Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

College and offense-screening: a message from the White House

In light of President Obama’s (quite admirable) recent comments on college as a place for the open exchange of ideas, could his administration call off its rules pressuring colleges to adopt unconstitutional speech codes? [Hans Bader, Glenn Reynolds, USA Today] “University of California considering recognizing a ‘right’ to be ‘free from … expressions of intolerance'” [Eugene Volokh; regents go back to drawing board; Sarah McLaughlin/FIRE; AAUP] “Deciding who is eligible to complain about microaggressions is itself an act by which the majority imposes its will.” [Megan McArdle] And the New Yorker contributes a politically correct “Lord of the Flies.”

NLRB: we’re coming after franchisors and subcontractors

In a long-feared ruling, the Obama National Labor Relations Board has ruled that a company that employs subcontractors or engages in franchising can over a wide range of situations be deemed a “joint employer” for purposes of liability for labor law violations and obligation to bargain over wages and working conditions with subcontractors’ or franchisees’ work forces. The decision imperils many of the most successful business models on the American economic scene. I’ve got a write-up at Cato observing that the ruling is likely to wreak havoc with, among many other sector, Silicon Valley and sharing-economy launches and asking “One wonders whether many of the smart New Economy people who bought into the Obama administration’s promises really knew what they were buying.”

More coverage of the NLRB’s Browning-Ferris ruling: Reuters (quotes me on the not-bright prospects for Hill action); Seyfarth Shaw; Tim Devaney, The Hill; “Good week to change name of NLRB to National Labor Resuscitation Board.” [Jonathan Segal] And, from standpoints supportive of the ruling, Al-Jazeera and Prof. Catherine Fisk/On Labor.

P.S.: At the Weekly Standard, Andrew B. Wilson notes that Obama wage/hour czar David Weil doubles as a key ideologist of the kill-outsourcing crowd.

Too much occupational licensure

Hugh Morley, Bergen Record:

[New Jersey’s] licensed sector now covers about 20 percent of the workforce. Jobs as diverse — and sometimes as seemingly mundane — as barbers, movers and warehousemen, librarians, and career counselors can’t be done legally without getting state approval in New Jersey, usually by paying a fee, submitting personal information, and taking training or educational courses.

Nationwide, the share of jobs requiring licenses is even higher: 25 percent, up from around 5 percent in the 1950s. With economist Milton Friedman in the lead, libertarians have long criticized occupational licensure for restricting competition, limiting consumer choice, raising prices, and curtailing the opportunities of excluded workers, including many poorer persons and new workforce entrants. But more recently discontent with occupational licensure has spread broadly across the ideological spectrum, as with a Brookings study we linked in February. And now the Obama administration — citing Cato! — lends its weight with a new critique. [David Boaz/Cato, Tim Sandefur/Pacific Legal, Glenn Reynolds/USA Today, Stephen Slivinski/No Water Economists]

More: the city of Austin’s new ban on unlicensed household hauling will hurt informal laborers without helping homeowners [Chuck DeVore]

Obama’s regulatory push


[Image: Heritage Foundation]

James Gattuso and Diane Katz at Heritage tote up some of the numbers on the Obama administration’s wave of regulation:

In its first six years, the Obama Administration imposed 184 major regulations on the private sector. That figure is more than twice the number imposed by the Bush Administration in its first six years….

Overall, the cost of new mandates and restrictions imposed by the Obama Administration now totals $78.9 billion annually. This is more than double the $30.7 billion in annual costs imposed at the same point in the George W. Bush Administration.

Much, much more is ahead, especially in areas like labor and employment, where the administration is pursuing a frankly unilateral course of legal changes that would never meet with approval if submitted as legislation to the present Congress.

Obama curtails police military surplus program

What, no more free surplus bayonets and grenade launchers? Radley Balko:

According to NBC News, the new policy will stop “tanks and other tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, firearms and ammunition measuring .50-caliber and larger, grenade launchers and bayonets” from being given to local police agencies.

Additionally, the new policy would attach some restrictions and conditions to the transfer of other equipment, “including armored tactical vehicles like those used in Ferguson, as well as many types of firearms, ammunition and explosives.” These restrictions include requiring the agencies to present “a clear and persuasive explanation of the need for the controlled equipment,” adopt community-oriented policing strategies, agree to “close federal oversight and monitoring overseen by a new federal agency with the power to conduct local compliance reviews,” train officers who will be using the gear, and keep data on how the equipment is used and with what results.

A spokesman for the Fraternal Order of Police has already promised to fight the plan. Despite the changes to the 1033 surplus program, so far as I can tell, municipalities and states will remain perfectly free to purchase most of the named categories of equipment; they’ll just have to do so on the open market with their own money. Of course, once they are constrained to weigh such purchases against other uses of public funds, most will probably have little interest in doing so — which is part of the point we critics have been making.

Radley Balko himself deserves applause for having led the way on the issue of police militarization, both when he was at the Cato Institute and more recently as an independent reporter and Washington Post commentator, above all in his book Rise of the Warrior Cop. More of his work on the issue at Cato’s Letter (2013), at this video, and in a white paper on paramilitary police raids, as well as a general link to Cato’s work on the subject by many authors. I’ve covered the subject in many posts here and elsewhere, as well as in a podcast.

State of the Union 2015

As I did last year I’m tweeting reactions to President Obama’s State of the Union address so you wouldn’t have to watch. Here are Twitter highlights, mostly in regular rather than reverse chronological order:

More: Cato scholars respond in a video:

Obama: let’s step up federal cop subsidies

It’s like a parody of one’s worst expectations: President Obama refuses to curtail the federal police militarization program, instead calling for a big hike in federal spending on aid to local departments with the usual micromanaging strings attached. [The Guardian] The administration has now gathered some useful information on the Pentagon’s 1033 surplus-gear program, but still has no plans to improve data gathering on police use of lethal force [Washington Post editorial] More from USA Today: “The Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, has waged an intense lobbying campaign to keep the surplus equipment flowing,” and its executive director specifically speaks up in favor of the transfer of armored vehicles and personnel carriers. More: Trevor Timm.

Related: Conor Friedersdorf gathers stories of cops reinstated in union arbitration from Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Miami, Sarasota, and other cities. He concludes:

I’d rather see 10 wrongful terminations than one person wrongfully shot and killed. Because good police officers and bad police officers pay the same union dues and are equally entitled to labor representation, police unions have pushed for arbitration procedures that skew in the opposite direction. Why have we let them? If at-will employment, the standard that would best protect the public, is not currently possible, arbitration proceedings should at a minimum be transparent and fully reviewable so that miscarriages of justice are known when they happen. With full facts, the public would favor at-will employment eventually.

You can’t tackle the excessive force problem credibly unless you tackle the power of the police unions. Period.

August 4 roundup

  • Administration tees up massively expensive regulation docket for after election [Sam Batkins, American Action Forum]
  • More on FedEx’s resistance to fed demands that it snoop in boxes [WSJ Law Blog, earlier]
  • Ethics war escalates between Cuomo and U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, but is sniping in press suitable role for prosecutor? [New York Post, Ira Stoll]
  • “Mom Hires Craigslist Driver for 9-Year-Old Son, Gets Thrown in Jail” [Lenore Skenazy]
  • One-way fee shifts, available to prevailing plaintiffs but not defendants: why aren’t they more controversial? [New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Watch]
  • Water shutoff woes sprang from Detroit’s “pay-if-you-want culture” [Nolan Finley, Detroit News]
  • “CPSC Still Trying to Crush Small Round Magnet Toys; Last Surviving American Seller Zen Magnets Fights Back” [Brian Doherty]

SCOTUS: EPA overstepped law in regulating CO2

In a complex decision yesterday, the Supreme Court struck down in part and upheld in part the Environmental Protection Agency’s attempt to regulate large emitters of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) [McClatchy/Federalist Society]. A key portion of the holding, writes Jonathan Adler at Volokh, is the finding that the EPA

is not permitted to rewrite the applicable statutory emission thresholds. The latter conclusion, in particular, is an important reaffirmation that agencies are not allowed to rewrite the statutes that they administer. But today’s decision was not a total loss for the EPA, however, as the Court also concluded that it was reasonable for the EPA to interpret the Act to allow for the regulation of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from sources already subject to regulation under the PSD and Title V [large stationary source] program. What this means is that large stationary sources (think big power plants and industrial boilers) that are already regulated as major stationary sources under these programs will have to control GHG emissions when they control other emissions. But sources that only emit large amounts of GHGs will not become subject to EPA’s regulatory authority under these provisions.

From my colleague Andrew Grossman at Cato:

At issue was one of the Obama Administration’s earliest efforts to skirt Congress and achieve its major policy goals unilaterally through aggressive executive action….

Autocrat tea bag
The Court, in a lead opinion by Justice Scalia, called it “patently unreasonable—not to say outrageous.” EPA, it held, must abide by the statute: “An agency has no power to ‘tailor’ legislation to bureaucratic policy goals by rewriting unambiguous statutory terms.” And if such tailoring is required to avoid a plainly “absurd result” at odds with congressional intentions, then obviously there is obviously something wrong with the agency’s interpretation of the statute. To hold otherwise, the Court recognized, “would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers” by allowing the executive to revise Congress’s handiwork. …

The Court’s decision may be a prelude of more to come. Since the Obama Administration issued its first round of greenhouse gas regulations, it has become even more aggressive in wielding executive power so as to circumvent the need to work with Congress on legislation. That includes recent actions on such issues as immigration, welfare reform, and drug enforcement.

Four liberal justices dissented, while Justices Alito and Thomas argued that the Scalia-led plurality were too accommodating of the EPA’s assertion of power.