Equal Pay Myth: Manipulation, Not Math


Tuesday marked Equal Pay Day, and the President was front and center pushing his recycled narrative of the Right’s war on women, challenging those in Congress to prove that “they in fact do care about women being paid the same.” [1] Clinging to the assertion that women earn just 77 cents for every dollar, President Obama confidently stated the proof was in the data-pudding.

“Sometimes when we discuss this issue of fair pay, [of] equal pay for equal work, and the pay gap between men and women, you’ll hear all sorts of excuses,” he told his mostly female audience. “If they tell you there’s not a pay gap out there, you tell them, ‘Look at the data, there is,’” Obama insisted. “It’s not a myth, it’s math,” he claimed. “You can look at the paychecks, you can look at the stubs.” [2]

You can also look at the US. Department of Labor to get the real story. When you compare those of “equal work,” having similar jobs and skill set, the math doesn’t add up to his 77-cent argument as noted by the Department’s report.

“In 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor found that, after controlling for obvious education and job differences, the gender “wage gap” shrank to only 95%. The Labor Dept. report also noted women often make different choices than men: “A greater percentage of women than men tend to work part-time. Part-time work tends to pay less than full-time work. A greater percentage of women than men tend to leave the labor force for childbirth, childcare and elder care. Some of the wage gap is explained by the percentage of women who were not in the labor force during previous years, the age of women, and the number of children in the home. Women, especially working mothers, tend to value ‘family friendly’ workplace policies more than men. Some of the wage gap is explained by industry and occupation, particularly, the percentage of women who work in the industry and occupation.” [3]

Even Press Secretary Jay Carney, when questioned about the White House’s 88-cent pay disparity, debunked his own talking point by claiming the “statistic was misleading because it aggregates the salaries of White House staff members at all levels.” [4] Wait, that’s we were saying about the President’s fallacious figure! When you compare apples-to-apples, there is no great divide between women and men’s wages, which is why Betsey Stevenson – a member of the Council of Economic Advisers – had to retract her inaccurate, 77-cents-gap-for-identical-work statement. [5]

So, what is going on? Senator Ted Cruz hits it right on the mark.

“The Texas lawmaker explained that the wage gap campaign is part of a broader strategy to draw attention away from the Democrats’ own failings in governance. “The reality is, women are hurting and they’re hurting under President Obama’s economic agenda,” he said. “Under President Obama, 3.7 million women have moved into poverty. Under President Obama, the median income for women has dropped over $700.”

“The Obama economy is a disaster,” he continued, “and the people who are hurt the most are the most vulnerable among us. They’re young people, they’re Hispanics, they’re African-Americans, they’re single moms. And all the smoke and mirrors at the White House are designed to distract from the failures of the Obama economy and the people who are hurting.” [6]

Obama’s number manipulation has more to do with scoring political points in November than facts. Women deserve better than this. They deserve job-growth policies that create greater opportunities and economic freedom for them and their families.

And we don’t need smoke-screen soundbytes to get it.