Deroy Murdock on payroll inequality:


Based on these calculations, Obama’s 28 male staffers divided among themselves total payroll expenditures of $1,523,120. Thus, Obama’s average male employee earned $54,397.

Obama’s 30 female employees split $1,354,580 among themselves, or $45,152, on average.

Why this disparity? One reason may be the underrepresentation of women among Obama’s highest-compensated employees. Of Obama’s five best-paid advisors, only one was a woman. Among his top 20, seven were women.

On average, Obama’s female staffers earn just 83 cents for every dollar his male staffers make. This figure certainly exceeds the 77-cent threshold that Obama’s campaign website condemns. However, 83 cents do not equal $1. In spite of this 17-cent gap between Obama’s rhetoric and reality, he chose to chide GOP presidential contender John McCain on this issue.

I'll admit, National Review writers probably know more about feminism and pay inequality than I do, much as I could probably school their staff at misinterpretations of Monty Python quotes and debates over the proper way to consume a Twinkie. Murdock's purposefully conflating two different phenomena here - you don't calculate pay inequality by calculating pay across all fields, because that's dumb as hell. A woman who works as an architect is going to earn more money than a man who works as a janitor, but that doesn't mean that pay inequality is solved or even reversed. It means that the woman has a job that naturally pays higher than the man's job does. In the case of Obama's office, women don't earn "83 cents for every dollar" unless a man is earning $100,000 for a job and a woman is earning $83,000 for the same job with the same responsibilities and same qualifications. I don't know the particulars of the office's hiring - there's no set structure for who a Senate office has to hire and in what roles they're hired - but it's simply dishonest to allege pay inequality across what are likely different jobs altogether.

There are actually two debates here. The first is pay inequality, which primarily concerns itself with a woman earning the same amount of money for the same work as a man. The other is equal opportunity, meaning that a woman has the same chance to get a job as a man does, all things being equal. It is theoretically possible that both pay and opportunity equality could be reached and women still earn less than men (or vice versa), based on aggregate career choices, because the goal isn't that women earn the exact same amount as men on average, but that each individual qualified woman has the opportunity to pursue almost any given career field on the same grounds with the same chance that a man does, and will receive the same compensation for the same work.

For an even better (by which I mean glaringly worse) version of this argument, check out this WSJ piece alleging that income inequality gets better under Republican presidents than under Democratic presidents. Notice the technique here - taking average female salaries across all fields and putting them up against average male salaries across all fields gets you figures that make Republican presidents seem to be great on gender issues. But if you look at the Reagan and Bush terms, you saw a ton of contraction in high-paying, male-dominated fields like manufacturing, while in Clinton's terms, you saw the same contraction in the manufacturing field coupled with a massive (male-dominated) technology boom that resulted in new jobs with high salaries that were incredibly tilted towards one gender over the other. We could have a Reaganesque shift towards equal average pay across genders...it just involves getting rid of millions more good-paying jobs in certain fields. If we just got rid of accountants alone, we could probably knock that inequality down a good five or six percent.