Hemingway: Using taxpayers to offer unions sweet deals on labor contracts 

Part two in a two-part series.

Even by Washington, D.C.’s usual Orwellian standards, the idea that the “Annual Report of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class” would turn out to be a smorgasbord of payoffs to politically influential labor unions is appalling. Nowhere is the report’s doublespeak dishonesty more evident than the section on “Responsible Federal Contracting.”

The trouble is that in this context, the phrase really means “big money for Big Labor.” More specifically, it means one item in particular on the union wish list: “high road” contracting policy.

Federal contracts would go not to the lowest bidder, but to companies that pay a “living wage” and meet other criteria defined by the government.

Industry group Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents some 25,000 mostly nonunion contractors, told The Daily Caller last month that “high road” contracting policy could increase the cost of each contract by 20 to 30 percent. Some $500 billion in federal contracts are awarded each year.

In other words, the White House wants to rig federal contract criteria so that unions will be favored in the contracts and then be paid more for the privilege. According to the Middle Class Task Force report, currently there are “inadequate controls” on the firms that get federal contracts, notably those with “substandard wages and benefits.”

In a White House memo obtained by The Examiner, the policy’s rationale is based largely on the charge that “contractors can ultimately impose [indirect] costs ... contribut[ing] to social problems that will increase the need for federal or other governmental actions.”

In other words, without going beyond the already-generous prevailing wage laws and procurement requirements, workers on federal contracts might be paid so little they’ll have to go on welfare. This is nonsense on union-made stilts.

To address the factual underpinnings of these claims, nine Republican senators wrote a scathing letter about the matter to Peter Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“Indeed, [the White House has] included an utter lack of information regarding the factors that would form the basis for contracting decisions under the ‘High Road’ initiative, any cost/benefit analysis that would support the initiative, and any measures that would mitigate the negative effects of the proposal,” the senators wrote.

“Moreover, our staffs have been notified that detailed briefings will occur only after the administration has reached a decision on this proposal,” the letter said.

Orszag has yet to respond. Until then, the White House is poised to impose mandates that almost assuredly cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. They aren’t lifting a finger to justify their actions to taxpayers.

None of this is terribly surprising when paired with Monday’s revelations in The Examiner. The executive director of the White House Middle Class Task Force, Jared Bernstein, recently was president of a think tank working with unions to create a retirement system that would have the government confiscate your 401(k) to prop up potentially trillions of dollars in failing union pension plans. Bernstein is making the White House’s policy recommendations about “retirement security.”

The report also spends two pages advocating for card-check legislation to eliminate secret ballots in labor elections. Not only will this allow unions to bully workers, but it’s a means to forcing employers into multiemployer pension plans, which will cover up union mismanagement by spreading liabilities to more companies and killing jobs.

Who does the White House Middle Class Task Force think will pay for all this union largesse? It sure looks like unions spent $400 million electing Democrats in 2008, and in exchange they want billions from middle-class taxpayers.

Mark Hemingway is an editorial staff writer for The Washington Examiner.



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