Grim future scholars respond: As we noted last Tuesday, it started on MSNBC.
Candidate Kamala Harris had said that she would unveil a proposal to battle the gender pay gap. (It's also called the gender wage gap.) On Monday evening, May 20, she discussed her proposal on The Beat with Ari Melber.
Describing the problem she hopes to solve, Harris made the statements shown below. As we noted on May 21, no expert, authority, griot or specialist actually believes the bulk of what Harris said and implied:
MELBER (5/20/19): Let's start with this. What does your plan do to combat the gender pay gap?As we noted on May 21, no specialist actually believes the bulk of what Harris said. More specifically, no one believes that women, "on average," are paid 80 cents on the dollar as compared to the man "in the next cubicle" who's "doing the same work."
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. And this has not changed over decades.
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.
Beyond that, no specialist believes that the average black woman is paid 61 cents on the dollar compared to the average man who's "doing the same work." The claim is familiar and tribally pleasing, but no one really believes it.
We even said, in last Tuesday's post, that this familiar old claim "seems absurd on its face." And yet, it remains a familiar and pleasing part of standard liberal discourse as our flailing and floundering nation moves towards Mister Trump's War.
We liberals have heard and repeated such claims for decades, but no specialist believes that they're true. That said, something else is true:
No anthropologist believes that we human beings, on average, actually cared about what was true! That's certainly true of future anthropologists—the disconsolate scholars who report to us from the caves in which they glumly huddle in the gloomy years which have apparently followed Mister Trump's Inevitable War.
Did humans actually care about truth? These anthropologists understand that our species, Homo sapiens, ran on other types of fuel.
According to these future scholars, our species ran on Professor Harari's "gossip" and "fiction," with a strong dose of intolerance thrown in the stew. ("Tolerance is not a Sapiens trademark," Harari wrote, still speaking in present tense.)
According to these disconsolate experts, our species, on average, didn't much care about facts, preferring novelized stories instead. And sure enough! Even after we challenged Harris' initial presentation, she went on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and did it all over again!
She repeated the same familiar claims upon which our self-impressed tribe has long fed. And as with Melber, so too here! Colbert played along with Harris' claims, whether from ignorance or perhaps from tribal deference.
Harris appeared with Colbert on Tuesday night, May 21. Two days later, the weary souls at PolitiFact critiqued what she had said.
PolitiFact gave the candidate an overall "Mostly False" rating. Early in its critique, PolitiFact quoted a chunk of what Harris told Colbert.
As President Reagan might have said, there she (and we) went again:
HARRIS (5/21/19): The law says that men and women should be paid equally for equal work, but what we know is that in America today, women on average are paid 80 cents on the dollar of what men are paid for the same work. African American women, 61 cents on the dollar, Latinas 53 cents on the dollar. And these are actually not debatable points.Uh-oh! Colbert's (largely incoherent) question suggests the possibility that he knew that Harris was wrong. He got a flatly inaccurate reply from Harris, then proceeded to let it go.
COLBERT: So this is not hours worked, on average. This is hour for hour.
HARRIS: Yeah, and for the same work. Or it could be the annual salary, but it’s for the same work.
The session with Colbert occurred last Tuesday night. Last Thursday morning, the long-suffering souls at PolitiFact responded, in an essay bearing this headline:
On Colbert, Kamala Harris flubs wage gap statisticThat headline is likely too kind. It's plain from PolitiFact's critique that Harris's presentation, however familiar, was grossly misleading and/or simply wrong pretty much all the way down.
As usual, PolitiFact tried to straighten things out. Wearily, they noted that they've corrected this type of misstatement in the past. Tomorrow, we'll review their critique of Harris.
Later in the week, we'll look at the way upper-end journalists reported Harris's plan. In effect, these hapless graduates of Harvard and Yale were Saving Candidate Harris. As we'll note on Thursday, liberal academics have tended to behave this way in the past.
Wearily, PolitiFact corrected the record again. More interesting was the reaction from several anthropologists who reported to us from the future.
These disconsolate future scholars rolled their eyes at PolitiFact's attempt to straighten things out. "That just isn't the way this doomed species worked," one grim expert said.
Tomorrow: The fact-checker's tale