On Fair Pay

I truly believe that Republicans and Democrats are accidentally working together towards a common goal, contrary to what you hear on the news. They actually allude to it on occasion, when they insist that they’re not just a bunch of hotheaded douchebags, and they actually hang out with each other all the time and talk shop over caviar hoagies (obvious exception being Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, whose hatred of everything is not only her job but her life’s passion). Their common goal is simple: stay in power, which they do though the time-honored tradition of wasting our motherfucking time. They are able to do this by setting us against each other so we bite at each other instead of going after the people who are actually ruining us, as New York does with their black and Asian populations.

The current example is this ridiculous controversy over fair pay for women. At that moment, 26% of you just decided beyond all doubt that I’m a chauvinist asshole who hates women, which is exactly what They want you to think. Hear me out on this. Let’s start with the current situation and go back in time. It is a fact that women make less for the same work than men. The Democrats would have you believe that President Obama fixed all that with the Ledbetter Act in 2009, and now they’re saying that if Republicans have their way, they’ll repeal the Ledbetter Act and put women back in the sweatshops defeathering chickens for two dollars an hour, which is offensively absurd because they would make at least minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour, at least until Congress gets around to abolishing that as well.

The reality is that nobody in their right mind wants to actively repeal the Ledbetter Act except for Gov. Scott Walker, who already repealed it last month so fuck him. But if the act were to suddenly disappear, the gender gap would not suddenly increase. Why not? Because it didn’t suddenly decrease when Obama signed the Ledbetter Act. All the Ledbetter Act says is that if a woman finds out that she is paid unfairly, she can sue, so long as the pay discrepancy had occurred at least in part within the last 6 months. Now, she was already able to sue, because it’s been illegal to underpay women since the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Obama doesn’t get credit for legislation that was passed when he was three.

So why bother with the Ledbetter Act? Because before that, women had to sue within six months of when the transgression first started, not just when it occurred, and if they don’t sue within 180 days, they can never sue. Which is, of course, retarded for a number of reasons, but 3 1/2 of them are: 1. pay inequality happens gradually over time. Lilly Ledbetter herself was paid equally at time of hire, but pay raises were tied to employee evaluations. Thus, when her male colleagues’ reports all said they were doing a great job they were given merit increases accordingly, whereas Ledbetter’s reports, though she was objectively doing an equally good job, saw themselves as having done autonomously well despite having a lady boss; nobody thought it was because their lady boss was a good leader and therefore she didn’t get any raises. The first time there was inequality would have been when some dude got a 20 cent raise and Ledbetter didn’t. 1 1/2. So by logical conclusion, the only way any pay inequality would ever go punished would be if every woman with a decent job constantly demanded that she look at all her coworker’s paychecks every month and threaten to sue every time her pay raise wasn’t the best in the company, effectively forcing women to be uppity bitches. Way to solve the gender wars.

2. Most employers don’t even realize that they’re paying women unfairly. They’re culturally inclined to give men more credit for their work, but it would never occur to them that they’re doing anything illegal, so no legal threat would deter them from doing so. Employers who are doing it on purpose are going to be even more inclined to make the pay difference look defensible, which means doing more egregious (but more legally gray) offenses like writing women up any time they do any little thing wrong, unfairly expecting more of them, or purposefully hiring them at a lower level so they can’t catch up to their male counterparts. At best, increasing a woman’s litigation rights incrementally won’t actually have any effect in pay equality because no company would be deterred, and at worst it would actually make things more difficult for women because (surprise surprise) assholes are assholes. If anything, writing rules that call them out tends to make them even worse out of defiance.

But most importantly: 4. Where the hell did this rule come from in the first place, that women have to sue within six months of when the prejudice starts? Shouldn’t common sense dictate that you sue when someone has wronged you? What, is it “fool me once shame on you, fool me for more than six months, shame on me”? Well, according to our increasingly activist Supreme Court, that’s exactly the case. Before it was Ledbetter Act it was Ledbetter v. Goodyear, when she sued for the situation above, and the Supreme Court’s decision was that you could sue for a single act of discrimination, like being fired or sexually harassed, but if you’re continuously shit on for 20 years, well, that’s really your fault, isn’t it?

But here’s the most important point: Goodyear shit on Ledbetter for twenty years despite the fact that it was illegal (even the Supreme Court agreed with that). Whether or not they were punished, the law did not in any way deter them from paying her unfairly, particularly since they didn’t think they were – from their point of view, their only crime was telling Ledbetter “your pay is forever tied to what your subordinates think about having to take orders from a woman. Oh, and you live in Alabama. Have a nice career.”

Back to the Democrats. So The Dems passed the Ledbetter Act and Obama signed it, which was a no-brainer as it closed an obvious loophole that shouldn’t have existed and didn’t exist until the Supreme Court created it, which only existed for two years, and so far as anybody can tell only affected one person ever, Lilly Ledbetter. Now the Democrats are marching through the country telling everyone how they single-handedly rescued the vagina.

Which brings me back to the original point. As we approach the November election, the most prominent issue in the news is the Democrats asking the Republicans how awesome Democrats are fora bill they passed in response to what the Republican court decided two years ago about a woman in Alabama who was making $21.50 an hour instead of the $27.50 an hour she deserved, which, yes, is a crime, but a woman getting $45K salary in Alabama is waaaaaay down on the list of shitty things that Alabamans do to women, and more importantly, the Ledbetter Act is a legislative response to a problem that WE THOUGHT WE TOOK CARE OF 45 YEARS AGO. So if the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history, didn’t magically solve Lilly Ledbetter’s problems, what the hell do today’s Democrats have any right to take credit for!?

Obviously, the right-wing Supreme Court did not make their decision in Ledbetter as a favor to Democrats so they’d have something to overturn. There’s not a conspiracy, they’re not in collusion, and the Supreme Court doesn’t care about getting Republicans re-elected (actually, Scalia and Thomas probably do but they’re not swing votes so they don’t really count). Nevertheless, the facts are there: for all the bellyaching about women’s fair pay and all the bills flying this way and that, nothing productive has really been done about it since 1991 when G. H. W. Bush was in office. This isn’t an active political plank or some orchestrated business plan – it’s Republicans and Democrats painting two sides of a single picture, with each individual stroke appearing deliberate and inspired, and not until you back up enough to see the whole picture do you see the horrific portrait they’ve painted. It’s not political science, it’s an art form.


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