Philadelphia may be turning into the new San Francisco under Mayor Jim Kenny, complete with all of the bizarre laws we’re used to seeing crop up on the west coast. Just last night we were talking about his plans for certain bars in the “Gayborhood” and the sketchy legal grounds for those proposals. Now there’s another new initiative rolling out which is going to put the screws to every employer in the city. The City of Brotherly love will now bar employers from asking job applicants about their salary history during the hiring process.

Despite a threat from cable giant Comcast to take legal action, Philadelphia has banned employers from asking potential hires to provide their salary history, a move supporters say is a step toward closing the wage gap between men and women.

Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney signed the measure Monday and said he’s confident the bill can withstand legal challenges.

“I know that Comcast and the business community are committed to ending wage discrimination, and I’m hopeful that moving forward we can have a better partnership on this and other issues of concern to business owners and their employees,” he said. “This doesn’t need to be an either/or argument — what is good for the people of Philadelphia is good for business, too.”

This is almost beyond belief. The hiring and screening process when considering applicants for a job is also a negotiating session. Highly qualified and desirable applicants argue for the best compensation package they can get while employers evaluate what they can afford to pay and try to minimize labor costs. Part of that process involves knowing what applicants have traditionally earned as part of understanding how valued they were at their previous place of employment. Rules like this are examples of unwarranted government intrusion on the private sector serving no purpose other than scoring political points.

How this is supposed to close the “gender gap” in wages is a mystery since so many factors go into what people earn at any given job. It also carries with it the implication that it is somehow the city’s business to institute some sort of standardized wage for jobs. There are few ideas more destructive to productivity and personal achievement than that. The whole idea of excelling in your field is to prove that you are more valuable, giving you the ability to command higher compensation and achieve success. Standardizing everything is a hallmark of socialism, though I’m not sure Mayor Kenney would object all that much to the label.

You can lump this idea in with the “ban the box” movement which we’ve covered here before. (That’s the one where the manager is forbidden from finding out if his new accountant just got out of jail for embezzlement.) The more you forbid employers from asking questions during the hiring process, the more you retard growth, productivity and – eventually – employment. Failing companies with less productive workers don’t tend to thrive and hire more people.

Philadelphia was once a thriving city which served as a center for economic growth and prosperity. By the time the Democrats are done, it will be as dead as the Camden shipyards.