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Con: A return to prosperity is light-years away if we follow Obama’s road map

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Elaine Chao
September 5, 2009
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, As the nation celebrates Labor Day, are American workers better off?

On Labor Day, millions of Americans will consult their Rand McNally Road Atlas before hitting the highway. But those seeking the quickest route to Lost Jobs and Delayed Recovery need only to follow the Obama-Pelosi Policy Atlas.


The OPPA-preferred route starts in Protectionism, and tells you to take a hard left at Higher Taxes as you speed on to Higher Spending. Don’t miss that head-spinning left at Global Warming or the dizzying spiral of loopy lefts approaching Health Care.


Following this route, you’ll find yourself where we are this Labor Day—mired in high unemployment and rising taxes. Even the kids in the back seat are upset. After all, this trip’s been financed on their credit cards, and they’re not thrilled about being saddled with trillions of dollars in additional debt.


It’s no way to spend a holiday. And no way for our nation to get to Economic Recovery and Job Growth—the places we really need to go.


The OPPA route is nothing new. It follows the decades-old liberal agenda on trade, health care, global warming and mass unionization. That agenda has never brought prosperity to workers.


Consider trade protectionism. It’s been tried—and found wanting—since the Great Depression. Smoot and Hawley ginned up The Tariff Act of 1930 to get America back to work after the Stock Market Crash of ’29. Instead, it destroyed trade so effectively that by 1932, American exports to Europe were just a third of what they had been in 1929. World trade fell two-thirds as other nations retaliated. Jobs evaporated.


Unfortunately, Obama’s first big initiative—the stimulus bill—contained protectionist “Buy American” provisions that have already triggered retaliation from our biggest trading partner, Canada.


This was followed by protectionist legislation targeting Mexican trucking. Mexico is our third-largest trading partner. Our neighbor to the south promptly retaliated by slapping tariffs on 90 American exports. Way to grow the economy, team!


Meanwhile, employers are struggling to survive. They’re looking for ways to cut costs without cutting jobs. The OPPA response: Pile on. The president and Speaker Pelosi spent the summer trying to ram through health-care “reform” that would slap an additional 8 percent payroll tax on employers who can’t afford a government-approved health plan. It’s a prescription for pricing workers right out of jobs.


How about helping working families meet their household bills? Rising energy costs kill jobs and hit America’s poorest the hardest. Yet, OPPA is pushing “global warming” legislation that would require factories, power plants, refineries and other large energy consumers such as schools and hospitals to obtain federal permits to emit carbon. It would drain trillions of dollars out of the private economy and into federal coffers.


The only thing we can say about this legislation with any amount of certainty is that it would cost at least 2.5 million jobs to achieve, at most, a temperature drop of no more than two-tenths of a degree by the 22nd century.


The Obama administration is also working to eliminate traditional worker protections. It is pressing for a union-backed “card check” law that strips workers’ of their right to cast secret ballots in unionization elections. The act would force workers to publicly sign union cards in front of union organizers. Workers who tell organizers they don’t really want to unionize—or to pay those dues—would face pressure to “reconsider.”


The OPPA-recommended route presents awfully bleak vistas: higher taxes, massive deficits pressuring interest rates and inflation, more expensive mandates, punitive bureaucracies, impediments to commerce, forced unionization. All are job killers.


For Labor Day, or any other day, it offers no joy-ride for the American worker.


Elaine L. Chao, who served as secretary of labor in the Bush administration, is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation. Readers may write to her in care of The Heritage Foundation, 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; Web site: www.heritage.org. Information about Heritage’s funding may be found at http://www.heritage.org/about/reports.cfm.

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