Katie Couric Asks Sarah Palin a 77 Percent Good Question

How jarring to see Katie Couric dredge up the “pay gap” canard in her interview with Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Couric makes $15 million a year! Pretty good salary for a TV news personality who poses talking points from the labor/grievance caucus instead of coming up with her own informed questions.

That said, Couric’s line of inquiry is useful, more in depth about an employment issue than we’ve seen. Couric should have identifed the bill’s namesake, Lilly Ledbetter, who spoke at the Democratic convention and is now campaigning for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign, but still, a topic worth exploring.

From the CBS transcript:

Couric: The Ledbetter act sort of lengthens the time a woman can sue her company if she’s not getting equal pay for equal work. Why should a fear of lawsuits trump a woman’s ability to do something about the fact that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. And that’s today.

No, that’s not today, and that’s not the case. That premise repeats the usual invidious statistical sophistry used to justify all sorts of government laws, rules and programs. It has been debunked time and time again, as Couric surely knows.

As this testimony from Hudson Institute economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth notes, again:

Just comparing men and women who work 40 hours weekly, without accounting for differences in jobs, training, or time in the labor force, yields a ratio of 88 percent.These wage ratios are computed from aggregate government data and do not take into account differences in education, job title and responsibility, regional labor markets, work experience, occupation, and time in the workforce. When economic studies include these major determinants of income, rather than simple averages of all men and women’s salaries, the pay gap shrinks even more.

A report by Jody Feder and Linda Levine of the Congressional Research Service entitled “Pay Equity Legislation in the 110th Congress,” declared that “Although these disparities between seemingly comparable men and women sometimes are taken as proof of sex-based wage inequities, the data have not been adjusted to reflect gender differences in all characteristics that can legitimately affect relative wages (e.g. college major or uninterrupted years of employment).”

And the Ledbetter act doesn’t not “sort of lengthen” the time you can sue, as Couric claims. It eliminates all statutes of limitations in certain employment suits. You could sue 30 years after the alleged incident under the proposed law, long after the alleged offenders have died or otherwise moved on.

Couric introduced the topic with this “gotcha” question: “Where do you stand on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?” How many people who aren’t members of Congress, their staff, or inside the Beltway types would get the reference? Palin did:

Palin: I’m absolutely for equal pay for equal work. The Ledbetter pay act – it was gonna turn into a boon for trial lawyers who, I believe, could have taken advantage of women who were many, many years ago who would allege some kind of discrimination. Thankfully, there are laws on the books, there have been since 1963, that no woman could be discriminated against in the workplace in terms of anything, but especially in terms of pay. So, thankfully we have the laws on the books and they better be enforced.

As a statement of principle, that’s a good one: Don’t discriminate, enforce the law.

And don’t write laws that turn into boons for trial lawyers.

For more, see these posts.

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