But Maddow just blusters ahead: It’s a basic rule of pseudo-journalism:
You do not correct Rachel Maddow!
Last Sunday, on Meet the Press, Alex Castellanos dared to say that Maddow was wrong about a familiar factual claim. As it turns out, Castellanos was almost certainly right—more right in his comments than Maddow.
But correcting Maddow isn’t allowed—so Rachel swung into action. On Monday night, she opened her eponymous cable “news” program with a segment about this dispute. As she started, she kept repeating her basic factual claim:
MADDOW (4/30/12): The jobs we do in this country are still sort of surprisingly really segregated by gender. But whether you have an occupation that is male-dominated or you have an occupation that’s female dominated, there’s one thing that just about every single job in America has in common. Dudes get paid more for doing it.True believers often think it: If they just keep repeating a claim, that will make the claim accurate. In this case, Maddow kept saying that men get paid more “for the same work.” And she used the statistic from Meet the Press, the statistic that launched this dispute:
If you are a driver, men get paid more. If you’re a manager, men get paid more. If you’re a janitor, men get paid for. If you’re a retail salesperson, men get paid more. If you’re a sales rep, if you are a cook, a chief executive, a security guard, a police officer, a customer service representative—in all those cases, men get paid more.
In 19 of the 20 jobs that are the most common occupations for men in this country, women lag behind what men get paid for doing that same work.
It’s also true in the most common jobs that women have in this country. If you are a secretary, men get paid more. If you’re a teacher, men get paid more. If you’re nurse, men get paid more. If you’re a cashier, men get paid more.
If you’re a receptionist, a financial manager, if you wait tables, men get paid more. Again, in 19 of the 20 jobs that are the most common occupations for women in this country, women lag behind what men get paid for the same work.
Overall, when you aggregate everybody working, women get paid 77 cents for every dollar that men get paid. For the same work, dudes get paid more.
“Women get paid 77 cents for every dollar that men get paid. For the same work, dudes get paid more.”
Those claims may still be technically accurate—but they’re grossly misleading. Consider what happened when Maddow ended her monologue and let an expert speak.
For the record: Before she introduced this expert, Maddow repeated her basic statistical claim five times. On tape and in person, viewers kept seeing her say it: Women get paid 77 cents where men get paid a dollar.
But uh-oh! Eventually, Maddow introduced Dr. Heidi Hartmann, founder of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. This was the first Q-and-A:
MADDOW: I know that you are at the women’s, Institute for Women’s Policy Research. You have done some of the most important and most highly publicized work on this issue. Is there any way that the idea of a gender-based disparity is something that depends on how you look at it? Is this something other than a blunt truth about the American economy?Hartmann told Maddow she had the far better part of Sunday’s argument. Then, she quickly began to show that this claim isn’t accurate.
HARTMANN: Well, I mean, you obviously have by far the better part of the argument. You’ve got the Census Bureau and I might mention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics agreeing with you. Oh, also, I could mention, the U.S. General Accountability Office.
I think what the issue is for the Republicans is that they believe that that’s not—no matter how big the wage gap is, almost none of it is due to discrimination. And, of course, these numbers from BLS and Census Bureau are not really talking about discrimination. But the GAO study that I just mentioned did. They said that even when you put everything you can possibly think of in the regression equations, the statistical analyses to try to make that gap go away, you can’t explain at least 20 percent of it.
Now, most other studies place the part you can’t explain as a quarter to a half. So, a large part of the gap probably is due to discrimination. But that seems to be what the debate is.
Duh! “Of course, these numbers from the...Census Bureau are not really talking about discrimination,” Hartmann said, referring to the “77 cents” figure which Maddow had now been reciting for two straight days. Having thrown that statistic under the bus, Hartmann cited a GAO study.
This study did attempt to measure discrimination, Hartmann said. And what did that GAO study find? According to Hartmann, the study said this:
“Even when you put everything you can possibly think of in the regression equations, the statistical analyses to try to make that gap go away, you can’t explain at least 20 percent of it.”
But twenty percent of “that gap” is only 4.6 cents. (That’s 23 cents divided by five.) According to Hartmann, the GAO study said that women are discriminated against to the tune of 4.6 cents on the dollar. Maddow had been saying the discrimination factor was 23 cents for the prior two days.
In fairness to Maddow, Hartmann cited some other studies (see above). She said these studies “place the part you can’t explain as a quarter to a half.” If Hartmann’s statement is accurate, this would mean that these studies say that women are discriminated against in their pay by 6 to 11.5 cents on the dollar.
Maddow had been saying 23 cents for two days. That claim is extremely familiar, but it’s almost certainly false; as Hartmann said, the Census Bureau doesn’t even intend for it to be seen as a measure of discrimination. It was that claim which brought the original objection from Castellanos.
One more point for today, this time involving the fact-check which was done on CNN. On Monday evening, Maddow played tape from that meandering fact-check, which was reported by Lisa Sylvester. But she didn’t play the piece of tape where Sylvester finally told Wolf Blitzer what her fact-check had found:
BLITZER (4/30/12): And so, the bottom line, though. When men and women have the exact same job, do women still only earn 77 cents on the dollar, if they're doing, working the same amount of hours, have the exact same job, in the exact same field?Gack! According to what Sylvester said, the actual discrimination factor is five cents on the dollar. That evening, Maddow forgot to play the tape of Sylvester making that statement. Tomorrow, we’ll show you what she played instead.
SYLVESTER: They have—there is definitely a gap. It is, if you're looking at. But there are all kinds of other control factors, you know, what college somebody went to, what region of the country. If you're talking salaried workers versus part-time workers, the average for full-time workers, the difference is pay is 77 cents on the dollar.
Now, as you go along, as you control for other factors, even if you control for everything you could possibly imagine, all those things, the college, the hours worked— Men still make more than women, that gap narrows, it's about 5 cents of a difference. But it still is there, it's still real, and the truth is, men make more than women.
How much do women get cheated on pay? By all accounts, this is a very hard question to answer. But no expert even pretends that the figure from the Census Bureau is a measure of discrimination. People like Maddow recite that figure because—well, go ahead!
Go ahead! You explain! But when liberals recite that bogus figure, we're acting exactly like ditto-heads. Now that we've finally emerged from the woods, we don't look so great after all!
Tomorrow: What's the truth about this (complex) question? And why won’t Maddow tell you?