Last week’s “Equal Pay Day” – the political equivalent of a Hallmark holiday – provided Democrats with yet another opening to attack presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney. When pressed on his views on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Romney offered a weak “I have no intention of changing the law” answer, which both failed to appease his liberal detractors or to offer a legitimate condemnation of the bill and the false premise upon which it stands.
So what should Romney have said?
The Lilly Ledbetter Act is not an “equal pay for equal work” law. It’s an “extending-the-statue-of-limitations-in-a-lawsuit-so-plaintiffs-have-longer-to-file-complaints” law. (Don’t believe me? The bill’s full text is here.)
Certainly, when businesses have to constantly look over their shoulders for claims that may have occurred many years ago, it’s hard to plan for the future. Companies may save money “just in case” they have to pay legal fees in the future – funds that should be invested in growing, hiring, or expanding. Practically speaking, some companies may overreact by paying all employees the same rate, regardless of productivity or value to the organization, essentially discouraging hard work. Other companies may become hesitant to hire protected classes of workers to minimize the likelihood of future complaints.
This is a trial lawyer/class action lawsuit boondoggle, and that’s bad for the American economy.
It’s worth noting that “Equal Pay Day” is a misnomer. Women are not paid 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes. That’s a shoddy statistic, since it simply compares the median income of all full-time male and female employees – without taking into account crucial factors such as the number of hours worked, education, work experience, type of occupation, and labor force attachment (i.e. time taken out to raise families).
Comparing apples to apples (i.e. similarly qualified individuals, working the same position, for the same number of hours) renders this so-called “wage gap” almost nonexistent.
Women are now graduating from college in higher numbers than men. A recent Pew study found that a higher proportion of young women aspire to high-paying careers, which may counteract some of the “type of occupation” bias.
The economy’s shift to service and professional jobs – away from labor-intensive, physical jobs traditionally favored by men – means there are more job opportunities for women.
Technological advances such as laptops and smartphones make working from home easier, which alleviates some of the pressure for women to choose between family and work while allowing them to log as many hours as their in-office counterparts.
These are all organic developments, despite the Obama administration’s desperate attempts to take credit for “helping women.” If anything, the federal government’s ham-handed attempts to level the playing field have done little more than inflict pain on all sectors of the economy… men and women alike.
Women (and men!) benefit from a growing, dynamic economy. Low tax rates empower consumers to control more of their money. Competition encourages businesses to innovate, developing new products at lower costs. Clear rules, evenly enforced, provide the structure that allows individuals and companies to do business without fear of persecution. And a limited government of defined responsibilities ensures that friends and allies of those in power will not be allocated special favors, deals, subsidies, or protections at the expense of those trying to play by the rules.
Discrimination is illegal, and culpable people or organizations should be held accountable – but within a reasonable time frame and with a conventional burden of proof. Additional laws like Lilly Ledbetter are solutions in search of a problem, and that’s something the country doesn’t need.
Nicole Kurokawa Neily is a columnist for Doublethink.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Kathlyn Ehl
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Jacob Hayutin