Maddow watch: Former Rhodes Scholar emotes!


Reciting a well-known script: Who the Sam or Joe Hill is Rachel Maddow?

NBC News has sold her to us in the liberal world as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Of course, these are the same corporate hustlers who sold Tim Russert to the world as the working-class kid from Buffalo, even as he lolled around in his $7 million Nantucket cottage—the crib at which he summered.

Let’s ask a different question—how bright is Rachel Maddow? We’re routinely amazed by the boatloads of crap which roll down upon us as we watch her ballyhooed cable news program. But on this Sunday’s Meet the Press, we were struck by the way she repeated a familiar, unlikely old script (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/1/12):
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.
Stated that way, Maddow’s claim seems to be technically accurate—or at least it was as of 2010, according to the Census Bureau. As of 2010, women in this country earned 77 percent as much as men, if we simply look at total pay brought home.

That seems to be an accurate fact. The question is what that fact can be taken to mean. In particular, does it mean that women are discriminated against in their pay, by a factor of 23 cents on the dollar? That they get paid 23 percent less than men who do the same work?

On Meet the Press, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos quickly challenged Maddow’s statement. His critique was somewhat murky, but she was soon extending her claim:
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. RODGERS (R-WA): Not for the same work.

MADDOW: Wow! OK. Well, we're working from different facts!
“Don’t tell me the reasons,” Rachel said, helping define the brave new world of pseudo-liberal pseudo-journalism. That said:

In her response to Castellanos, Maddow extended her claim. She now said that women make less than men “for doing the same work.”

Later, Maddow repeated her claim in another way. Women are “paid less for equal work,” she said. Soon after, she returned to her second formulation: “Some of us believe that women are getting paid less than men for doing the same work.”

Listening to Maddow as she rattled her script, a viewer might think that women get paid 23 percent less than men for doing the same (or equal) work. And sure enough! That seems to be what Wolf Blitzer thought he heard Maddow saying.

Monday evening, on CNN, Blitzer asked the hapless Lisa Sylvester to fact-check the Maddow/Castellanos dispute. Here’s how he framed the question:
BLITZER (4/30/12): Here is a question: Do women in the United States make less money than men for doing the exact same work? On NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, the Republican strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos answered no. And that sparked a very passionate debate with Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

We asked Lisa Sylvester to do a fact check for us. Lisa is here. Lisa, who’s right?

SYLVESTER: Well, this is a fascinating subject, Wolf, and we have been looking into this.
Sylvester, who used to perform such tasks for Lou Dobbs, told Wolf she had been checking.

We’ll look at Sylvester’s fact-check tomorrow. For today, let’s note the question Blitzer thought was in dispute. According to Blitzer, Maddow and Castellanos had been debating the following claim: Women get paid less money than men “for doing the exact same work.”

(Just for the record: As Sylvester fashioned her fact-check, she returned to the figure Maddow used: 77 cents on the dollar.)

Is it true? Do women get paid less than men for doing “the exact same work?” In some cases, the answer is yes, or so juries have found. Consider the famous case of Lilly Ledbetter, who sued Goodyear in a complaint about unequal pay. The basic facts from Ledbetter’s original lawsuit were described in the Washington Post in 2007:
BARNES (2/20/07): There's no dispute that after nearly 20 years at the Goodyear plant in Gadsden, Ala., most of them in a salaried managerial position, Ledbetter, 68, was paid less than any of the men she worked with, even those with less seniority.

Ledbetter had always thought that was the case—some of her bosses had even told her so. But it was spelled out clearly in an anonymous letter she received after she stopped working for Goodyear that contained the rankings and salaries of everyone she worked with.

Her lawyers showed it to the jury on a huge board.

But Goodyear contended that the salaries must be looked at with the rankings. The company said Ledbetter's lower pay was the result of a merit pay plan meant to even the field, and reward supervisors for good work rather than longevity.

Ledbetter was typically at the bottom of the rankings, the company argued, and even then she received raises, albeit smaller than those of the men ranked above her.

The jury sided with Ledbetter, saying it was "more likely than not" that she had been paid "an unequal salary because of her sex." Jurors awarded her $3,514,417.
In her original trial, the jury found that Ledbetter had received unequal pay because of her sex. Such conduct had been illegal since the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Ledbetter’s award was later thrown out on a statute of limitations complaint. But this was precisely the type of case Blitzer thought was being discussed on Meet the Press. Ledbetter was paid substantially less than men who were doing the very same job. And please note: She had even been paid less than men with the same or less seniority.

Watching Maddow recite and emote, we liberals might think that this is the norm—that women typically get paid less for the same work, by a factor of 23 cents on the dollar

Almost surely, that’s untrue. Question: If Maddow is a former Rhodes Scholar, why can’t—or why won’t—she explain this?

Tomorrow: Sylvester’s report


  1. No Bob, just because Maddow appeared to insist upon it, doesn't mean people believe it. People can think for themselves, you know.

    Just yesterday, for example, I thought for myself!

    I thought, contradicting this claim by Rachel is like saying the earth is flat.


    Anyway, when will you stop discussing her irrelevant TV appearances no one watches (Meet The Press?, Blitzer on CNN?) and start discussing her influential book?

    [/end dumb]

    1. Did you really think for yourself? Because your thought bears a uncanny resemblance to the remark I made in the comments section.

      But I am quite sure that even fewer people read my comment than saw Maddow on MTP or will read her book.

      It's just hard to have an original thought in a world of 7 billion people.

      But what, exactly is the claim? That male congressmen make more than female grade school teachers, or that male congressmen make more than female congresspeople from the same state or that male grade school teachers make more than female grade school teachers at the same school? In other words, did Rachel claim that the earth is round, or that the earth is a dodecahedron?

  2. Ignore the "irrelevant" CNN, Meet the Press, The New York Times, MSNBC .... And these people still don't understand, or seem to care they're getting their clocks cleaned in the media on a regular basis. They don't mind a bit that a bunch of ineffectual scrubs represent their viewpoint in high profile public discourse. They just insist "look the other way, and it'll all be ok".

  3. Maddow was more "correct" than Castellanos on the issue, though more study will be necessary to determine. Castellanos attempted to argue that the 23% disparity was raw data devoid of context, and that the differential is explained by the number of hours worked, exprience differences, etc., rather than by any discrimination.

    I don't know that Maddow has done this, but others have indicated that the study was done by the US Department of Labor.

    Neither is accurate. The raw data was from the US Department of Labor; however, a separate group, whose name escapes me, purported to perform a study on the data and came up with the 23% disparity. As I mentioned, I don't recall the name, although the name had suggested it was an advocacy group. Nothing wrong with that, but does suggest others might dispute their conclusions based upon the selected methodology.

    But the key thing is, the study attempted to control for all of the variables that Castellanos said were not included, to make it a true "apples for apples" comparison, by excluding aspects like hours, experience, etc. In that regard, Castellanos was wrong.

    The study only addressed certain professions, and not all professions had a disparity. And it may well be that there are issues that they are selected methodology. I don't know. But I do know that Castellanos was wrong to pretend that these variables had not even been considered and should explain all of the difference.

    1. But isn't the 23% disparity actually 23% of the 23% gap? Leaving an unexplained gap of only 5 cents on the dollar. If the truth is 95 cents on the dollar, then one dollar on the dollar seems to be closer to the truth than 77 cents on the dollar.

      Especially if the claim is extended to include people working the same job for the same company. I mean, is it really wage discrimination if men at Home Depot are paid more than women at Lowe's?

      All the variables were NOT considered in Rachel's claim of 77 cents on the dollar, which came from a straight comparison of male median to female median wage income.

  4. Rick,

    That was an nice, succinct analysis of the issue. What is truly amazing is that Maddow, despite her multi-million-dollar contract, can't take the time (or get one of her minions to take the time) to do the basic research that people like you do in the comments section of blogs on the internet for free!

    1. I don't mind if Maddow doesn't do the research personally. Someone on her staff should do it and give the info to her in advance of the show.

      In my field, the AAUP's annual salary survey for last year shows that women earn less than men at every level in university teaching and are more likely to be found in low-paying adjunct teaching positions. That may be because the STEM disciplines pay higher salaries and women are less likely to be in them than the lower paying humanities. We think all disciplines should be paid the same but that isn't what happens.

  5. Unless Bob has some clarifying moment of analysis waiting to drop after all his hints, nods, and winks, this is getting irritating. It's like insisting that the NAEP scores, Bob's favorite piece of quantitative analysis, only APPEAR to show that black students have been held back by discriminatory practices, and that it's not appropriate to say that black students "typically" do worse on the tests.

  6. Women experience pay discrimination, but people like Maddow tend to lose debates against Republicans on this issue. I'd imagine someone who doesn't know better would walk away from that conversation with "Women make less, but I guess they do less work, so it's all fair."

    Oh well. It's not like anyone's going to fact-check the Republican claim, much less an MSNBC host.

    1. Maddow attempted to "prove" discrimination against women using a fallacious analysis. She planned to pretend that women getting 23% less is the same as women getting 23% less for the same work. (Activists commonly make this mistake.) When Maddow's guest called her on this sophistry, she had no planned response. She was a dead duck.

      I love the Maddow line that Bob picked up, "Wait, wait, no, don't tell me the reasons." No thinking allowed on this show!

      A valid analysis would require adjustments based on assumptions and judgment, leading to considerable uncertainty. I've seen analyses showing no wage differential at all, after adjustment, and others showing a small wage gap.

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  8. Girls knowledge pay splendour, however individuals just like Maddow tend to drop discussions versus Republicans on this problem.

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