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Robbing Peter's Wife to Pay Pauline: Obama Supports Equal Pay for Women

Senator Barack Obama said this today in New Mexico: ""I'll continue to stand up for equal pay as president _ Senator McCain won't, and that's a real difference in this election."

When I was 8 years old I asked my father to explain to me the difference between communism and capitalism. He answered, “Well, son, in America, a capitalist country, some people own Cadillacs and some people don’t. But in communist countries like the Soviet Union, everyone is treated equally, and no one owns a Cadillac.”

So, when Senator Obama says he is for "equal pay," he can only achieve that result by robbing Peter's wife to pay Pauline. That is, if male X gets paid more salary than female Y for the same job, then Obama thinks they should be paid "the same." But what if it turns out that male X is married with five children and his wife stays at home to care for and school the kids. And for this reason he works extra hours and is more productive than female Y, who works fewer hours and is unmarried and childless. In such a scenario, forced equality of salary would be harming the spouse of male X, Peter's wife, in order to pay Pauline, female Y, so that X and Y would receive "equal pay." If this is what Senator Obama means by "equal pay," he is in fact calling for the government to endorse an injustice against an entire class of females, the wives of all those Peters out there who have a different vision of the "good life" than graduates of Harvard Law School who dwell in the ethereal world of abstract patterns of "justice."

But this is all complicated stuff. For example, I know a professor at a top-tier private university who is paid less than a colleague with a lower rank. It turns that the colleague is a far more sought after professor doing cutting edge research. The market rewarded his excellence. My friend, a very good scholar, has nowhere near his colleague's potential, even though he has published more and is presently more well-known. According to all the usual indicators--productivity, experience, rank, education, etc.--my friend should get paid more than his colleague. But I would argue that the unequal pay in this scenario is not unfair, given the interests of the university and the potential of the colleague. Could he be a bust? Sure. Could the university have made a mistake and wasted its money on this rising star? Of course. But that is not Senator Obama's call to make. For the Senator, just like virtually everyone else on Earth, is simply neither competent nor informed enough about the intricacies of such particular economic transactions to make any judgment as to their fairness.

Comments (9)

Obama isn't really helping women when his policy prevents a woman from making MORE than a man. Let a woman make however much she can.

Dude, you are on a roll. I've been reading your comments in the other entries as well. You are definitely channeling your inner-Chesterton. Are you doing steroids? :-)

Obama isn't going to be able to actually determine who is equal to who outside of jobs that require little in the way of intelligence, aptitude, education, experience, etc. This would work for positions like the average minimum wage or office admin position, but would never work in a field where pay is based on muliple variables.

Granted, that won't stop women from trying. My father-in-law has had women get quite upset that he makes substantially more money (2-3x their salaries) as a senior software engineer, when he has worked continuously for about 26 years, and they've taken as much as 15 years off to raise their children.

The uncomfortable truth is that there are two factors that keep women's wages down: women tend to be terrible at negotiating such things, and women tend to take time off from work to raise children. Reasonably competent women also tend to get fast-tracked into lucrative management positions in many corporations.

The whole equal pay thing has been based on the same weary set of silly feminist arguments since the 1970's and earlier. There's nothing like a denial of reality to make one's economics unreal, but that has never stopped liberals and never will. And, yes, the at-home mother is not the female they are concerned about, and it never has been.

The teleology of feminist economic arguments is to compel women to seek employment outside the home, in effect, "forcing them to be free" - free, at least, as defined by feminist ideologues.

I'm not one to make ready recourse to the communist analogies, but feminist agitation on these fronts is reminiscent of Soviet wage and family policy, not in the sense that feminism is a form or mode of communism, but in the sense that a woman does not realize herself by raising a family, but by contributing to GDP, acquiring economic influence, and so forth. Family, in essence, is ancillary to Who We Are.

...but to convey the truth in 10-second-or-less sound bytes, "Equal Pay For Women" gets waayyyy more play. Obama isn't stupid.

And, yes, the at-home mother is not the female they are concerned about, and it never has been.

Reminds me of a moment when Marge Simpson was filling out a form and in the box for "occupation" was a parenthetical note: "Don't put 'homemaker' because that's not a real job. If it was, you'd be paid for it, wouldn't you?" Ha. If only our recent forms were that direct as opposed to replacing "Father" and "Mother" with "Adult A" and "Adult B".

not in the sense that feminism is a form or mode of communism
I wish I could remember which feminist said/wrote "sex is to feminism what labor is to communism," or something to that effect.
And for this reason he works extra hours and is more productive than female Y, who works fewer hours and is unmarried and childless.

This hypothetical assumes that the man and woman are not actually doing "equal work." Why bother to include that, since it seems to muddle the point you're making?

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