Republican strategist Alex Castellanos was reminded of a couple rules the hard way on Sunday’s edition of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
First, never interrupt a feminist with a point to make. Second, never question the liberal dogma that women make less than men because they live in a discriminatory society — especially when the left is in the midst of using that claim to score a political edge in an election year.
During a panel conversation about how Republicans, including presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney, allegedly have a women problem, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow used the oft-challenged statistic that women make 77 cents to every man’s dollar.
Facing a liberal trope, Castellanos attempted to explain to Maddow the real world reasons behind the wage gap. But Maddow smacked him down with the well-worn charge of condescension.
“All of our best debates are always about policy,” Maddow kicked off the rhetorical battle. “And it should be about policy that affects women specifically. The Romney campaign wants to talk about women and the economy. Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make.”
“Not exactly,” Castellanos responded.
“Women don’t make less than men?” Maddow asked incredulously.
“Actually, if you start looking at the numbers, Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that,” Castellanos said.
“Wait, wait. No wait. Don’t tell me the reasons part, do women make less than men for the same work?” Maddow pressed, ultimately receiving a “no” from Castellanos and the other Republican on the panel, Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
“No? Okay. No,” Maddow laughed.
Castellanos then began to explain the factors — outside of discrimination — that contribute to the so-called wage gap.
“Well, for example men work an average of 44 hours a week,” he said.
“Women work 41 hours a week. Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexibility.”
“Listen, this is not a math is hard type of conversation,” Maddow said, attempting to redirect the conversation back to systemic inequities.
“No, no. Yes, it is, actually,” Castellanos volleyed back.
“No, it isn’t,” Maddow objected, as host David Gregory tried to clear a path for her to make her point.
“Right now women are making 77 cents for what men are making,” Maddow asserted again.
Castellanos responded by pointing out that the all-mighty dollar actually has more sway than any boss’ or an institution’s negative feelings toward a certain sex.
“But that is not true. If it were, greedy businessman in America would hire only women, save 25% and be hugely profitable,” he said.
“I feel like this is actually — and it’s weird that you’re interrupting me and not letting me make my point, because we get along so well. So let me make my point,” Maddow responded.
“I will,” Castellanos said, backing off.
“But it is important, I think, the interruption is important, I think, because now we know, at least from both of your perspectives that women are not faring worse than men in the economy, that women aren’t getting paid less for equal work,” she said. “I think that’s a serious difference in factual understanding of the world.”
Maddow then went on to praise the Obama administration for passing the Fair Pay Act and to deride McMorris Rodgers for having voted against it at the time.
“It’s policy. And I love how passionate you are,” Castellanos retorted. “I wish you are as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.”
“That’s really condescending,” said Maddow.
“No,” he responded.
“I mean this is a stylistic issue. My passion on this issue is actually me making a factual argument on it, Alex,” Maddow spat.
After asking permission, Castellanos offered another refutation Maddow’s central point on pay discrimination.
“When you look at, for example, single women working in America today between the ages of, I think, 40 and 64, who makes more? Men or women on average? Men make $40,000 a year,” he said.
“Women make $47,000. When you take out the marriage factor, look at some economics. My point here is that we’re manufacturing a political crisis to get away from what this election really wants to be about. And that is the Obama strategy in this election.”
A closer look seems to indicate Castellanos was basing his argument on a recent Wall Street Journal article by Kay Hymowitz explaining the pay gap phenomenon. Hymowitz, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys,” finds that woman voluntarily lower their earning potential because they choose to have children.
“The main reason that women spend less time at work than men — and that women are unlikely to be the richer sex — is obvious: children,” she wrote.
“Today, childless 20-something women do earn more than their male peers. But most are likely to cut back their hours after they have kids, giving men the hours, and income, advantage.”