California Congressman Mike Thompson voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act during the first half of February.
The Fair Pay Act is not about Executives giving themselves millions or billions of dollars in pay while letting their workers twist in the unfriendly winds of the "free market." It might, however, be a remedy to the tendency of employers to pay women and minorities less for doing the same work Euro-American males do. H.R. 11, was passed "to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes." Apparently the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 mainly amends the 180-day statute of limitations beginning the day the pay rate was agreed on imposed by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). This ruling meant that most women, by the time they have found out that they are being discriminated against, won't be able to successfully sue for back pay. As always there might be some unintended consequences of this new law, but it appears to be a good and fair law. Again, Mike Thompson voted for H.R. 11, which passed 247 to 171 with 15 not voting along largely partisan lines. This bill now goes to the U.S. Senate.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1, has been much talked about in the media this past few weeks. The real purpose of the act is to throw some money at the economy, what used to be called "priming the pump." You can argue that it is not worth the debt and interest that will have to be paid later. Or you could argue that if some stimulus package did not pass, and we ended in another Great Depression, the cost of not acting would be far greater than the cost of the debt. The problem is that we are in unchartered economic waters. No one knows if the economy would right itself without the Act or not. So, as much as I am against increased government debt, I agree with Mike Thompson that the Act had to be supporter. The Republicans will have no problem with taking the money from the act; they could afford to oppose it because they knew it would pass without them. If they were in charge they would have changed the mix, probably favoring big tax cuts for the super-wealthy and not a penny for solar or education, but they would have passed a stimulus package.
The Act, after a compromise was reached between Senate and House versions, was passed in the House of Representatives by 246 to 183 on February 13, with no Republicans in favor of the bill and only 7 voting against it. The Senate also passed the bill, and it is expected to be signed by President Barack Obama.
My impression is that, despite the $787 billion price tag, this Act is a bandage. It won't in itself halt the economic slide, nor will it cause any immediate harm. The real problem was deficit spending during the good times, brought to you by the Republican Party. That was part of the reason the economy was over-stimulated and is now in intensive care.
If the banking system is intact and lending; if the number of houses on the market due to bad mortgages dries up; if corporate America does not fire too many people too quickly, we will see a bottom before mid-year. That is a lot of ifs.
That said, the Act mainly helps out construction workers (and corporations) and civil servants. The rest of us will have to pay the taxes to help them out. So I hope the stimulus works and we aren't going to see a 1933 type economic scenario.
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Mike Thompson is the current elected member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 1st Congressional District.