Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cry Wolf

Donald Cohen is the director of the Cry Wolf Project, a nonprofit research network that identifies and exposes misleading rhetoric about the economy, regulation and government, and he has a timely opinion piece in today's Los Angeles Times.

Since 2003, the California Chamber of Commerce has published an annual hit list of bills it labels job killers. The list has included state legislation to protect consumers, workers and the environment, and to raise revenue to fund public services or support middle- and working-class families.

No politician — Democrat or Republican — wants to be known as someone who kills jobs, so many of them will avoid supporting any bill so labeled. Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger used the list as a to-do list for his veto pen. His Democratic predecessor, Gray Davis, vetoed some of its top targets.

The chamber's argument is always the same: If "job-killer proposal X" passes, companies will go bankrupt, shrink or move out of California. Excessive taxes, regulations and paperwork, especially on small businesses, will crush private sector investment.

To make certain the politicians get the message, the Chamber issues plenty of advertisements to hammer home its point with the pols' constituents by the sheer power of repetition. All too often laws designed for consumer or environmental protection never get enacted because of these tactics. A few, however, have managed to squeak by, and Donald Cohen lists a few which have and the impact those laws have had on California's economy and business climate.

Here's just one of his examples:

In 2002, California was the first state to create a paid family leave insurance program, which helps family members care for children or elderly parents without losing their jobs. The chamber lobbied vigorously to kill the bill but was unable to stop it. At the time, chamber President Allan Zaremberg described the law as a coming disaster for business, saying, "We're opposed to a lot of bills, but this is one of the worst." A lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business predicted, "It will be the biggest financial burden for small businesses in decades."

Now, eight years later, an extensive survey of employers and employees by economists Ruth Milkman and Eileen Applebaum found that the law isn't the costly job killer that business warned about. In fact, the survey found the leave law helped reduce turnover and increased employee loyalty while helping families meet the challenges of working and caring for their children.

Not quite the job killer the Chamber claimed it would be, was it? In fact, the law established what one "job-killer" maintained decades ago: we do better when we all do better.

That's something the California Legislature and the US Congress might want to keep in mind.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home