Democrats are clearly out of ideas. By and large they have controlled the levers of power in Washington for over a decade and none of their schemes have borne fruit. Jobs are still too scarce, pay is still too low, taxes are still too high, the national debt is still too big, and health care still costs too much. Obviously, you can’t run on any of those outcomes, nor the policies that have led us there, so what are Democrats to do?
Well, they’re consultants have a few ideas. First, you find a bogeyman. Last cycle it was Bain Capital and this year it appears to be the Koch brothers. But the real villain isn’t a successful business or wealthy businessmen, it’s the policies that are preventing more people from joining their ranks. Second, you go after “pocketbook” legislation that sounds good to the average voter, but makes terrible economic sense, and thus has no chance of passing. As Kathleen Parker writes in the Washington Post:
This is not exactly a paradigm-shifting strategy. Minimum-wage debates are sort of like funeral suits. You keep them handy for those glum times when respect for dying ideas must be paid. Giving strategists their due, the bills are catchy, using as they do the poll-tested word “fairness” in their titles. (For some reason, I have an irresistible urge to enlist Phil Dunphy from “Modern Family” to say: “Geniuses.” )
Never mind that raising the minimum wage actually increases unemployment and is poorly targeted at the lowest wage earners, those require explanation. All Democrats want are nice sound bites that allow them to say that they’re fighting for the poor against the cold hearted Republicans who are nothing but the “party of no.”
Third, and most contemptibly, you play the game of “identity politics.” This strategy, first employed by the Obama White House, is one in which you realize that you lack broad-based popularity, so you microtarget the population by being vocal about issues important to certain constituencies. For instance, you back off of marijuana enforcement to whoo young people, you fight against the Keystone pipeline to entice environmentalists, or you push for immigration reform to court Hispanics. In these situations, the goal is not a well-thought-out bill—because passage is not the goal—it’s merely to pay lip service to the idea to gain votes.
This week Democrats revealed that they are reviving this strategy, this time focusing their efforts on the gender wage gap. To sell the idea Democrats are touting the notion that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. In fact, President Obama used that very statistic in his State of the Union.
The problem is that the 77 percent figure isn’t quite true because it discounts the personal and important choices that women make every day. The fact is that once you take certain factors like the number of hours worked, career interruption, and the type of job into account the pay gap nearly disappears. A recent study for the American Enterprise Institute found that “labor market discrimination is unlikely to account for more than 5%, but may not be present at all.”
Of course, any amount of discrimination is simply unacceptable. Women should be paid as much as men if they are doing the same job for the same amount of time. Period. But that requires too much explanation, at least to a White House that is eager for a political win.
“They’re stuck at 77 cents on the dollar, and that gender wage gap is seen persistently across the income distribution, within occupations, across occupations, and we see it when men and women are working side by side doing identical work,” White House economic advisor Betsey Stevenson said on a conference call with reporters.
Of course, that’s not true. And when a McClatchy reporter called her on it, Stevenson backtracked according to a report from the Washington Examiner.
“If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke,” Stevenson said.
Yes, she did. But if not for the tough question it would have gone completely unnoticed and the myth would have prevailed.
“Democrats have resorted to these misleading tactics because they don’t have other issues to run on,” writes RNC National Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski. “They have no credible ideas to ensure women have the opportunity to secure high-paying jobs, and the Democrat Senate has refused to pass any of the 40 jobs bills the Republican House has sent them.”
Democrats are clearly out of ideas. But they’ve still got plenty of election year schemes up their sleeve.