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National Equal Pay Day: President Obama's Great Distraction

President Barack Obama declared April 9 “National Equal Pay Day,” – a date chosen to supposedly mark how long into the new year women have to work to match the male median wage of the previous year. Obama has repeatedly lamented that women earn “up to 23% less on average” than men do; it’s a good talking point for a president who captured more than half of votes cast by women in 2012.

Too bad it’s all false. The “gender pay gap” doesn’t exist – the supposed discrepancy occurs when occupation and education aren’t taken into account. Simply taking the median wage of men and comparing it to the median wage for women doesn’t accurately represent the variables present in the workforce. Like any worker, the average woman in the workforce might choose to work a lower-paying job in her ideal field over a higher-paying one in a different field. She can decide to take part-time employment (36 hours per week) because it means being able to spend more time with her kids after school. She’s also well within her rights to choose employment in an area such as teaching or nursing, which traditionally pay less than male-dominated fields such as computer programming. President Obama himself evidently recognizes this: his female staffers earned 13% less on average than his male staffers in 2012 (again, if education and occupation aren’t included as variables). This doesn’t mean Obama is discriminating against these women; the White House is merely offering the level of compensation the market will bear for each staffer’s labor.

Once the shiny diversion of “gender inequality” is removed, the larger issue becomes crystal clear. It’s one President Obama has spent more than four years convincing the country to ignore: the struggling American economy. We’re more than four years into the Great Recession, and America didn’t even add enough jobs last month to keep up with population growth. That’s not good news for the nearly 22 million people who are currently unemployed or underemployed – most of whom know that last month’s falling unemployment rate occurred only because people are simply giving up looking. Higher tax rates are discouraging hiring, while even those workers who have a job are making less after payroll taxes (thank you, fiscal cliff deal). Those wages are buying less on the open market, too – the Consumer Price Index rose again in February, for a total 2% increase over the last year. And that average, which often doesn’t reflect rising food and fuel prices, does little to represent the stress felt by workers who struggle to afford gasoline and healthy meals. 

“National Equal Pay Day” and the accompanying Paycheck Fairness Act won’t really improve the employment outlook for women (or anyone else). Want to see hiring increase and wages rise? Let’s repeal ObamaCare, which at this point even the Federal Reserve admits is having a negative effect on employment. Why don’t we take steps to curb an overzealous regulatory state, the costs of which increased by $236 million in 2012 alone, or scrap plans to raise the minimum wage (a proposal guaranteed to eliminate low-skilled jobs)? Or stop the Federal Reserve from its unprecedented inflation, which is killing the value of the dollar and raising prices across the board for workers? Forcing businesses to jump through yet another legal hoop won’t create jobs for anyone, except perhaps the government employees assigned to enforce the regulation. It also won’t solve the issues that really worry women in the workforce: rising unemployment, falling wages, and the diminishing purchasing power of each paycheck. It’s not enough anymore to try and distract Americans from harsh economic reality with talk of “equality.” It’s time for President Obama and Washington to put away the rhetoric, and work toward fiscally responsible solutions that put every American back to work.