July 15, 2011
by Diana Furchtgott-Roth
Job creation slowing, unemployment is high. Reasonable people might believe that President Obama would do all that he can to help employers create jobs.
But his Spring Regulatory Agenda, released in July and available at www.reginfo.gov, would hobble employers with additional costly regulations.
The contents of the Spring Regulatory Agenda are even more extraordinary in light of Obama's stated pursuit of regulatory simplicity and reform.
On Monday, Obama issued an executive order asking independent agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board to evaluate the costs and benefits of their regulations. This follows a similar executive order made to Cabinet agencies in January.
But the president's spring regulatory agenda contains 4,257 proposed rules, up from 4,225 proposed rules in the fall, and 3,943 this time last year. On the one hand, Obama asks for simplification. On the other hand, his agencies spew paperwork requirements.
Take one small set of Labor Department rules from the Office of Federal Contract Compliance governing rules on federal contractors. This small office has jurisdiction over 26 million workers, about 22 percent of the civilian work force.
One proposed rule, titled "Affirmative Action and Nondiscrimination Obligations of Contractors and Subcontractors Regarding Protected Veterans," takes up 67 pages in the Federal Register. Not single- or double-spaced pages, but pages with three columns of dense type.
Discrimination against veterans is already illegal, and the unemployment rate for all veterans is lower than the unemployment rate of non-veterans. But the proposed rule would require new procedures for federal contractors that would be time-consuming and costly.
As anyone who has run a business knows, all this paperwork imposes a substantial burden, taking time from more useful activities. The end result will be fewer employers, and fewer jobs for everyone, including veterans.
Then, how about the Construction Contractor Affirmative Action Requirements? This proposed rule "will strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the affirmative action program requirements for federal and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, particularly in the area of recruitment and job training."
The rule would set affirmative action rules for minorities and women at on-site construction jobs. Now, there's a reason more women are not represented in on-site construction -- they're not usually as strong as men, and may prefer working in the service sector.
Another rule being developed is the Non Discrimination in Compensation: Compensation Data Collection Tool. This could require firms to keep records of the race, sex, and earnings of employees, so the government could check that women were being paid no less than men.
A similar law, the Paycheck Fairness Act, did not pass Congress last year, so the Labor Department seeks to achieve the same ends through regulation. Although the proposed rule is aimed at federal contractors, "it may be used to conduct establishment-specific, contractorwide, and industry-wide analyses."
With a high unemployment rate, and employers who can locate offshore, Obama needs to make America employers' preferred place to do business and hire workers. The Spring Regulatory Agenda does just the opposite.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, was a Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute from 2005 to 2011.
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