Don’t Silence Debate
Featured in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “‘Paycheck Fairness’ Will Mean a Pay Cut for Men” by Carrie Lukas cautions would be supporters of legislation aimed at reducing pay inequities between men a woman. By empowering lawyers and bureaucrats to address the wage gap, the legislation would likely reduce men’s salaries rather than help women to raise their pay. The op-ed points to the unintended consequences of Title IX, another federal program which intended to increase parity between men and women in college sports but has spelled the demise of men’s college athletic programs. Likewise, this legislation would pit the interests of men and women against each other in a zero sum game, meaning men should expect a pay cut in the interest of equal outcomes.
Passage of such legislation would also put an end to thoughtful discussion on the issue and market-based solutions. The wage gap is not as simple as it seems. Young single women without children in big cities earn more than their male counterparts, for example, according to a recent Time Magazine story titled “The Richer Sex.” That article notes that women are earning more college degrees and the percentage of couples where the woman earns more than her husband is on the rise.
The earning power of young, urban, single women corroborates other research that shows some of the wage gap can be attributed to the trade-offs some professional women make in favor of having more time than money. These women want flexible work arrangements that enable them to balance family and work. In this case, a government program could interfere with individual choices and beneficial arrangements.
There may also be differences between men and women in terms of how aggressive they are in salary negotiations and in asking for raises. In this case, families, community groups, and schools would do a better job preparing young women for self-advocacy in the workplace than would a government program.
At the very least, thoughtful discussion and application of commonsense solutions should be encouraged to continue. Legislation would squelch healthy debate. Women should be cautious not only of simplistic top down solutions but tthe propaganda that accompanies them. The so-called “War on Women” is just that. Lukas is right when she writes, “Women cannot be a political shield that prevents rigorous debate about the direction of our country.”