Elizabeth Warren's war on job destroyers

Unhinged right-winger attacks senator for impeding those sainted "job creators." Here's what's really happening

Published January 14, 2014 3:37PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
(Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

This post originally appeared on Demos.

Zac Bissonnette has what almost reads as a satirical piece at Bloomberg titled "Elizabeth Warren's War on Job Creators." It is not totally clear whom "job creators" refers to, as Bissonnette does not address that in the piece. I think he just means "bosses" and seeing as bosses also lay people off, I figured I'd just rename them job destroyers.

The bulk of Bissonnette's piece is him just coming humorously unhinged at Elizabeth Warren's effort to prevent employers from discriminating against people based upon their credit history. It is a pretty tame idea in the grand scheme of things and also pretty appealing. It is not fair that someone is denied a job because they have had personal financial difficulties. Eliminating that information from the selection process is therefore a victory for fairness.

His stream of consciousness horror at this proposed regulation is at times hard to follow, but one piece worth exploring is the permissibility of employer discrimination. His argument for credit discrimination basically consists of listing two pretty silly ways employers are allowed to discriminate between job applications:

  1. Whether they are an athlete.
  2. What college they went to.

From this, somehow we are to conclude that therefore credit discrimination is permissible. But why not race discrimination then? Why not gender discrimination? Why not religion? Why not nationality? Why not pregnancy? Why not age? Why not disability? Since we allow discrimination based upon whether someone is an athlete and what college they went to, it apparently follows we should allow all kinds of discrimination. So perhaps a repeal of the Civil Rights Act is in order?

Picking someone for a job is inherently discriminatory in a basic sense: You pick one and exclude the others. But as a society, we've decided that the ways in which you may discriminate against applicants should be limited to aid in the achievement of a number of social goals. Even if there were evidence that it made some difference (and in the case of credit history there is not), we do not think it is socially wise to make it more difficult for people to secure employment just because they are pregnant, old, black or Jewish. Because market income is the institution we have constructed to distribute most of the vital resources in this country, maximum inclusion in that institution, especially for vulnerable and disfavored populations, is critically important.

Those who have had personal financial difficulties causing them to miss payments or even go into bankruptcy are not generally the rich and well-to-do. The last thing we should want to do, from a social perspective, is allow them to be disproportionately walled off from employment, creating a spiral of ever-greater personal financial difficulties and ever-greater labor market exclusion. That is why you put in place this kind of anti-discrimination measure. This idea isn't hard to understand and is not particularly novel either.

By Matt Bruenig

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