward them by paying them more. OK, fine, but how is this relevant to men and women?

Men have a tendency to start work and continue working throughout their career. Thus, they gain in experience along the way. Women on the other hand, have a tendency to start work, and then take time out during their career for other things – most notably, having and raising children. During the time they are out of the workforce, not only are they not continuing to add to their work experience in their chosen field, but, depending on the field, may need retraining once they return to work. In any event, they are not keeping pace with their male peers and therefore when they return to work will undoubtedly be making less than their male peer group.

This is not to say that all women do this. Some continue to work despite having children; some elect not to have children at all.

Of course, Democratic politicians tend to gloss over this fact, or deny it completely. Nancy Pelosi recently stated that things should work as they do in Congress, where everyone is paid the same, male and female, no matter if they were just elected or if they had been there for 30 years. It works in congress, why not everywhere?

And it is true. All Members of Congress, whether they just arrived or, like Pelosi, are older than dirt make $174,000 per year. Well, not all members exactly – the President pro tempore of the Senate and the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate make $193,000 and the Speaker of the House, a position that Ms. Pelosi held, gets paid $223,500 per year – almost as much as the Vice President! But she is correct in that it doesn’t matter what your sex is, or how long you have been there – it’s the same for everyone.

Of course, one could make the argument that being a congress critter, where there is no expectation of “making a profit,” no worries about “going out of business,” or even much concern about sticking to a budget is very different than working in private industry where all three are concerns of the highest order. And congress has its own ways of “rewarding” people. Longevity might not get you more pay, but it does give you more power; committee chairmanships for example, are typically based on longevity. And it is amazing to see how many people become millionaires on that “measly” $174,000 per year salary that congress critters are forced to “get by” on.

So for the rest of us, does it make sense that everyone receives the same pay no matter how long they have been on the job?

Let’s say you graduate from college and decide to become a programmer. You are good at what you do and work with the company for ten years. Should a newbie, just walking through the door, unproven and with no experience be paid the same as you? If that is the case, why bust your butt working 10 hour days when you could just as easily work 8 hour days and coast? This is why you get mediocrity from most government civil service jobs – there simply is no incentive to go out of your way to do anything better.

And even most government jobs do not match the paradigm set forward by Ms. Pelosi’s “experience.” In federal government service for example, people are paid based on grade and step. Grade is based on what the job entails, and step, in general, is based on how long you have been doing the job.

So let’s take two hypothetical people, a male and a female. Both graduate from college, both take a job writing software as GS-12 step 1’s right out of college. Both are being paid the same money for the “same work.” Three years into their jobs, both are GG-12 step 3’s (you automatically advance 1 step per year for the first four years). At this point, the female has a baby and decides to quit her job for a few years to raise her child. The plan is that she will return to the work force once the kid is in 1st grade (And the government provided babysitter is available).

Five years later she rejoins the federal workforce, at the same place doing the same job and resumes her career from where she left off. However, she and her male peer are no longer making the same amount of money. Where she is returning as a GG-12 step 3 same as when she left, he has been working those five years and is now a GG-12 step 6, doing the same work as they were both doing when she left. He is making $81,079 per year and she is only making $74,130 or $0.91 for every dollar he makes. Is this “fair?”

Well, yes, but that isn’t the way the argument is being made.

At least it wasn’t until the media “noticed” that females on the White House staff are paid less than males on the White House staff. Oops! The White House response was, “well at least our pay gap is better than the national average.” Nice. So their response equates to “yes, we are doing the same thing we accuse everyone else of doing, but we aren’t doing it quite as bad.” They also mentioned something about “differences in experience,” which illustrates my point above. Please note however, that nowhere in the nice catch phrase “equal pay for equal work” is experience level or anything else ever mentioned, nor is it ever mentioned when discussing the raw numbers bandied about concerning women getting paid less than men.

Are they working the same number of hours? Studies show that women, on average, work fewer hours than men. Fewer hours equates to less pay, at least for hourly wage workers. What about the jobs they are doing? Are women concentrated in jobs that pay less than those that men might be concentrated in? This has been the case in the past. Are we comparing elementary school teachers with nuclear physicists?

I have a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and a Master’s in Computer Science. I know that there are female engineers and female computer scientists; I have met and worked with both. However, the fact remains that the people who get degrees in these areas are mostly male. Not because women are excluded, or “not smart enough,” but rather because in most cases, they simply aren’t interested in pursuing these career paths. One of the big stumbling blocks seems to be math.

Again, I am not saying women are incapable of doing math. My grandmother was very good at math. My wife is no slouch either. However, none of my four daughters expressed the slightest interest in math; quite the contrary. It was an act of extreme effort for them to get through the required college algebra course in order to get their degree. One of them never did. Are there guys who aren’t good at math too? Sure, lots of them. Still, going through engineering college, and later Computer Science, the number of females in my classes was few. Should women be forced to pursue technical degrees to even out the numbers? Or should men be banned from seeking technical degrees to the extent that women are equally represented? What would such policies, seeking “fairness,” do to our economy?

And what does “equal pay for equal work” mean anyway? One thing I have learned about the left – it is best to get them on record defining exactly what they mean by words that may have different meanings depending on who is saying and hearing them. For example, when this issue was raised years ago in Washington State (it was called “comparable work” back then), what it meant was something along the lines of “truck drivers do about the same level of effort as teachers do, therefore teachers and truck drivers should be paid the same.” In other words, instead of comparing apples to apples and factoring in experience like any sane individual would think, what was really meant was to compare apples to oranges and factor in someone’s opinion on the issue.

And when one starts down that path, where does it end? Who makes those decisions and how are they arrived at? What if someone decides that a heart surgeon does about the same thing (whatever that means) as an artist and so should be paid accordingly? And have the brainless minions in Hollywood ever considered how such a policy might impact them? What is a comparable job to a Hollywood actor, and does it, should it, pay millions of dollars a year?

How about football players? Now that college football teams are apparently getting the go ahead to unionize (meaning that the national labor relations board considers them “employees”), what is the difference between them and NFL players? Don’t they do “comparable work?” Does that mean that college football players should command a 6-7 figure income? Or does that mean that NFL players should be paid less?

Doesn’t a WNBA player do comparable work to NBA players? Shouldn’t WNBA players receive “equal pay?” And if it were determined that they should, how long would the WNBA be around, considering that their revenue stream is insufficient to pay such salaries? The average salary in the NBA is $5.2 million. Of course, not everyone in the NBA is that well paid. The salaries range from a “low” of $457,588+ to over $30 million. Yep, even that guy that sits on the bench most of the time makes over $400K a year. And this doesn’t count what the top players bring in via endorsement contracts.

Things are very different in the WNBA. Rookie pay is a mere $36,570, and the maximum salary for veteran players is $105,000. Why the differences? Smaller audience. People just don’t follow the WNBA like they do the NBA. Smaller audience translates into less money – even though they are doing the exact same thing – comparable work. Should people be forced to watch WNBA games in order for them to have the money to pay higher salaries?

The same issues hold in other sports, like tennis and golf, though the disparity is much less pronounced than it is in basketball.

This is a ridiculous issue, and certainly one that should not be addressed by some casual waiving of a congressional or presidential wand. But as a smokescreen to take attention away from things that might embarrass the current regime before election time, or to focus attention on an issue they would rather discuss than Obamacare it is a great distraction. And changing the issue keeps the Republicans and the right off balance and one step behind.

Because it doesn’t really matter what the discussion is on today as long as it isn’t focused on Obamacare or foreign affairs or the economy or anything else detrimental to Democrats come election time, and as long as there is some issue the different parts of the Democratic base can focus on to get them to the polls, whether it is some benefit they can vote themselves or some slight they think their vote can avenge.