Almost lost in the egregious farm bill Congress repassed this week, again over President George W. Bush’s veto, was something the chief executive mentioned in his veto message — the measure contains yet another outrageous payoff to the Democratic majority’s union overlords. The sop to Big Labor came in the form of what’s known as “Davis-Bacon” requirements for the construction of ethanol plants and other alternative energy projects.
What’s Davis-Bacon? Also known as a mandate for “prevailing wages,” it’s an antiquated, unscientifically calculated wage floor that has the effect of unnecessarily costing taxpayers oodles of dollars while driving away jobs for minority and lower-skilled (but willing) workers.
Unions love Davis-Bacon because it forces contractors to pay all workers hired for a government project at a rate that supposedly is the most common in the area. But many small businesses are excluded from the surveys used to set Davis-Bacon rates, so data from larger, more heavily unionized businesses dominates. Result: Taxpayers pay much more for the same work than they otherwise would. In Camden, N.J., for instance, the costs are 47 percent higher for electricians, 50 percent higher for plumbers and pipe fitters, and 21 percent more for brick masons. Favored brick masons fare even better in Nassau-Suffolk, N.Y., at $49.67 per hour compared with an actual market rate in that area of $25.50.
Note, though, that at such inflated rates, fewer projects are affordable at any one time. That also means fewer jobs are created. Would-be workers for less politically connected businesses are harmed by the artificially ballooning wages.
It should be noted that right-to-work states, where nobody is required to join a union, consistently exhibit higher economic growth rates than forced-unionization states.
But the Democratic leadership in Congress depends on Big Labor for millions of dollars in campaign contributions and immeasurable in-kind contributions that don’t show up on anybody’s campaign reports.
So Democrats routinely do things like attaching Davis-Bacon provisions to every legislative proposal imaginable.
Like the farm bill and the energy bill — the recently withdrawn price-hiking monstrosity designed to combat “global warming” — bills on school construction, water regulation, passenger rail investment, national defense, a housing bailout and even last year’s thankfully defeated amnesty bill, all had Davis-Bacon provisions.
This is tax-paid pork for unions, pure and simple.