Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PolitiFact Wisconsin's version of the gender pay hack

Context matters – We examine the claim in the full context, the comments made before and after it, the question that prompted it, and the point the person was trying to make.
--"Principles of PolitiFact, PunditFact and the Truth-O-Meter"

It's often difficult to take seriously PolitiFact's claim that it examines context.  We have our latest example of this PolitiFailure via PolitiFact Wisconsin, on the subject of--what else?--the gender pay gap:
"Women deserve equal pay for equal work. It's just that simple," Burke, a Madison School Board member, said in an April 8, 2014 news release.

"In Wisconsin, a woman only earns 80 cents for every dollar a man earns--and pay discrimination doesn't just hurt our families, it hurts our economies, too."
What's so complicated about doing this fact check correctly?  If Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke is arguing that women deserve equal pay for equal work, then the statistic she's using is highly misleading.

PolitiFact Wisconsin explains why, in the same fact check:
In rating a number of pay-gap claims, we and our PolitiFact colleagues have found that wording is crucial. Two of those fact-checks help put Burke's claim into perspective.

Former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, while campaigning for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to challenge Walker in the 2012 recall election, said Wisconsin women "are paid 81 cents to the dollar of a man doing the same job."

The key phrase was "same job."
PolitiFact Wisconsin rated Falk's claim "False." And in rating similar claims before this year, PolitiFact gave them no higher than a "Mostly False" rating.

This year, however, the national PolitiFact gave President Obama a "Mostly True" for a claim closely parallel to Burke's. Apparently a Democrat politician can say it's important that we establish laws to help ensure equal pay for equal work--that's for men and women "doing the same job"--then throw in the statistic for men and women working full-time at different jobs and like magic the "Truth-O-Meter" rating rises to "Mostly True."

It's ridiculous.  This is an intentional deception.  PolitiFact overlooked it.  PolitiFact Oregon overlooked it.  And now PolitiFact Wisconsin has signed on to sell the Democratic Party's lie du jour.

The stat doesn't fit.  And if the stat doesn't fit, PolitiFact must acquit.


  1. So they say a woman only earns 80 cents for every dollar a man earns you claim it's 81 cents? And you reckon it's them that's wrong? Over 1 cent on the dollar? Aren't you missing the point?

  2. No, no, and no. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  3. Well, we believe it's them (PolitiFact Wisconsin) that's wrong, but it has nothing to do with 80 cents in one paragraph while another paragraph says 81 cents. They key issue is the way the pay gap is connected to men and women doing the same job. Whether it's a 20-cent gap or a 19-cent gap, the statistic doesn't fit the claim. Those gaps are derived without considering whether it's the same job or even whether the full-time workers are putting in the same number of hours.