The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.
Paycheck Fairness Act
Here’s a radical notion: It is simultaneously possible to believe that women are entitled to equal pay and to not support the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Not that you’d know it from the rhetoric President Obama and fellow Democrats are happily flinging at Republicans who dare to oppose the measure.
Before you start checking the byline at the top of this piece and emailing the editor that there’s been a terrible mistake, let me be clear: I support ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work — I have a bit of a vested stake in that issue myself. Unequal pay remains a problem, although not at the women-earn-77-cents-on-the-dollar level of Democrats’ sloganeering. Most relevantly, I’d vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act in the unlikely event that someone elected me to Congress.
But the level of hyperbole — actually, of demagoguery — that Democrats have engaged in here is revolting. It’s entirely understandable, of course: The Senate is up for grabs. Women account for a majority of voters. They tend to favor Democrats. To the extent that women — and in particular, single women — can be motivated to turn out in a midterm election, waving the bloody shirt of unequal pay is smart politics.
Women are the primary or co-breadwinner in 6 out of 10 American families. That makes the economic imperative of addressing the wage gap between women and men important, as is every step President Obama can take in that direction.
Threaded through the political fight over pay fairness is a continuing debate about the size of the pay gap. Mr. Obama and others often cite 77 cents as what women make on average for every $1 earned by men — a figure that critics say is an exaggeration.
In fact, it is a rough, but important, measure of overall workplace inequality. It is not a comparison of what men and women are paid for performing the same or comparable jobs. But, in representing the full-time wages of a working woman against that of a full-time working man, it reflects overt discrimination as well as more nuanced gender-based factors, like the fact that women are disproportionately concentrated in the lowest-paying fields and not well-represented in higher-paying fields. Of course, 77 cents is not the only measure. But there is no doubt that the pay gap is real.
Since beginning his late-night career more than 30 years ago, Letterman has evolved from exuberant, smart-alecky nerd to crotchety, occasionally befuddled elder statesman. Watching him now, it’s hard to believe he was once considered the epitome of edginess, a darling of the college crowd and hero to sarcastic eggheads everywhere. It’s hard to believe that dropping watermelons from a five-story tower or attaching yourself to a wall with a Velcro suit was once the perfect marriage of adolescent goofballery and ironic detachment.
But when “Late Night” premiered in 1982, irony had not yet become the default mode of the culture. It was Letterman, along with institutions like Spy magazine and “Seinfeld,” that would take it out of the “alternative” mien and push it squarely into the mainstream. In time, the sardonic, deadpan sensibility that once felt revolutionary was in play everywhere from ads to pop music to politics.