Ha ha. Want to hear something funny? When I was offered this column last year, I honestly wondered if I could find something suitably interesting to write about every week.
I shouldn’t have worried. Fortunately, we have our federal government as a constant source of hilarious entertainment.
The latest piece of mayhem, er, legislation to catch my attention is H.R.1388, the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced (surprise surprise) by Hillary Rodham Clinton in July 2008. This Act takes “critical steps to help empower women to negotiate for equal pay.” There’s that word – empower – possibly the silliest term to enter our vocabulary in recent history (right along with “sustainable” and “self-esteem”). We’re told women are so weak and helpless that we need empowerment from Hillary.
“Every American deserves equal pay for equal work,” Hillary sniffs in a link that was removed three days ago. “It is disgraceful that four decades after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women in this country still earn only 78 cents on the dollar. The Paycheck Fairness Act is an attempt to right this historic wrong and I am proud to reintroduce it today.”
What’s not said is why women earn only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. Could it be women are doing other things besides advancing in their careers? Could it be that they’re raising children and running households? These things quite rightfully distract a woman from her outside job. Men tend to pursue their careers with single-minded intent. Women have more important things to do.
Most women, that is. I guess Hillary is the exception. I seem to remember her huffy dismissal of the thought of baking cookies with Chelsea.
Charlie Jones and Jane Smith could have identical jobs – let’s say, loan officers in a bank – but it’s very likely Charlie has more experience because Jane keeps taking time off to have babies, shuffle her kids around day care, stay home with them when they’re sick, and attend school meetings and activities. Charlie does none of that, and so he ends up with a better work record. Jane can only do 78/100ths of the job Charlie can do. See the logic here?
“The Paycheck Fairness Act would address this reality [pay discrepancy] through a number of needed reforms,” notes Hillary. “The Act would create a training program to help women strengthen their negotiation skills; enforce equal pay laws for federal contractors; and require the Department of Labor to work with employers to eliminate pay disparities by enhancing outreach and training efforts.”
Interesting how it’s automatically assumed any pay discrepancies are due to evil men discriminating against women.
What does this mean in plain English? Well, according to Mike Eastman, executive director of Labor Law Policy with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this legislation would:
- Eliminate the caps on punitive and compensatory damages. [This means a woman can sue McDonald's for a kazillion dollars because 10 years ago when she was a teeny-bopper, she made less money flipping burgers than her boyfriend did.]
- Make punitive and compensatory damages available for even unintentional pay disparities. [Unintentional. That means the boss didn't mean to do anything wrong. Who cares! Sue him!]
- Eliminate employer defenses for pay disparities, such as paying people differently because they work in different parts of the country with different costs of living. [This means no excuse, no matter how legitimate, will cut the mustard. The employer is always wrong.]
- Make it easier for trial lawyers to file large class actions. [Get lots of women together so they can whine in a big group.]
- Impose comparable worth “guidelines,” second guessing market forces about the relative worth of different types of jobs. [Oh, my gosh. This means you have to compare one job with a completely different job to make sure women are paid comparably. How does a secretary compare to, say, a plumber? How does a teacher compare to a construction worker? This will be a logistical nightmare.]
- Re-impose debunked statistical analyses and auditing methods used by the Labor Department. [Bring back archaic comparison methods that didn't work to begin with. That's why they were debunked. Helloooo?]
[My comments in brackets.]
Is anyone familiar with the Law of Unintended Consequences? An unintended consequence is when an action results in an unexpected reaction. It often happens when a simple system (such as the government) tries to regulate a complex system (such as the American people). According to a landmark 1936 paper by sociologist Robert Merton, some causes of unanticipated consequences include ignorance, error, immediate interests and basic values.
In other words, when something is touted as “good” for a segment of the populace –children, minorities, women, environmentalists, whatever – it usually backfires because politicians cannot or will not visualize the logical and practical outcome.
What will be the unintended consequences for this legislation? Easy. Employers will be reluctant to hire women.
Oh, not in huge corporations in big cities, of course. Large businesses have Human Resource personnel to make sure they kowtow to the letter of the law. If they don’t, Hillary will sniff them out. But in Real America where I live – in small towns and rural areas across the country – the quiet, unspoken ripple effect will be a greater wariness and less frequent hiring of women. Naturally, these small businesses can’t admit it for legal reasons, but that’s reality.
I’ve already been told by at least three small businesses that they won’t hire a woman because it’s too risky. I agree. Look at a woman wrong and you’re accused of sexual harassment. Open a door for her and you’ll get hassled into enrolling in a “sensitivity” course. Complain when she needs yet another day off to take care of her sick kid, and you’re accused of gender discrimination. It sure is a whole lot easier to hire a man!
You see, in Real America the solution is quite simple: Don’t hire a woman and all your problems will be solved.