May 16, 2014

Left-on-Left political correctness attacks?

As a conservative, my inclination when liberals are arguing with liberals over liberal-centered issues is to stand back and let them go at each other.  So when the New York Times decided to fire Jill Abramson for demanding equal pay for equal work as Executive Editor with her regards to her male predecessor, that was my first inclination.  Provided the fight stays on the left.  I don't know that it will stay there, because it seems to be a media hot-button issue right now. 

In fact, The New Yorker for example, jumped right on the story:
Several weeks ago, I’m told, Abramson discovered that her pay and her pension benefits as both executive editor and, before that, as managing editor were considerably less than the pay and pension benefits of Bill Keller, the male editor whom she replaced in both jobs. “She confronted the top brass,” one close associate said, and this may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was “pushy,” a characterization that, for many, has an inescapably gendered aspect. Sulzberger is known to believe that the Times, as a financially beleaguered newspaper, needed to retreat on some of its generous pay and pension benefits; Abramson, who spent much of her career at the Wall Street Journal, had been at the Times for far fewer years than Keller, which accounted for some of the pension disparity. Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for the Times, said that Jill Abramson’s total compensation as executive editor “was directly comparable to Bill Keller’s”—though it was not actually the same.
The political correctness of equal pay is unequivocally a progressive agenda item.  Although equality is not a liberal-only issue.  Equality affects everyone.  But gender equality is, as every other form of equality, about equal opportunity, and not equal outcome.  Not every female would deserve equal pay with every other female in a given role, and to compare any two people, with different experience, and different skill sets will inevitably result in different value that they can offer in a role.  Therefore different pays are to be expected, always.  True equality comes from equal opportunity, not equal outcome. That would be a Marxist resolution.  Is the marketplace willing to hire female Executive Editors?  If so then equal opportunity exists.


That equal offer of employment comes with a clearly reduced level of compensation.  I'm not talking about 10% less - that could be attributable to a difference in experience. So too perhaps could a 30% difference in pay.  Maybe.  But a 50% difference in pay would seem to be a different scenario.  It could be gender based, or it could be a bias against Abramson individually.  Either way, the notion of equality is not being applied.

All that said, it is hard to argue that equal pay for equal work is some sort of unreasonable concept.  Within an acceptable range as defined by experience etc., it is likely the norm in most companies.  If women all end up at the bottom of the range and men all at the top, maybe there is still a problem, but proving that is not so simple.  Comparing women in company A to men in company B with similar roles is not necessarily an apples to apples comparison.   This is something that calls for a layered analysis, which is an expensive proposition to research and not necessarily even possible given the secrecy surrounding pay in many companies.  In other words, there is no easy answer, no A-HA, no "gotcha!" in this discussion.

Which is all the more reason as a conservative to step aside and watch the New York Times once again be subject to criticism and concern - especially on an issue that as a liberal media outlet, they should be championing.  Holding the NYT up to their own standards is something Alinsky might do if he were on the conservative side of the political spectrum.  I'm happy to do so, with the proviso that this doesn't turn into another attack on conservatives as per usual.  As a conservative, I believe in free markets - even when it comes to labor.  If Abramson is worth as much as her predecessor (or more, or less) she should be paid accordingly.  And if she isn't being paid what she is worth, she is free to leave and seek more gainful employment - the free market will see her get offers in accordance with what she has to offer. This should be true for every woman, and every man.  Underpaying someone will result in only being able to hire inferior employees.

As far as being able to leave for better employment, I suspect that is actually what is happening in this case already.
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