Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Flip Flop Alert: Bush reinstates Davis-Bacon

President Bush caved-in to Democrats and reinstated the Davis-Bacon provisions that he originally suspended on September 8, 2005.

Can you say wussy? He's probably taking to drinking Perrier ala flip-flopper-in-chief-Kerry:

The Bush administration will reinstate the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law Nov. 8 in Louisiana, Mississippi and selected other counties where President Bush suspended it in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, lawmakers said Wednesday after a White House meeting.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said White House Chief of Staff Card told the lawmakers about the decision. "We thought it was bad policy and bad politics, and I guess they accepted our argument," King told the Associated Press. King was part of a group led by Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio -- co-chairmen of the Republican Working Group on Labor -- that met with Card...

An editorial from the Appeal-Democrat provides historical context and makes the case for the suspension of the act (emphasis added):

Suspension of Davis-Bacon Act should continue

One of the smartest things President Bush did to reduce recovery costs in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was to suspend Davis-Bacon Act rules in the hardest hit states. But Congress is frantically trying to overrule the president, which would add billions of dollars to the already staggering recovery costs.

Davis-Bacon, a relic of the early 1930s, sets minimum wage levels and other labor rules on federally funded construction projects. And because it mandates that a union-comparable wage be paid to every worker on such projects, the law unnecessarily increases the burden on taxpayers who pay for these projects. It's long been a target of fiscal watchdogs, but persists at the insistence of big labor and big spenders.

In a bid to reduce recovery costs and reduce the regulatory burdens facing contractors cleaning up after the hurricanes, Bush on Sept. 8 ordered that the law be suspended for federal projects in a five-state impact area. We wish he would go further and push to do away with Davis-Bacon altogether. But a full scale drive is on in Washington to override the president's decision, led by labor unions, Democrats and political leaders from the Gulf states. Unless it is turned back, the already staggering costs of recovery will likely grow considerably.

The restore Davis-Bacon Act effort kicked off Monday, with Michigan Sen. Carl Levin claiming the administration was “trying to take advantage of a natural disaster” to avoid paying a “prevailing wage” to disaster recovery workers. Chiming in were Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, both Democrats. At least 204 members of the House have signed onto a bill by Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, aimed at overruling the president and reinstating the law.

Miller has called the president “immoral” for suspending the rules. We define morality differently than Miller, however. Is it moral to ask taxpayers already facing an estimated $200 billion in rebuilding costs to pay higher-than-necessary wages just to line the pockets of a key Democratic Party constituency group? In this case, we think morality calls for minimizing the rebuilding costs and the burden on taxpayers as much as possible.

Davis-Bacon was designed to insulate big labor from the impacts as wages plummeted during the Depression, even while the federal government was embarking on a New Deal building boom. The rules had another effect popular with Jim Crow types: they kept blacks and immigrants off these work sites. The bill also foolishly gave contractors the power to decide for themselves how to define “prevailing wage,” leaving government agencies little leverage in trying to reduce labor costs, assuming any wanted to.

Not only does the act drive up construction costs and add paperwork burdens on contractors, but it prohibits anyone on a job site from earning less than the prevailing wage, even if they are unskilled, entry-level workers. It also bars contractors from using a worker cross-trained as an electrician and a carpenter from performing both functions, compartmentalizing and bloating the workforce.

This is a free country. No one is dragged off the street and forced to work on a federal construction project. The high demand for skilled workers in the Gulf region will ensure that opportunities are plentiful and wages competitive. If workers aren't being paid equitably, they have the option to go elsewhere. Setting a high Davis-Bacon-mandated minimum wage will actually limit the opportunities for entry-level workers hoping for a chance to pick up the skills that will earn them higher wages in the future. And if this is truly a national emergency, big labor and the big spenders just might have to give up their front row seat at the federal trough.

Congress must oppose any effort to reverse the president's decision to suspend Davis-Bacon.

More from the Heritage Foundation: President’s Bold Action on Davis-Bacon Will Aid the Relief Effort

Hat Tip: BizzyBlog via comments.

Update: The Davis-Bacon RINOs lists 37 RINO Republicans who sent a letter to President Bush urging him to re-instate the Davis-Bacon Act:

Rodney Alexander (LA)
Mark Kirk (IL)
Don Sherwood (PA)
Sherry Boehlert (NY)
Randy Kuhl (NY)
John Shimkus (IL)
Jo Ann Emerson (MO)
Ray LaHood (IL)
Rob Simmons (CT)
Phil English (PA)
Steven LaTourette (OH)
Christopher Smith (NJ)
Mike Ferguson (NJ)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ)
John Sweeney (NY)
Mike Fitzpatrick (PA)
John McHugh (NY)
Michael Turner (OH)
Vito Fossella (NY)
Candice Miller (MI)
James Walsh (NY)
Melissa Hart (PA)
Timothy Murphy (PA)
Greg Walden (OR)
Jim Gerlach (PA)
Bob Ney (OH)
Curt Weldon (PA)
Nancy Johnson (CT)
Todd Platts (PA)
Jerry Weller (IL)
Tim Johnson (IL)
Jim Saxton (NJ)
Don Young (AK)
Sue Kelly (NY)
Chris Shays (CT)
Peter King (NY)
Joe Schwarz (MI)



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