If you’re discussing women’s rights with Tucker Carlson, your chances of being the one who says the stupidest and most offensive thing are very, very low. Carlson, editor-in-chief of right-wing fringe blog The Daily Caller, has made a name for himself as one of the most sexist conservative pundits in the business — and considering his competition, that’s quite an accomplishment. In case you aren’t familiar with him, Carlson is the one who called Sarah Palin a ‘MILF’ (more specifically, he actually called her the “supreme commander of Milfistan”) and referred to a sex act with Palin as a ‘womb-shifter.’ He also managed to merge his opposition to the Violence Against Women Act and his disapproval of removing the ban on women in combat in a series of offensive tweets last January. Oh, and he also equated getting a parking ticket with being raped. So, yea — if you are playing a game of ‘who can be the most sexist and vile person in Conservative media,’ Carlson is a pretty tough competitor.
Well, Carlson met his match with Fox News host Martha MacCallum. Hosting and participating in a dialogue between Carlson and Fox News’ house ‘liberal’, Alan Colmes, MacCallum seemed to argue that President Obama was wrong when, in Tuesday’s State of the Union address, he called the enduring pay gap between American men and women “an embarrassment.”
“I think most women do not want to be treated as sort of a special class of citizen,” MacCallum said. “They want to go to work every day, they want to get paid for being a professional, for doing their job really well, and they don’t want to be treated like some special group of people who have to be, y’know, given a little special handout just to make sure they’re OK.”
Colmes countered that pay-equalizing measures are not special handouts but rather simple fairness. “It’s equality,” he said, “it’s equal pay for equal work.”
“Many women make exactly what they’re worth,” MacCallum responded, bizarrely. After letting it sink in for a second, Colmes made a face of befuddlement and repeated MacCallum’s words back to her before asking: “Are they not worth the same amount of money for the same job as men?”
“No, I’m saying they’re worth a heck of a lot!” MacCallum responded, before rolling her eyes and laughing dismissively. (You can watch the clip here, on Media Matters).
It’s not clear what, exactly, MacCallum’s point was. If women make “exactly what they’re worth,” as MacCallum stated, then she must believe that women are not worth very much. But if MacCallum truly believes that women are worth “a heck of a lot,” then why deny the indisputable evidence that women are paid less than men for the same jobs?
The Truth About The Gender Wage Gap
According to the Center for American Progress, women who work full time, year round, earn just 77% of what men earn. Even though women are outpacing men in getting college degrees, that’s not enough to close the gender pay gap. College-educated women earn 5% less the first year out of school than their male peers; 10 years later, even if they keep working on par with those men, women will earn 12% less. This is true for all women, regardless of educational attainment — the wage gap accumulates over time, largely because women earn less when they take their first job. By the end of a 40-year working career the average woman loses $431,000 as a result of the wage gap, and for college-educated women, the average lifetime wage gap is almost three-quarters of a million dollars. The gender wage gap also increases with age: for working women between the ages of 25-29, the annual wage gap is $1,702, while the annual wage gap jumps to over $14,000 for women over the age of 55.
Disparities in pay are even worse for single women, who earn only 78.8% of what married women earn and only 57 cents for every dollar that a married man earns. And this is without adding in the additional wage penalty for motherhood, which results in women earning about 7% less per child than childless women. Shockingly, the wage gap between mothers and women without children is greater than the gap between women and men — and single mothers get hit even harder. All of these disparities are magnified for women of color.
Despite the abundance of false claims that women earn less than men because they choose different careers, the evidence shows that the gender wage gap cannot be explained by differences in occupation, work experience, race, or union membership. During the debate over pay equity on today’s Fox News segment, Tucker Carlson contended that women earn less because they “voluntarily” take time off to care for children — however, according to economic policy experts Drs. Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn of Cornell University, less than 10% of the gender wage gap is due to the fact that women are more likely to have to take unpaid days off to take care of children or other family members. Even if women and men have the same background, the wage gap still exists, highlighting the fact that part of the discrepancy can be attributed to gender-based pay discrimination.
The potential impact of pay equity for women, particularly mothers, is significant. Increasing opportunities to build wealth is crucial to surviving financial setbacks such as an unexpected health emergency or the loss of a job. The ability to build wealth allows families to plan for such situations and stay afloat during hard economic times. It also gives parents the opportunity to help their children financially whether through college tuition or inheritance.
According to the recently released Shriver Report, closing the gender wage gap would boost women’s incomes by over $6,000 a year and cut their poverty rate in half, raising 3 million of the nearly 6 million working women who live below the poverty line above it. The extra income would also have a big impact on the economy as a whole, boosting GDP by 2.9 percent, or $450 billion. Further, a 2011 study from the Wayne County, Michigan Department of Public Health found that the health impact of pay equity for mothers would include reducing poor birth outcomes, depression, and income-related stress and related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and gastrointestinal disorders.
Martha MacCallum could not be more incorrect in saying that women earn “exactly what they worth,” unless she thinks that men are inherently more valuable than women. If Ms. MacCallum really believes that women are worth “a heck of lot,” I encourage her to voice her support for pay equity. I’ll be waiting.
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