I find the debate about income inequality between men and women tiresome because it is about politics, not pay and instigated envy, not facts. Let me be clear from the outset where I stand on the issue of income equality: Women and men of equal qualifications, experience, and productivity who do the same jobs should receive the same pay—period. I believe that people—men and women—should be paid on the basis of merit not gender. By the way, my views are reflected in the law and have been since 1963. Consequently, any women who does the same job as a man and has the same qualifications and experience and who does the job as well as the man in question should receive the same pay. If she doesn’t, the woman in question has a strong case for a gender discrimination suit she will win hands down, not to mention the punitive damages she will receive.
If equal pay for men and women is the law, why then do liberal politicians continue to harp on supposed income inequality? If there are real cases of income inequality, and I do not doubt that there are, there are also readily accessible legal remedies. No, liberals continue to harp on an issue that has already been dealt with because they are engaging in constituency building. Equal pay for men and women has nothing to do with what liberals are about. Rather, if liberals can make women feel like victims when it comes to the issue of income equality, they can then portray themselves as the advocates of these poor mistreated victims; thereby establishing a loyal, dependent political constituency. It’s called the victimhood strategy, it is a favorite of leftwing politicians, and it is very effective. Women and men alike are susceptible to liberal politicians, dripping with false compassion and sincerity, who will tell them they are mistreated and, as a result, entitled to special compensation. One has to admit, human nature being what it is, this message is an easy sell.
I once debated an income inequality advocate who made the most zealous member of the National Organization for Women look like June Cleaver. The debate was advertised with the following title: “Why are Women Paid Less Than Men?” The wording of the title was my first clue that the debate’s sponsors might be a tad biased. As it turned out they were more than just a tad biased. Their minds were made up and they just wanted a male lamb who could be led to the slaughter on this issue. Unfortunately, things did not turn out the way they had planned. My opponent, her hand-picked adoring audience, and the debate sponsor were tripped up by one minor detail they overlooked in their planning: the facts.
My opponent began by laying out the big picture numbers on income in America. She told the audience the number of men who worked in America—at that time—and the total amount of their earnings. Then she provided the same information for women. She concluded by sharing the average pay for a man versus the average pay for a women in America. Her data were essentially correct so I did not even attempt a rebuttal. Rather, I simply asked my opponent what she attributed the difference between total male pay and total female in the U.S. to. Her answer was as smug and self-righteously delivered as it was wrong: “I attribute the difference to gender discrimination and the patriarchal attitudes of American men.” I then posed a real-life scenario and asked her a question relating to it. This is the scenario and question:
Healthcare is a popular career field for women. Women choose this field in much higher numbers than men, yet they tend to choose the lower-paying healthcare jobs such as nursing, nursing assistant, and clerical. Men who go into healthcare tend to choose the higher-paying positions such as physician and hospital administration. Do you think career choice could be a factor in the differences in pay you shared with us earlier?
She replied curtly: “Absolutely not. Career choice has nothing to do with the differences. The difference can be explained, as I have already said, by two things: 1) gender discrimination and 2) male patriarchy in American society. However, I am glad you brought up the subject of healthcare. This is a field I know something about. My brother and my sister are both physicians but my brother’s income is substantially higher than my sister’s.” The hand-picked audience, sensing blood, gave their favorite—my opponent—a big hand. The debate sponsors joined in the clapping.
Once the applause subsided, I asked my opponent if her brother and sister practiced the same specialty. She said they didn’t. Her brother was a heart surgeon and her sister was a General Practitioner (GP). I noticed some discomfort in the audience with her response. Most knew what was coming. I then asked my opponent this question: “Are you aware that male GPs typically earn less than female heart surgeons or almost any kind of surgeon who happens to be female?” Then I asked her a question designed to pre-empt where I thought she might be going next: “Are you aware of any female GPs who work the same number of hours and see the same number of patients who earn less than their male counterparts?” She wasn’t aware of any.
I closed my arguments by stating—accurately as the data show—that the debate over income inequality does not even qualify as a debate because it is based on political presuppositions rather than facts. I claimed that the so-called facts typically used by income inequality zealots tended to be skewed by apples-to-oranges comparisons as I had just demonstrated in this debate. It is easy but intellectually dishonest to make broad and sweeping claims about income inequality without making sure that you are comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, and even when the comparisons appear equal it is wise to dig deeper. For example, assume two GPs—one male and one female—work in the same clinic. The male GP earns substantially more than the female GP. Before automatically attributing the difference in earnings to gender discrimination, it is wise not to mention more intellectually honest to delve deeper into possible reasons for the difference. Do the two physicians carry the same patient loads? Is one more popular with patients than the other? Does one keep his office open more hours and/or more days than the other? Are their office staffers equally adept at coding and billing?
Gender discrimination is one possible reason why some men earn more than some women, but it is just one possible reason, and it is against the law. There are hundreds of other reasons and it is irresponsible to assume discrimination without first exploring other logical, reasonable possibilities. Those who are guilty of assuming discrimination are not seeking the truth, they are pushing a political agenda. Some of them are naively allowing themselves to be used by cynical politicians who care nothing about them and who view them as an exploitable constituency rather than as human beings.
Of course, her loyal audience gave the victory in the debate to my opponent; something they would have done even if she had not shown up. That decision was made before the doors to the auditorium were opened. As I walked out of the building, I felt a little like Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird when a jury of white bigots convicted his client Tom Robinson, not because he was guilty but because he was black. But as the jurors in this best-selling novel did, the audience in my debate with the income inequality zealot knew they had given her the victory not because she was right but because she was one of them—a liberal. I, on the other hand, was guilty in their eyes from the outset—guilty of being a conservative.