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.