Labor Secretary Tom Perez refused to address Tuesday the admission by an Obama administration economic adviser that the White House’s talking points on the alleged pay gap between the sexes are illegitimate.
Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said to reporters on Monday that the White House assertion that women are paid 23 percent less than men for doing the same work was false.
“If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke,” Stevenson said. “So let me just apologize and say that I certainly wouldn’t have meant to say that.”
Following his speech at an employment and education panel sponsored by the National Journal and liberal Rockefeller Foundation, Perez told the Washington Free Beacon that he had not seen Stevenson's comments. He then refused to answer follow up questions about whether he agreed with Stevenson's assessment that the Obama administration’s claims were false.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday repeated the talking point debunked by his own adviser.
“It’s not myth. It’s fact,” Obama said during a speech at the White House.
The White House has repeatedly cited a study that found that women make 23 percent less than men.
However, that study does not take into account careers pursued or experience levels attained. When those factors are taken into account, the wage gap is less than 7 cents. Some studies have even found that college-educated women earn more than their male peers.
Despite these facts, the White House, which pays women less than men, continues to assert that women earn 23 percent less than men.
“Women continue to earn less than men for the same work,” Obama said. He also announced that Perez will be in charge of punishing federal contractors that pay women less than men.
The Department of Labor has maintained that the pay gap is rooted in discrimination under Perez and his predecessor Hilda Solis. Both have called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed to pass the Democratic Senate in 2012.
Perez dedicated his talk to increasing employment opportunities through apprenticeship programs and hiring reforms aimed at ex-convicts, minorities, and people without college degrees.
However, the White House has focused much of its attention on wage issues, including hiking the minimum wage and decreasing the so-called “gender pay gap,” in recent weeks.
Political observers on both sides of the aisle have said that the focus on the minimum wage and female pay are designed to help struggling Democrats in the midterm elections.
“Everyone should pay attention to how the Senate votes [on the Paycheck Fairness Act] tomorrow,” Obama said. “Let your senators know where you stand.”
Perez will hold a conference call for reporters at 6 p.m. to discuss the wage bill.