In an article titled “Hostile Workplace,” The Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday that the Obama White House “pays women less than men,” citing 2011 salary data released by the White House. The Beacon's report suggests that President Obama, who signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, is a hypocrite because of this wage gap, and implies that gender-based wage discrimination is being practiced at the White House.
Here's how the Beacon presented it:
According to the 2011 annual report on White House staff, female employees earned a median annual salary of $60,000, which was about 18 percent less than the median salary for male employees ($71,000).
The Obama campaign on Wednesday lashed out at presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney for his failure to immediately endorse the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, a controversial law enacted in 2009 that made it easier to file discrimination lawsuits.
President Obama has frequently criticized the gender pay gap, such as the one that exists in White House.
“Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income,” he said in a July 2010 statement. “And with so many families depending on women's wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole.”
It is not known whether any female employees at the White House have filed lawsuits under the Ledbetter Act.
The president and his Democratic allies have accused Republicans of waging a "war on women," and have touted themselves as champions of female equality. Obama's rhetoric, however, has not always been supported by his actions.
Of course, the gender pay gap is a long-term overall economic trend, not simply a problem that exists in Obama's White House. In fact, the gap is actually smaller at the White House than in the overall economy. According to BLS data, in the fourth quarter of 2011, women earned about 81 percent as much as men in the overall economy. Based on the Beacon's numbers, women earn about 85 percent as much as men overall in the White House.
Moreover, the Beacon's juxtaposition of the pay data with Obama's comments about “paycheck discrimination,” and the speculation about whether female White House employees would file lawsuits under the Lilly Ledbetter Act, hint at wage discrimination being practiced at the White House. But as The American Prospect's Paul Waldman has noted, the only thing that the Beacon's data indicate is that “men, on average, are occupying higher-paying jobs in the White House (a legitimate grounds for criticism, but not something they pointed out), not that women are being paid less for doing the same job -- the kind of discrimination the Ledbetter act was designed to combat.”
Right-wing media have picked up the Beacon's report to suggest that it's actually Obama -- not Republicans -- who is perpetrating a “war on women.” But this is yet another distraction from the torrent of GOP-backed legislation over the past few years that would have real consequences for women -- limiting their reproductive rights, access to health care access, and access to equal pay.