- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Laboring to kill the American Dream

They're at it again. On the heels of a controversial decision to enforce federal workplace safety standards in home offices, the Labor Department recently issued another controversial advisory opinion that would make it harder to offer stock options to hourly employees a prime recruiting tool for high-tech start-ups in an increasingly tight labor market ("Labor letter makes firms hesitant of stock options," Jan. 13).

Under the proposed federal rules, companies that offer stock options to workers who punch a time clock would have to recalculate their base pay for overtime purposes. If you make $6 an hour, your company owes you time and a half or, in this case, $9 an hour for every hour of overtime. That's been the law of the land for more than 60 years. Now the Labor Department wants to change that and force accountants to guesstimate the value of your stock options. Say the accountants project that your options are worth $4 per hour. Your $6 base pay would be recalculated to $10 per hour (though you're not actually paid any more per hour). Theoretically, you would earn $15 per hour on overtime. Labor Department bureaucrats think this will be a boon for hourly workers. They're wrong. Many firms that already provide options to hourly employees will have to cut back on overtime in effect, shrinking their pay. For many businesses that are considering offering options to their hourly workers, the new federal rules will make it more complicated (estimating the net present value of stock options of not yet public firms is very difficult) and more costly (who wants to pay $15 an hour overtime instead of $9?). That means businesses probably won't be able to offer options to the guys on the shop floor leaving them out of the greatest bull market in American history. Some benefit.

The new rules will also hurt entrepreneurs who are creating so many of America's new jobs and world-beating products. Why? Many cash-strapped small businesses can't afford big hourly salaries but make up the difference with options. (These options have turned many secretaries and other hourly employees into millionaires at companies such as Microsoft and America Online.) Without options, it is harder to lure skilled hourly workers away from secure jobs at established companies. That means many new businesses will not be able to hire the employees they need to get started killing the American Dream for some entrepreneurs.

The Washington area, which is home to more than 3,000 technology companies, will be among the hardest hit. Nationwide, more than half of the firms surveyed by Arthur Andersen reported that they offered stock options while an additional one-third were considering giving options. If those figures hold up for the D.C. area, thousands of local workers and hundreds of entrepreneurs will be worse off. Why does the Labor Department want to punish their success?

MERRICK CAREY

Chief executive officer

Lexington Institute

Arlington

Center for Individual Rights objects to article on court case

On Jan. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act in a case growing out of Christy Brzonkala's rape allegation against two fellow Virginia Tech students, one of whom is our client. The Jan. 10 article, "Court to weigh case of violence statute," misstates the facts and judicial findings.

The article states that "A trial judge and federal appeals court agreed that, while [Miss Brzonkala] suffered horrible violence, she couldn't seek a remedy in federal court… ." While it is true that the courts ruled out a federal remedy, they never considered the truth of the allegation.

In fact, when the allegation was scrutinized both by a criminal grand jury and Virginia Tech the evidence was found wanting. Thus, it is simply not true that "few dispute that Miss Brzonkala was sexually assaulted," as the article claims.

Moreover, just because the university's judicial finding did not satisfy Miss Brzonkala, it does not mean that "the complaint she filed with the university was mishandled," as is asserted in the article and by her.

CURT A. LEVEY

Director of legal & public affairs

The Center for Individual Rights

Washington

Index column on libraries under distortion

It is unfortunate that The Washington Times chose to run a column from Dr. Laura Schlessinger that distorts the facts about public access to information at our nation's libraries ("Library group distorts rights," Talking With Dr. Laura, Family Times, Jan. 4).

First, the American Library Association (ALA) does not now and never has suggested that children be allowed to access pornography at the library. And, no librarian I have ever known in over 27 years of library work in this region ever allowed or encouraged such access. Every day librarians work with children, families and library users of all ages to find appropriate and good sources of information.

The library profession helps people learn how to find information. Now with the Internet and other electronic sources, the ALA encourages all libraries to adopt Internet-use policies that protect both children and public access to information. Virtually all libraries already have such policies.

As for the art exhibit at the San Diego Public Library, what Dr. Laura fails to mention is that the local library commission held a public meeting after the complaint to discuss the paintings. The only people who came to protest were the couple who brought the original grievance. Many community members came to voice their support for the artist and the library. Dr. Laura is apparently trying to create an issue that simply doesn't exist for the residents of San Diego.

Our nation's libraries have a long and honorable tradition of serving their communities. Unfortunately, Dr. Laura and her followers appear determined to impose their view of what is "right" regardless of the facts or feelings of others who use these services.

LAURENCE S. DICKTER

Silver Spring

Poll reminds us of the cries of 'partisanship' during impeachment

It's highly commendable that one year after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to impeach President Clinton, The Washington Times reminds us that this is a type of guy who is still fighting "the legacy spin war" and even wants to dupe us in a historical sense. ("A year later, Americans warm to impeachment," Dec. 18). Where some critics once chided President Reagan for his "Hollywood" perspective on history, we now see Mr. Clinton is 10 times worse and wants history itself to exclude Clintonesque lies.

In this sense, Rep. Asa Hutchinson is quite correct in expressing concern about what will be in the history books regarding the Clinton administration 10 years or 50 years from now. And we see that Rep. Lindsey Graham is courageously trying to recover from the stench of political stink bombs that were lobbed his way at the height of the partisan battles. But unfortunately none of the chief participants have yet coldly and soberly observed that, for the task of actually removing Mr. Clinton from office, perhaps the worst mistake made was that all of the House managers were from the Republican Party. It sent the wrong signals and allowed the constitutional process to be eroded by "partisanship-baiting."

For the good of our country, Mr. Clinton should have actually been removed from the presidency. In order to do that, some of the House managers who took the case to the Senate should have been from the Democratic Party.

Heaven forbid that there should ever again be an American president as corrupt as Mr. Clinton. But if there is, it would be ridiculous, disgraceful and even dangerous to allow such a person to remain in office chiefly because U.S. senators could shout "partisanship" at House managers exclusively from one party as an excuse for not doing what is right during impeachment proceedings.

As for now, never forget that the charge of "partisanship" was constantly used in the Senate as the chief excuse that kept Mr. Clinton in office. If his minions had not been able to so that, we would have easily been rid of him.

THOMAS BOUSHIER

Arlington

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