A.B. Stoddard: Hillary Clinton’s soapbox

A.B. Stoddard: Hillary Clinton’s soapbox
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Saagar Enjeti: Clinton remarks on Gabbard 'shows just how deep the rot in our system goes' MORE emerged from her undisclosed location Tuesday to reportedly earn $300,000 speaking to a group in Silicon Valley, where she couldn’t resist praising actress Patricia Arquette’s Oscar night exhortation for equal pay. It’s especially staggering in light of reporting out the day before showing that Clinton paid women less than men while serving in the U.S. Senate.

It’s one thing when Hollywood stars dripping in couture get up on their soapboxes and make political statements at awards ceremonies, but quite another when an all but announced presidential candidate earning more for a speech than most Americans will in several years trumpets wage equality, when it already exists and she knows it. 

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Did she pay men more for the same work in her Senate office? Probably not, but she’s not answering the hypocrisy raised by the report published by the Free Beacon on Monday. The article reveals Clinton’s own U.S. Senate staff had a wage gap on average of $15,708.33 between male and female staffers. Clinton, according to the analysis of Senate expenditure filings, paid women 72 cents to every dollar that men on her staff were paid. That doesn’t seem to bother her — she just needs a campaign message and the gender wage gap seems real convenient. It’s not the no-brainer Democrats make it out to be, but that won’t stop Clinton from using it. 

When GOP presidential contender Carly Fiorina recently debated presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett on the issue, she accused President Obama of paying women less than men in his own White House while asking Congress in his State of the Union address to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Politifact rated Fiorina’s claims “mostly false,” because, while Fiorina’s assertion that Obama doesn’t pay his male and female staffers equally sounded right — average pay for females at the White House in 2013 was $78,767 to men’s $85,602 — Politifact found there wasn’t evidence women were paid less than men for the same work. According to their analysis, when they compared men and women inside the White House who shared the same job title, women made more than men.

Obama and Clinton know men and women are, in not all but most cases, being paid the same wages for equal work. The gap is produced by the two sexes performing different jobs, with differing amounts of education and experience and for different total hours. Research from Pew shows the wage gap grows smaller as each new generation enters the workforce, but the gap expands in mid-career, when women are likely to take time off or to work fewer hours in order to care for children. It has been against the law to pay men more than women for the same work since 1963, when John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law.

“I think we all cheered Patricia Arquette’s speech at the Oscars, because she’s right — it’s time to have wage equality,” Clinton said at the tech conference. While women with children clearly need more support in order to work as much as men, particularly at higher-paying jobs, and Clinton’s record in improving the lives of women and girls around the world over three decades is unassailable, she knows wage stagnation is much more of a problem than wage inequality.

Currently, Clinton is consulting with marketers to determine her brand, and has more than 200 outside experts to help her craft a message for a presidential campaign she began years ago. What Americans really want to hear from Clinton — or someone else, if she is not the Democratic nominee, and from the GOP nominee as well — is how the next president can help create more jobs and better wages.

That’s a message Clinton clearly hasn’t figured out yet.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.