Surprise! White House gender pay gap just as bad as ever

Remember when the White House declared war on the gender pay gap? The Obama administration has actually declared war on it a couple of times in 2014, only to take the field and have everyone else point out that the enemy was themselves. The media took some time this spring to point out both the hypocrisy and the dishonesty that went into the White House argument.

Last week, Obama tried resurrecting the argument in his latest pivot to the economy. In a speech at Minnesota’s Lake Harriet bandshell, Obama said that the idea that his daughters might not get paid the same as his sons was “infuriating”:

I’ve got two daughters.  The idea that they would not be paid the same or not have the same opportunities as somebody’s sons is infuriating.  And even if you’re not a dad, those of you who have partners, spouses — men — this is not a women’s issue.  Because if they’re not getting paid, that means they’re not bringing home as much money, which means your family budget is tighter.  (Applause.)  So this is a family issue and not a gender issue.

So what can we do?  First bill I signed was called the Lily Ledbetter Act, that allowed folks to sue if they found out that they had been discriminated against, like you found out.  Back then, Lilly Ledbetter, this wonderful woman, she had been paid less than her male counterparts for the same job for over a decade.  When she finally finds out, she sues, and the Supreme Court says, well, the statute of limitations has run out; you can’t sue for all of that back pay.  She says, well, I just found out — well, that doesn’t matter.  So we reversed that law, allowing people to sue based on when you find out.

Most recently what I did was we made it against the law, at least for federal contractors, to retaliate against employees for sharing job — or salary information.  Because part of the problem — part of the reason that it’s hard to enforce equal pay for equal work is most employers don’t let you talk, or discourage talk about what everybody else is getting paid.  And what we’ve said is women have a right to know what the guy sitting next to them who’s doing the exact same job is getting paid.  So that’s something we were able to do.

Just how infuriating is this to Obama? It’s so infuriating that, er, his White House still has the same gender pay gap that it’s had since the beginning of his term. Despite all of the attention to Obama’s hypocrisy on this particular point, and despite all of the transparency there is on salaries at the White House, women still earn 13% less than men on the staff that Obama directly controls:

The average male White House employee currently earns about $88,600, while the average female White House employee earns about $78,400, according to White House data released Tuesday. That is a gap of 13 percent.

In 2009, male employees made an average of about $82,000, compared to an average of $72,700 earned by female employees — also a 13 percent wage gap.

Why does it persist? Because men get more positions of authority in the Obama administration:

One of the key reasons is that more men hold the highest-paying, senior jobs in the White House, and more women hold the lowest-paying, junior jobs. Today, there are 87 male White House officials who make more than $100,000, compared to 53 female White House officials. The gap narrows, but persists, at the highest echelons of the White House.

And yet again, the White House wants to argue that its own practices should be held to a different standard than the White House applies to everyone else:

White House officials say that even if the aggregate statistics show a gap, men and women in the same roles at the White House are paid similar amounts. “At the White House, we have equal pay for equal work,” said White House spokeswoman Jessica Santillo. “Men and women in equivalent roles earn equivalent salaries, and over half of our departments are run by women.”

That’s true. However, while pushing this issue as a crisis everywhere else outside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Obama and his team use aggregate statistics to support the claim that a substantial pay gap exists for equal work and equal experience. Using the standard the White House wants to use for itself, that gap all but disappears — and the White House actually lags on that measure.

Obama says he needs Congress to act. Maybe Congress needs to act a lot less than Obama needs to take care of his own house, or admit that he’s demagoguing this issue as part of the larger “war on women” demagoguery.

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