The jobless rate just hit its highest level in 16 years, 7.2 percent, which means more than 11 million Americans are unemployed. So the Democratic House responded by passing two bills making it more costly to hire workers.
Barack Obama has been preaching that our economy is in crisis and Congress absolutely must pass another mammoth stimulus package right now. "Today's jobs report," he said, "only underscores the need to move with a sense of urgency and common purpose."
But, alas, his first legislative priority is a stimulus package for trial lawyers and liberal-feminist special-interest groups. The only things these two bills will stimulate is more litigation and a further exodus of jobs out of the United States.
President-elect Obama has promised to sign these bills if the Senate passes them. They are loaded with real money, so they are a big payback to the lawyers and feminists who supported him and the Democrats in 2008.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would eliminate the current statute of limitations (either 180 or 300 days, depending on the state of employment) on discrimination claims so that a worker can sue in federal court for alleged pay discrimination 20 years earlier. This bill would reverse the 2007 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would remove existing statutory caps and allow for unlimited money damages to be awarded, even without proof of discriminatory intent. It would mandate new federal "guidelines" about the relative worth of different types of jobs, a long-sought feminist goal called "comparable worth," which means imposing wage control by freezing wages of jobs traditionally held by men and inflating wages of jobs traditionally held by women.
Obviously, these bills would expose large and small companies to vast new liabilities extending back decades. What our economy needs now is for business to hire more workers, but they are not going to do that if it means exposing themselves to expensive and frivolous litigation.
Ledbetter was employed for 19 years at Goodyear Tire & Rubber, eventually retiring with benefits. She enjoyed the advantages of this job despite receiving poor evaluations from several supervisors, which resulted in slightly lower pay than other employees.
Out of the blue, Ledbetter suddenly claimed that her supervisor, now long dead, had committed gender discrimination against her more than a decade earlier. Many trial lawyers are eager to sue deep pockets and plead for a "victim" in front of a spread-the-wealth jury in this type of case.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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