The U.


S. Securities and Exchange Commission is expected Wednesday to finalize a long-delayed rule forcing businesses to share their “pay ratio,” a simple bit of arithmetic that would cast an unprecedented spotlight on one of corporate America’s thorniest debates.

Once the pay-ratio rule is in place, millions of workers will know exactly how their top boss’s payday compares to their own, revealing a potentially embarrassing disparity in corporate riches that many companies have long fought to keep hidden.

While the average American’s pay and benefits have been growing at the slowest pace in 33 years, executive wages have soared. Fifty years ago, the typical chief executive made $20 for every $1 a worker made; now, that gap is more than $300 to every $1, and growing.

The pay ratio, at the center of years of corporate arm-wrestling, could ratchet up the pressure on big companies to bring runaway executive pay under control. Boards and shareholders could use it to judge a firm’s high-priced leadership, and customers could opt to shop at companies where workforce pay seems more fair.

The effects could ripple far beyond the corporate suite. Disclosing the pay of a company’s “median worker” — the line at which half of the employees make more and half make less — could also become a human resources nightmare, exposing the raw and awkward tensions of workplaces undercut by growing pay gaps.

“This is going to sensitize every single worker to how it is they compare in pay to folks within their organization, and folks who do the same job at competitors,” said Steve Seelig, a senior regulatory adviser for Towers Watson, a human resources consulting firm.

Companies already disclose the pay of their chief executives, although not how it compares with that of personnel. Most Americans drastically underestimate how wide that wealth gulf has become. In a Perspectives on Psychological Science study last year, researchers found that Americans estimate the pay gap between executives and unskilled workers is about 30 to 1, when in reality it’s more than 300 to 1, a misunderstanding that Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton has said can make people less likely to fight against the gap.

But critics of the rule argue that having to calculate that ratio will be a costly headache and easily misconstrued.

“While income inequality is an important matter worth addressing,” said Jim Barrall, a global co-chair of legal giant Latham & Watkins’s benefits and compensation practice, “burdening companies and investors with more proxy disclosure is a very poor tool for dealing with it.”

The rule was added as a last-minute mandate to the Dodd-Frank financial reform law in 2010 and sprung forth amid national outrage over massive executive bonuses at businesses such as American International Group that were rescued by taxpayer bailouts.

In the years since the SEC began working on the rule, it has attracted an intense measure of public advocacy, including drawing more than 286,000 public comments. In March, 58 members of Congress wrote a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White urging the agency to finalize its rule by early 2015, saying the culture of skyrocketing pay “hurts working families, is detrimental to employee morale, and goes against what research shows is best for business.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said last month: “There is no excuse for taking five years to get this done. Workers have a right to know whether executive pay at their company has gotten out of balance — and so does the public.”

The proposed rule would apply to about 3,800 large U.S. companies, exempting small businesses and foreign-based firms.

The companies would need to share the ratio in public financial filings, accessible online, within a year of the rule’s effective date. To make it easier for companies to pull the information together, the SEC has said they could take a statistical sample and offer reasonable estimates, instead of compiling each employee’s pay stub.

Although the federal mandate is new, the conversation over how executive pay compares to that of the working class has a long history. Management theorist Peter Drucker suggested, first in 1977, that a lopsided pay balance would erode the teamwork and trust on which businesses depend. A 20-to-1 ratio is the limit for managers who “don’t want resentment and falling morale to hit their companies,” he explained.

Over the past 20 years, the SEC has increasingly required clearer executive-pay disclosures, asking companies to share how they set competitive benchmarks for top managers’ pay and to detail perks such as country club dues and private jets.

But greater transparency also had unintended consequences: Comparing executives at rival firms led companies to notch their top-level pay higher every year to keep their leaders onboard, an upward spiral that ensured the pay gap would continue to grow.

“The theory was disclosure would create embarrassment and lower pay,” said Charles Elson, the director of the John L. Weinberg Center for Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware. “But that was based on the assumption that those who had asked for that kind of money were capable of that kind of embarrassment. And they weren’t.”

Businesses, corporate groups and the SEC’s two Republican members have belittled the disclosure rule as an onerous gift for liberal groups and talking heads that is designed mostly to “shame” corporate leadership, with little regard for the added strain.

The National Association of Manufacturers told the SEC that complying with the rule would force one of its members to rake through 500 international payroll systems covering 130,000 employees, at a cost of $18 million. The SEC, meanwhile, estimated in 2013 that the public companies would need to spend only about $19,000 each to crunch their numbers.

More than a dozen companies — including Whole Foods Market, oil company Noble Energy and the Bank of South Carolina — have already quietly volunteered the information to investors with little fanfare, agony or cost.

NorthWestern Energy, an electric and gas utility based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, began listing its executive-to-worker pay ratio in 2010, believing it gave the company another way “to tell our compensation story and tell our shareholders the value we’re providing them,” said Tim Olson, the company’s senior corporate counsel. The ratio is 24 to 1, meaning the company’s chief makes 24 times more than the median employee.

Others have argued the ratio offers no useful information to shareholders and can be easily misconstrued by employees, investors and customers. Tim Bartl, the president of the Center on Executive Compensation, a group of human resources chiefs that has advocated against the rule, said worker and executive pay are delicate, complicated issues affected by geography, business structure, competition and other factors.

Yet proactive companies, researchers say, could turn their pay ratios into marketing tools. For a working paper this year, Norton, the Harvard Business School professor, offered shoppers a hypothetical choice between two retailers: one with an executive-worker gap of about $1,000-to-$1, similar to Wal-Mart; and one with more equal pay. Respondents were not only more willing to shop at the lower-ratio retailer, they were also happier to spend more: A third of those polled said they would pay more for the same bath towels to a company they believed was more fair.

Out-of-balance pay ratios “will be public shaming, just as all adverse financial results are public shaming,” said Bartlett Naylor, a financial policy advocate with the consumer think tank Public Citizen. “If one reports low returns, skyrocketing expenses, that’s shameful, too. Welcome to capitalism.”

Read More →

The 71 corpses discovered in a truck on an Austrian roadside last week are only a grim glimpse of a fast-expanding wave of human smuggling seizing Europe, said officials who are charged with hunting the smugglers.


Vans that once may have been used to smuggle cigarettes are being used for the much more fragile cargo of humans. On social networks and in person, migrants can pick from a menu of services, ranging from a slippery seat on a rubber dinghy to Greece all the way to a chartered business jet straight to the refugee haven of Sweden.

The long trek across the Western Balkans has taken fresh prominence in recent months after years in which Syrians and Iraqis fleeing war favored a perilous sea route from Libya. Now thousands of migrants set out every day to make the long journey from refugee camps neighboring Syria to the Western European nations that have offered them safe harbor. They do so hand-in-hand with smugglers, who often advertise their services openly on Facebook and other social media sites.

“There is a growing number of networks that we saw in the past were dealing in the trafficking of illegal drugs and are now shifting to people smuggling,” said Robert Črepinko, the head of the organized crime unit at Europol, the European Union’s policing arm. “The number of criminal activities is growing with the same speed as the number of illegal migrants.”

The criminal boom has been so rapid that Europol’s new online monitoring unit, which on July 1 began monitoring terrorist-related social media activity, has recently expanded to monitor smuggling, Črepinko said.

National law enforcement authorities have struggled to keep up with the influx of migrants, as old criminal rings move into new areas of business.

“As a global criminal enterprise, it is very lucrative,” said Patrik Engström, the head of the Swedish police’s national border policing section, who has monitored human smuggling and trafficking for years, and watched as it has taken new life in Europe since the beginning of 2014.

Sweden, along with Germany, has become Europe’s top destination for asylum-seekers after the government announced that Syrian refugees would be granted permanent residency and the right to resettle their entire families within the country’s peaceful borders.

– – – –

Engström said his agency has uncovered schemes to get to Sweden that are as basic as an RV over a bridge and as complicated as a chartered plane that lifted off from Turkey, charging the Syrian passengers about $10,000 each for the privilege. When they landed, they claimed asylum, he said.

The wide range of methods reflects the diverse circumstances from which the asylum-seekers are coming. Syria’s conflict, well into its fifth year, has upended the lives of many middle-class families with deep wells of savings. Many of them might have stayed close to Syria for years in the hopes of returning home before giving up and turning toward Europe.

Asylum-seekers have powerful motivations to make it to wealthy nations such as Germany and Sweden without being detected along the way. If authorities in other E.U. countries detain them, they can be forced to apply for asylum under far less-welcoming circumstances. Hungary has strung up a razor-wire fence along its frontier with Serbia, and Hungarian leaders this week barred their onward journey to Austria. Germany, meanwhile, expects to take up to 800,000 asylum-seekers this year. Critics say that type of patchwork enforcement only fuels the demand for smugglers.

“As it becomes more difficult to move in Europe, the cost for the migrants and the need for smugglers will go up,” said Tuesday Reitano, the head of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.

There is a service for every price point, ranging in the hundreds of dollars for a choppy below-deck voyage across the Mediterranean to thousands of dollars for longer, more complex journeys, law enforcement officials said. In a smartphone era, many of the smuggling services are available on Arabic-language Facebook and other social media sites. Migrants also communicate with one another along the journey using messaging tools such as WhatsApp to warn about where police coverage is heaviest.

“The Syrians are managing their trips in a much more savvy way than any other group that we’ve seen in the history of migration, that I’m aware of,” Reitano said.

The trip is made by boat, foot, rail and bus — and over the more than 1,000 miles between jumping off points in Turkey and the safety of Germany, smugglers are almost always involved in at least part of the journey, law enforcement officials say. Swedish authorities think that 90 percent of refugees reaching their territory used smugglers to ease at least a part of their trip. European officials estimate that the business runs in the billions of dollars.

“In Turkey, the smugglers are much more media-savvy and they cater to a specific audience,” said Izabella Cooper, a spokeswoman for Frontex, the E.U. border policing agency. “On social media, you can simply look up what’s available, there’s a specific date, and a specific type of transportation being offered.”

Until earlier this year, the bulk of crossings came by sea, over the Mediterranean from northern Africa. Now the flow has shifted to the western Balkans, along routes that have long been used by human traffickers, but never at current volumes.

The sea journeys have drawn headlines with all-too-frequent capsized boats. But the Balkan routes also can carry great danger. There may be far more victims than the 71 suspected migrants who perished in the truck in Austria, authorities say. Most of the asylum-seekers making their way to Europe through the western Balkans pay smugglers for each leg of their journey ahead of time, giving their escorts little motivation to make sure they reach their destination safely.

“The Austrian case, and this may sound chilling, is just one case that we’ve uncovered,” said Engström, of the Swedish police. “Now this happens every day, probably every hour, not only that people are transported every day under really hard conditions, but also that they suffocate, but we don’t find them.”

In the few days since Austrian authorities began screening most truck traffic coming from Hungary, they have found several instances in which migrants were packed into vehicles in unsafe circumstances, Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner said this week.

And one man suspected of involvement in the 71 deaths in Austria had been sought by German authorities in connection with a human-smuggling incident a month earlier, said Peter Wiesenberger, a state prosecutor in the southern German district of Deggendorf. He said that German police had stopped a Citroen van on July 25 and found 38 Afghan migrants inside. The driver and a passenger escaped. The car’s temporary license plate was registered under the name of Metodi Georgiev, a 29-year-old Bulgarian national, according to local news reports.

Read More →

The Army, and the military overall, would be better served by retiring some of the generals, colonels and senior lieutenant colonels, and promoting the best captains, majors and junior lieutenant colonels into those roles.


When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Army stood at 480,000 soldiers. Over the next decade, it ballooned to 565,000 soldiers in 2011 and has since shrunk back to 528,000. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last summer that the Army needed to reduce its numbers to as few as 380,000, the lowest since before World War II. It seems likely that the Pentagon will adopt this number as its target for 2020. These cuts will overwhelmingly fall where the recent growth occurred: younger soldiers and officers, nearly all of whom joined to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Army, and the military overall, would be better served by retiring some of the generals, colonels and senior lieutenant colonels, and promoting the best captains, majors and junior lieutenant colonels into those roles.

When the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the Army stood at 480,000 soldiers. Over the next decade, it ballooned to 565,000 soldiers in 2011 and has since shrunk back to 528,000. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last summer that the Army needed to reduce its numbers to as few as 380,000, the lowest since before World War II. It seems likely that the Pentagon will adopt this number as its target for 2020. These cuts will overwhelmingly fall where the recent growth occurred: younger soldiers and officers, nearly all of whom joined to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.

On the officer side, this means dismissing captains and majors — the ranks where people entered the force to fight terrorism. No plans have been announced to scale back the numbers of higher-ranking officers such as senior lieutenant colonels and colonels. (The number of generals is assigned by Congress and is constant at 230 in the Army.) Having more experienced, higher-ranking soldiers and officers means that the force will remain strategically flexible and able to expand rapidly if the need arises — even as it loses junior officers.

But cutting personnel who have the most direct experience with contemporary wars — the senior captains, most majors and the junior lieutenant colonels — erodes U.S. military capabilities in precisely the place they’re needed most.

Most of the colonels and generals leading the Army were trained to fight World War III against the Soviets; most of the captains and majors have trained and fought against al-Qaida, Sunni militias and the Taliban. Unfortunately, few colonels and generals have, in practical terms, been adapted their 1980s and ’90s training to the needs of today’s warfare.

The best evidence for this is that we didn’t win in Iraq and haven’t won in Afghanistan. Military journalist Thomas E. Ricks has argued that America’s generals and colonels have been largely responsible for these failures. Small, transient battlefield successes — the Sunni Awakening in Iraq and partnering with militias in Afghanistan to defeat Taliban groups — were largely products of enterprising junior officers: perceptive lieutenants, captains and occasionally majors. In the past three years, those officers have been promoted to captains, majors and lieutenant colonels — and now they’re the ones on the chopping block.

Another reason to consider promoting mid-level officers into substantial leadership roles is the military’s fast-changing culture. The younger captains, majors and lieutenant colonels did not, for the most part, grow up in a country or a military where being gay was automatically seen as disgraceful; they are also more readily able than prior generations to imagine women in combat. Empowering officers who can help solidify such changes will boost morale and enhance the Army’s fighting capability, especially at a time of austerity and decreased training opportunities. These officers have in many cases served alongside women in combat (or are women themselves). They’re better able to see them as warfighting equals than as irksome obligations or legal liabilities — making these officers ideally suited to help the military transition away from its current culture, in which serial rapists are slapped on the wrist or tacitly endorsed.

I am not suggesting that every colonel or general deserves to be fired to make way for a new generation. I do, however, think that trimming a similar number of colonels and generals — say, 10 percent of captains and majors — would create room for the change the Army badly needs. The number of generals remains constant at 230, and I don’t believe we need fewer colonels — just different ones — so this won’t reduce the actual number of senior leaders in the military. It will, however, open up senior leadership to younger officers. To do this correctly, Congress would have to select which senior officers to retire, at which point the military would select which officers to promote. It could be as straightforward as putting every senior lieutenant colonel, colonel and general under the microscope and getting rid of the least capable.

Some of the greatest leaders I’ve met were general officers, and I was honored to serve with them. But we already evaluate tens of thousands of individuals for secret clearances every year, and as the military reviews the careers of thousands of captains and majors to determine who to dismiss and who to retain, it would make sense to review the senior leadership, too. If the future of warfare is going to be small-scale, counterinsurgency conflicts, the likes of which we’re now fighting in South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania, we should empower the officers who understand at the ground level how to fight.

There’s another consideration that the military needs to face, and this moment of force adjustment would be the perfect time to do it: Senior officers are becoming obsolete faster than ever. The complexity and pace of technological change over the past 15 years have been unprecedented. In a 2011 Army study surveying all ranks about the Army’s program to teach digital literacy, none of the respondents said the program was “on track”; two-thirds said it had problems; and a third characterized it as “substantially behind.” For most captains and majors who were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s and grew up on computers, digital literacy doesn’t need to be taught or mandated — it’s part of life.

At the current pace of promotion, it will take at least a decade for the Army’s officer corps to catch up to today’s technology. Colonels and generals don’t seem to have enough time to learn their current jobs, let alone time to train themselves in the technology that holds promise for the future of warfare. It would be much simpler and more feasible to find and promote those junior and mid-level officers best suited for tomorrow’s wars.

At a time when billion-dollar start-ups are developed and sold by 20-somethings, it’s not such a stretch to imagine that suitable service members in their 30s — three or four among 1,000 — could accept a level of responsibility far beyond the military’s usual promotion progression. After all, Amazon’s chief executive is 50 years old, Microsoft’s is 46, Google’s is 40 and Facebook’s is 29.

Technology isn’t the exclusive province of the young, and nobody would argue to replace the highest-ranking Army general — Chief of Staff Ray Odierno — with a company commander. Out of 95 brigadier generals, however, it seems likely that there’s a major or a junior lieutenant colonel who would be much better equipped than at least one of them to lead the military into the 21st century. The swift promotion, against heavy institutional resistance, of H.R. McMaster, now 51, from colonel to lieutenant general shows that the Pentagon understands that the higher ranks require a certain amount of young, new vision. However, McMaster isn’t going to change a culture all by himself.

There’s as great a need for responsible, mature military leadership as there is for flexibility and change. The bulk of the military’s top decision-makers should be those three- and four-stars who saw us defeat Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War, who trained for battle against Russia or China. That still leaves a lot of room at the top for more flexible, youthful leadership, which could easily be filled by the most qualified junior officers.

While budgets are being cut and wars drawn down, it is tempting to simply realign according to old habits. It’d be better, though, to use this moment of fiscal austerity to overhaul the military at all levels, rather than cutting just the layers that appear bloated. If the Army is serious about building a modern, high-tech force, it’ll consider these changes — and the rest of the military will follow.

– – –

Bonenberger, a student at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is a retired Army captain and combat veteran. He is the author of “Afghan Post.” His email: [email protected]杭州桑拿会所,

Read More →

Those meetings “were definitely a large stumbling block,” said McNabb, 36, who was diagnosed with autism last year.


“I wasn’t on the same page as far as what they were looking for in a person, or maybe the type of person they’d wanted to work with.”

He finally embarked on his professional life about five months ago, when he began working from home for Ultra Testing, which tests software for companies — and where 80 percent of the workforce has a disorder on the autism spectrum.

Many people with autism, which impedes social and communication skills, are unemployed; those who do work often have low-paying jobs. Interviews are hard because many have trouble making eye contact and are sensitive to noise or light.

Yet, like McNabb, some are high-functioning and exceptional at repetitive tasks, recognizing data patterns and finding bugs in software — a good fit for the technology industry. Microsoft, SAP, Freddie Mac and HP Australia have initiated programs to hire people on the autism spectrum.

“It’s definitely been a very good break for me, just getting traction, being able to show that I can be working and contribute to a team,” said McNabb, who lives with his father and stepmother in Flossmoor, Illinois. For years he had helped relatives with computer troubles, volunteering and tinkering at home with operating systems and software to see what makes them tick.

Testers from Ultra, a New York-based, 2 1/2-year-old startup, were hired to find software bugs for the company behind the Webby Awards, which honors Internet excellence.

“They found five to10 times more things than we found ourselves. We were astonished,” said Steve Marchese, executive producer at Webby Media Group. “This is a really smart way to utilize the gifts that people on the spectrum have.”

Hiring people with autism helps companies comply with Labor Department rules that went into effect last year in which 7 percent of staffing at companies that get federal contracts must comprise people with disabilities.

Integration can be challenging. Managing autistic adults often requires enhancing training, adapting work stations, adopting new communication skills and accepting non-traditional work methods. Employees must adjust to the physical workplace with its noises and social interactions. Both sides need to be aware of comparable salaries to avoid exploitation.

Autism affects about 1 in 68 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3.5 million Americans are estimated to have an autism spectrum disorder, which refers to the wide range of symptoms, skills and impairment levels, according to a 2014 study from researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the London School of Economics and Political Science. Many with a high- functioning form, known as Asperger’s syndrome, have average or above-average language skills.

Not all autistic adults can or want to work. Many live in group homes or with their families and need help completing everyday tasks.

Microsoft said last month it began a pilot program in Redmond, Washington, teaming with Specialisterne USA, a nonprofit group that helps autistic people find jobs.

“They have a real passion for detail,” Mark Grein, executive director at Specialisterne, said in an interview from Stamford, Connecticut. “They tend to be very good at following a process, improving a process, optimizing a process.”

SAP SE, the German software maker, has hired 53 workers worldwide since 2012 through its Autism at Work program and is aiming for 1 percent of its staff, currently at 74,500, by 2020.

“We do have clear anecdotal evidence of business benefits from our pilot program,” including gains in productivity, quality, customer relations, people management and innovation, said Jose Velasco, who heads SAP’s autism program in the U.S.

SAP, a Specialisterne partner, has also consulted to 50 companies looking to start similar programs, Velasco said. SAP often relies on local organizations that help people with disabilities to suggest candidates, who then go through a five- week training period.

The employee’s team gets about a half day of autism- awareness training and the employee works with a mentor, many of whom have a family member with autism, Velasco said. Workers with noise sensitivities may wear noise-reduction headphones or work in a quieter area. Some communicate with coworkers mostly by e-mail if they are uncomfortable in face-to-face situations.

Towers Watson & Co., a human resources consulting firm based in New York, also worked with Specialisterne to hire 18 autistic adults for about six months last year to check compensation data for clients. The company is now looking to expand the program in the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA regions, according to a company statement.

Managers “had to attune themselves to how to effectively engage and support a different group of people,” Max Caldwell, a managing director at Towers Watson, said in an interview. “It was a lesson in diversity.”

Companies need to be creative when managing employees with non-traditional communication skills. Ultra’s employees live in 12 states and work mostly from home. Weekly, they fill out an anonymous five-question survey on their happiness and well being. Ultra adjusts its processes at least once a quarter to maximize job satisfaction.

“We are trying to create a culture where we appreciate each other,” said Ultra co-founder Rajesh Anandan. The company is adding four to five employees every six to eight weeks to keep up with demand for services and the vast majority are autistic, he said. “If we are really successful, we’ll employ hundreds of folks, maybe a few thousand folks.”

People who find work through Specialisterne get jobs within standard salary ranges for their descriptions, Grein said.

“Our mantra is, we want sustained employment at market wages,” Grein said. “If current college graduates make $50,000-$60,000, our people should make the same.”

Wage inequity does exist, though it’s primarily seen at companies that only hire people with autism, according to Ari Ne’eman, president of Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which represents people with autism and their families.

“We do see and are concerned by reports that autistic people are employed at below market wages in segregated workplaces,” Ne’eman said. Some of the companies “are paying significantly below comparable wages for non-autistic workers in similar positions” at other companies, he said.

Mortgage company Freddie Mac, which has an internship program for people with autism, is finding that they can fill a variety of positions, including in data analysis and customer service. All the full-time employees hired through that program have worked out, said spokeswoman Ruth Fisher.

At SAP, just two people who started in its program are no longer with the software maker.

“The retention rates for our Autism at Work program are consistent with and no different than other groups of employees,” SAP spokesman Scott Behles said in an e-mail.

A year ago, SAP hired Charles Hollenden to solve customer software issues. The 32-year-old, who has Asperger’s, spent years in a rash of less-than-satisfying retail and customer- service jobs. At night, he’d work at home on his passion: the Minecraft game. He said his disability, which affects him mostly on a social level, held him back in past jobs.

“I have a career now,” said Hollenden, who lives with his parents in Ridley Township, Pennsylvania. “I am doing a job that feels like what I was kind of doing for my hobby.”

Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability in the U.S., according to the Autism Society, an advocacy group.

With statistics like this, companies had “better be prepared to work with them,” said Robert Lux, Freddie Mac’s chief information officer, whose 14-year-old daughter is autistic. “You got to open your mind, let them in. By the time my daughter enters the workforce, I hope it’s not going to be just a handful of companies.”

Read More →

_ Hillary Clinton, speaking to the Democratic Women’s Council in Columbia, South Carolina, May 27, 2015

This is a pretty interesting collection of damning quotes from Hillary Clinton about her erstwhile GOP rivals for the presidency.


We often are wary when politicians start to negatively quote other politicians, because all too frequently those quotes are taken out of context.

We’ve written in the past about some of the statistics surrounding the equal-pay debate — such as the assertion that women make 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. But in this case, we are going to focus on whether Clinton is accurately quoting her potential opponents.

“One Republican candidate dismissed equal pay as ‘a bogus issue.’ ”

Here, Clinton is referring to a quote from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, R, who in 2012 signed a repeal of a 2009 law that allowed equal-pay lawsuits to be filed in state court, in addition to federal courts. He argued that the law — which was crafted and passed when Democrats controlled the state government — was duplicative and “could clog up the legal system,” given there were other administrative and federal options available.

Walker’s quote appeared in a 2012 article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette, titled “Walker faces challenges in winning some female voters.” The article highlighted the repeal of the law and quoted the executive director of the state Democratic Party as saying that Walker approved the repeal “in the dark of night” (a Thursday before Easter) in order not to draw media attention. The article continues:

“Walker said there was no attempt to hide anything, and the bill-signing did nothing harmful to women.”

Clinton claimed that Walker “dismissed equal pay as ‘a bogus issue.’ ” But in context, it appears that Walker is referring to debate over when he signed the repeal, or perhaps that he has a problem with women. It certainly does not appear that he said that concerns about equal pay are bogus.

The Fact Checker contacted Paul Srubas, the reporter of the story. He agreed that “to say he called ‘equal pay’ a bogus issue I think would be misquoting him.” As he put it:

“As best as I can recall and reconstruct, I don’t believe Walker was publicly dismissing the concept of equal pay as ‘a bogus issue.’ I believe he was saying the 2009 equal pay enforcement act was unnecessary and redundant, so he repealed it, and since repealing it created no harm to women, accusing him of hiding his actions by cloak of night is bogus.”

A Clinton spokesman responded: “Walker is very clearly saying he thinks it’s a bogus issue because other laws take care of the problem and we don’t need to legislate more on this.”

(Incidentally, exit polls showed that in 2014 Walker lagged behind the female Democratic challenger by nine percentage points among women, but he coasted to re-election by winning the male vote by 21 percentage points. Walker also narrowly won the votes of white women.)

“Another said Congress was ‘wasting time’ worrying about it.”

In this sentence, Clinton attacks Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., who, like all Senate Republicans, opposed the Democratic-sponsored Paycheck Fairness Act. Again, the battle lines between the parties were drawn over whether the law would result in more litigation. (We obviously take no position on the legislation but trial lawyers tend to be major financial backers of Democrats, not Republicans.)

In a 2014 interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, Rubio was asked about executive actions that President Barack Obama had taken to address the pay gap between men and women. “I think it is a legitimate issue to focus on because of have millions of women trapped in low-paying jobs for a multiple of reasons,” Rubio said, adding that he wanted to find ways to provide more educational opportunities and better career options for women.

He then turned to criticize the Paycheck Fairness Act. Here is the full context of his comment:

“The proposals before the Senate now are really geared toward making it easier to sue an employer. I understand the political benefit of highlighting that and why they’re doing it, but it isn’t going to solve the core of the problem. And I just think we’re wasting time. Meanwhile, an entire generation of young women is caught in low paying jobs with no way to emerge from that into a better paying job.”

In other words, he was concerned about the pay gap but objected, on substantive grounds, to the proposal before the Senate — which had no chance of getting any Republican votes. So the “wasting time” comment referred to debating a politically oriented bill that had no hope of passage. (In fact, by 2014, the bill had been rejected in the Senate several times.) Rubio did not say that Congress was wasting time worrying about it; in fact, he said it was a “legitimate issue to focus on.”

The Clinton spokesman responded: “Rubio absolutely said Congress was wasting its time; his reasoning for believing that isn’t the point.”

“One even said that efforts to guarantee fair pay reminded him of the Soviet Union.”

Finally, Clinton takes on Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. This line is based on a 2012 Huffington Post article headlined “Rand Paul Compares Paycheck Fairness To Soviet Politburo.”

Paul also attacked the Paycheck Fairness Act for encouraging litigation, saying the proposed law would hand powers to judges to determine whether women are paid fairly, which he said would violate free-market principles. It was in that context that he made the reference to the Soviet Union:

“Three hundred million people get to vote everyday on what you should be paid or what the price of goods are. In the Soviet Union, the Politburo decided the price of bread, and they either had no bread or too much bread. So setting prices or wages by the government is always a bad idea. . . . The minute you set up a fairness czar to determine what wages are, you give away freedom. When you give that power to someone to make decisions, they may well discriminate in favor of whoever they want to discriminate in favor of. The market just makes decisions on your ability to do your job.”

Again, Clinton is suggesting that opposition to a Democratic-written bill means opposition to equal pay for women. But her statement here is a bit more cleverly worded. Paul certainly suggested that this particular effort to address the issue reminded him of the Soviet Union, so as phrased, Clinton’s statement is relatively accurate.

The Clinton spokesman said she was not “saying that the Paycheck Fairness Act, something she believes is a piece of the solution, would solve the problem on its own. . . . She specifies several areas that contribute to the problem that could be fixed. Unfortunately, Republicans obstruct attempts to fix any of these problem areas, including repealing state legislation or blocking or dismissing federal legislation.”

In at least two of the quotes — Walker’s and Rubio’s — Clinton has ripped the remarks completely out of context. In all three cases, Clinton is suggesting that opposition to bills crafted by Democrats — which Republicans said would encourage litigation — is tantamount to not caring about the gender pay gap.

Taking statements out of context is an old political game played by both parties. We recall that Clinton supporters protested vehemently when they accused Republicans of twisting out of context remarks she made during the hearings on the Benghazi attacks. But that still does not make the practice acceptable for political discourse.

Read More →