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Job Killers

About a week ago, the Washington Post printed a list of existing and proposed regulations businesses identified as having a negative impact on job growth. The identifications were solicited by a Republican congressman from California, who will no doubt use them as a target list. I cannot imagine that he will invite close scrutiny of this list, which includes such (cough) burdensome regulations as a limit to the toxic chemical discharges of Appalachian mining and government inspection of working conditions along with building inspection. No, Rep. Issa will grandstand about how government interference is costing jobs, and only mutter quietly behind closed doors that mines could afford to employ more miners if only we let them poison the water table, or that businesses could hire a few new workers every so often if only they were allowed to establish working conditions in which a few existing workers died every so often.

But as contemptible as the requested license to poison and similar “job-creating legislation” might be, it at least has the virtue of plausibility. (I say “plausibility” because there’s no guarantee of more jobs with a license to poison, merely the suggestion that we might see some. We’ve seen an awful lot of large corporations pocketing the profits from such incentives, or even cutting staff for short-term gains, to reflect the general monetizing and deregulation of industry generally since the Reagan revolution. But I digress.) Some of the (cough) job-killing regulations cited are not even plausible as job-killers.

Take, for example, a requirement to post notices informing workers of their rights under federal labor law. Really? Really?? How does that boardroom conversation go?

“Well, profits were steady this quarter, and we would like to expand in the widget market to supplement our whatzit manufacture. The process would allow us to employ another two hundred workers. Unfortunately, printing those damned notices—fully six 8-1/2 by 11 sheets of paper—cut too deeply into our budget to allow us to expand our worker base. The money just isn’t there.”

Or maybe it went more like…

“Gee, Bob, you’re just the kind of hot young turk this business needs, and we’d love to bring you into our office at $70k a year. But those damned worker rights notices take up the space where we’d put your cubicle. Sorry. Federal regulation. Our hands are tied.”

Or maybe…

“I don’t understand! The Fitzweiler account looked like it was in the bag. They flipped over the Power Point presentation. They loved our product samples. They were smiling all the way through the plant, right up to the moment…oh my god. The worker rights notices! Fitzweiler saw those, and simply decided not to give anyone a contract. Now I know why none of our competitors got the contract either: they had to live by the federal regulations, too. Damn those pesky federal regulations!”

Yeah, I don’t think so either. But I can easily imagine—and call me a cynical bastard, but I can—some variation on a complaint that “Once the workers started exercising their rights, our profits dropped. Why can’t we just make sure none of them knows what their rights are?” If you could imagine that, maybe you qualify as a cynical bastard, too. Test yourself by trying to figure out the conversation that lay behind a different “job-killing” regulation. What discussion precedes:

“Requiring us to publish how much the chief executive is paid relative to the typical worker will prevent us from hiring.”

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