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Pay & politics: The equality deception

February 13. 2014 9:51PM

On Monday we published a short editorial about Gov. Hassan's equal pay claims, and we would like to expand on it a bit. The issue can be confusing because of the way politicians like Gov. Hassan and President Obama frame it.

We noted in the editorial that PolitiFact gave President Obama a "mostly false" rating for saying during the 2012 campaign that women earn "77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men." We had not seen that PolitiFact gave him a "mostly true" rating for saying last month that women "make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns."

Gov. Hassan said last week, "women in New Hampshire, who are working full-time jobs, earn only 77 cents on the dollar compared to men." So, what is true?

That statistic represents an average of all men and women in all full-time jobs. (The Bureau of Labor Statistics, using weekly pay data, puts the figure at 82 percent, by the way.) But the question is: So what?

Obama and Hassan claim that the data show the need for legislation to force employers to pay men and women the same amount of money for the same work. But research shows that this is already largely the case. When comparing men and women with the same experience, education, etc., and working the same job, the so-called pay gap largely disappears. A Labor Department study found that when women and men of similar age, experience, and other characteristics are compared, the gap narrows to about 5 cents, not 23.

As we wrote on Monday, "A 2009 Labor Department study of the issue reached 'the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action.'"

But Hassan and Obama are using it "to justify coercive action." They cite a deliberately misleading figure to give the false impression that women and men earn widely different pay for doing the same work, then they advocate legislation to close the gap — a gap that they fabricated using misleading data. It is an intentional deception.

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