Politics: Using executive orders, President Obama has placed an intrusive new requirement on private employers to provide data about employee wages, gender and ethnicity to “help” enforcers of pay equity and spy on business. This is not about equality, it’s about making big government even bigger.
“Women are not getting the fair shot that we believe every single American deserves,” the president declared, a statement so cynical, an Emory University professor quoted by NBC speculated that it was a likely bid to boost Hillary Clinton’s flailing campaign for president. “What kind of example does paying women less set for our sons and daughters?” Obama asked. His office made a big deal about his signing the new rule on the anniversary of the first law he signed as president, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
This new rule — it’s not a law — will create a massive legal fishing expedition against businesses with more than 100 people, a de facto subpoena for such firms with the presumption of guilt to find “violations” based on highly questionable data about the gender pay gap. It’s also another federal invasion of the privacy of  63 million American workers, whose salary data will now be out there, with or without their consent.
“This step,” the White House press release said, “will help focus public enforcement of our equal pay laws,” as if that were needed, given the size and scope of Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The White House also said that the rule’s purpose was to “provide better insight into discriminatory pay practices across industries and occupations.”
There’s just one problem: It’s all based on junk data.
The prevailing myth, perpetrated by even the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, which issued a brief on the matter Friday, is that women earn only 79 cents on the dollar to men, the result of woman-hating discrimination. Exhibit A of this claim is found not in the private sector but in the White House itself. It pays its female employees 13% less than their male counterparts. One staffer, Anita Dunn, called it “a genuinely hostile workplace for women.”
But studies repeatedly show that the discrimination mantra is a myth. Manhattan Institute scholar Diana Furchtgott-Roth has done considerable research on the matter, finding that the conventional wisdom about women getting less pay for equal work, being discouraged from taking higher-paying jobs and being subject to a “glass ceiling” on advancement are all false.
The studies, she has noted, lump men and women working different numbers of hours above the 35-hour full-time mark, create vastly distorted results. They also lump together dirty, dangerous, physically demanding and disagreeable jobs dominated by men with more conventional lines of work, ignoring the compensation required for the higher stress and physical risk.
Meanwhile, they ignore that many female workers prefer to work part-time and take leaves of absence to fulfill family duties. Those are free choices, and they can contribute to differing levels of pay for comparable work. “It’s not the ‘glass ceiling’ that keeps women out of the corner office, it’s a choice of how much time and effort to put into one’s career,” wrote Furchtgott-Roth in a 2012 essay for MarketWatch.
She notes that in some areas, women’s pay exceeds that of men — particularly for those who work 30-34 hours a week, as well as those who enter fields with low female representation, commanding higher salaries based on the laws of supply and demand. In fact, accounting for all of these variables, Furchtgott-Roth finds that there is virtually no difference in the pay scales of men and women doing equal work.
Which is why Obama’s executive orders are likely to change nothing in pay equity. All they are going to do is politicize the process, vastly expanding the powers of the federal government to fish up new data to obtain the result they want. It’s nothing but another power grab.