Is Making Corporations Pay Wages “Burdensome Government Regulation?”

Dave Johnson

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump and Republicans in general say “burdensome government regulations” are holding the economy back. Phrases like that sure sound ominous, as does another Republican favorite, “big government.” But what do the words actually mean?

Trump: “We’re going to get rid of all these ridiculous – everything is so bad – we’re going to get rid of the regulations that are just destroying us.”

In Trump’s Detroit “economic speech” he said, “The U.S. economy today is twenty-five percent smaller than it would have been without the surge of regulations since 1980. It is estimated that current overregulation is costing our economy as much as $2 trillion dollars a year – that’s money taken straight out of cities like yours.” (By the way, 1980 was the year Ronald Reagan was elected.)

What Are “Burdensome Regulations?”

“Burdensome regulations” is a vague term that sounds bad, like “big government.” What happens when you look at specifics? What are Trump and the Republicans talking about?

A June Politico report, “House Republicans take aim at regulations,” might provide a clue.

House Republicans are taking aim Tuesday at President Barack Obama’s regulatory regime, arguing that the White House has impeded the economic recovery by flooding businesses with new rules.

Just what regulations do Republicans say are holding back business?

The House GOP, in rolling out the third plank of their emerging policy agenda, will target a host of specific policies enacted under the Obama administration — including net neutrality rules, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) put into place by the Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial regulations and a string of rules dealing with energy and climate change.

● Net Neutrality rules keep giant telecommunications corporations from deciding what Americans can and cannot see and send over the internet.

● The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) protects Americans from being scammed, conned and defrauded by financial companies.

● The (too weak) Dodd-Frank financial regulations are about keeping Wall Street from engaging in risky, speculative schemes that wipe out people’s savings, bring down pension funds and destroy the entire economy.

● The “string of rules dealing with energy and climate change” are (too weak) attempts to keep energy companies from completely destroying the entire planet.

Those are the regulations that Republicans were complaining were holding back the economy.

Paying Wages Is A “Burden” On Business

Another area where Trump and Republicans say government is interfering with business involves the wages companies pay workers and the hours they work.

Trump says American wages are too high. CNN: “Trump digs in on ‘wages too high’ comment”:

Donald Trump insisted on Thursday that the U.S. must keep wages low in order to compete with other countries, one day after he dug in on his assertion that “wages are too high” in America.

“Whether it’s taxes or wages, if they’re too high we’re not going to be able to compete with other countries,” Trump said Thursday morning on Fox News.

(Note that Trump’s position on trade is that we should drive down wages here instead of moving jobs to low-wage countries.)

It’s not just Trump, it’s the whole lot of them and for a long, long time:

● 2013, House Republicans Unanimously Vote Down Minimum Wage Increase

● 2014, Senate Republicans block minimum wage increase bill

● 2015, GOP blocks minimum wage, sick leave proposals

● GOP Presidential primary, GOP candidates resoundingly reject the idea of a minimum wage hike.

And it goes back a ways…

● 1988, Democrats Fail to End Filibuster by GOP on Minimum Wage Bill

The Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation established that employers in the United States have to pay wages. Conservatives have been fighting this ever since.

The same Republican anti-worker complaint that “burdensome regulations” are hurting businesses applies to rules requiring employers to pay overtime, stop stealing tips, classifying workers as “independent contractors” and other forms of wage theft.

What About “Big Government”?

“Big Government” is another ominous-sounding phrase Republicans use a lot. But think about this: In the US, government is (or used to be) decision-making by We the People. Those who advocate “smaller government” and “less government” are really advocating for less decision-making by We the People.

Just who or what do they think steps into the vacuum when We the People have less say over the decisions our government makes? Maybe they know the answer, and like it.

Beware the presidential candidate who says he or she wants “less government” and promises to lift burdensome regulations on business.

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