Timothy Egan gets it right!

FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014

Names Sean Hannity’s name: In this morning’s New York Times, Timothy Egan penned a column about Cliven Bundy, our excessively thrifty rancher.

In many ways, Bundy’s slice of Nevada is our own eastern Ukraine. It’s hard to maintain a sense of unity within the population of a vast continental nation.

There will always be some people and groups who don’t feel like they’re part of the game. Bundy’s comrades in the west “don’t recognize” the United States government. There are those in eastern Ukraine who don’t recognize Kiev.

We wouldn’t affirm every word in Egan’s column. In our view, there was no apparent reason to mention Bundy’s religion. We thought his snark about “the far right” was perhaps excessive.

In his original hard-copy posting, Egan took a statement by Ron Paul and put it into Rand Paul’s mouth. Tribal feeling can sometimes lead to errors of that type.

We also think that Egan may have buried his lede at the end of his column. In our view, this was possibly worth saying earlier:
EGAN (4/18/14): Ranching is hard work. Drought and market swings make it a tough go in many years. That’s all the more reason to praise the 18,000 or so ranchers who pay their grazing fees on time and don’t go whining to Fox or summoning a herd of armed thugs when they renege on their contract. You can understand why the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association wants no part of Bundy.

These kinds of showdowns are rare because most ranchers play by the rules, and quietly go about their business. They are heroes, in one sense, preserving a way of life that has an honorable place in American history. The good ones would never wave a gun in the face of a public servant, and likely never draw a camera from Fox.
Good for Egan for saying that—and good for all those other ranchers, the ones who aren’t in the news this week! If you want your continental nation to function, it’s a good idea for members of various groups to praise the obvious good which is found in others.

That said, Egan did something in this column which we’ve been requesting for years. Good lord! Right there in the New York Times, Egan stood up on the hood of his dust-caked truck and named an actual name:
EGAN: This phony event has brought out the worst of the gun-waving far right, and the national politicians who are barely one degree of separation from them...

With their assault rifles and threats, the thugs in the desert forced federal officials with the Bureau of Land Management to back down from a court-ordered confiscation of Bundy’s cattle. One of the rancher’s supporters, Richard Mack, a Tea Party leader who is in the National Rifle Association’s Hall of Fame, said he planned to use women as human shields in a violent showdown with law enforcement.

“We were actually strategizing to put all the women up front,” Mack said in a radio interview. “If they were going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot.”

That’s who Fox and friends are playing with these days—militia extremists who would sacrifice their wives to make some larger point about a runaway federal government. And what’s more, the Fox host Sean Hannity has all but encouraged a violent confrontation.
Was that really Sean Hannity’s name we saw in the New York Times? Strange as it seems, criticism of our cable buffoons virtually never occurs in our big papers of record.

Hannity has played the sea-to-sea fool concerning the breakaway rancher. Has he “all but encouraged a violent confrontation?”

We’d require support for such a statement before we’d put it in print. But for years, we have said that it is news when TV “newsmen” mislead or misinform the public or behave in ludicrous ways.

We were pleased to see Hannity’s name in print this morning. We’d like to see more details next time. Once in a while, we’d like to see the news division at the Times do some news reporting on misstatements and other wayward behavior by such influential figures.

Warning! Sauce for the gander should make the Times too! Concerning a range of issues, our own Rachel Maddow has reminded us of Hannity more and more in recent year.

In a more journalistic world, misstatements made on the “liberal” channel would count as real news too.


THE 77 PERCENT CONFUSION: Hey, rubes!

FRIDAY, APRIL 18, 2014

Interlude—Joan Walsh toys with the masses: With a 7-year-old relative suddenly in town, our hours are limited today and tomorrow.

For that reason, we’ll postpone our review of Maddow and Hartmann’s seminars concerning the gender wage gap. Instead, we’ll consider the new piece by Joan Walsh at Salon.

Our basic question:

Do you think Walsh is sincere in the things she says in her piece? Or do you think this tribal leader is simply conning us the rubes, as plutocrats and commissars have done down through the ages?

We find it hard to believe that Walsh is being straightforward in her piece. With red-faced anger on loan from Chris Matthews, the reinvented “cable news” star starts her piece like this:
WALSH (4/17/14): Lazy Beltway pundits have discovered a new Obama scandal: The president is telling his base the truth about how Republicans are making their lives worse, and he must be stopped.

[...]

Slate’s John Dickerson has topped them all, however, with “Obama trolls the GOP,” his Thursday column accusing the president of lying about the wage gap between men and women in order to win votes.
Walsh is angry, very angry, at Slate’s lazy Beltway pundit. According to Walsh, that pundit has accused the president of “lying about the wage gap.”

Can we talk?

In his piece at Slate, Dickerson doesn’t use the word “lying.” Walsh’s use of the famously inflammatory term is a slippery initial technique designed to get readers worked up.

Just for the record:

With regard to Obama’s recent statements about the gender wage gap, this is what Dickerson wrote at Slate. The L-word never appears:
DICKERSON (4/16/14): CBS's Major Garrett writes in National Journal about a new version of the “stray voltage” theory of communication in which the president purposefully overstates his case knowing that it will create controversy. Garrett describes it this way: “Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.”

The issue last week was the pay gap between men and women. The president issued executive orders to address the disparity, and Democrats pushed legislation in Congress. In making the case, the president and White House advisers used a figure they knew to be imprecise and controversial—a Census Bureau statistic that the median wages of working women in America are 77 percent of median wages earned by men.
According to Dickerson, Obama “purposefully overstated his case.” He “used a figure he knew to be imprecise.”

We wouldn’t put it exactly that way; “imprecise” seems like the wrong word. But it’s hard to argue that Dickerson’s statements are actually wrong.

Walsh doesn’t want Salonists to know that. So she dropped a quick L-bomb, hoping to get us worked up.

Much like her wealthier patron Matthews, the reinvented Walsh is almost fiendishly disingenuous these days. For today, let’s note what she is willing to tell you about the familiar statistic Obama used in his State of the Union Address and then again last week.

How much is Walsh willing to let the rubes know? Not a whole heck of a lot! This is her account of Obama’s use of that statistic:
WALSH: [T]he essence of Dickerson’s argument is of a piece with the lazy “grievance” meme spreading among his peers: Obama is doing something wrong by telling a component of his coalition, in this case women, that Republican policies are hurting them. In other words, telling the truth while also, yes, practicing politics.

We can certainly debate which number we should use when debating pay equity, but the notion that Obama is deliberately lying to create “stray voltage” by choosing the wrong number seems cynical or worse. Dickerson relies on a Major Garrett column that relies on an older Major Garrett column in which White House adviser David Plouffe explained his theory of “stray voltage”—how any controversy, even ones that seem to hurt Obama, can be put to good political use when “stray voltage” from said outrage sparks the ire of Obama’s base.

Supposedly, the controversy around the White House continuing to use the Census Bureau figure—that women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar—even though other studies find a smaller gap, cements the impression that Republicans oppose measures to close the gap, and may create “stray voltage” to galvanize women voters in 2014 and 2016. Oliphant likewise relies on the pay-gap flap, and the Democrats’ embrace of the doomed Paycheck Fairness Act, as an example of unfair “grievance politics.”

But Republicans do oppose virtually all measures that might close the gap. It’s not just the Paycheck Fairness Act; take the minimum wage. Republicans (and others) say that 77 percent figure exaggerates the pay gap between equally qualified men and women, because women are clustered in low-wage fields. Raising the minimum wage would be a great way to get at that particular pay-gap widener, since two thirds of minimum wage workers are women. But of course, Republicans oppose not only the Paycheck Fairness Act, but an increase in the minimum wage as well.

[...]

So let me make sure I understand. Telling your voters, accurately, that Republicans are trying to make it harder for them to vote, and are blocking action on pay equity, the minimum wage and immigration reform is unfair “grievance politics”?
In such ways, the plutocrats and the commissars have always worked to keep the rubes dumbed down.

After getting us riled with her L-bomb, Walsh says Dickerson is accusing the president of “doing something wrong” by “telling the truth” about Republican policies.

That’s a sad, absurd account of what Dickerson actually said. Obviously, Walsh understands that.

With regard to the gender wage gap, Walsh makes it sound like there are several competing numbers floating around and that “we can debate which number we should use,” presumably in good faith.

She says the White House has “continued to use the Census Bureau figure...even though other studies find a smaller gap.”

That pretty much isn’t the case. Here’s why:

The 77 cent figure is perfectly accurate if you explain what it measures. It’s meant to compare average annual income among women to average annual income among men.

That’s what the famous statistic is supposed to measure. Put to that use, the figure is perfectly accurate, or was in 2009.

That said, the Census Bureau statistic isn’t meant to measure discrimination; it isn’t meant to measure pay “for the same or equal work.” But that’s the way the White House and Obama have persistently used it. For an example, click here.

Presumably, Walsh understands all that. Like people of her type through the annals of time, she just doesn’t think it’s good for average people to understand that.

Walsh is carefully parceling out the things you’re permitted to know. In fairness, people who worm their way into ruling castes have always behaved in this manner.

There’s nothing wrong with that famous Census Bureau statistic until you misapply it. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with the famous Cal Ripken statistic—2632 consecutive games!—until you say that’s the number of games in which he hit a home run.

It’s fairly obvious that Obama has “purposefully overstated his case” by the use of that famous statistic. A person can judge that conduct however he or she likes.

Obama has overstated his case; surely, Walsh understands that. Like ruling castes through the annals of time, she just doesn’t want you to know.

People like Walsh have always believed that they’re the best judge of which things the average folk should be allowed to know.

We think such conduct is very low. That said, you can judge the work of this climber in whatever way you choose.

We’d just prefer that you understand the matters on which Walsh wants to rile and deceive you. People like Walsh never want their lessers, the rubes, to accomplish such tasks.

Irony of the fortnight: In her autobiography, What’s the Matter with White People (real title!), Walsh portrays [name of relative withheld] as a very honest person.


The eternal shortcomings of show trials!

THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2014

Professors in Nerdland object: Gene Lyons wrote his column this week about the Jonathan Chait show trial.

Then he did a Facebook post about how depressing the whole topic is.

We feel the same way. On the whole, we remain puzzled by Chait’s cover piece for New York magazine. But in our view, Sunday’s show trial represents a changing of the guard and a depressing addition to pseudo-liberal culture.

To review: Chait was denounced for a full six minutes before he was introduced. After a six-minute exchange with Melissa Harris-Perry, he was sent to the stocks.

For the next two segments, he was denounced by a hand-picked panel of professors. Harris-Perry devoted twenty-six minutes of air time to Chait’s piece. In that twenty-six minutes, Chait spoke 600 words.

Harris-Perry didn’t like Chait’s essay. That’s fine with us! We weren’t crazy about the piece ourselves. (To peruse Chait’s piece, click here.)

But below, you see the first question from Harris-Perry after Chait was banished to the stocks. She posed her question to Professor Metzl:
HARRIS-PERRY (4/13/14): And joining me now, Jelani Cobb, associate professor of the University of Connecticut; Jonathan Metzl, professor psychiatry at Vanderbilt University; Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; and Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

So Jonathan, I wanted to start with you because I found it interesting, the language of paranoia and of insanity that Mr. Chait often uses to talk about race, and mostly to talk about the difference between white liberals and white conservatives arguing about race. But this idea that, if you see race differently, it constitutes insanity or madness.
As we noted yesterday, we were puzzled by the passage where Chait used the term “paranoia” too. We were also puzzled by the passage where he says a certain political claim would be “completely insane.”

That said, does Chait “often use the language of paranoia and of insanity to talk about race?” We thought Harris-Perry was overstating a tad—and we thought it would have made more sense to ask Chait himself why he said what he did.

But alas! This was very much a show trial, and Chait had been banished to the stocks. Instead, Harris-Perry’s question went to Professor Metzl.

In reply, Professor Metzl said this:
METZL (continuing directly): Absolutely right. I have two points as a maybe jumping-off point for what I think is going to be a very fruitful conversation about this.

And one is that when I read that part of it, I almost fell off my chair because, of course, we know that when I researched my book, The Protest Psychosis, the idea of paranoia itself is incredibly racialized. It’s not just a standard symptom. And through the 1960s and 1970s, the moniker of “paranoia” was actually used to pathologize black protesters who were protesting against the U.S. government. So there’s a history of “paranoia” that I think is very important in the political sphere.

The second point I want to make, it’s slightly related, is that it’s not really true that—I mean, the hard part for me is that it’s not just that we have expanded conversation about race in this country. There are a million ways in which conversations about race have been frustratingly silenced. It’s hard—you know, there’s fewer minority students on college campus, defunding of research, social science research about race. And so in a way, having a black president ironically has made it more difficult to talk about race in the United States I think.

HARRIS-PERRY: So this first point that you made, about the notion that “paranoia” itself is not a race neutral term.

METZL: Absolutely.
Extemporaneous speech isn’t perfect. But do we all know that “the idea of paranoia itself is incredibly racialized?” Does that constitute an objection to what Chait said in his piece?

We’ll take a wild guess:

People use the terms “paranoid” and “paranoia” all the time, in literal and figurative senses. It occurs to almost no one that the term “paranoia” was incredibly racialized in the 1960s.

We don’t know if what Metzl said about the term’s past use is true. But no one has stopped using the term for that reason. Nor was Chait applying the term to any particular racial group. He said that liberals are paranoid about conservatives and vice versa.

What was Professor Metzl saying? Do you have any idea?

Was he saying that Chait shouldn’t have used the term in the way he did because of that history? The term “paranoia” is used all the time. Is everyone supposed to stop using the term because of things we all know from when he researched his book, which he named?

What was the point of Professor Metzl’s remark? Does anyone have any idea?

In a leading humble-brag, Harris-Perry routinely brands her show as coming from “Nerdland.” Pandering figures around the tribe echo this branding for her.

When Harris-Perry says she’s broadcasting from Nerdland, it’s her way of saying that her program is very smart. But go ahead—watch the Q-and-A she conducted with the professors.

(For her first segment, click here. For her second segment, click this.)

Do you see the professors saying things which strike you as especially smart? Exquisitely scripted, yes. But do you really see smart?

Professor Tillet also knew what the convict shouldn’t have said:
TILLET: I mean, there’s a couple of problems I had with the article, to add to Jelani’s point.

The first I thought was offensive was using the language of “stop and frisk” to talk about the ways in which like MSNBC, for example, deals with issues of racial injustice, right?

So when I recently saw the Anita Hill documentary and was reminded of when Clarence Thomas uses the language of “high-tech lynching” to talk about the hearing that he’s experiencing, so I think just to use “stop and frisk” as a way of critiquing any institution for talking about racial injustice is problematic. But it also elides the realities of individuals who are experiencing state-sanctioned violence and harassment.
We’ll be honest. We don’t exactly understand what Professor Tillet said.

Chait used the term “stop and frisk” to mock the way people on MSNBC conduct political debate. This is what he said:
CHAIT (4/6/14): [M]any, many liberals believe that only race can explain the ferocity of Republican opposition to Obama. It thus follows that anything Republicans say about Obama that could be explained by racism is probably racism. And since racists wouldn’t like anything Obama does, that renders just about any criticism of Obama—which is to say, nearly everything Republicans say about Obama—presumptively racist.

[...]

Esquire columnist Charles Pierce has accused Times columnist David Brooks of criticizing Obama because he wants Obama to be an “anodyne black man” who would “lose, nobly, and then the country could go back to its rightful owners.” Timothy Noah, then at Slate, argued in 2008 that calling Obama “skinny” flirted with racism. (“When white people are invited to think about Obama’s physical appearance, the principal attribute they’re likely to dwell on is his dark skin. Consequently, any reference to Obama’s other physical attributes can’t help coming off as a coy walk around the barn.”) Though the term elitist has been attached to candidates of both parties for decades (and to John Kerry during his 2004 presidential campaign), the writer David Shipler has called it racist when deployed against Obama. (“ ‘Elitist’ is another word for ‘arrogant,’ which is another word for ‘uppity,’ that old calumny applied to blacks who stood up for themselves.”)

MSNBC has spent the entire Obama presidency engaged in a nearly nonstop ideological stop-and-frisk operation. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell chided Obama for playing too much golf, Lawrence O’Donnell accused him of “trying to align...the lifestyle of Tiger Woods with Barack Obama.” (McConnell had not mentioned Tiger Woods; it was O’Donnell who made the leap.) After Arizona governor Jan Brewer confronted Obama at an airport tarmac, Jonathan Capehart concluded, “A lot of people saw it as her wagging her finger at this president who’s also black, who should not be there.” Martin Bashir hung a monologue around his contention that Republicans were using the initialism IRS as a code that meant “nigger.” Chris Matthews calls Republicans racist so often it is hard to even keep track.
Chait used the term to mock ridiculous statements like O’Donnell’s. Apparently, Professor Tillet was saying he shouldn’t have done that.

Do you understand why he shouldn’t have done that? Does it start to seem like Chait should have all his work thoroughly screened by a group of professors, preferably in Nerdland?

Liberals should be warned, then warned again, against the presumption that this type of carping is smart. Quite often, the nation’s professors aren’t all that.

That can even be true in Nerdland.

Would it perhaps have made good sense to see what Chait what would have said about these objections? In show trials, the accused can’t speak.

Did you realize that, in Nerdland at least, the nation’s professors still tilt a bit toward conducting trials of this type?

We aren’t big fans of this piece by Chait. Still and all, on some occasions, it makes sense to let convicts speak.


THE 77 PERCENT CONFUSION: Are those figures “adjusted for relevant factors?”

THURSDAY, APRIL 17, 2014

Part 3—Or are you just happy to see us: According to one familiar statistic, American women earn, on average, only 77 percent as much as men.

This statistic may well represent a real societal problem. But no one who actually works in this field claims that this is a measure of how much women get paid, as compared to men, for doing the same work.

That said, partisans constantly make that claim. When they do, we the liberal rubes get conned, just as our conservative brethren get conned when they watch Sean on Fox.

How much less do women get paid for doing the same or equal work? It isn’t easy to answer that question.

It’s a little bit like Heraclitus’ river. You’ll never see that important question answered the same way twice!

That said, no one claims that the shortfall is as large as 23 cents on the dollar. No one claims that women get paid 77 percent as much “for the same or equal work.”

You may hear President Obama imply that women get shortchanged that much. He’s trying to fire the rubes.

You may hear Rachel Maddow imply that. She’s displaying her substantial, increasing skill as a Sean Hannity type.

Repeat: No expert claims that women only get paid 77 percent as much for doing the same work. That 77 cent statistic isn’t a measure of discrimination. It’s a measure of average income before adjustments have been made for a range of “relevant factors.”

Everyone knows this, except the people who keep getting it wrong. Often, this includes our ranking journalists, who can’t seem to stay on point.

Can we talk? If a journalist wants to discuss the wage gap, he or she should probably observe a bone simple distinction:

He should observe the distinction between (1) the earning gap which does exist between men and women, on average, and (2) the percentage of the income gap which results from discrimination or unequal treatment.

That may seem like a bone simple distinction. But our journalists have long been expert at fudging such simple points up.

Consider three recent examples. Simply put, no distinction is so simple that our scribes can’t botch it:

Katie McDonough: In this recent piece for Salon, Katie McDonough correctly wrote that “the pay gap is real...women do get paid less than men for doing the same work as their male peers.”

On average, that statement is almost certainly true. But McDonough cited large gaps in pay in various occupations—and her data almost surely don’t reflect what women get paid for the same or equal work.

Here’s the way it went down:
MCDONOUGH (4/8/14): Women, on average, earn less than their male peers. How much less depends on a number of factors.

The first rebuttal one hears when trying to discuss pay discrimination is, “But are we taking about equal work?” And the answer is yes, women do get paid less for doing the same work as their male peers. It’s why the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act exists. Ledbetter worked as an overnight supervisor at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. for nearly two decades. Just as she was about to retire, she received an anonymous note alerting her to the fact that she was making $3,727 per month, while men doing the same job—the same job— were being paid between $4,286 to $5,236 per month.

Ledbetter isn’t some anomaly. She is the face of the insidious operations of pay discrimination. It’s why there is now a law named after her. (A law that people like Rick Perry do not want to enforce.)

Here are some other examples of pay inequity within a single job, according to a breakdown of median weekly salaries from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

*A male education administrator makes, on average, $1,566 a week. His female colleague earns, on average, 67 percent of that salary.
*A male high school teacher makes, on average, $1,050 a week. His female colleague earns, on average, 93 percent of that.
*A male physician makes, on average, $2,099 a week. His female colleague earns, on average, 67 percent of that.

This trend continues across fields.
In that passage, McDonough moves directly from a discussion of unequal pay for the same work to a set of statistics which almost surely aren’t intended to measure that.

As best we can tell, those statistics from the BLS are not intended as measures of pay for equal work. In the original source materials, we find no claim that they have not been “adjusted for relevant factors.”

This is why we say that:

For her source, McDonough links to this piece for the Pew Charitable Trusts by Susan Milligan. In the text of her piece, Milligan never says that she is discussing pay for equal work.

There is one graphic whose title may give the impression that pay for equal work is being measured, although even that isn’t clear. (Milligan probably didn’t create the graphic.) But Milligan links to this BLS report, which seems to make no claim to be measuring pay for equal work.

That BLS report presents “median usual weekly earnings” within a range of occupations. We see no claim that the data have been “adjusted for relevant factors”—for such factors as hours worked, years of seniority or type of job within the given occupation.

Almost surely, that isn’t pay for equal work. But neither the BLS report nor Milligan ever make the point clear. McDonough said it was.

Rachel Maddow: McDonough’s piece appeared in Salon on April 8. That night, Rachel Maddow interviewed Professor Heidi Hartmann (again) about the gender wage gap.

The two had staged a famously incoherent discussion of the gap in April 2012. Now, they tried it again.

Maddow blustered and misstated a bit, then introduced Hartmann. Right out of the gate, this exchange occurred:
MADDOW (4/8/14): Joining us now is Heidi Hartmann. She’s president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and she is a professor at George Washington University. She is also at the White House today for the equal pay event. Professor Hartmann, thank you very much for being with us.

HARTMANN: Pleasure to be with you again, Rachel.

MADDOW: I just want to ask you a very basic but specific question. Do American women make less money than men when they are doing the same work?

HARTMANN: Well, it’s that “doing the same work” that is tricky. There are many companies in which a man and a woman in the same job would get equal pay. But it turns out there are many companies where they don’t. And you know, we took a look just recently at the twenty largest occupations for women, these are occupations that sound the same like let’s say customer service representative, retail worker. And the wage gaps ranged, the wage ratios ranged from like 68 percent, women making only 68 percent of what men make in retail, to 94 percent, women making 94 percent of what men make in customer service work.
Maddow asked how much less women get paid for doing the same work. After saying the “same work” part of the question was tricky, Hartmann cited several statistics which don’t seem designed to answer that question.

(To see the IWPR report in question, click here. We see no claim that the earning data have been “adjusted for relevant factors”—that the statistics represent pay “for the same work.”)

Did Professor Hartmann’s statistics represent pay “for the same work?” Viewers probably got that impression, but Maddow never clarified the point.

Maddow and Hartmann are getting to be a bit like a vaudeville team. Tomorrow, we’ll offer more detail from their two performances.

The New York Times editorial board: Two days later, the New York Times editorial board cleared its throat, then discussed the gender wage gap.

Midway through their piece, the editors acknowledged the fact that the famous 77 cent statistic is not a measure of pay for equal work. (“It is not a comparison of what men and women are paid for performing the same or comparable jobs.”)

We’ll bite! How much do men and women get paid “for performing the same or comparable jobs?” In this fairly lengthy chunk, note the way the editors fail to answer that question.

The editors supply a trio of statistics which haven’t been “adjusted for relevant factors.” But they omit the AAUW statistic which has been so adjusted:
NEW YORK TIMES (4/10/14): Threaded through the political fight over pay fairness is a continuing debate about the size of the pay gap. Mr. Obama and others often cite 77 cents as what women make on average for every $1 earned by men—a figure that critics say is an exaggeration.

In fact, it is a rough, but important, measure of overall workplace inequality. It is not a comparison of what men and women are paid for performing the same or comparable jobs. But, in representing the full-time wages of a working woman against that of a full-time working man, it reflects overt discrimination as well as more nuanced gender-based factors, like the fact that women are disproportionately concentrated in the lowest-paying fields and not well-represented in higher-paying fields. Of course, 77 cents is not the only measure. But there is no doubt that the pay gap is real.

The Pew Research Center last year found that women earned 84 percent of what men earned in its study of the hourly wages of all workers, including those who work part time. Similarly, a 2013 review by the Economic Policy Institute of annual hourly wages for men and women with college degrees, including salaried and hourly workers, found that the men earned on average $33.71 per hour and the women just $25.35 an hour.

Even controlling for hours, occupations, marital status, and other relevant factors, college-educated women earn less than their male counterparts, according to a recent study by the American Association of University Women. And a study issued this month by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported that women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly every occupation, including the most common occupations for full-time working women, like elementary- and middle-school teaching and nursing.
The editors cite three different statistics which haven’t been “adjusted for relevant factors.” These statistics show significant gaps in average incomes between women and men.

But how odd! The editors report that another study—a study by the AAUW—shows that “college-educated women earn less than their male counterparts” even after adjusting for relevant factors. But they fail to report how large that adjusted wage gap is!

This seems to be the report in question. It says the gap is 7 cents after controlling for relevant factors.

If that gap results from discrimination, it should of course be addressed, where possible. But was that measure of pay for equal work too small to suit the editors?

They specifically cited three larger pay gaps, using statistics which haven’t been adjusted for relevant factors. But they didn’t include the smaller pay gap, the statistic which has been designed to approximate pay for equal work.

So it endlessly goes.

How much less do women get paid for doing the same or equal work? It’s an important question.

We’d like to see the news division at the Times report on this important topic. We’d like to see them clarify the various statistics which float around when this topic gets discussed.

The Times won’t likely do any such thing concerning this fraught topic. As we’ve often told you, elementary facts play almost no role in our clownish discourse.

Instead, the proselytizers often take over when this topic gets discussed. As they teach you what to think about the wage gap, they may routinely fail to observe a basic, bone-simple distinction:

They may report the gap in earnings without “adjusting for relevant factors.” As they do, they may pretend or suggest that they’re reporting the difference in pay “for the same or equal work.”

In our view, Rachel Maddow’s work on this topic is becoming a modern classic. Tomorrow, we’ll show why we increasingly think of Sean when we see Rachel at work.

Tomorrow: Maddow and Costello

Just to be clear about the lack of clarity: Look at Milligan’s report. Look at the BLS report from which she worked.

Look at the IWPR report, the one which Hartmann cited.

Do those reports present statistics concerning pay for equal work? Do those statistics represent pay for women after “adjusting for relevant factors?”

We aren't sure—but go ahead, waste your day! Just try to puzzle that out!


Front page headline in today’s Times!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014

Journalistic scruples disappear: This pair of headlines appears in today’s hard-copy New York Times. In fact, they appear at the top of this morning’s front page:
Russia Is Quick To Bend Truth About Ukraine
Bluster and Hyperbole for Home Audience
We don’t doubt that those headlines are accurate. That said:

Journalistic relativism disappears fast when some other country is bending the truth about a foreign adventure.


Frank Bruni’s questions for Howard Stern!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014

The undying law of the guild: One of our craziest citizens killed three people this weekend.

At the start of yesterday’s column, Frank Bruni reviewed the carnage. In the process, he asked a pair of questions which we found revealing:
BRUNI (4/15/14): Most of the hate crimes in the United States don’t take the fatal form that the shootings in Kansas over the weekend did, and most aren’t perpetrated by villains as bloated with rage and blinded by conspiracy theories as the person accused in this case, Frazier Glenn Miller. He’s an extreme, not an emblem.

This is someone who went on Howard Stern’s radio show four years ago (why, Howard, did you even hand him that megaphone?) and called Adolf Hitler “the greatest man who ever walked the earth.” When Stern asked Miller whether he had more intense antipathy for Jews or for blacks (why that question?), Miller chose the Jews, definitely the Jews, “a thousand times more,” he said.

“Compared to our Jewish problem, all other problems are mere distractions,” he declaimed, and he apparently wasn’t just spouting off. He was gearing up.
Miller is one of our craziest citizens. For many years, he’s been crazily fallen. His craziness has now produced tragedy.

That said, we were struck by those questions to Howard Stern—by what those questions say about the way the press corps works.

Everyone knows why Howard Stern had this crazy man on his program! For decades, Stern has defined the low-IQ, “shock jock” culture which has dumbed our world way down.

We Americans used to get our public discussions carefully sifted for us. Walter and David selected the topics. As a general rule, they didn’t make up crazy shit or fill our heads with crazy claims.

Stern is one of the people who changed that. By now, it’s hard to get a TV or radio show unless you’re visibly nuts.

Stern put this crazy man on the air because that’s what a loud and dumb shock jocker does. But even now, Bruni has to pretend he doesn’t know that.

Everyone knows how this system works. And no, it isn’t just Howard Stern. For decades, it’s been Rush and Sean as well. Increasingly, it’s Rachel and Matthews too.

Bruni will never tell you that either. Like everyone else within the guild, he didn’t tell you about Matthews’ disgraceful conduct in 1999 and 2000. He certainly won’t tell you now.

The press corps never discusses the press corps. We’ve told you that for many years. Most people can’t see that it’s true.


Our basic reactions to Chait’s famous piece!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014

Overwrought overstatements on race: In our view, Jonathan Chait got dunked in the pond on Sunday’s Harris-Perry program.

For background, see yesterday’s post.

That said, we weren’t crazy about the piece for which the professors tore Chait up. Here’s some reasons why:

Chait wrote a cover piece for New York magazine about—well, what the heck was his piece about? It appears beneath these headlines:
The Color of His Presidency
Optimists hoped Obama would usher in a new age of racial harmony. Pessimists feared a surge in racial strife. Neither was right. But what happened instead has been even more invidious.
From that, we’ll guess that some editor wasn’t real clear about what Chait said either.

We thought Chait’s piece was fuzzy, unclear, unlike his usual work. Here are a few objections:

As he starts, Chait sketches a dystopian vision of life in these United States in the age of Obama. This is what he sees:
CHAIT (4/9/14): Every Obama supporter believes deep down, or sometimes right on the surface, that the furious opposition marshaled against the first black president is a reaction to his race. Likewise, every Obama opponent believes with equal fervor that this is not only false but a smear concocted willfully to silence them.
Does anyone really believe that? Is it true that every Obama supporter thinks those things about the opposition to the president? Is it true that every Obama opponent “believes with equal fervor” in the “smear” Chait describes?

Of course it isn’t true! It isn’t true that every supporter and every opponent sees the scene as Chait describes.

Chait describes “a bitter, irreconcilable enmity” involving every supporter and every opponent. Our advice: Chait should go take a walk on this lovely spring afternoon.

He should speak to the people he meets. It just isn’t like that out there!

Journalists get to overstate, but it probably isn’t a great idea to overstate about race, our most serious topic. That said, Chair overstates throughout his brief introductory section, culminating in this:
CHAIT: A different, unexpected racial argument has taken shape. Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history, has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world. Liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable. Conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs. And the horrible thing is that both of these forms of paranoia are right.
In one way, we agree—we think there’s some very dumb talk about race occurring in certain precincts. But according to Chait, “liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years.” Meanwhile, “conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own.”

“Paranoia” is a strong term—and Chait then says that both groups are right in the beliefs he attributes to them! Question:

If someone is right in his view of the world, why would you call his view “paranoia?” And why is Chait so overwrought in his own view of the scene?

As we stated on Monday, we think Chait offers one important new observation in his much-discussed piece. He’s willing to cite some of the absurd race talk going on within his own tribe.

In our view, this whole piece could have been built around that important observation. Instead, Chait goes on a very long ramble, creating a great deal of confusion in the process.

What is the basic point of this piece? We have no clear idea. We never thought we’d agree with the claim that some liberal has engaged in “moral equivalence.” But that’s pretty much what Chait does in the paragraph we’ve quoted, where he makes puzzling overstatements about both tribal groups.

Do some conservatives sometimes “feel that racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs?” Presumably, yes.

That said, are conservatives “living in a paranoia” about this? Are all conservatives in that state?

We don’t know why you’d say that.

Cable liberals sometimes say the darnedest things about race. That would have been a very good topic for Chait, a liberal, to explore.

It’s also true that academics have made all sorts of claims about so-called “racial resentment” within the conservative world. Presumably, Chait could have built a piece around those claims, though the parts of his piece which explore that topic are very poorly explained.

We thought Chait’s was overwrought, unclear, unlike his usual work. If we had a cable show, we’d have lots of questions about it.

That said, it seems to us it makes better sense to ask Chait about his piece than to stage a Salem witch trial, which is what happened on Harris-Perry’s program.

On that show, Chait was banished to the stocks while a gang of professors carped about various things he had said. For the vast bulk of the televised trial, he wasn’t allowed to defend or explain his piece. Largely for that reason, the complaints by the irate professors were about as useful as is normally the case with the cries of angry mobs.

We were puzzled by Chait’s piece. On Friday, we’ll offer one final complaint.

Tomorrow, though, we’ll look at the things the professors said as they dunked Chait in the pond.

In some ways, we agree with the professors. They were puzzled by certain parts of Chait’s piece which we ourselves have discussed.

Example: When they grumbled among themselves, Harris-Perry started with Chait’s remarks about “paranoia,” a place where we might have started. But she had Chait locked up in the stocks. For that reason, he couldn’t explain what he wrote.

We’d say the discourse suffered from his banishment. Few commentators will be at their best with the accused in the stocks, when they’ve reached the point where they feel inclined to exercise such power.


THE 77 PERCENT CONFUSION: Observing a basic bone-simple distinction!

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 16, 2014

Interlude—Are journalists up to the task: How much less do women get paid for doing the same or equal work?

On a sweeping societal basis, it isn’t easy to say.

In the court case which became famous, it was fairly easy to say how less Lilly Ledbetter got paid, as compared to men in her office who held the same position. According to the Supreme Court record, Ledbetter was making $3,727 per month, while men doing the same job were being paid between $4,286 to $5,236 per month.

It isn’t obvious that this would be wrong in every imaginable case. People who hold the job title may not be equally productive.

That said, Ledbetter was being paid less than her male counterparts. But that involved just a few people working in just one office. On a sweeping societal basis, it’s hard to say how much less women get paid, on average, for doing the same or equal work.

Estimates do exist! Wikipedia (and others) will send you to a study for the Labor Department which estimates the gap to be 4.8 to 7.1 cents on the dollar for doing the same work.

In this piece for the Daily Beast, Christina Hoff Sommers said the gap narrows to five cents for doing the same work when all relevant factors are considered, “and no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers.”

At Salon, Katie McDonough has cited a 2003 GAO study which seemed to say that the gap remained at 20 cents after accounting for relevant factors. McDonough has also linked to this post, which seems to suggest that the gap is roughly 12 cents for the same or equal work.

We don’t know what the number should be! As best we can tell, it’s hard to say how much less women get paid, on average, for doing the same or equal work. Different people will have different ideas about what factors must be adjusted for. And the incomes of at least a hundred million people are involved in this analysis.

How much less do women get paid for doing the same work? It’s hard to answer that question for at least two other reasons:

As we’ve noted, our biggest news division have pretty much refused to report or analyze this important topic. And uh-oh:

Beyond that, many journalists have been unwilling or unable to observe the bone-simple distinction which lies at the heart of this question.

Two different “gender wage gaps” are in play when we tackle this question. There is the most famous gender wage gap, in which women earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

That is a real statistic. But as everyone we’ve cited agrees, it isn’t a measure of how much women get paid for doing the same or equal work. Instead, it’s a measure of total annual income for the average man and the average woman, before adjustments are made for such factors as hours worked, type of work and seniority.

As such, that famous statistic isn’t a measure of “discrimination.” It represents a total annual income gap. But as everyone on earth agrees, it isn’t a measure of lesser pay for the same work.

To measure that second “gender wage gap,” you have to make those basic adjustments, as is done in all the studies we’ve cited. Among other things, you have to adjust for hours worked, for seniority, for basic type of employment. (Almost everyone seems to agree that those basic adjustments should be made.)

We’re speaking here about a bone-simple distinction. The famous statistic—77 percent—tells us how much women earn, on average, as compared to men.

Some second statistic tells us how much women earn, on average, for doing the same or equal work. The two statistics are not the same. They measure two different things.

The distinction between those two statistics is a bone-simple distinction. But given the way our discourse works, major journalists constantly fail to observe this basic distinction.

Deliberately or through incomprehension, they wander back and forth between the two different types of measure, creating confusion wherever they go. They fail to observe that bone-simple distinction, in which we try to determine how much of the “gender wage gap” is actually due to discrimination or unequal treatment.

Can we talk? In one area after another, our public discourse is deeply unintelligent. In recent decades, there hasn’t been a topic so simple or so basic that our “press corps” was up to the task of explaining it.

That was true back in 1995, in the press corps’ pathetic attempt to clarify the year-long Medicare debate. Was the GOP proposing Medicare cuts? Or were they proposing to slow the rate at which the program would grow?

The press corps wasn’t up to the challenge of sorting that out. Today, they don’t seem to be up to the challenge of discussing the gender wage gap.

Tomorrow, we’ll offer some high-profile examples of their maddening conduct.

How much less do women get paid for doing the same or equal work? The question is important. It’s going to be discussed all year.

But in order to answer that question, we have to observe a bone-simple distinction. Are American journalists up to that task?

As always, the answer would seem to be no. Tomorrow, some cases in point.

Tomorrow: Warning! Experts at work!