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Happy Equal Pay Day! Today marks the day each year the left reminds us how horribly women are treated at work, and the much lower wages we endure.

This year, April 2 is how far into 2019 women needed to work to equal what men earned by the end of 2018.

To resist this state of affairs, Democrats in Congress last week passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, the perennial legislation they introduce to remedy this seemingly egregious injustice.

The slogan for the legislation is “Men & Women: Same job. Same pay.”

Absolutely. I agree wholeheartedly.

Yet while the pay gap sounds outrageous, a little perspective is necessary to understand what’s going on. The “facts” in this debate are often given without context.

And getting the government further entrenched in workplace matters carries its own risks and potential unintended consequences.

The Democratic women who are leading the charge with this legislation like to say that women are still only making about 80 cents for every dollar men earn — the gap is even wider for women of color.

That’s technically true. But that data is comparing the median salary for all men and median salary for all women, without regard to job type or seniority.

When those numbers are “controlled,” and salaries for men and women are compared related to industry and experience, the gap shrinks hugely.

According to a recent study from PayScale, which gathers compensation information, “when men and women with the same employment characteristics do similar jobs, women earn $0.98 for every dollar earned by an equivalent man.”

This means women are consistently paid about 2 percent less than their male counterparts. That’s not nothing, but it’s a whole lot less than the 20 percent gap Democrats want you to believe.

The raw wage gap exists for a number of reasons outside of discrimination. Women as a whole choose different kinds of careers than men — and they are also more likely to take time off for children. When they return to work, women also often seek out jobs that will give them more flexibility to meet the competing demands of work and home life.

Carrie Lukas, president of the Independent Women’s Forum, says this kind of flexibility could be threatened if legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act takes effect. Employers, fearing lawsuits, would be more inclined to treat every employee exactly the same.

“That’s not good for women,” Lukas says. “People aren’t widgets.”

Other unintended consequences include lower pay for all workers, argues Rachel Greszler, a research fellow in economics, budget and entitlements at The Heritage Foundation. She notes a study looking at a similar law in Denmark, and the impact it had on lowering men’s wages — not raising women’s — to reduce the pay gap. Another likely impact is that performance-based pay and bonuses would go away.

Regardless of what Democratic congressional superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants you to believe, women already have plenty of ammunition to combat disparities at work, including the Equal Pay Act and Civil Rights Act.

Most of the factors contributing to the pay gap stem directly from the choices women themselves are making. The government should stay out of those decisions. 

ijacques@detroitnews.com 

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