Monday, August 23, 2004

High Noon Challenge?

Speaking of the “High Noon Challenge,” this silly gambit was a glomming of the announcement today by the Labor Department of new “flex-time” regulations designed to give workers greater flexibility in constructing their work schedules and better clarifying such regs so as to reduce the instance of related litigation.

Sounds a lot like the sort of idea Bill Clinton once touted, doesn’t it? Also hard to remember that Dems – to say nothing of Republicans - never then made hysterical claims that it would “cost six million Americans their overtime pay.” In a way it’s a pity ‘Pubbies didn’t, as it would be a hoot to whip out the press stories of the time ridiculing such overwrought rhetoric and fire counter-salvo after counter-salvo at their foes now.

Here is the Bushies’ far more mature response:

* 5.4 million salaried workers, who under the previous regulations were unsure if they should be paid overtime, get an ironclad guarantee of overtime rights under the final rule — regardless of their job duties.

* 1.3 million salaried white-collar workers, who were not entitled to overtime pay under the previous regulations, will now be entitled to either overtime pay or higher salaries.

* The changes guarantee overtime to an employee working 50 hours per week managing a restaurant for $15,600 per year; a worker putting in 60 hours a week managing a department store for $18,000 per year; an employee working 42 hours a week supervising a machine shop for $17,000 per year.

* Fraternal Order of Police National President Chuck Canterbury praises the new rules. The regulations... clarify why these [first responder] employees, regardless of their rank or pay level, cannot be classified as executive, administrative or professional employees, and thus be exempted from receiving overtime pay. In addition, the Department acknowledges that the right to overtime compensation may be extended to some public safety employees who are currently classified as exempt because of changes to the regulations.

"Where others were content to ask the Department to say in its final rule only that 'no expansion of law enforcement exemptions is included in or intended by the new rules,' the Fraternal Order of Police said 'today's public safety work is more unique than ever before, and the final regulations must account for the challenges faced by our nation's first responders in the post-9/11 environment,'" Canterbury said. "The final regulations achieve that goal."

Brings to mind a publicity stunt one-time WCW (World Championship Wrestling) president Eric Bischoff once did. At a WCW pay-per-view in the spring of 1998 he billed a match between himself and his then-rival, World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) Chairman Vince McMahon. Bischoff came out to the ring all oiled up and warmed up and looking ready to kick some serious ass. Then McMahon was introduced, and of course, he did not show up. The ref counted to ten, called for the bell, and Bischoff was declared the “winner” by forfeit. Even in the worked world of pro wrestling this angle was seen as being, at best, pointless, and definitely lame.

John Kerry’s incessant “challenges” to the President come across the same way. It’s almost a tacit admission that Kerry is no longer at Bush’s level, if indeed he ever was, due in large part to this Swiftboat Vet problem, and that he’s desperate to lure, trick, or cajole Bush into bailing him out of his predicament.

And Dubya ain’t biting.