Harvard, Yale crash and burn: With genuine sorrow, major anthropologists constantly say that our basic instinct is wrong.
When do these scholars chide us this way? They say it when we express our pique at the idea that a major White House campaign can be built around misstatements like these:
MELBER (5/20/19): Let's start with this. What does your plan do to combat the gender pay gap?These scholars agree with us on one point. They agree that it's especially galling to see a major White House candidate repeating inaccurate claims, even while repeatedly saying that the claims in question are "for real" and "a fact," something that isn't "debatable."
CANDIDATE HARRIS: Well, first of all, it is just a fact, right? So the reality of this is that we don't have to debate the point, which is that, on average, women make 80 cents on the dollar to men. If you're talking about African-American women, that's 61 cents. If it's Latinas, it's 53 cents.
So there is an obvious issue that we have around, not only disparities but fairness, and equal pay for equal work. So let's get beyond that because it's not a debatable point.
The question becomes, what are we going to do about it? And I think the goal, we would all agree, should be that people should be paid equally for equal work.
CANDIDATE HARRIS: Look, Ari, it's for real that that woman is getting paid 80 cents on the dollar. It's for real that that other woman is getting paid 61 cents on the dollar.
It's for real that that other woman is getting paid 53 cents on the dollar. And she's sitting at her kitchen table in the middle of the night trying to figure out how she can pay her bills.
When she wakes up at the same time the next morning as the guy who was working in the cubicle next to her, she performs the same work, but she's not getting paid the same amount. That's for real too.
"Major gods on Olympus are laughing at that," these disconsolate scholars say. They report to us from the grief-stricken years which follow Mister Trump's Feckless War.
Top gods on Olympus may laugh, but audible groaning takes place in the caves within which these top experts huddle. To these future anthropologists, it isn't funny when a leading candidate "misspeaks" about her own chosen issue on one TV program after another,with the occasional "slip of the tongue" thrown in.
Our future scholars don't think this is funny, since they know where this bullshit led. But they advise us to beat back our vast pique:
"The human being was wired for this," these disconsolate scholars now say. "Within the vastly limited species, it was all about the promulgation of pleasing tribal tales."
At any rate, no, Virginia! According to the Census Bureau statistics to which the candidate referred, women do not "make 80 cents on the dollar [compared] to men" for the same or equal work.
It wasn't true when Rachel said "77 cents on the dollar," then insisted that she'd been right all along (see yesterday's report). And it isn't true now when the candidate says it, ignoring innumerable fact-checks.
Everyone knows it isn't true, but we liberals love to say it! According to these future experts, it's our version of Bill Maher's new toy, the exciting new toy our brother Bill very much didn't want to break! See last Friday's report.
"This is the way the species was wired," disconsolate experts constantly tell us, speaking in the past tense. "You might as well complain about the fact that the sun tends to set in the west."
So this matter was fated to go, according to these future scholars. According to these anthropologists, this also explains the recent journalism of the top kids from Harvard and Yale.
As Candidate Harris announced her plan, she began misspeaking in various cable forums about the problem she vowed to defeat. And sure enough! At the nation's top publications, top youngsters swung into action:
"They were simply Saving Candidate Harris," one anthropologist said.
As the candidate discussed her proposal, she kept making baldly inaccurate statements about the problem she hoped to solve. As we noted last week, the bright young journalist Astead Herndon wrote this in the New York Times:
HERNDON (5/21/19): The most recent studies on the gender pay gap, which are not based on analogous work, show that women who work full time make 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, adding up to more than $400,000 in missed wages over the course of a woman’s career. The numbers are even worse for women who are also racial minorities—about $1 million in missed wages over a career for Latinas, Native American women and black women, according to an analysis by the National Women’s Law Center.We've highlighted Herndon's key words, as we did last week. Using a slippery phrase no reader would ever decipher, Herndon said the studies in question "are not based on analogous work."
We can now tell you what that murky phrase meant:
These studies do not record, or pretend to record, the amount of payment received by men and women for the same or equal work. That key statistic—"80 cents for every dollar"—has not been adjusted for number of hours worked, or even for type of employment, or for other relevant variables.
As such, it does not record who much women are paid, as compared to men, for the same or equal work.
Similarly, these studies do not record, or pretend to record, what women are paid as compared to men "in the next cubicle" "performing the same work." But instead of saying that in English, Herndon and/or his unnamed editor decided instead to say this:
"The studies on the gender pay gap are not based on analogous work."
No Times reader knew what that meant. This afforded the Times a type of journalistic deniability:
The Times can claim that it reported the key fact about this matter, while knowing that none of its readers will realize that it did. In this slippery, skillful way, the Times was able to Save Candidate Harris and keep tribal script alive.
Herndon is one of the bright young kids the Times has hired to save on salary and to make a better appearance on cable. That said, he didn't go to Harvard or Yale.
Herndon is currently finishing his fourth year out of Marquette (class of 2015). Elsewhere, though, Harvard and Yale kids crashed and burned as they too "kept script alive." Let's start at the Washington Post, where Chelsea Janes (Yale 2012) reported the Harris proposal.
Janes is on the campaign beat fresh from several years as a Post sports reporter. Here's the way she described the problem Harris would solve:
JANES (5/21/19): Studies show that American women overall make 80 cents for every dollar paid to men. For African American and Latino women, the number is closer to 60 cents on the dollar. Statistics on comparable jobs vary.Janes cited the familiar statistics which Harris keeps citing. She then wrote this:
“When you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up their families, their neighborhoods, and all of society,” Harris said, after telling voters at a Los Angeles rally Sunday that she would soon announce the plan. “And it’s an issue that’s been around for far too long without much progress at all.”
If elected, Harris said, she would require all corporations to receive “Equal Pay Certification” from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. To receive the certification, companies would have to prove they are paying employees comparable pay for comparable work, regardless of gender.
"Statistics on comparable jobs vary."
As with the Times, so too here. Rather than cite the relevant statistics, in which women are underpaid perhaps 5 cents on the dollar (if that) for the same or equal work, Janes cited the more dramatic statistics, then added a murky disclaimer which no one would understand.
Or this could be her editor's doing. There's no way to know that.
Over at Vox, a Harvard kid was handed this task. Li Zhou (class of 2012) started off like this:
ZHOU (5/21/19): California Sen. Kamala Harris has a plan to close the gender pay gap, and it’s founded on hitting companies on one of their most prized markers: their annual profits.To her credit, Zhou didn't bother to fake it. She simply said that, under the candidate's plan, companies would have to "demonstrate that they’ve closed the gender pay gap between men and women who perform comparable roles."
As Harris’s plan is structured, companies with 100 or more employees would be required to disclose pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in order to demonstrate that they’ve closed the gender pay gap between men and women who perform comparable roles. Companies that aren’t able to show they’ve achieved this would be penalized a percentage of their profits.
Her plan aims to fix a pervasive problem: Right now, women are still paid 80 cents on the dollar for what men make, on average, and it’s even worse among women of color. Latina women make 53 cents on the dollar, Native American women make 58 cents, and black women make 61 cents, according to a release from Harris. Those gaps have major implications for women’s economic success and their long-term earning potential.
She then cited the standard statistics Harris keeps citing—statistics which don't measure amounts of pay for men and women "who perform comparable roles."
For the record, Harris' plan is not designed to fix the "pervasive problem" Zhou describes. Even if fully implemented, i would have little effect (though some) on that larger overall income gap. Zhou even cited "a release from Harris." all the while failing to note that the statistics it contains are not for "comparable" work.
Harris has been on a TV tour concerning this proposal. On this tour, she's constantly been "misspeaking," according to staff, even while committing the occasional "slip of the tongue."
In our view, progressives should be disgusted with candidates who do this. There are giant problems of economic looting to be solved, problems which don't require the invention of utterly bogus facts.
We'd like to see candidates, and the New York Times, address those actual matters of looting. Despondent future anthropologists tell us we're silly to think about that..
"This is just the way this deeply flawed species was wired," one sad scholar recently said, speaking in the past tense. "Hacks like Hannity conned the public about the way the rich were over-taxed. It fell to liberals and progressive to invent and promulgate pleasing group fictions about matters like this."
Let's be clear! As Zhou said, the income gaps cited above may in fact "have major implications for women’s economic success and their long-term earning potential."
How major are those implications? Is there any serious way to address them? That would be a worthwhile debate! That said, we liberals prefer to wander the countryside making claims which are baldly false. Everyone knows that our claims are false, but we love to make these claims, and also Script Never Dies.
At PolitiFact, Louis Jacobson plays the Sisyphus role. He keeps pushing the rock back up the hill. The candidate, and the bright young kids, ignore every word he says.
"This was all the species had," one sad scholar glumly reports. "Much as Professor Harari said, they went to Harvard and Yale to score the chance to advance the mandated fictions!"
That assessment struck us as harsh. And yet, this was a top future anthropologist, despondent yet a star in her field.