April 8th, 2014
09:05 AM ET
6 months ago

Inside Politics: Equal Pay gap reaches White House

What’s real and imagined about “equal pay day?

Women make less than men, even at the White House: Happy Equal Pay Day! Well, not happy, really. Today is the day in the year when American women’s pay from last year catches up to that of American men. Women, according to the data, make about 77 cents for every dollar a man does. We’re 23% into 2014.

Whether or not there is an actual pay gap and how large it is remain the subject of some debate. The census data that shows women make 77 cents for every dollar men make is calculated by adding all the wages of women and dividing the total by all the wages of men. But that doesn’t take into account a lot of factors, like women taking time off work to have children or choosing different career paths.

Professional fact checkers at Factcheck.org (“exaggeration”), Politifact (“Mostly False”) and The Washington Post (“one Pinocchio”) have all found problems with the claim. The American Association of University Women released a report that concluded the pay gap was closer to 7% than 23%.

For the past several elections, Democrats have adopted the equal pay issue and made the equality of paychecks a huge priority.

But the issue of equal pay plagues President Obama’s White House. An analysis by the conservative American Enterprise Institute found that women staffers made about 88 cents on the dollar, compared with male staffers.

A question on that discrepancy caught White House press secretary Jay Carney off guard Monday.

"What I can tell you is that we have, as an institution here, have aggressively addressed this challenge, and obviously, though, at the 88 cents that you cite, that is not a hundred, but it is better than the national average," he said. "And when it comes to the bottom line that women who do the same work as men have to be paid the same, there is no question that that is happening here at the White House at every level."

Two deputy chiefs of staff in the White House - one male and one female - Carney said, make the same salary.

But Obama has taken on this issue since the first day of his presidency, when the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which addressed what most Democrats and quite a few Republicans viewed as a ridiculous Supreme Court decision. Justices threw out Ledbetter’s sexual discrimination lawsuit against Goodyear because she hadn’t filed it soon enough after she was paid less than her male counterparts. Forget the fact that she didn’t know at the time she was being paid less.

That bill he signed back in 2009 gave women more time to sue for pay discrimination.

Today, he’ll do more. He’ll sign executive orders that encourage federal contractors to make pay information more transparent, so women and minorities will know if they are being treated equally.

Related: Obama to strengthen equal pay protections

A companion piece of legislation, authored by the dean of women senators, Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, proposed a bill that would apply that principle throughout the country, but it faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Congress. Regardless, senators are likely to vote on her proposal in the coming days.

Senate passes jobless aid extension; House not likely to follow: Democrats are making issues of fair pay a key part of their 2014 midterm election platform. On Monday, senators passed a bill that would restore expired unemployment benefits to the long-term jobless. That bill also faces an uncertain future in the House, where fiscal conservatives want to offset spending with cuts elsewhere in the budget. Also facing an uncertain fate is the Democrats’ plan to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. Meanwhile, more progress is being made on that front at the state level. Maryland became the latest state to raise its minimum wage to $10.10 on Monday.

Harry Reid’s Koch brothers obsession: That jobless vote gave Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yet another chance to vilify Republicans and also target Charles and David Koch, the oil magnate billionaires who have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into conservative causes.

“Americans need a fair shot at getting back on their feet and finding work, but Koch-backed groups are actively opposing the extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed,” said Reid, who called for Republicans that “bear the logo of the Koch brothers” to announce their affiliation on the floor of the Senate.

Then his office tweeted out their imagining of bearing a Koch logo:

Reid’s focus on the philanthropists and political money men has been something of a conversation topic in Washington. There’s no evidence that Reid is anything but a shrewd politician, but there are plenty of questions about whether his Koch brothers tactic is going to be a winner and whether voters will respond to the specter of a few big-moneyed oil barons most of them haven’t heard of.

There’s a new conservative meme that left-leaning publications are pointing out: Conservatives have been implying Harry Reid has Alzheimer’s or hasn’t been taking his medication. Why? The Senate majority leader has had a myopic focus on the Koch brothers. A number of publications have noticed the trend.

Senate blocks Iran hostage-taker U.N. ambassador, CNN’s Ted Barrett reports: The Senate passed rare bipartisan legislation Monday night to give the administration more leeway to prevent terrorists from representing countries at the United Nations.

The legislation, which passed unanimously, targets Hamid Aboutalebi, who may be Iran’s pick to the world body.  Senators accuse him of being involved in the taking of American hostages in Tehran in 1979. “He is a known terrorist.  He participated in holding Americans hostage for 344 days,” the bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Ted. Cruz, R-Texas, said in an interview Monday with Jake Tapper on CNN.  The quick passage of the legislation was a political victory for Cruz, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, who has been criticized for having a thin legislative record.

Related: Senate passes Cruz bill to block U.N. Ambassador

Cruz says GOP needs anti-establishment candidate, CNN’s Jake Tapper and Sherisse Pham report: Speaking on what he views is the path to victory for Republicans, Cruz said, "I don't think Washington elites are going to be very effective picking the nominee."

"I think it's going to be, quite rightly, a decision for the grassroots to make," Cruz said in an interview on CNN on Tuesday. That would certainly benefit the Texas Republican, who came to the U.S. Senate on a wave of tea party support. Cruz is considered a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but he probably would not be establishment Republicans' first pick.

Related: Jake Tapper's interview with Ted Cruz

Bush and Clinton in NCAA Skybox One: Oh, to have been a peanut shell on the floor of that luxury box. Neither one had a dog in the fight, but former President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton sat next to each other during the NCAA championship game in Texas on Monday night. They were hosted by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Both men will also appear this week at the LBJ presidential library for events surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.


Filed under: Bill Clinton • Inside Politics • Ted Cruz • White House
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    Pass Equal pay with raising Minimum Wage to 12/ read with stringent immigration laws punishing employers that hire illegals. Cut H1-B, L-1 visas to all nations.

    April 8, 2014 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  2. Gunderson

    Uh,
    Passing or trying to pass a bill on equal pay is like opening Pandoras Box. It all sounds good on the surface but will open all kinds on unintended problems. No one in his right mind would even think of passing such a bill. And besides, Obama Care has taken care of anyone getting a job for at least the next 3 years of any consequence. You can vote yourself a pay raise. But collecting it is another matter.

    April 8, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. smith

    Reid must be losing it at his old age. Complaing about political donors when his party does the same thing. Also, last month he comes out calling people liars who dislike the ACA, then he says he never said that. Time to retire.

    April 8, 2014 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  4. Lizzie

    Gurgyl, that immigration thing will NEVER happen as long as democrats have the power, they promised under Pres.Reagan that AFTER he agrees to their demands they WILL pass a comprehensive immigration bill, we see how that went.
    Plus who would help Harry Reid with his yard, he is to POOR to hire someone at $12 an hour, or have you not heard that democrats can't live on the minimum of $174000 a year and want a pay increase.

    April 8, 2014 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    Perhaps it is MORE of a problem in the WH, than anywhere ELSE!

    April 8, 2014 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  6. Lizzie

    Bush and Clinton in NCAA Skybox One: and it was all FREE.

    April 8, 2014 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  7. Tampa Tim

    Lizzie – I am not sure it was free, as ex presidents have secret service with them for their entire life. By free, I presume you meant they did not have to pay, but, rest assured, the taxpayers did.

    April 8, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  8. smith

    thank you Mr. President.

    April 8, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. Rudy NYC

    tom l

    All talk, no walk. Living proof that the dems don't care about truly carrying out their issues and more than repubs. Will the gang ever realize or acknowledge that this administration doesn't care about the average American or will they continue in their bubble? Sniffit must be furious right now and pounding on the keyboard about this conservative rag known as CNN. I think we need another Chris Christie story. Stat!!
    --------------------------------–
    "All talk"? Nobody else knows what it is that you're talking about.
    You're just talking, and imagining all sorts of stuff, which you're accepting and believing as concrete facts.

    April 8, 2014 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  10. Chris-E...al

    SO Someone that works 1 year on a job should make the same wage as someone that has work the job for 20 years ?

    April 8, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  11. Ol' Yeller

    Oh, I love this... the argument of the righties yesterday that the numbers are skewed, totally incorrect, and based on bad data, and blah blah blah...and even this article talks about it. But then... Oh My Stars!!! The same numbers are all of the sudden absolutely correct with no room for error because they were used on the White House and the same discrepancy in pay was found.
    All of the sudden Living Proof!!!
    Uh, okay... not sure what is 'living' about this proof, but it amazing to me how within less than 24 hours facts which didn't support your argument are innaccurate, skewed, and wrong, but then miraculously becaome accurate, unquestionable, and possibly may be found in the bible because now they support a different argument you want to make.
    I believe we may have entered the rwnj zone.... (again, sigh)

    April 8, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  12. Sniffit

    Also too, as to the attempt at another "hypocrisy gotcha": the 12% difference in median salary among male and female WH staff has already been explained as mathematically resulting from more women occupying lower staff positions, such as secretarial staff. Moreover, huge backers of these measures and bills, such as the Institute for Women's Policy Research, acknowledge other factors that cause averages/medians to show disparities, such as men having more years of experience on average...a factor determinative in federal pay scaling. The issue is not whether median or even average salaries are equal. It is whether people in the same positions, doing the same work are receiving the same pay, which they are. It's about pay parity, not average salaries, and anyone serious about the issue knows it and isn't using comparisons of average salaries without also talking about more important statistics, like the representation of women in positions of authority, etc. (statistics Obama/Dems also cite). Now, if you've got some brilliant scheme for convincing young men to become secretaries at a higher rate than they do, please do tell.

    April 8, 2014 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Sniffit

    As to the attempt at another "hypocrisy gotcha": the 12% difference in median salary among male and female WH staff has already been shown as mathematically resulting from more women occupying lower staff positions, such as secretarial staff. Moreover, huge backers of these measures and bills, such as the Institute for Women's Policy Research, acknowledge other factors that cause averages/medians to show disparities, such as men having more years of experience on average...a factor determinative in federal pay scaling.

    The issue is not whether median or even average salaries are equal. It is whether people in the same positions, doing the same work are receiving the same pay, which they are. Anyone serious about the issue knows it and isn't solely using comparisons of average salaries without also talking about more important statistics, like the representation of women in positions of authority, years of experience, etc. (statistics Obama/Dems also cite).

    Now, if you've got some brilliant scheme for convincing young men to become secretaries at a higher rate than they do, please do tell.

    April 8, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  14. Marcus (from...?)

    Gunderson – 'It all sounds good on the surface but will open all kinds on unintended problems' – Please, tell us just ONE of these problems that won't be, in itself, a violation of said law? Because it does sounds like you are against that law just because, surprise!, there will be people trying to break it...

    April 8, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Chris-E...al

    SO Someone that works 1 year on a job should make the same wage as someone that has work the job for 20 years ?
    ---------------------------------
    I really hope that you're not serious, and do not actually believe that that is what "equal pay for equal work" means.

    April 8, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. Rick McDaniel

    The desire to influence the voters, in this year's election.........has reached the WH. Nothing else.

    April 8, 2014 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    Rand Paul says that the Paycheck Fairness Act would "interfere with the free markets."

    April 8, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. ratherbboating

    Harry has a memory problem. He has forget statements he made on the Senate floor in less than a week. He has also forgot that he took money from the Koch brothers for his campaign. What the matter?? They did give you enough money?? Go ask your rich white friends in Hollywood for more money

    April 8, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Rick McDaniel

    The desire to influence the voters, in this year's election.........has reached the WH. Nothing else.
    -------------------------------
    The White House practices what it preaches, and Rick is upset about it.

    What's the biggest failure in DC politics? The failure of Republicans to make good on their campaign promises to repeal the ACA, not even after having voted to do so more than 50 times. And they're still trying to vote it out.

    April 8, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Gunderson

    Well Marcus(from) (Lost in the Wilderness),
    You won't even get hired. Or, your job description will be different so you will be (Getting Equal Pay) so to speak.
    wise up! There are plenty of ways to get around any law. Not getting a job is the easiest!

    April 8, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    ratherbboating

    Harry has a memory problem. He has forget statements he made on the Senate floor in less than a week. He has also forgot that he took money from the Koch brothers for his campaign. What the matter?? They did give you enough money?? Go ask your rich white friends in Hollywood for more money
    -----------------------------–
    You're missing the fundamental point. It's not about the Koch's donating to politicians and political campaigns. It's about the the Kochs donating to political groups that they formed, in order to promote their own political message, one which is frequently false and misleading.

    April 8, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. Marcus (from...?)

    Gunderson – Just because there are ways to dodge a law is no reason enough to not enact a law, or are you saying that crime pays?

    April 8, 2014 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |