So, yes, the president, responding to a request from a group of Republicans, did move quickly to undercut workers’ wages in Louisiana and Mississippi, and for good measure in areas in Alabama and Florida (beats me how he slipped in those last two states). He invoked emergency powers yesterday to suspend the Davis Bacon Act—effectively a wage cut for tens of thousands of workers in those four states (see his statement below) who might otherwise be paid the area’s prevailing wage on any rebuilding projects funded by federal dollars.
This is an attack on the middle-class, no more misguided then the tax cuts favoring the top one percent of the population. Aside from being anti-union (though this isn’t just a union wage because all workers benefit from prevailing wage laws), this is just stupid economics. Let me get this straight: you’ve got a devastated area, which will need to have people, once they return home, able to spend money to generate economic activity. So, the first thing you do is attack a program that helps blue-collar workers earn a middle-class wage and puts money in peoples' pockets.
So, Mr. President, when you reprise your post 9-11 visionary suggestion and go tell people to get over the crisis by going shopping, where exactly will people get that disposable income from?
So, instead of a Davis-Bacon environment (which attracts highly-skilled, highly productive workers), the country will get more Halliburton culture, which emphasizes over-billing the government for services rendered. Hmmm…
Might I add that his order also shows, to quote Kanye West, that Bush doesn’t care about black people: Davis-Bacon has helped maintain high wages for blacks and other minorities who work in the construction sector.
I expected the Democrats, per habit, to be out-to-lunch on this. But, to my surprise, Nancy Pelosi has attacked Bush for the action, as did Rep. George Miller and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Nothing yet from Harry Reid, Senate Democratic leader, nor leading lights like Hillary Clinton (she's likely doing substance-less photo-ops somewhere).
By the way, there’s a lot of misinformation out there about Davis-Bacon and, since many readers might not understand what Davis-Bacon is, I’ve posted a short explanation.
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
I hereby report that I have exercised my statutory authority under section 6 of the Davis-Bacon Act, 40 U.S.C. 276a-5, to suspend the provisions of sections 276a to 276a-5 of the Davis-Bacon Act in the event of a national emergency. I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a "national emergency" within the meaning of section 6. I have, therefore, suspended the provisions of the Davis-Bacon Act in designated areas in the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. This action is more fully set out in the enclosed proclamation that I have issued today.
GEORGE W. BUSH
THE WHITE HOUSE
September 8, 2005