Comparable worth = Yikes.

Like many people, I find Barack Obama's personal story quite compelling. His public posture and candor are refreshing. Were I a voter who didn't care about issues, I'd probably vote for him.

However, I do care about issues, and Obama is essentially a socialist on economics. To wit, Obama has basically endorsed "comparable worth."

Mickey Kaus takes that down:

Obama has apparently just endorsed one of the worst ideas of Carter era liberalism, "comparable worth," which would have lawyers and judges deciding what every job is "worth" according to some bureaucratic, non-market criteria that would inevitably punish "unskilled" manual work--i.e, the very workers who are screwed the most by globalization. Are truckdrivers really paid too much?

Meanwhile, Michael Barone piles on.

In case you don't know what comparable worth is, it's an idea concocted by feminists in the 1970s or early 1980s. They said that jobs typically held by women pay less than jobs typically held by men. To eliminate this inequity, somebody–the courts, maybe, or some administrative agency, presumably with appeals to the courts–should decide what those jobs were really worth, based on some sort of convoluted criteria. So that it could be possible to prove that secretaries were of comparable worth to truck drivers and should be paid the same wages.

Earth to Obama: There's something out there called the labor market. Employers are setting wages to get the kind of workers they need. Employees volunteer to work at those wages–or seek better-paying work elsewhere. Listening to Fox News on satellite radio, I hear commercials run by truck companies seeking drivers and bragging about how much they pay. That's the labor market at work. The companies have jobs to fill, and they're offering more money to attract workers, presumably many of them working for other truck companies. I suppose many truck drivers have satellite radio (which proves they're paid well above the minimum wage) and that the companies think running ads on satellite radio homes in on the kind of workers they're seeking.

Comparable worth would subject the private-sector economy to the equivalent of the federal civil service system. Bureaucrats would have to classify every job, with their classifications subject to administrative and judicial review.

The best thing you can say about Obama's policy is that he has Austan Goolsbee advising him right now. Faint praise.

Posted by Evan @ 04/26/07 10:40 PM


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