Four Questions about President Obama
October 18, 2012
(This entry has been researched and written by request.)
1 — Are you better off today than when President Obama took office?
Most Americans aren’t. Officially, according to the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was 7.6% in January 2009, when President Obama took office, and 7.8% last month. (National Conference of State Legislatures, “Unemployment Drops to 7.8 Percent in September 2012”, October 5th, 2012.) It’s even worse than that—the official unemployment rate doesn’t count all the people who have given up on finding work (they are said to have “dropped out of the labor force”). As has been pointed out, “if the same share of people were participating in the work force today as on the day the president got elected, our unemployment rate would be around 11 percent.” Even the New York Times admits that that’s true. (New York Times, “Fact-Check: An 11 Percent Unemployment Rate?” Catherine Rampell, October 5th, 2012.)
As has been pointed out, we’re moving in the wrong direction: The U. S. economy is currently growing at a rate of 1.3% per year, slower than last year (1.7% in 2011), which was slower than the year before that (3.0% in 2010). (Trading Economics, United States GDP Growth Rate; World Bank, GDP growth (annual %).)
2 — Should workers have a choice about whether to pay union dues, or should unions be able to require them to pay dues as a condition of employment?
Background: Under the federal Taft-Hartley Act, 1947, any state can choose to be a “right-to-work state”. In a right-to-work state, each worker can choose whether to join a union and pay dues or not, and his job cannot be taken away from him for it. In a non-right-to-work state, unions can require that workers pay dues, or the equivalent, to keep their job.
Workers in right-to-work states make about 10% less per hour but face about a 20% lower cost of living, coming out well ahead of workers in non-right-to-work states on net. Right-to-work states also have less unemployment than non-right-to-work states (seasonally adjusted 6.9% vs. 7.5%, in April of 2012). Source: Wikipedia, using data from the U. S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What President Obama has done:
— a — “He pursued ‘Card Check’ legislation that would have stripped workers of the right to vote by secret ballot on whether to unionize.” After he was elected, he remained committed to Card Check. (Wall Street Journal, “President Tells Unions Organizing Act Will Pass”, Kris Maher, March 4th, 2009.) When Congress, in a bipartisan vote, decided not to pass the legislation, the Obama administration enacted similar policies anyway by regulatory fiat. (Charleston Daily Mail, “Employee Free Choice Act becoming law: What Congress rejected, the NLRB simply mandated”, Mark Carter, August 3rd, 2011.)
I believe when folks try and take collective bargaining rights away by passing so-called “right to work” laws—that might also be called “right to work for less” laws—that’s not about economics; that’s about politics.
— c — In 2011, it appeared to some “that President Barack Obama is attempting to kill right-to-work laws in 22 states that make it unnecessary for workers to join unions . . . .” (Newsmax, “GOP Senators Fight Obama for Right-to-Work Laws”, Tom O’Connell, June 14th, 2011.)
The Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) arrogated sweeping new powers to itself in 2011, claiming the authority to tell Boeing that it had to build its new factory in Washington state (not right-to-work) instead of South Carolina (right-to-work), as the Heritage Foundation explains in detail in “National Labor Relations Board Overreach Against Boeing Imperils Jobs and Investment”, Hans A. von Spakovsky and James Sherk, May 11th, 2011. Excerpt:
Section 8(a) of the NLRA states that it shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer to “interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed” by the law or to encourage or discourage membership in a union “by discrimination in regard to hire or tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment.” A typical interference or coercion claim would be a threat by an employer to fire employees if they join a union or to discriminate in their terms of employment, such as wages or hours. But an economic decision to expand production or open a new plant in another location does not fall within either of these prohibitions, even if one of the main reasons for doing so is the business costs incurred during prior strikes.
(Footnotes removed.) They go on to explain how actions like this destroy jobs:
Because they invest less, unionized companies often become less competitive. As a result, these companies create fewer jobs. Research shows that unionized firms shed jobs more frequently and expand less frequently than non-union firms do.
. . .
Such economic decline is the exact effect that unionization has had on the manufacturing sector. Non-union manufacturing businesses employed as many workers in 2010 as they did in 1975. However, unionized manufacturing employment fell by 79 percent during the same period. In the aggregate, only unionized manufacturing jobs have disappeared from the economy.
— d — As if Obama’s 2011 NLRB weren’t already anti-right-to-work enough, in 2012, President Obama made unconstitutional “recess” appointments—while the Senate was not in recess—to fill the board with members too radical to earn confirmation in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blasted the president’s decision and said he is stripping the Senate of its oversight powers, since the NLRB nominees had not been vetted in a hearing.
“What the President did today sets a terrible precedent that could allow any future President to completely cut the Senate out of the confirmation process, appointing his nominees immediately after sending their names up to Congress,” McConnell said in a statement.
(The Hill, “Obama defies lawmakers with recess appointments to labor board”, Kevin Bogardus, January 4th, 2012.)
“The president’s decision to circumvent the American people by installing his appointees at a powerful federal agency, when the Senate was not in recess, and without obtaining the advice and consent of the Senate, is an unprecedented power grab,” McConnell said.
(Washington Examiner, “GOP senators sue Obama over sham labor board nominees”, Paul Bedard, April 17th, 2012.)
Schaumber: “These recess appointments are terribly wrong.” National Review Online, “Recess at the NLRB”, Peter Schaumber, January 20th, 2012.
In Mackie v. Clinton, the D.C. Circuit Court stated that “the President’s constitutional power to make a recess appointment depends literally and absolutely upon the evidence of a vacancy while the Senate is in recess.” . . . The court went on to say:
It is apparent that the purpose of the Recess Appointments Clause was to prevent disruptions in the functioning of government occasioned by periods in which the Senate is unavailable to perform its role of advice and consent. . . .
. . . The president was not faced with such impossibility here.
National Review Online, “The Legality of President Obama’s ‘Recess’ Appointments”, Peter Kirsanow, January 6th, 2012.
3 — Does President Obama believe government should play a bigger and more intrusive role in our daily lives?
Decisions about health care are necessarily very personal, and should be between a patient and his doctor. Obamacare intrudes into the patient-doctor relationship, involving the federal government more than ever before in private health-care decisions.
Ohioans found Obamacare’s individual mandate so repugnant to liberty that they voted against it two to one in 2011 when they approved Issue 3, adding the Healthcare Freedom Amendment to Ohio’s state constitution. (The margin was two to one even though Ohio’s 2011 electorate was probably largely made up of Democrats, turning out to vote against Issue 2.)
Earlier this year, a Heritage Foundation study found that in his first three years in office, President Obama’s administration added four times as many major federal regulations as President Bush in his first three years:
During the first three years of the Obama Administration, 106 new major federal regulations added more than $46 billion per year in new costs for Americans. This is almost four times the number—and more than five times the cost—of the major regulations issued by George W. Bush during his first three years. Hundreds more regulations are winding through the rulemaking pipeline as a consequence of the Dodd–Frank financial-regulation law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency’s global warming crusade, threatening to further weaken an anemic economy and job creation.
Heritage Foundation, “Red Tape Rising: Obama-Era Regulation at the Three-Year Mark”, James L. Gattuso and Diane Katz, March 13th, 2012.
There are now more than 160,000 pages of federal regulations! (Exact figure: 169,301 as of the end of 2011. U. S. Office of the Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations Actual Page Breakdown (1975 through 2011).) Just complying with these regulations costs Americans more than a trillion dollars annually—$1.75 trillion in 2008, according to an estimate from the federal government’s own Small Business Administration. (Small Business Administration, “The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms”, Nicole V. Crain and W. Mark Crain, September 2010, page iv (page 6 of PDF).) Others who attempt to measure the regulatory burden report similar findings. “Current federal regulations plus those coming under Obamacare will cost American taxpayers and businesses $1.8 trillion annually,” according to a study from the Competitive Enterprise Institute. (Washington Examiner, “$1.8 trillion shock: Obama regs cost 20-times estimate”, Paul Bedard, September 20th, 2012.)
4 — Is President Obama making exploration and production of coal and natural gas more difficult? Does that cause the cost of electricity and gas to go up?
Obama made his intentions clear when he was running for president. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle on January 17th, 2008, he said he would “bankrupt” coal power plants (transcript of relevant excerpt below):
What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there.
. . .
So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.
Weekly Standard, “Obama Warned that His Policies Would Bankrupt Coal Power Plant Owners”, Daniel Halper, May 11th, 2012. (Formerly sourced from Hot Air, “Obama: We’ll bankrupt any new coal plants”, Ed Morrissey, November 2nd, 2008.)
Obama understood the disastrous consequences his policies would have for ordinary Americans; later in that same interview, he said that of course his policies would cause energy prices to “skyrocket” (transcript of relevant excerpt below):
Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket . . . .
(See also the Heritage Foundation, “Here Come Obama’s ‘Necessarily Skyrocketing’ Electricity Rates”, Nicolas Loris, June 9th, 2011.)
Congress has prevented Obama from imposing a cap-and-trade scheme—so far. Yet “Power plant operators are shuttering aging coal facilities at record rates”, which, as even Bloomberg News admits, is partly because of Obama’s “war on coal” through EPA regulations. (Bloomberg, “Is Obama Really Waging a War on Coal?” Jason Plautz, October 17th, 2012.)
Coal miners agree. For example,
This summer, Murray Energy Corp., parent company of the Beallsville mine, cut or relocated 56 workers with the closure of the Red Bird West mine near Brilliant. Murray also cut 29 mining jobs from The Ohio Valley Coal Co.’s Powhatan No. 6 Mine. All of this was done, Robert Murray said, because of Obama’s war on coal.
The Steubenville Herald-Star, “Coal miners ask Obama to stop ‘absolute lies’”, Casey Junkins, October 13th, 2012.
A new report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform details a disturbing “pattern of evidence” indicating that not only are the Obama administration’s energy policies responsible for higher oil and gas prices, but that the administration’s energy policy, in fact, is higher gas prices.
. . .
“What President Obama failed to accomplish through the so-called ‘cap and trade’ program, his administration is attempting to accomplish through regulatory roadblocks, energy tax increases, and other targeted efforts to prohibit development of domestic energy resources,” the report concludes.
. . .
According to the report, the administration’s “concerted campaign” to keep energy prices high extends “across government agencies” and constitutes a complete disregard for governmental transparency, much less the pocketbooks of all of those affected by the increased cost of energy.
National Review Online, “Report Finds Obama Policies to Blame for High Energy Prices”, Andrew Stiles, May 23rd, 2011.
That report is available to the public. How exactly does the Obama administration drive up the cost of energy? According to the report,
Administration actions include the threat of new federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing, withdrawal of federal lands, both on and offshore, from energy production, increasingly burdensome requirements for oil shale research and development leases, and a de facto moratorium on drilling permits. . . . In addition, other laws . . . have been used to further suppress domestic oil and gas production, leading to higher gasoline prices and growing dependence on foreign oil.
House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “Rising Energy Costs: The Intentional Result of Government Action”, May 23rd, 2011.