Sitting now on Capitol Hill is a bill, The Paycheck Fairness Act, which aims "to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes." Put another way, equal work ought by law to equal equal pay.
Enter AEI Scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, writing in the New York Times op-ed page. She points out, let's say correctly because this isn't the point, that some women earn more than men:
When these factors are taken into account the gap narrows considerably — in some studies, to the point of vanishing. A recent survey found that young, childless, single urban women earn 8 percent more than their male counterparts, mostly because more of them earn college degrees.
Sounds like great news. Those women won't need the legal recourse proposed in the bill. For that reason, I don't see the relevance of this point at all. So let's call it a red herring. I also don't see the relevance in some of her other apples-to-oranges points:
Moreover, a 2009 analysis of wage-gap studies commissioned by the Labor Department evaluated more than 50 peer-reviewed papers and concluded that the aggregate wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
In addition to differences in education and training, the review found that women are more likely than men to leave the workforce to take care of children or older parents. They also tend to value family-friendly workplace policies more than men, and will often accept lower salaries in exchange for more benefits. In fact, there were so many differences in pay-related choices that the researchers were unable to specify a residual effect due to discrimination.
Hurray again for these men and women, but the issue is equal pay for equal work, so this would seem likely not to apply–another red herring. No one, I think, could honestly say she ought to get paid the same as someone else even though she's not doing equal work.
Her argument gets worse. In addition to instances where women make more than men (again, that's great so long as everyone is equally and fairly compensated), the passage of a bill meant to remedy inequality will put an end to debate on the matter:
Some of the bill’s supporters admit that the pay gap is largely explained by women’s choices, but they argue that those choices are skewed by sexist stereotypes and social pressures. Those are interesting and important points, worthy of continued public debate.
The problem is that while the debate proceeds, the bill assumes the answer: it would hold employers liable for the “lingering effects of past discrimination” — “pay disparities” that have been “spread and perpetuated through commerce.” Under the bill, it’s not enough for an employer to guard against intentional discrimination; it also has to police potentially discriminatory assumptions behind market-driven wage disparities that have nothing to do with sexism.
I think the bill assumes the answer to the question of equal pay for equal work. On those other questions, I'm sure the good folks at the AEI will keep us busy.
As I conclude here notice one thing–the use of quotes to suggest some kind of ominous future. Those quotes from from the "findings" portion of the bill. They're like the hopes and dreams of the bill, in other words. They hope that making employers actually pay people equally for equal work will have this effect. They're not alleging that employers must remedy historical wrongs. They mean they can't continue to do wrong. To suggest they do is to invent an entirely new and silly argument–a hollow man.
One final point, as a general rule, dear authors, "picking out quotes" with "dick fingers" is just "wrong."