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An Example of Right-Wing Observation

February 1st, 2009

One of the highlighted “news” articles at Google News came from the right-wing American Thinker blog, with the eye-catching headline, “Obama’s Hypocritical Law,” referring to the Lily Ledbetter Act. The charge:

In a windfall for trial lawyers nationwide, President Obama struck a blow for employees who want to sue their employers for alleged pay discrimination. However, an inconvenient report from CNSNews.com last September indicates that candidate Barack Obama paid the women on his staff 78% of the salaries of his male staff members from October 2007 through March 2008. Coincidentally, this is almost exactly the same pay disparity that President Obama himself decries in the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act” he just signed into law Thursday.

Two questions arise: 1) Will the mainstream media pick up this story of presidential hypocrisy? 2) Will any of Obama’s female staff members sue him for discrimination? Sadly, the answer to both of these questions is most likely NO.

If you follow the link to the cited “inconvenient report,” however, you find out that the “report” is little more than right-wing spin from a conservatively-biased news site. A complete reading of the story demonstrates how the article’s headline and thesis are critically flawed: the analysis did not take into account differing job positions. In fact, the third paragraph in the story even said plainly, “Women occupy seven of the top 10 highest-paid positions on McCain’s staff, and five of the top 10 highest-paid positions on Obama’s staff.” The writer of the article clearly did not mind the fact that the data rather plainly contradicted his thesis, even though that contradiction was clearly stated in the article.

The Lily Ledbetter Act addresses the illegality of men receiving higher pay for the same position. Clearly, the discrepancy in payment on Obama’s staff (if it is indeed as reported) is not, as suggested, a result of violating that principle, but simply due to differences in how much different positions are paid.

Reading through the comments to the Thinker blog post, however, you get the usual right-wing knee-jerk replies–everyone uncritically accepting the flawed premise without checking the information, reinforcing their erroneous presumptions. This is how conservatives often lather themselves up into indignant umbrage, proving to themselves how unfair the system is to themselves and how dishonest the other guys are. Had the ideological reverse of this been up on even as slanted a site as DailyKos, it would have been shot down as unfounded by its own liberal audience within minutes. But then, we’re less gut-based and more fact-based.

I posted a response in the comments, which are moderated. It’ll be interesting to see if they let it pass, and how people there react to it.

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