"Renaissance Thinking About the Issues of Our Day"
Thom Hartmann: So this Paycheck Fairness Act is you know out and about, shall we say. And women who face inequality have to confront their employers. To do that they need to know the score, they need to know if indeed they are more poorly paid than the guy next to them. Keep in mind, the reason why Lily Ledbetter got knocked down by the Supreme Court when, after 15, 20 years she discovered that all the men who had been promoted around her into similar positions were being paid much more than her and the only reason was because she was a female.
And the conservatives on our Supreme Court said well, you know you should have figured this out 15 years ago and you only have you know 180 days or 90 days or whatever it is to complain and you didn’t complain in that period of time so tough luck, screw you, go away. And so in response to that, Congress paid the, passed the Lily Ledbetter, the Paycheck Fairness Act. And it prohibits an employer from retaliating against employees who share salary information. You know, increasingly we’re seeing that women are bread winners in America and you know shouldn’t they have some rights in this country?
Carrie Lukas has a slightly different perspective. She’s the vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum, IWF.org. Carrie, welcome back to the program.
Carrie Lukas: Hey thanks for having me on.
Thom Hartmann: It’s always a pleasure talking with you, Carrie. Why do conservatives think that the Paycheck Fairness Act is an insult to women when what it does is it gives them, in many cases, the same rights men have always had.
Carrie Lukas: No, Thom, it really doesn’t give them the same rights that men have always had. Men and women have had the right to sue based on discrimination for a long time now. But what the Paycheck Fairness Act is really about is not empowering women, it’s about making it easier for trial lawyers to win money and get lawsuits. It just expands the grounds and makes it more difficult for employers to defend themselves against litigation lawsuits. And you know you’re making it sound like it’s only right wing crazies like me who have concerns about this bill. But the Washington Post, the good old liberal Washington Post came out recently and expressed their concerns that it was so vaguely written…
Thom Hartmann: I would not call the Washington Post liberal.
Carrie Lukas: Thom that shows just how far to the left you must skew because…
Thom Hartmann: They were on the side of Nike in the Nike versus Kasky case. No I, however you want to characterize me, Carrie, I consider the Washington Post to be moderate to right. But setting that aside. I get it that you’re saying that this is, this is going to help trial lawyers and probably it will. Because what it is going to do is in the absence of unions, which is the, how, you know it’s the new reality in America, it’s very much not that way in Europe, but it certainly is that way here.
In the absence of unions, in the absence of any kind of democratic institution in the work place, employers, employees have virtually no power against employers, and, particularly in a scary workplace like we have now where there’s more labor looking for jobs than there are jobs, than there are employers looking for employees, and so what this law does is it says that if employees share with each other how much they make and one of those employees figures out as a consequence of that, like Lily Ledbetter eventually did by accident, figures out as a consequence of that that they’ve been damaged, that they’ve been discriminated against by their employer, they can sue.
Trial lawyers provide a pretty good function in that, I mean they protect us against bad products and evil companies and nasty folks. And I don’t understand why you are opposed to people having a legal protection, having legal protected free speech within the work place.
Carrie Lukas: Well you know Thom, first of all I think that there is, we do need to take a step back and say, you’re talking as if employers hold all the cards. And they don’t hold all the cards because people can go. If they don’t want to work for a company, and they don’t like the policies that a company has put in place. If you, if my employer said you cannot speak to another employee about your salary, then I should find a job elsewhere. You know I don’t think that that’s the best decision, I actually think employers, that it’s a benefit to allow more free speech in the workplace and not try to restrict your employees rights to talk to each other about things like salary negotiations. But I think that it’s the right of a business owner.
And Thom as you talk about, you’re saying that one of the problems that employees face is because as you’re going to bring up well they can’t find a job, they’re stuck with this job. Well why is that? Well one of the reasons is we’ve made employing someone so costly and so expensive and part of that you know in addition to the healthcare mandates and all the workplace mandates and benefits mandates that we’re piling on top of employers, we do have this sector of litigation. I’m sure a lot of employers out there...
Thom Hartmann: Carrie, the mandates are less now than they were 60, or 30 years ago. The, they have been reduced if anything, the employer mandates. In other words 30 years ago you had far more people who were unionized and so they were getting pensions and they were getting good healthcare. That number has dramatically dropped. The, you know, pay in general has stagnated for 30 years. If anything, you’ve got employers who are making money hand over fist, corporations are more profitable than they’ve ever been in the history of the United States. CEOs are making more money than they ever have in the history of the United States. And because of the ability to off shore jobs, and both, and off shoring manufacturing. You know we have fewer people working in manufacturing now in the United States than we did in 1941, and in 1941 the population of the country was 1/3 of what it is now.
Carrie Lukas: Well Thom, one of the reasons why pay has stagnated is because the cost of benefits has been going up and it’s eating an increasingly large portion of our economy.
Thom Hartmann: No, pay has stagnated because Mitt Romney’s company, you know, Bain Financial and other companies like Mitt Romney’s company, have been buying up companies, breaking them down, shipping their stuff to China, and other countries, or saying to them you know I’m going to buy your company with a billion dollars worth of debt and by the way now you have to pay back that debt so I, Mitt Romney, can make 400 million bucks, which is how he got as rich as he is. By destroying companies. And this stuff used to be illegal before Reagan came into office. It used to be a crime. Reagan opened the doors for this, we’ve got all these M and A artists, you know, Mergers and Acquisitions, and all the, and stopped enforcing the Sherman Antitrust Act and…
Carrie Lukas: Well Thom, how exactly are you going to start creating jobs then. What is your recipe? Because I’m just baffled when liberals talk about ….
Thom Hartmann: Actually Carrie, I would love you, I would love you to read my new book and I don’t mean this as a gratuitous plug on the air. I’m genuine in this. I would love to debate my book with you some time. I have new book out, it’s called “Rebooting the American Dream: 11 Ways to Rebuild America,” and there are 11 steps. And the first one is to go to back to the trade policies that stood in this country from Alexander Hamilton until Ronald Reagan.
Carrie Lukas: Okay well I, next time I will be thrilled to read your book and I will go ahead and do so and I would love to get back to you on that. But first…
Thom Hartmann: And let me know any chapters you want to debate and I’ll put you on the air and do it.
Carrie Lukas: Okay beautiful, I appreciate that. But you know if we’re starting out with the idea that somehow trade barriers is going to be the recipe for job growth and economic recovery…
Thom Hartmann: It worked for 200 years.
Carrie Lukas: Well, you know, Thom, there are a lot more barriers, there’s a lot of fewer ability to trade. And if we just close our doors to all of the, imagine what would happen to the cost of the products that families like yours and mine and like millions of people out there, if all of a sudden we weren’t able to import, I mean not only would our costs go up but our quality of life would go up. We would have much less access to…
Thom Hartmann: Carrie, are you old enough to remember when Wal-Marts had a big banner over the front, when Sam Walton was alive, and there was a big banner over the front of every Wal-Mart store that said 100% made in the USA?
Carrie Lukas: Yeah, I wasn’t around, I wasn’t in an area where a Wal-Mart lives but I was born in 1973 so probably I was around for those days?
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, you were a little kid. I’m a little older than you, I remember it well. When everything in Wal-Mart was made in the USA, everything in the Wal-Mart was a little bit more expensive. But all across America, people had good paying jobs making things that were sold in Wal-Mart and so they could buy those things. So the easy answer to your question is yes the prices will go up in Wal-Mart but so will the wages and we’ll be able to afford to buy it.
Carrie Lukas: No, no, no. Because things, people had such higher quality of life in the late 70s and early 80s? Is that what you’re saying?
Thom Hartmann: They did. I was there.
Carrie Lukas: Well Thom I think that, I do remember the 70s enough to know that there was incredibly high unemployment and people were very worried…
Thom Hartmann: Nothing like now.
Carrie Lukas: …about the state of the economy. Well maybe nothing like now because we hadn’t managed to run up incredible amounts of debt and create such burdens for our companies that we can’t, our job creation engine has stalled. And I think that’s one of the real questions.
Thom Hartmann: No, we’re still creating jobs, Carrie, we’ve created probably 5, 6 million jobs, you know, with our own stimulus bill in China and Vietnam.
Carrie Lukas: Haha.
Thom Hartmann: Carrie, we need more time for one of these conversations. And one of these days we’ll get it. Carrie Lukas, IWF.org, she’s the VP for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum. Thanks Carrie.
Carrie Lukas: Great, thanks so much for having me on.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.