D. Dowd Muska


This Week's Column



Lefty Economists’ Cavernous Credibility Gap

November 19, 2015

If there is to be a Hillary Clinton presidency, its officials will frequently consult “Closing the Pay Gap and Beyond: A comprehensive strategy for improving economic security for women and families.”

Issued by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the 31-page document is stuffed with liberal fables, distortions, and banalities. Its first half-lie is especially egregious. “The gender wage gap,” thunder authors Alyssa Davis and Elise Gould, “is a persistent economic problem.” In 2014, they claim, the median hourly wage of distaffers was $15.21, “82.9 percent that of the median man.”

Sort of true. But basically, irrelevant. Ladies and gents work in different ways, in different intensities, in different professions. As the American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers observed, “Women, far more than men, appear to be drawn to jobs in the caring professions; and men are more likely to turn up in people-free zones.” Engineering pays more than day care. Chemists earn more than social workers. And a computer-science degree is far likelier to be lucrative than a sheepskin in theater. Call it unfair, but that’s the market -- not systemic bias against women in the workplace.

The type of job matters, but so does the amount of time dedicated to it. June O’Neill, an economist at Baruch College, concluded that the “most important source of the gender wage gap is that women assume greater responsibility for child-rearing than men. That influences women’s extent and continuity of work, which affects women’s skills and therefore wages. In addition, women often seek flexible work schedules, less stressful work environments, and other conditions compatible with meeting the demands of family responsibilities. Those come at a price -- namely, lower wages.” Once again, biology trumps feminists’ hectoring about the need to “empower” women.

“Closing the Pay Gap and Beyond” unintentionally acknowledges the tradeoff women make toward caregiving by recommending that one way to “eliminate the gender wage gap” is “changing the culture of work to emphasize work-life balance.” (No explanation of just how much doing so would cost employers.) Other “solutions” include “deterring the segregation of genders into specific occupations,” “strongly enforcing antidiscrimination laws,” and “passing comparable-worth laws.”

Compounding their myth-perpetuation, Davis and Gould leave the gals behind, and broaden their scope to the “gap … between typical workers’ compensation and economy-wide productivity growth.” The linkage, it’s claimed, was “decoupled” in 1979. Since the year disco died, productivity has risen by 239 percent, while hourly compensation grew by only 109 percent.

Dig down into the stats a bit, however, and the disparity begins to dissolve. First, only the pay and benefits of “production/nonsupervisory workers in the private sector” is examined. That leaves out managers, the self-employed, and government employees -- no small portion of the labor force. And, as always with Robert Reich-approved “analysis,” the roles of taxes and income-redistribution programs are ignored. In other words, EPI’s compensation-productivity factoid can’t be trusted.

No matter. Bereft of credibility, the crusade against voluntary exchange between workers and employers rolls on. “Closing the Pay Gap and Beyond” seeks an end to “the widespread erosion of collective bargaining.” (Even though right-to-work states are booming.) It favors an increase in the federal minimum wage to “$12.00 by 2020.” (Even though many centrist and liberal economists understand that minimum-wage boosts cause unemployment.) And it endorses an assault on a new moonbat bugaboo: “irregular scheduling.”

With the Center for Popular Democracy in the lead, liberals have launched a nationwide consciousness-raising session over “variable and unpredictable work hours.” Such inexcusable meanness “makes it very difficult for workers to care for their family or arrange outside child care, and creates work-family stress.” Even worse, “children of parents with irregular work schedules are more likely to have cognitive and behavioral challenges.”

The answer, of course, is another mandate. Employers, EPI finger-wags, “should be required to use fairer scheduling practices, such as providing more advance notice in setting and changing work schedules, and to pay workers who have not received sufficient notice of last-minute schedule changes for hours lost, for ‘on-call hours,’ for being scheduled on split shifts, and for instances in which they are sent home before completing their assigned shifts.”

What this undeniably weak recovery needs, “progressives” believe, is another round of regulations. Dodd-Frank, Obamacare, expensive rules for nonexistent environmental “benefits,” the war on affordable energy -- good, but not enough. Sweeping micromanagement of employers in all sectors is the path to worker prosperity.

On the left, gender politics and capitalism-bashing remain preferable to finding policies that will get America, Inc. growing again.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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