SAVING CANDIDATE HARRIS: We've been reciting this fiction for years!

THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2019

Saving Cable Star Maddow:
We liberals! We've been reciting, and believing, this particular piece of tribal "fiction" for a very long time.

For ourselves, we'd heard the claim a million times as of April 2012. The claim always struck us as highly implausible on its face, but we'd never fact-checked the claim.

And then it happened! Rachel Maddow appeared on Meet the Press and she gave voice to the tale! When she was challenged, she went to great lengths to pretend she's been right all along.

We'll assume that Maddow believed her claim was accurate when she appeared on Meet the Press. In her initial remark, she only said this. Her claim was still technically accurate:
MADDOW (4/29/12): The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy. The— Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make.
That claim could still be defended as technically accurate. But when the claim was challenged by GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, Maddow revealed what she'd actually meant. What she said now was basically wrong, or at best grossly misleading:
CASTELLANOS (continuing directly from above): (Unintelligible interjection)

MADDOW: Women don't make less than men?

CASTELLANOS: Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.

MADDOW: Wait, wait, no, don't tell me the reasons. Do women make less than men for doing the same work?

CASTELLANOS: Actually, no, because—

REP. CATHY RODGERS (R-WA): Not for the same work.

MADDOW: Wow! OK. Well, we're working from different facts!
"Don't tell me the reasons," Maddow comically said. But as she continued, the corporate star extended her claim:

Women make less than men "for doing the same work," she now said. Later, she said that women were "getting paid less for equal work."

Stripped of attempts at quantification, such statements may even be true. But as the debate rolled on, Maddow voiced the "77 cents on the dollar" framework again—and it almost seemed that Castellanos might be better informed on the topic than the former Rhodes scholar was:
CASTELLANOS (continuing directly): For example, men work, men work an average of 44 hours a week, women work 41 hours a week. Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexible professions.

MADDOW: Listen, this is not a "math is hard" part of this conversation.

CASTELLANOS: No, no, no. Yes, it is, actually.

MADDOW: No, it isn't. No, listen—

DAVID GREGORY: All right. Let Rachel frame it, though, the way she laid it out.

MADDOW: Right now, women are making 77 cents on the dollar for what men are making. So—

CASTELLANOS: But that's not true.

GREGORY: All right. Let Rachel make her point.
Concerning the possible size of the "gender pay gap," Castellanos had begun to introduce some relevant points. Maddow, claiming that math isn't hard, insisted on making her point, after introducing the 77 cents on the dollar framework again.

Host David Gregory never brought clarity to this dispute. He did let Maddow make her point.

As she continued, she said it was weird that Castellanos was interrupting her—that he wasn't letting her make her point. She closed by saying this to Castellanos and Rodgers:
MADDOW: But it is important, I think, the interruption is important, I think, because now we know, at least from both of your perspectives, that women are not faring worse than men in the economy, that women aren't getting paid less for equal work. I think that's a serious basis—a difference in, a difference in factual understanding of the world.
Maddow said the dispute had revealed "a difference in factual understanding of the world."

Plainly, that was an accurate statement. But according to future anthropologists, we humans had lost the ability to settle such disputes even as early as April 2012.

According to these despondent scholars, this was true to an even greater degree in the last few years before Mister Trump's Fiction-Fueled War.

Let's be fair! Maddow never explicitly said that women were paid 23 percent less for doing the same or equal work. Still, a sensible viewer of Meet the Press would have thought that she was making that claim—a claim our tribe had been making for years, even by that point.

This dispute on Meet the Press produced a bit of buzz. According to future anthropologists, the more interesting part of this dispute occurred the following night, on Monday, April 30.

On that fateful evening, Maddow went on the air for her regular Monday night TV show and hotly insisted that she had no earthly idea what Castellanos and Rodgers had been talking about.

She had tried to figure it out all day. But she still had no idea, she now said.

Good lord! On that Monday evening show, Maddow delivered a long opening harangue in which she plainly seemed to insist that she had been right all along.

Eventually, she presented an academic expert who reported that she had in fact been wrong. But this expert did so in such a skillful way that it sounded like this artful dodger was saying that Maddow had been right!

Maddow even played tape of a discussion Wolf Blitzer had conducted about her dispute with Castellanos. Sadly, though, she only played the part of the tape where Blitzer's guest said that women do earn, on average, smaller incomes overall.

She didn't play the part of the tape where the guest told Blitzer than the 23 percent figure was just massively wrong—that the gender pay gap isn't anywhere near that large for the same or equal work.

Maddow seemed to dissemble and cherry-pick in an astonishing way this night. At one point, she offered her ludicrous uber-claim:
MADDOW (4/30/12): I spent a long time going through the Republican side of this argument today just trying to understand how you could look at these very blunt numbers and come up with the opposite truth.
It seemed to us that this was Maddow's most baldly ridiculous claim. Here's why it struck us that way:

We ourselves had fact-checked Maddow's familiar "23 cents on the dollar" claim right after the Meet the Press program ended. We'd hit upon the basic facts behind this dispute within maybe ten minutes of Googling.

We'd learned that the 23 percent income shortfall was not for the same or equal work. We'd learned that experts and specialists, including liberal experts and specialist, think the pay shortfall is much smaller than that for the same or equal work. We'd learned that some experts aren't sure there's an overall pay gap for the same or equal work at all.

We learned all this within maybe ten minutes, tops. Thirty-six hours later, Maddow went on the air and said she still had no freaking idea, though she'd been doing research all day.

We pretty much didn't believe what the corporate multimillionaire said. But then, we'd been reporting, for years, that Maddow was perhaps a tiny bit less than obsessively honest.

The basics here are simple! The claim about women being underpaid by something like 23 cents on the dollar is not a claim about how much men and women get paid for doing "the same or equal work."

No expert makes any such claim. We learned this fact in maybe ten minutes. Thirty-six hours later, Maddow was still pretending she had no idea.

She cherry-picked and dissembled that night, insisting that she had been right while The Others were crazily wrong. Her academic expert, Heidi Hartmann, actually told her that she had been wrong, but did so in such an artful that very few viewers would have understood.

In a brilliantly disguised way, Hartmann said the actual pay gap for the same or equal work was maybe 4.6 cents on the dollar. Maddow disappeared the part of the Blitzer tape where his expert offered a similar assessment.

In these ways, we liberals were kept from learning the basics that night. As a tribe, we enjoy our wildly embellished claim, and our "journalistic" and academic stars seem determined let us maintain it.

Rachel Maddow was busy that night Saving Cable Star Maddow. The actual facts about equal pay are very hard to establish. But we liberals were being dumbed way down that night by one of our tribe's major stars.

Below, we'll supply the links to the four reports we posted that week. According to despondent anthropologists, the moral to the story is this:

We posted those four reports in early May 2012. Seven years later, Candidate Harris is out on the trail "misspeaking" and committing "slips of the tongue" in these same familiar old ways.

She's actually building a White House campaign around these familiar misstatements! According to future scholars, this is what we humans actually were in the years before Mister Trump's War.

Darling Rachel conned us good! "This was the nature of the species," disconsolate experts now say.

Tomorrow: Saving Candidate Harris! These kid scribes today

Visit our incomparable archives: In real time, we posted four reports about Maddow's performance. According to leading anthropologists, we humans, being incurably tribal, weren't open to such reports.

You can check them out for yourself. The links go exactly like this:
Tuesday, May 1, 2012: We always wonder about this script. Clearly, Maddow doesn't!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012: Former Rhodes Scholar emotes! Reciting a well-known script.

Thursday, May 3, 2012: Maddow’s expert says she’s wrong! But Maddow just blunders ahead.

Friday, May 4, 2012: Do you believe what Maddow said? How we get dumb and dumber!


  1. "The claim about women being underpaid by something like 23 cents on the dollar is not a claim about how much men and women get paid for doing "the same or equal work.""

    But Bob, the first claim is not about "underpaid" at all.

    Women, on average, choose different careers than the men do, on average. "Underpaid" has got nothing to do with it.

  2. "Women make less than men "for doing the same work," she now said. Later, she said that women were "getting paid less for equal work."

    Stripped of attempts at quantification, such statements may even be true."

    Somerby thinks that the various explanations for how the pay gap occurs mean that women are being paid the same for their work but don't work as many hours or have the same qualifications or work under different conditions that justify the lower pay. Women believe that those various explanations are the mechanism by which they are paid less for doing the same work. They are the subterfuges that men use to pay themselves more and women less for the same work.

    These subterfuges include things like restricting women's hours to less than full time (at the employer's initiative), classifying their job titles differently for the same or similar work, preventing women from gaining the training, skills, education needed to be paid higher salaries (for the same work) by restricting access to training programs, and just baldly underpaying them.

    Mao says that women choose different careers, but why do they do that? Because they are not permitted in the higher paying careers. How are women blocked from these? Via hazing and arbitrary prerequisites and by making it too difficult to realistically pursue them.

    For example, women have been historically blocked from higher paying jobs in the military because many require combat-ready experience that women have not been permitted to acquire by regulation. A woman who is not a line officer is going to be limited in her career. That has changed but only recently.

    In factory jobs, women may similarly be blocked from higher paying jobs by some requirement for experience or expertise that they are not permitted to gain. This is how the game is played. In business, a woman may be blocked from advancement into management by lacking sales experience, but she may never be offered a sales position because she may be viewed as lacking the aggressiveness to close deals or be unable to engage in the social grease that oils deals in restaurants or bars. Some firms hire hookers for buyers. A woman cannot do that without making men feel uncomfortable so she is not admitted to what is viewed as a male domain, and without that experience she cannot be promoted to certain jobs. Marketing and sales jobs are viewed as line jobs because they are in the line of promotion while support jobs, typically occupied by women, are not.

    Then there are the skilled trades. To enter them you need to join a union, but apprenticeships have typically not been open to women. Getting the training to do such jobs is difficult if no one will provide it.

    I watched a video online of Somerby being interviewed about comedy. It took place in a green room as he waited to go on stage and perform. There were both male and female comics there with him, similarly waiting to go on. The male comic waiting was introduced to the camera and also appeared in the video. The woman was not. How might that affect her career and chances to perform? How might it limit her name recognition to be left out of a documentary that her male colleagues were in? And if you don't have the same name recognition, are you paid the same? And this was one instance. What if this happens routinely to women?

    Discrimination happens in lots of ways and those discrete instances of discrimination add up to create the gap that is exemplified by that 80% statistic. Women understand this. Some men do too. Others seem very clueless. There is a point where cluelessness starts to seem motivated. For example, when you explain things to people repeatedly and still refuse to understand. Like Somerby.

    1. An excellent post. And your case is actually even stronger.

      Biology dictates that working women will have to absent themselves from the workforce to have children. And child care falls disproportionately on women. Our weak family leave and child care policies exacerbate the problem.

      Here’s a consideration that I hadn’t thought of until I read about it a few days ago. Companies routinely peg salary offers at some percentage over an applicants previous salary. If women are more likely to have been underpaid at a job they’re leaving, then this policy will ensure that a shortfall will follow them to their new job.

      Why do you think TDH fails to understand all this?

      Why don’t you think that Harris’ failure to get her facts straight will interfere with the political discussion of the discrimination you write about?

  3. A man and a woman each have 40 hours of their own labor to sell to an employer. If each is motivated and works hard, are they not doing "the same work"?

    Somerby and his ilk do not seem to recognize that, in hourly jobs, overtime is something people seek and it is used as a reward by employers. When men work more hours, is it because they are being given that opportunity more frequently than women or is it because women shun overtime?

    Some women may be limited in their ability to work overtime because of family responsibilities (not shared by a spouse), but many women might want those hours but they are given to men instead, perhaps with the view that men need the money to support their families (just as women do).

    In salaried jobs, women work hard too. They are measured by their performance, their output, not by their hours. If they are doing the same good work as men, they should be paid the same salary, regardless of how and when they get their work done. That's what it means to be salaried instead of hourly. The perception that women must rush home to kids may prevent men from seeing that women are working harder than they are given credit for.

    There is certainly a "mommy track" that exists because some women do not have support at home and must limit their work, but the assumption that all women are on that track and that no men are, is wrong and is discriminatory. There is a stereotype of men who are coasting toward retirement or who have lost interest in work and are more interested in hobbies, or who are not ambitious and do the minimum on the job. Somehow these do not affect ALL men, the way the stereotypes of women affect ALL women and seem to be the default. Evidence of this is abundant in the comments over the past few days.

    1. A man and a woman each have 40 hours of their own labor to sell to an employer. If each is motivated and works hard, are they not doing "the same work"?

      Not if the woman is a CPA and the man is a server at McDonald's.

      There is certainly a "mommy track" that exists....

      Yeah, it's called motherhood. You think that's some stereotype?

  4. “On that fateful evening”

    It was April 2012. There were ominous portents.

    That fateful day when Bob Somerby decided to think about the pay gap, *for the very first time* and spent *all of ten minutes, tops* googling something or other. We suspect that that is the sum total of his research on this subject to this day.

    So his reason for investigating and then for the intervening 7 years angrily ranting over and over about the one aspect of the pay gap debate that he cares about, whether the claim that women make 80% (or whatever the current percentage is) of what men make for the same work is true, was sparked by his hatred of Maddow and is informed to this day by that hatred.

    And after all that, it turns out: “Let's be fair! Maddow never explicitly said that women were paid 23 percent less for doing the same or equal work.”

    Now, if one spends more than 10 minutes googling the issue, one finds that studies do indeed show that women get paid less for equal work, which was precisely Maddow’s point. There was a link to such a study in the very politifact article debunking Harris that Somerby linked to yesterday, but it might take more than 10 minutes to read and absorb it, so screw it.

  5. Somerby once again calls this complaint about equal pay a con perpetrated by Harris and Maddow.

    Someone conned Somerby good and he is now taking it out on the rest of women. Good on her, whoever she was.

    If I were dating someone, this would be a litmus test. Any guy who wanted to argue that women are not underpaid would be Mr. Wrong and would be in my rear-view mirror.

    Does Somerby understand that there are guys out there who are murdering women because they can't get laid? If he paid attention, he would understand that being underpaid is small potatoes next to what some men are capable of doing.

    1. Motion is relative. I think what's happening is that you're stationary, and what you're seeing in your rear-view mirror are guys running away from you as fast as they can.

    2. Yes, all those incels are complaining because they cannot run fast enough to get away from women.

    3. So the problem for 12:14P is that she's attracting incels? That's a terrible thing to say. Even worse if it's true.

  6. Why do high school teachers get paid more than elementary school teachers?

    Men teach high school whereas women teach elementary school, on average.

    How do they justify the unequal pay? Different teaching credentials are required for the different grade levels. Single-subject credentials for high school, even though many high school teachers do not teach the subjects for which they hold their credential.

    Plus men get to coach as part of their teaching, which add substantially to their pay. Women get to supervise the playground. Are women permitted to coach? Sometimes, but there are fewer sports for girls and not the same budget because women's games don't attract the same community support.

    Are women capable of doing the same work? Of course they are. Do they get the same opportunities? No. Why not? Men don't want to share.

    To see how discrimination works, ask yourself. Does a man feel the same way if he loses a job to a man as if he loses a job to a woman? If the answer to this is "no" then you see the impact of discrimination. If men did not regard women as inherently unequal, less qualified, less hard working, less good at what they do, they wouldn't mind losing to a woman because they might assume she is more qualified. When a man assumes all women are less qualified, the loss stings because it implies he is less than that under-qualified woman. So he invents fairy tales about women getting things they don't deserve.

    I'll be Somerby believes he is more qualified than Rachel and could do a better job than she does.

    1. So he invents fairy tales....

      Why doesn't your head just explode?

      I'll be[t] Somerby believes he is more qualified than Rachel and could do a better job than she does.

      A trained chimp could do a better job than RM. There'd be more hooting and grunting, but less simpering, self-congratulation, and misleading reports. A solid win for the audience with the chimp.

    2. There'd be more hooting and grunting, and LOTS more repeating of Right-wing memes.

      Sent from flyover country, where i'm being ridiculed by liberal, coastal elites.

  7. This is not a fiction. Women are paid less than men for work, often for the same job.

    Somerby seems to be working awfully hard to dispute a statistic that everyone else seems to accept because it accurately characterizes the work situation for women.

  8. It is revealing that a supposedly liberal man like Somerby hadn’t really thought about the gender pay gap until he was in his 60’s. His unexamined liberalism wasn’t prepared for nuance in the pay gap discussion. The fact that he learned that there were *liberal* “experts and specialists who thought the pay shortfall is much smaller than that for the same or equal work” did not and does not deter him from saying that we liberals have “been reciting, and believing, this particular piece of tribal "fiction" for a very long time.”

    So, to make it clear: it is liberal tribal fiction that liberal experts nonetheless disagree with. That doesn’t much describe a mindless tribe with no dissenting voices, but so be it.

    And, to be clear, the fiction does not consist in “women make less than men for equal work”, because even Somerby concedes that that is possibly true, but it is the size of the pay gap that he calls a fiction.

    Somerby’s objection would be akin to arguing about what percentage of the median income for blacks, which is significantly lower than that of whites, is caused by racial discrimination, rather than acknowledging it and trying to solve the problem. One minimizes the problem by hand-waving a brief grudging acceptance of the discrimination but then proceeding to argue exclusively about a single statistic, when the discrimination is the larger issue.

    1. Giiiiiiirl. You gotta lot of thinking to do on this subject. I don't find you to be versed in it.

    2. What’s revealing here is that you’ve made this about Somerby. You don’t know what he’s thinking; you can’t know what he’s examined or when, and you have no idea what he was or was not prepared for. What you do have is his words that make an argument, which is right, wrong, or somewhere in between.

      The argument is thus: women in the aggregate make 80 cents on the dollar when compared to men in the aggregate but not because in general women and men doing the same full-time work have different pay scales, with the women’s pegged 20% below the men’s.

      Note that the argument is not thus:

      There is no difference in the pay scales of women and men doing the same full-time work.
      Discrimination is not a factor in the aggregate pay gap.

      Now it appears that you’d rather see a discussion of the “larger issue,” discrimination. Why don’t you write the Harris campaign and tell them that their candidate’s insistence on a faulty statistic is likely to interfere with that discussion in the political arena, where it counts.

  9. It's always fun to see the angry feminists come out to angrily denounce Somerby, only to prove his point to the rest of us.

    1. I am picturing a circle of men nodding and smiling to each other while no woman will have anything to do with them.

    2. Presumably, this circle of nodding and smiling men will include those who don't give a damn about the pay gap at all. Let's call some of those the Republican donor class. They pretty much own everything. You think they're not getting laid?

      My, but you do have an active fantasy life.

  10. "Let's call some of those the Republican donor class. They pretty much own everything. You think they're not getting laid?

    My, but you do have an active fantasy life."

    Republicans of all stripes do nothing but fuck, the citizens over.

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