House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.


December 18, 2007

McKeon op-ed on Regulation, Litigation, and Taxation

The following commentary from Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) was originally published online at on December 18, 2007.

As the year draws to a close, many of us find ourselves reflecting. We look back on what has happened during the past year and what we expect for the future. As lawmakers, those of us elected to serve engage in a special type of reflection on how well we have served the American people.

At a time when American families are struggling to cope with the rising costs of higher education, health care, and even the fuel to heat their homes this winter, we have a particular obligation to advance an agenda of economic freedom and security. While our economy's fundamentals are strong - we are in the midst of the longest period of uninterrupted job growth on record, the unemployment rate remains low, and real income and wages have been rising - hardworking American families are still grappling with economic uncertainty.

It is in this environment that a new report has been released chronicling the Democratic Congress's economic record. Entitled "Death by a Thousand Cuts: Democrats' War on American Jobs," this report from House Republicans paints a stark picture of the job-killing, innovation-stifling policy agenda that has been pursued since Democrats took control of Congress in January.

Simply put, it has been an agenda of regulation, litigation, and taxation.

Sometimes aggressively, sometimes cunningly, Democrats have advanced a series of policies that threaten to bog down America's job-creating engine in a quagmire of redundant bureaucracy and costly litigation. In one bill after the next, we have seen an agenda that favors labor bosses and trial lawyers at the expense of free enterprise and American ingenuity.

In the opening hours of the 110th Congress, Democrats proposed a minimum wage hike that ignored the needs of small businesses and their employees. Republican prodding helped ensure a degree of small business relief was included in the measure that became law, but Democrats have stubbornly refused to embrace the comprehensive Republican plan, which includes small business health plans to allow small businesses to band together to provide high quality health care options for their employees at a lower cost.

While recalcitrant on the needs of small businesses, Democrats have not hesitated to promote the wishes of the special interests that helped get them elected. Trial lawyers are surely salivating over the new rights to sue established by the Democratic Congress, and union leaders can look forward to the Democrats' union-growth agenda.

The Democrats' "fair pay" bill would dismantle the statute of limitations established by the 1964 Civil Rights Act for challenging allegedly discriminatory employment practices and replace it with a new system in which the litigation clock is restarted with every paycheck. This leaves employers and entrepreneurs open to legal threat for generations, and undermines the solvency of workplace retirement plans.

Further departing from established civil rights law, Democrats this year advanced legislation that creates new employment protections on the basis of an individual's perceived sexual orientation. Legislating and holding employers legally responsible for their perceptions sets a dangerous precedent that is almost certain to be decided not by Congress but by the Courts, where trial lawyers and unelected judges will sort out the vague, undefined mandates set forth by Democrats.

Adding insult to injury, Democrats have unleashed an all-out assault on democracy in the workplace with their deceptively named "Employee Free Choice Act." The reality of this union power-grab is a system in which workers are stripped of the right to a secret-ballot unionizing election, instead subjected to strong-arm tactics and possible union intimidation.

Another cleverly titled bill, the so-called "RESPECT Act," redefines the classification of a supervisor under the National Labor Relations Act in a transparent attempt to inflate the number of dues-paying union members.

The icing on the bureaucratic cake, however, is the Democrats' aggressive expansion of the Depression-era Davis-Bacon wage mandates. In one bill after another, Democrats have imposed or expanded the reach of Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" mandates, which use flawed calculations to impose a bureaucratic wage system on federal contracts. By inflating labor rates, Davis-Bacon wages increase the costs of federal projects by as much as 15 percent - costs which get passed on to the taxpayers - and force private companies to do hundreds of millions of dollars of excess administrative work each year.

Couple the unions-and-lawyers agenda with the Democrats' plans to impose crippling tax hikes on American families and businesses and a bleak reality emerges: Democrats are waging a war on American jobs and, ultimately, on our nation's competitiveness.

Reflecting on the agenda of the Democratic Congress, it's easy to understand why American families are struggling with uncertainty. What's more difficult to foresee is whether, after a year of tax hikes and bureaucratic mandates, Democrats will recognize the pressure being placed on American families and businesses and respond with the type of reassuring pro-growth, low-tax agenda that we need.

Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, is Ranking Republican on the House Education & Labor Committee.