The big-wave reaction of conservatives to news that the Obama administration is expanding the eligibility for overtime pay for U.S. workers in the private and public sectors is apt to be something like: “Where do these people think the money comes from?”
The hours and compensation of any given worker are determined by a complicated mix of factors that are impossible to tease out of the economy. Using the blunt force of federal power, Obama is forcing all businesses to reevaluate that mix, all in the same direction. If the progressives’ starting assumption is that workers are powerless and exploited, such mandates do not change their leverage. Arguably, they weaken it by reducing their options for negotiation.
That’s the smaller wave that winds up stinging one’s eyes. Here’s the vice president of the United States:
The White House estimates that the rule change will raise pay by $1.2 billion a year over the next decade. In addition, some companies may instead choose to reduce their employees’ hours to avoid paying the extra wages.
“Either way, the worker wins,” said Vice President Joe Biden on a conference call with reporters Tuesday afternoon.
Labor Secretary Tom Perez adds a cryptic note to the same sentiment:
Secretary Perez says employers have a variety of ways they can comply with the new rule when it takes effect Dec. 1. “People are going to get at least one of three benefits,” Perez said. “They’re either going to get more money … more time with their family, or everybody is going to get clarity.”
Putting aside the problem with interpreting “clarity” or assessing its potential value to workers, who are these people indiscriminately to determine what workers should value? What if your employer gives you the “more time with family” benefit, but you want to be able to work, both for more money and more opportunity? (What if — mystery of mysteries — you like your work?)
What they’re really doing is stealing your right to determine your own priorities and values and trading them in for some cheap votes and political support.