September 30, 2015 12:56 PM
On September 28, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced The Protecting American Jobs Act, S. 2084, which would relieve the National Labor Relations Board of its power to prosecute and adjudicate labor disputes.
The NLRB no longer operates as Congress intended—as neutral arbiter that represents the public interest in labor disputes. Under the Obama administration, the Board has overturned a number of longstanding precedents that arbitrarily benefit labor unions at the expense of worker choice and the economy.
By removing the NLRB’s adjudicatory power, private-sector labor law would no longer flip-flop on the whim of political appointees and which political party holds the executive office. This would bring increased certainty to labor relations, a benefit to all parties involved—workers, unions, and business.
As Sen. Lee said in a statement, “For far too long, the NLRB has acted as judge, jury and executioner for labor disputes in this country… The havoc they have wrought by upsetting decades of established labor law has cost countless jobs.”
For example, in a case involving Browning-Ferris Industries, the Board overturned 30 year precedent that determined when a company may be held liable for labor violations committed by another employer with which they contract. This decision has far-reaching implications that will disrupt many kinds of business arrangements—contractors, franchises, and all types of contingent work—that are responsible for creating jobs. At a time when millions of individuals are looking for work, it is especially inappropriate to impede the growth of small businesses that create 60 percent of all new jobs.
September 29, 2015 12:48 PM
Today is the 25th anniversary of the famous bet between economist Julian Simon and biologist Paul Ehrlich over the price of five metals: chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten. The bet has become legendary over the last quarter century because it stands as a proxy for two very different views: one that is optimistic about the future of the world and the ability of human beings to make life better, and one that is profoundly pessimistic and holds that human beings are consigned to a future of material poverty and misery. Julian Simon embraced the former view and Paul Ehrlich, to this day, emphatically represents the latter.
Simon and Ehrlich were both public intellectuals with influence well outside of university economics and biology departments, although Ehrlich was far better known at the time—he had appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson six times by the time he and Simon agreed on the bet. I’ll let Prof. Pierre Desrochers of the University of Toronto describe the wager itself:
In 1980, economist Julian L Simon challenged Paul R Ehrlich, the biologist and author of the best-selling Population Bomb, to put his money where his catastrophist mouth was by staking $10,000 on his belief that ‘the cost of non-government-controlled raw materials… will not rise in the long run’, with the minimum period of time over which the bet could take place being one year. If, as Ehrlich believed, the store of valuable resources was absolutely finite and subject to ever-increasing demand, the resources’ price would rise. Simon, however, argued that in a market economy characterised by freely determined prices and secured property rights, a rise in the price of a valuable resource could only be temporary as it would provide incentives for people to look for more of it, to produce and use it more efficiently, and to develop substitutes. In the long run, even non-renewable resources would become ever-less scarce as they are ultimately created by the always renewable and ever-expanding human intellect.
The short version of story, of course, is that Simon won the bet when, 10 years later, all five of the commodities had declined in price. Ehrlich paid up, but never conceded the underlying point, continuing to write and proselytize about the impending global disaster that overpopulation and resource depletion were supposedly going to create. He has continued to be cited and featured as an éminence grise among environmentalists, appearing in such charming projects as the 2002 documentary Thank You for Not Breeding.
September 29, 2015 10:27 AM
Over at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fastlane blog, Greg Nadeau, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, has a post touting USDOT’s support for off-peak freight delivery pilot projects underway in New York City and Pensacola, Florida.
The problem of local traffic is well-known to any major U.S. city; truck operators suffer when forced to crawl through crowded city streets, and residents suffer when trucks block travel lanes or parking access. With commuter traffic lighter and parking more available, off-peak hours should make delivery easier for truck drivers as well as peak commuters and people scrambling for parking.
Funding in both pilots will be used to help businesses retool their operations to accommodate shipments during off hours and help distributors reconfigure routes and supply chains through low-cost, operational strategies.
Now this is all well and good, and Administrator Nadeau deserves credit for promoting a smart strategy to ease congestion and improve freight flows. However, it is a bit ironic for USDOT to be touting the very real benefits of off-peak freight movements while they are simultaneously working to push more freight movements into the morning peak hours.
Back in 2011, USDOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revised the hours-of-service (HOS) rules that must be followed by truckers and bus drivers, aiming to reduce crashes associated with fatigue. CEI criticized the proposal in formal comments to the agency, arguing that the HOS rules would not improve safety and that the agency was abusing scholarly research to support its bogus findings.
One particularly egregious problem with the HOS rules involves off-peak scheduling. Under federal regulations, truckers may work up to 60 hours over seven days or 70 hours over eight days (commonly referred to as the weekly limit), in addition to a 14-hour daily work limit and 11-hour daily driving limit. Drivers are permitted to “restart” the weekly limit by taking 34 hours off duty.
Under rules that came into force in 2013, drivers would be required to include two consecutive 1am to 5am periods in that 34-hour restart and would only be able to restart once per week. Confused yet? Take a look at this handy chart from the Journal of Commerce:
September 28, 2015 1:59 PM
As I detailed here last week, in a case involving Browning-Ferris Industries, the National Labor Relations Board decided to greatly expand when an employer is responsible for another employers’ employees. By overturning decades-old precedent, the NLRB decision threatens jobs across the country and disrupts thousands of successful business relationships. But, unfortunately, the NLRB is not done interfering with common labor arrangements across the country.
Until September 30, the NLRB is inviting amicus briefs to address issues raised in Miller & Anderson. The Board asks whether it should overturn precedent established in Oakwood and allow employees to organize mixed bargaining units that include solely employed employees and jointly employed employees.
Amy Cocuzza submitted the brief on behalf of the NLRB’s Office of the General Counsel and it shines a light on how the Board members are likely to ultimately rule. Cocuzza’s brief makes two primary arguments on why Oakwood should be overturned: 1) the current precedent unnecessarily constricts employees’ statutory right to self-organization, and 2) the changing employment landscape and increase in contingent workers.
Under Oakwood, temporary or contingent workers may not be included in a bargaining unit with employees of the user company employing these workers without the consent of both the user employer and the labor supplier employer.
September 28, 2015 11:58 AM
When we find ourselves debating specific issues having to do with economics and business, we often forget how overwhelming the evidence is for the superiority free markets in general. Whether it’s our friends at a place liked AEI—“Take a bow, capitalism — nearly 1 billion people have been taken out of extreme poverty in 20 years”—or celebrities like U2 front-man Bono—“Capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid”—it’s very clear that a free, productive economy brings the prosperity that alternate systems have consistently failed to deliver.
Because this big picture is often lost amid the details of politics, it’s especially refreshing when we see someone highlighting this fact with a clear message. Researchers and academics often talk about the real causes behind prosperity and poverty, but those discussions rarely break through into the popular media. As we’ve long argued at CEI, market advocates need access to a broad-based communications outlet that reaches the majority of the American public—like TV advertising.
September 28, 2015 7:30 AM
A slow week closed with a bang, with Friday’s Federal Register containing 15 proposed regulations, 25 final regulations, and 502 pages. Throughout the week, new regulations cover everything from bird-hunting to sorghum.
On to the data:
- Last week, 84 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 77 the previous week.
- That’s the equivalent of a new regulation precisely every two hours.
- So far in 2015, 2,467 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 3,316 new regulations this year, far fewer than the usual total of 3,500-plus.
- Last week, 1,301 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,876 pages the previous week.
- Currently at 58,108 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 78,210 pages.
- Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. 21 such rules have been published so far this year, none in the past week.
- The total estimated compliance cost of 2015’s economically significant regulations ranges from $1.69 billion to $1.81 billion for the current year.
- 209 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published so far this year.
- So far in 2015, 400 new rules affect small businesses; 56 of them are classified as significant.
September 25, 2015 6:02 PM
President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a three-and-a-half page joint statement on climate change on 25th September during the Chinese leader’s state visit to Washington, DC. This follows the climate agreement that Presidents Obama and Xi made on 12th November 2014 when Obama visited China.
>Both leaders commit “to work together and with others toward an ambitious, successful Paris outcome” that makes progress toward keeping the increase in the global mean temperature below 2 degrees centigrade. “Paris outcome” refers to the new international agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol that is currently being negotiated and is due to be signed at COP-21 (the seventeenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Paris in December.
Press reports have focused on the announcement that China will begin an emissions trading (or cap-and-trade) system for greenhouse gas emissions from electric generation and most industries by 2017. But just as with the Obama-Xi deal last year, China does not commit to actual emissions reductions.
Instead, the statement re-affirms “their commitment to reach an ambitious agreement in 2015 that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances.” Translated from UN-speak, this means that, as with the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, developed countries will be expected to undertake targets and timetables for reducing emissions, while developing countries will not.
September 25, 2015 6:00 PM
Campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced she opposes the Keystone XL Pipeline. Keystone foes had pressed her for months to declare her opposition, but until this week she took no side in the controversy, explaining that, as former head of the department reviewing the project, she did not want to “second guess” President Obama and Secretary Kerry, and would “wait and see” what they decide. In July, she told a New Hampshire voter who queried her on Keystone, “If it’s still undecided when I become President, I will answer your question.”
Well, officially it’s still undecided, so Clinton’s action confirms what many of us suspected – Obama and Kerry long ago decided to kill the pipeline through a deny-by-delay strategy.
On announcing her opposition, Clinton criticized Keystone as “a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change.” She offered a fuller explanation the next day in a blog post on Medium.com:
“We shouldn’t be building a pipeline dedicated to moving North America’s dirtiest fuel through our communities — we should be focused on what it will take to make America the clean energy superpower of the 21st century. For too long, the Keystone XL pipeline has been a distraction from the real challenges facing our energy sector — and the job-creating investments that we should be making to meet them.”
The Keystone project would be funded solely by private investors putting their own capital at risk. “We” – that is, political elites – shouldn’t allow that. “We” should only allow investment in “clean energy.” Sounds like central planning.
Pope Francis Barely Mentions Climate Change in Speeches at the United Nations, Congress, and the White HouseSeptember 25, 2015 5:58 PM
Pope Francis cooled his rhetoric on climate change and the need to de-industrialize the world in order to help the poor in his three speeches to political bodies during his first trip to the United States this past week. Francis and his Vatican entourage arrived direct from Cuba on 22nd September at Andrews Air Force Base, where he was greeted by President and Mrs. Obama.
Appearing the next morning on the White House lawn with the President, the Pope said, “I find it encouraging that you are proposing an initiative for reducing air pollution. Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.”
On Thursday morning, Francis became the first Pope to address a joint meeting of Congress. He didn’t mention climate change once, although he did call on Congress to exert itself to “to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity.”
In his address to the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit at UN headquarters in New York City on 24th September, Pope Francis spoke at length on the connection between protecting the environment and “putting an end to exclusion.” Francis uses “the excluded” as a catchall term for various categories of downtrodden people.
His argument is convoluted, but here is perhaps the key passage:
September 25, 2015 2:20 PM
Yesterday the Foundation for Economic Education’s “Anything Peaceful” blog carried the news that editor Max Borders was leaving his position directing content for FEE.org and FEE’s long-running magazine, The Freeman. Over the past three years Max has been an eloquent voice for liberty and an excellent curator of editorial talent, publishing content from an impressive stable of regular contributors, including my colleague Iain Murray.