Speaking as a Progressive Democrat my response is simple: go ahead — make our day. Talk about bad politics.
Here is the backstory. On Wednesday, the administration announced its final rule revising the threshold used to define who is automatically required to be paid time and a half for overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week.
The Wage and Hour Act that was passed in 1938 requires overtime be paid to almost all hourly workers. But there are exceptions for professional, managerial and executive personnel.
To prevent employers from declaring that people who do ordinary jobs are professional, managerial or executive personnel, the law required the Labor Department to set a pay threshold. If a worker makes less than that threshold, he or she cannot be categorized as a professional, manager or executive, no matter what his or her “duties.”
Three decades ago, when the wage threshold was set, 62 percent of all workers made less than that threshold and qualified for automatic overtime, no matter their job classification.
But the threshold has not been materially increased for 30 years. As a result, only 8 percent of all employees now qualify for automatic overtime. And, not surprisingly, many companies have driven a Mack truck right through the “professional, executive and managerial” loophole. As a result many employees, like some who spend most of their days making sandwiches at Subway, are classified as “managers” and required to work 50- or 60-hour weeks with no overtime pay. In fact, they are often put on fixed — if tiny — “salaries” so they get no pay for overtime at all.
The disappearance of overtime protections is precisely one of the rules of the economic game that has been rigged by the CEO class to assure that virtually all of the new income growth in America has gone to the top one percent.
So Wednesday, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Sherrod Brown went to Columbus, Ohio to announce that the threshold would be raised from $23,000 — where it has been stuck for years — to $47,500.
This is a huge victory for the middle class and all ordinary workers, and it is likely to benefit more than 12 million American families. It will once again make certain that workers are actually paid for their overtime.
But to hear the Republicans, this was a gigantic Obama overreach that will stifle job growth and hurt small businesses. This is the same thing they say whenever we increase the minimum wage or take other steps to make certain that ordinary people get to keep a bigger share of economic growth that they themselves create. But Republican predictions of doom never turn out to be true.
Of course the reason it never turns out to be true is that economic growth — and with it, job growth — is actually fueled by putting more money into consumer pockets rather than in the offshore accounts of corporate CEOs.
But putting the economics of the case aside — for the GOP this is really dumb politics. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist or political guru to tell you that trying to take away the overtime pay of ordinary voters will not make them happy — no matter how happy it makes the GOP’s corporate givers.
If there is one thing that this election season has made crystal clear: ordinary voters are plenty unhappy about the fact that their incomes have flatlined at the same time CEO salaries and bonuses have soared. It makes no sense to them that per capita Gross Domestic Product has shot up 48 percent over the last 30 years and yet their incomes have stagnated. And they are figuring out who is to blame — the .01 percent that rigged the rules of the economic game so they could keep virtually all of that gain for themselves.
But Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have convinced their rank and file that they are better off being dragged around by their noses by corporate bigwigs who give them money than they are by paying attention to the needs of ordinary voters.
Newsflash: want to know why the GOP rank and file has turned on the GOP elite? It’s because they have time and time again failed to deliver for the white working class men who they have used as cannon fodder in their quest to give more tax breaks for the rich.
So now this brilliant GOP leadership has threatened to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to pass resolutions overturning the new overtime rule — and in effect take away people’s overtime pay. But when they do, President Obama will veto their resolution, and there is no way Democrats will give the GOP the votes to override his veto of this very popular new regulation.
Instead, Democrats plan to have a field day reminding voters that their GOP representative voted to take away their overtime pay.
Sometimes, as the famous organizer Saul Alinski once said: you can count on your enemy. This time, the Republican’s blind allegiance to corporate orthodoxy and rightwing ideology will lead them into a bloody political ambush. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving crew.
Author: Robert Creamer