May 7 2012
Wall Street Journal
Carrie L. Lukas
Team Obama calculates that its road to victory is paved with the votes of women, so the American people are now subject to a coordinated effort to cast GOP opposition to expanding government power as an assault on the weaker sex. But few women view public policy as a battle between the sexes. Women whose husbands, brothers and sons are struggling to find jobs find no comfort in women's comparatively low unemployment rate.
Next up in the Democratic campaign is the Paycheck Fairness Act, supposedly necessary to achieve "equal pay" for women. Never mind that it's already illegal to pay women less than men for the same work. Democrats say that failure to support this bill is akin to greenlighting workplace discrimination. In reality, women aren't the primary beneficiaries of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Lawyers are, since it encourages more litigation, increases potential lawsuit payouts, and makes it more difficult for companies to defend themselves.
Under the act, the government would also collect more information about compensation practices and establish a national award for employers deemed best in advancing "pay equity." These are distractions companies don't need.
Feminists have long wanted enlightened government officials, rather than the indifferent market, to determine salaries. Information collection and government-compensation guidelines today could easily become regulations and mandates tomorrow.
Such meddling would be disastrous for the economy, but men particularly should be warned: Bureaucrats micromanaging compensation standards will mean many male workers should expect a pay cut.
We've seen how this works. Soon Democrats will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX as a triumph for women's equality, but mothers of would-be wrestlers and male gymnasts know this well-intentioned law has a darker history.
Title IX amended federal education law to require that schools receiving federal funding couldn't discriminate on the basis of sex. However, enforcement procedures have morphed this antidiscrimination statute into a de facto quota system for athletics. Many colleges have eliminated men's teams, and some male sports are now all but extinct at the collegiate level, such as men's gymnastics.
Colleges' struggle to meet Title IX's proportionality requirement speaks to a larger issue: Women increasingly outnumber men on campus, earning an estimated 57% of bachelor's degrees. Against this backdrop, Title IX's enforcement policy seems particularly ill-conceived. Female students out-participate men in just about all activities other than sports, from theater programs to student government. Why are sports the sole target of Title IX?
It turns out that the law's champions—including the Obama administration's Title IX Interagency Working Group—do want to expand its reach to academics, specifically to science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the few disciplines in which men's enrollment continues to outpace women's.
Of course, statistics about young men's troubling prospects shouldn't be used to justify a new set of intrusive government programs to bolster boys' self-esteem or curb women's success in pursuit of gender parity. But they should encourage greater awareness of how policies sold as protecting women can be used to bludgeon men, and they should spur greater skepticism of the idea that women need bigger government to succeed.
The War on Women rhetoric may be intended to derail specific candidacies, but it also derails needed public-policy debates. With trillion-dollar deficits, we need to make tough choices about funding priorities. Calling attempts to control government's costs an assault on women will only make deliberations less productive.
Americans had a preview of how this tactic stifles debate during the recent reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saw this law, known to be riddled with waste and fraud, as a politically toxic issue. So instead of pushing for needed reforms, he surrendered, declaring, "We're all in favor of the Violence Against Women Act. . . . There's nothing to fight about."
Women cannot be a political shield that prevents rigorous debate about the direction of our country.