Interlude—Joan Walsh toys with the masses: With a 7-year-old relative suddenly in town, our hours are limited today and tomorrow.
For that reason, we’ll postpone our review of Maddow and Hartmann’s seminars concerning the gender wage gap. Instead, we’ll consider the new piece by Joan Walsh at Salon.
Our basic question:
Do you think Walsh is sincere in the things she says in her piece? Or do you think this tribal leader is simply conning us the rubes, as plutocrats and commissars have done down through the ages?
We find it hard to believe that Walsh is being straightforward in her piece. With red-faced anger on loan from Chris Matthews, the reinvented “cable news” star starts her piece like this:
WALSH (4/17/14): Lazy Beltway pundits have discovered a new Obama scandal: The president is telling his base the truth about how Republicans are making their lives worse, and he must be stopped.Walsh is angry, very angry, at Slate’s lazy Beltway pundit. According to Walsh, that pundit has accused the president of “lying about the wage gap.”
Slate’s John Dickerson has topped them all, however, with “Obama trolls the GOP,” his Thursday column accusing the president of lying about the wage gap between men and women in order to win votes.
Can we talk?
In his piece at Slate, Dickerson doesn’t use the word “lying.” Walsh’s use of the famously inflammatory term is a slippery initial technique designed to get readers worked up.
Just for the record:
With regard to Obama’s recent statements about the gender wage gap, this is what Dickerson wrote at Slate. The L-word never appears:
DICKERSON (4/16/14): CBS's Major Garrett writes in National Journal about a new version of the “stray voltage” theory of communication in which the president purposefully overstates his case knowing that it will create controversy. Garrett describes it this way: “Controversy sparks attention, attention provokes conversation, and conversation embeds previously unknown or marginalized ideas in the public consciousness.”According to Dickerson, Obama “purposefully overstated his case.” He “used a figure he knew to be imprecise.”
The issue last week was the pay gap between men and women. The president issued executive orders to address the disparity, and Democrats pushed legislation in Congress. In making the case, the president and White House advisers used a figure they knew to be imprecise and controversial—a Census Bureau statistic that the median wages of working women in America are 77 percent of median wages earned by men.
We wouldn’t put it exactly that way; “imprecise” seems like the wrong word. But it’s hard to argue that Dickerson’s statements are actually wrong.
Walsh doesn’t want Salonists to know that. So she dropped a quick L-bomb, hoping to get us worked up.
Much like her wealthier patron Matthews, the reinvented Walsh is almost fiendishly disingenuous these days. For today, let’s note what she is willing to tell you about the familiar statistic Obama used in his State of the Union Address and then again last week.
How much is Walsh willing to let the rubes know? Not a whole heck of a lot! This is her account of Obama’s use of that statistic:
WALSH: [T]he essence of Dickerson’s argument is of a piece with the lazy “grievance” meme spreading among his peers: Obama is doing something wrong by telling a component of his coalition, in this case women, that Republican policies are hurting them. In other words, telling the truth while also, yes, practicing politics.In such ways, the plutocrats and the commissars have always worked to keep the rubes dumbed down.
We can certainly debate which number we should use when debating pay equity, but the notion that Obama is deliberately lying to create “stray voltage” by choosing the wrong number seems cynical or worse. Dickerson relies on a Major Garrett column that relies on an older Major Garrett column in which White House adviser David Plouffe explained his theory of “stray voltage”—how any controversy, even ones that seem to hurt Obama, can be put to good political use when “stray voltage” from said outrage sparks the ire of Obama’s base.
Supposedly, the controversy around the White House continuing to use the Census Bureau figure—that women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar—even though other studies find a smaller gap, cements the impression that Republicans oppose measures to close the gap, and may create “stray voltage” to galvanize women voters in 2014 and 2016. Oliphant likewise relies on the pay-gap flap, and the Democrats’ embrace of the doomed Paycheck Fairness Act, as an example of unfair “grievance politics.”
But Republicans do oppose virtually all measures that might close the gap. It’s not just the Paycheck Fairness Act; take the minimum wage. Republicans (and others) say that 77 percent figure exaggerates the pay gap between equally qualified men and women, because women are clustered in low-wage fields. Raising the minimum wage would be a great way to get at that particular pay-gap widener, since two thirds of minimum wage workers are women. But of course, Republicans oppose not only the Paycheck Fairness Act, but an increase in the minimum wage as well.
So let me make sure I understand. Telling your voters, accurately, that Republicans are trying to make it harder for them to vote, and are blocking action on pay equity, the minimum wage and immigration reform is unfair “grievance politics”?
After getting us riled with her L-bomb, Walsh says Dickerson is accusing the president of “doing something wrong” by “telling the truth” about Republican policies.
That’s a sad, absurd account of what Dickerson actually said. Obviously, Walsh understands that.
With regard to the gender wage gap, Walsh makes it sound like there are several competing numbers floating around and that “we can debate which number we should use,” presumably in good faith.
She says the White House has “continued to use the Census Bureau figure...even though other studies find a smaller gap.”
That pretty much isn’t the case. Here’s why:
The 77 cent figure is perfectly accurate if you explain what it measures. It’s meant to compare average annual income among women to average annual income among men.
That’s what the famous statistic is supposed to measure. Put to that use, the figure is perfectly accurate, or was in 2009.
That said, the Census Bureau statistic isn’t meant to measure discrimination; it isn’t meant to measure pay “for the same or equal work.” But that’s the way the White House and Obama have persistently used it. For an example, click here.
Presumably, Walsh understands all that. Like people of her type through the annals of time, she just doesn’t think it’s good for average people to understand that.
Walsh is carefully parceling out the things you’re permitted to know. In fairness, people who worm their way into ruling castes have always behaved in this manner.
There’s nothing wrong with that famous Census Bureau statistic until you misapply it. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong with the famous Cal Ripken statistic—2632 consecutive games!—until you say that’s the number of games in which he hit a home run.
It’s fairly obvious that Obama has “purposefully overstated his case” by the use of that famous statistic. A person can judge that conduct however he or she likes.
Obama has overstated his case; surely, Walsh understands that. Like ruling castes through the annals of time, she just doesn’t want you to know.
People like Walsh have always believed that they’re the best judge of which things the average folk should be allowed to know.
We think such conduct is very low. That said, you can judge the work of this climber in whatever way you choose.
We’d just prefer that you understand the matters on which Walsh wants to rile and deceive you. People like Walsh never want their lessers, the rubes, to accomplish such tasks.
Irony of the fortnight: In her autobiography, What’s the Matter with White People (real title!), Walsh portrays [name of relative withheld] as a very honest person.