The Labor Department this week changed some of its regulations in order to bring the notion of overtime pay into the 21st century. The changes don’t affect the tens of millions of lower-paid workers who count on making time-and-a-half if they are required to put in more than 40 hours a week on the job–and that’s as it should be, for these low earners should not be exploited by their employers. The new rules contain exemptions for nearly all blue-collar and public-safety workers, including police, firefighters, emergency personnel, and licensed practical nurses. And if you make less than $23,660 a year full-time (up from $8,060 under the old rules), you automatically qualify for overtime if you work overtime, no matter what you earn. Conversely, some of you who make more than $100,000 a year can forget about overtime pay. The department also seems to have tightened up the old rules that allowed time-consuming, lawyer-enriching class actions to be filed over simple violations that could be corrected simply.

What the new rules make clear is that certain white-collar and managerial employees who hold extensive responsibilities and work at a salaried, not an hourly rate–such as paralegals, computer operators, and, yes, journalists like me–are to be considered white-collar folks (which they are) and thus won’t qualify for overtime pay unless their annual salaries fall below the threshold of guaranteed pay. (The new regs also get rid of a bunch of obsolete job titles such as “key punch operator” and “straw boss”–when was the last time a guy you met at a party announced to you, “I’m a straw boss”?).

That make sense. The starting salary for paralegals, who perform complex support tasks in law offices, is now around $40,000 a year, for example. The Labor Department wanted to get rid of the spectacle of highly educated, well-compensated desk-workers treating themselves like assembly-liners and demanding time-and-a-half whenever their boss asked them to put in an extra hour or two to meet a deadline. That was the case at the Washington Post a few years ago. Posties are some of the highest-paid reporters on the planet (when last I looked, they started at around $70,000, and that was a few years ago), but they all started singing “Joe Hill” one day in an effort to collect time-and-a-half  for chasing fires after 5 p.m. I can assure you that I myself, a veteran of six years of newspaper reporting (plus eight years on magazines) would have blushed to have asked for extra pay for the evenings and hours I put in–even on my first job, when my salary, on my first reporting job, was only $12,000 a year. I was a pro, and that was that.

Naturally, however, our beloved sisters at the National Organization for Women are screaming about the new rules as yet another conspiracy by the plutocratic Bush Administration to keep the ladies in their corsets and kitchens by keeping ’em poor. And even though millions of workers who lacked overtime-pay protection Here’s an excerpt from the latest blast from the NOW website:

“‘The Bush administration is sacrificing working families on the altar of corporate greed,’ said [NOW president Kim] Gandy. ‘We are witnessing a concerted and interconnected campaign to undermine 65 years of fair labor law and worker protections. Bush and conservative leaders in Congress have set out on a course to save their large, corporate donors millions of dollars by removing troublesome workers from overtime coverage; cutting down on expensive lawsuits with stricter “class action” requirements; adding “new” workers eligible for overtime to cover their tracks.'”

And here’s another cri de coeur from Kim:

“‘All families are struggling to make ends meet in this poor economy–especially single mothers. What happens when she has to work several hours of overtime a week in her so-called “management” position but doesn’t receive proper compensation to pay for the babysitter?’ asked Gandy. ‘This results in burning a huge hole in her pocketbook.'”

Naturally Kim ignores: 1) the fact that the economy is not “poor” right now but in a state of recovery; and 2) the federal child-care tax credit that’s precisely designed so that working moms won’t be penalized for paying their babysitters. But what’s this about “so-called ‘management’ positions”? Wake up to the 21st century and smell the decaf, Kim. Millions of women work at real management positions nowadays. It’s insulting to them to have their highly responsible jobs portrayed as “so-called” and the women who work them cast as helpless victims in need of big strong government protection.

This week on our home page, the IWF’s own Carrie Lukas takes on another big-government-is-good assumption of the radical feminists: that tax cuts harm women (presumably by cutting back on those government programs they need so much. Carrie’s article introduces the newest IWF report, whose theme is that women directly benefit when the  taxes that they and their husbands pay are low. (The rads always forget that millions of women, married and unmarried, have to pay taxes, too–and maybe they’d rather keep their money than have the government spend it for them.)

Carrie writes:

“[W]omen have much to gain from reductions in tax rates. High income taxes result in women having fewer resources to spend as they see fit. Taxes also distort women’s decision-making processes: high marginal tax rates discourage some women from entering the workforce because they keep so little of what they earn, while forcing other women who would prefer to stay home to get a job to make ends meet.

“Not only are women particularly sensitive to changes in tax rates, women also face high marginal tax rates due to the tax code’s progressivity and its unfair treatment of married couples….

“Instead of encouraging the government to take and control women’s money, feminists should support changes in tax law that will reduce government’s burden on women and free women to make choices based on their own preferences. Women would particularly benefit from reductions in income tax rates, and from reform that gives married couples the option of filing as individuals instead of jointly.”

Read the whole report here (you need Adobe).