The (long-suffering) Fact-Checker's Tale: When Chaucer penned his famous "Miller's Tale," he let his freak flag fly.
The leading authority on the tale offers such background as this:
"The Miller's Tale" (Middle English: The Milleres Tale) is the second of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1380s–1390s), told by the drunken miller Robin to "quite" (a Middle English term meaning requite or pay back, in both good and negative ways) "The Knight's Tale."The Miller carried on anyway! According to future anthropologists, so it went, in our own "modern" times, out on the campaign trail!
The general prologue to The Canterbury Tales describes the Miller, Robin, as a stout and evil churl fond of wrestling. In the Miller's Prologue, the pilgrims have just heard and enjoyed "The Knight's Tale", a classical story of courtly love, and the host asks the Monk to "quite" ("repay" or "answer") with a tale of his own. However, the Miller insists on going next. He claims that his tale is "noble", but reminds the other pilgrims that he is quite drunk and cannot be held accountable for what he says. He explains that his story is about a carpenter and his wife, and how a clerk "hath set the wrightes cappe" (that is, fooled the carpenter). Osewold the Reeve, who had originally been a carpenter himself, protests that the tale will insult carpenters and wives, but the Miller carries on anyway.
According to top anthropologists, glorious Chaucer was able to capture the essence of our "human" nature. In the manifestation under review, a drunken miller tells a tale designed to undermine an earlier tale—a knight's tale of courtly love.
It isn't like that with "The Fact-Checker's Tale," the highly familiar modern story we're forced to revisit today.
The fact-checker to whom we refer is PolitiFact's Louis Jacobson, an experienced Washington journalist who doesn't seem to be drunk or impaired in any discernible way.
Jacobson has been responding of late to The Candidate's Tale. More specifically, he keeps responding to a set of false and misleading claims Candidate Harris keeps making, with her staff persistently saying that her errors are merely "slips of the tongue on live TV" or examples of "misspeaking."
As such, Jacobson has been cast in the Sisyphus role, pushing the facts back up a steep hill to no useful effect. In his most recent attempt to "quite" the hopeful, he referred to this recent exchange between Harris and TV's Stephen Colbert:
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.Later, staffers told Jacobson that Harris had "misspoken" during that exchange with Colbert. That said, Harris had "misspoken" the exact same way the previous night on The Beat with Ari Melber, an appearance Jacobson didn't mention (see yesterday's report).
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.
Nor had it started there. In late April, Jacobson corrected a giant "pay gap" howler emitted by Harris during a CNN town hall. On that occasion, Harris' misstatement had been a "slip of the tongue," according to The Harris Staffer's Tale.
Meanwhile, nothing makes this stop! Harris misspoke on this topic again last night, this time during an MSNBC town hall with Lawrence O'Donnell.
According to leading anthropologists, so it went among us humans in the years before Mister Trump's War. For today, let's limit ourselves to getting clear about the basic facts which underlie the so-called gender pay gap.
Alas, poor Stephen Colbert! On live TV, with citizens watching, The Candidate told him that "women on average are paid 80 cents on the dollar of what men are paid for the same work."
Colbert's reaction suggests that he may have known, or at least suspected, that this statement was bogus. That said, The Moderator's Tale will rarely include an actual challenge to a top guest of the political party he prefers.
Fact-checkers work by different rules! After quoting what Harris and Colbert had said, Jacobson correctly said this:
JACOBSON (5/23/19): In a nutshell, Harris incorrectly explained the meaning of the gender wage gap. The 80 percent figure is not an apples-to-apples comparison of men and women performing the same work. Instead, it refers to average pay for all jobs held by men and all jobs held by women.Say what? The 80 percent figure is not an apples-to-apples comparison of men and women performing the same work? Harris had "misspoken" when she said that women are paid 80 cents on the dollar, as compared to men, "for [doing] the same work?"
When we reached out to the Harris campaign, they quickly acknowledged that Harris had misspoken, even after being prodded on the point by Colbert. Spokesman Ian Sams pointed out that Harris’ plan does not use the "for the same work" formulation.
So the staffer said! Pushing the stone back up the hill, Jacobson began to explain:
JACOBSON (continuing directly): The most recent official data on this point, published by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2017, showed that women earned 80.5 percent of what men did. That’s up by a couple percentage points in recent years, though it did not significantly change between 2016 and 2017.According to leading anthropologists, nothing anyone says or does will ever stop Harris, or other modern liberals, from "misspeaking" on this point. With that in mind, let's try to make one part of Jacobson's presentation a bit more clear:
As we’ve written previously, the 80 percent figure does not adjust for such factors as the degrees and jobs women pursue, the time they take off to care for children, the number of hours they work, and the years of experience they’ve had.
So while the 80 percent figure may be used to signify some facets of women’s challenges in the workplace—such as disproportionate representation in fields that offer more flexible work schedules, even if that means earning less—the statistic cannot be used to pinpoint pay discrimination between men and women doing the same work.
The gender income gap
According to those census figures, there is a definite "income gap" between men and women who work full-time (35 hours or more per week). In 2017, the income of the average woman who worked full-time came to 80.5 percent of the income of the average man who worked full-time.
That is an actual "income gap" between the average man and the average woman. As Jacobson says, this income disparity may help define some actual social problems concerning "some facets of women’s challenges in the workplace."
But the Census Bureau doesn't claim, in any way, that this represents income received for having done "the same work." Indeed, just look at one part of what Jacobson says:
Among other things, that famous figure "does not adjust for such factors as...the number of hours [men and women] work." What can that possibly mean?
The number of hours full-time workers work
The Census Bureau defines a full-time worker as someone who works 35 hours or more per week. They key words are these: "or more."
When it comes to hours of work per week, full-time workers are not created equal! Many work 35 hours per week. Others work many hours more.
On average, male full-time workers work longer hours than female full-time workers. When you adjust for that one factor, the income, wage or pay gap does in fact start to shrink.
Within his widely-ignored tale, the fact-checker says something else. He says that 80.5% pay gap "does not adjust for such factors as...the jobs women pursue."
By that, Jacobson means that the 80.5% figure hasn't been adjusted for the different types of employment held by men and women on average, or for the roles within the various types of employment men and women may, on average, assume.
That is, somewhat more men may be found within higher-paying occupations, but that 80.5 percent figure hasn't been adjusted for that. Even within a given field, somewhat more men may be found within higher-paying niches—working as surgeons rather than as family practitioners, for example.
None of this has been adjusted for by the Census Bureau. When Harris says that 80.5% figure represents income or pay for men and women who do "the same work," she is flatly wrong, and it's very hard to believe that she doesn't actually know that.
On average, to what extent are women being underpaid "for the same work?" On average, are women underpaid for the same work at all?
How much are women underpaid? It's very hard to establish that point, but no specialist actually thinks that women are paid 80 cents on the dollar as compared to men for the same work. As far as we know, no one thinks the number is anywhere close to that.
We did a lot of work on this topic when Rachel Maddow conned her viewers back in April 2012. Tomorrow, we'll review the clown show Maddow staged at that time. To this day, Maddow's performance on the gender pay gap is one of the most amazing con jobs in "cable news" history, ever since that medium began to speed us towards the wages of Mister Trump's War.
For today, we'll draw our wisdom from sacred Chaucer, and from an array of anthropologists sorrowfully huddled in caves. We humans always loved our drunken tales, these future experts sadly say, reporting to us through the nocturnal submissions the haters refer to as dreams.
We loved our tales, these experts say, and we kept rewarding the people who told them. We rarely "held them accountable for what they said," even as we sat on the beach awaiting that onrushing war!
Tomorrow: The Cable Superstar's Ludicrous Tale
Friday: Saving Candidate Harris! These kid journalists today!