Gov. Malloy’s Weapon of Mass Distraction

Apparently, a “permanent fiscal crisis” isn’t enough to keep him busy. Gov. Malloy has now proposed legislation to prohibit businesses from forbidding their employees to disclose their wages.

As is evident from its history, the Yankee Institute believes in transparency. The free flow of information is an important part both of what makes capitalism work, and any effort to hold government accountable. We’d be the first to applaud the governor — if he were simply encouraging businesses to permit their employees to discuss wages, rather than seeking to mandate it by law.

But it’s no secret that Connecticut businesses feel as though there’s already far too much micromanaging from Hartford — witness the Economist’s July 2014 piece giving Connecticut a “D” for its overall friendliness to small business . Given that Connecticut’s workers ranked their own state’s job creation climate as being worst in the entire nation last year, it might make sense for state leaders to start rethinking the combination of high taxes and pervasive overregulation that they’ve been force-feeding state business over the last several years.

Instead, the governor wants to saddle business with yet more red tape. He has justified his support for the measure by claiming that it’s an essential “step toward ensuring equal pay for equal work, because equality on this issue is long overdue.” But this reasoning is both flawed and misleading. There are both state and federal laws already on the books that make it illegal for employers to discriminate in wages on the basis of gender. And the much-touted “wage gap” virtually disappears when Bureau of Labor statistics compare women and men doing the” same jobs, while working the same jours, with the same level of risk, with the same educational background and the same years of continuous, uninterrupted work experience, and assuming no gender differences in family roles like child care.” In fact, Connecticut’s well-publicized “wage gap” is attributable, in large part, to the fact that many women have highly-compenstated spouses, and thus work part-time or in lower-earning jobs by choice, rather than necessity.

In fact, the rationale for the proposed new law is so flimsy, and its approach smacks so overtly of petty government bullying, that it’s hard to believe the Governor is offering it as a serious public policy effort. Could it be that Governor Malloy has decided that it’s better for Connecticut’s people to be distracted by picayune legislative gambits than focused on the slow growth, unhappy businesses, and “permanent fiscal crisis” brought about by his other policies?

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Carol Platt Liebau

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