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Beneath Growth, a Sea of Poison

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Mike Brownfield
January 6, 2012 at 10:40 am

Today’s jobs report from the Department of Labor was encouraging news for the U.S. economy. It shows that 200,000 jobs were created and the unemployment rate ticked down from 8.7 percent to 8.5 percent. Jobs were created in every sector of the economy save one — government! This report is consistent with other economic indicators and shows that the economy is finally coming out of its malaise. But like any reports, they must be put into context. The creation of 200,000 new jobs is solid growth and above the 130,000 to 150,000 new jobs that must be created to keep up with population growth.  However, this doesn’t mean happy times  are here again.

There are not enough Americans working or looking for work. In fact participation in the labor force is at its lowest point in 30 years as many potential workers are not yet even attempting to find jobs. Moreover, at this stage in a recovery, new jobs should be surging instead of averaging less than 140,000 for the last three months. So all is not well and President Obama should not check the “mission accomplished” box. In fact, Obama’s painful economic policies will only serve to further hamstring America’s economic engine, thereby preventing a truly strong, vibrant economy that the country is capable of having.

The President single-handedly unleashed another poison pill on Wednesday with the White House’s announcement that he will exact another illegal, unconstitutional end-run around Congress with the appointment of three new members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) without Senate approval, all of whom are union officials. Here’s why that matters.

The NLRB is a five-member board that is responsible for investigating unfair labor practices, creating labor-related rules, and conducting elections for labor union representation. Last year the NLRB enacted measures shortening union elections to as little as 14 days, limiting employees’ ability to hear from both sides before they vote, allowing unions to cherry-pick which workers in a company can vote on unionizing, and preventing workers from insisting on a secret ballot in union drives, as Heritage’s James Sherk explains. These measures will make it much easier for unions to organize workers — but at the expense of workers’ rights. If workers want to join a union they have that right — management gets the union it deserves — but the government should not limit their rights in order to press workers into unionizing.

Prior to the President’s appointments, the NLRB had only three sitting members, with the one member’s term ending at the end of 2012. Were the NLRB to go down to two members, it wouldn’t have a quorum to conduct its business, meaning that the President’s Big Labor agenda couldn’t be enacted. Now, though, the President has appointed three new members who will undoubtedly carry out his agenda without any checks or balances.

And that agenda is to bolster America’s unions — a key constituency and political force standing behind the President. Unfortunately, their goal is not primarily to protect workers. The trouble is that the Big Labor agenda is fundamentally at odds with the pro-growth agenda that America is so thirsty for. Sherk explains:

Unions make businesses less competitive and discourage investment. This reduces job growth. Studies show that jobs fall by 5-10 percent at newly organized firms. Going forward, employment grows by three to four percentage points more slowly at unionized businesses than at otherwise identical non-union companies.

In short, America is witnessing President Obama put his Big Labor allies before workers, all in the guise of taking action on behalf of the American people. America’s job creators are sitting on the sidelines, as well, watching as this President takes actions that serve only to inject more poisonous uncertainty into the economy.

Apart from the economic ramifications of the President’s actions, the American people should also remember that his NLRB appointments are a blatantly unconstitutional, tyrannical abuse of power. The U.S. Constitution requires that the President receive the advice and consent of the Senate when making appointments — a requirement that President Obama entirely set aside in order to advance his agenda.

Today, the President may say he is finding success in fighting for the American worker, but in truth he is fighting for his political allies. Beneath the surface of his populist rhetoric, his policies are poisoning strong economic growth. And for the President, the Constitution is collateral damage.

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Obama’s Anti-Energy Policies Are Bankrupting America

Published on May 5, 2011 by HeritageFoundation

Randall Stilley has witnessed firsthand the Obama administration‘s job-killing agenda. As the president and chief executive of Seahawk Drilling, he had to lay off 632 employees before filing for bankruptcy — a direct result of President Obama’s anti-energy policies.

“As an American,” he told us, “you never want to look at your own government and say they’re hurting you personally, they’re hurting your business and they’re doing it in a way that’s irresponsible. I’m not very proud of our government right now and the way they handled this.”

Randall Stilley has witnessed firsthand the Obama administration’s job-killing agenda. As the president and chief executive of Seahawk Drilling, he had to lay off 632 employees before filing for bankruptcy — a direct result of President Barack Obama’s anti-energy policies.

Stilley’s company owned and operated 20 shallow-water rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The lack of energy production — a consequence of Obama’s drilling moratorium and subsequent “permitorium” — led to Seahawk’s demise. Now he’s speaking out, sharing Seahawk’s story in a new video from Heritage and the Institute for Energy Research. (Click to watch.)

It’s an unfortunate example of how policies in Washington are harming American jobs and also squelching energy production at a time when consumers are paying $4-per-gallon for gasoline.

Fortunately, not everyone in the nation’s capital is content with higher prices and fewer jobs. Today the U.S. House considers the first of several bills that directly addresses energy and jobs. Lawmakers will vote today on legislation that requires the Obama administration to conduct oil and natural gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and in the waters offshore Virginia.

It’s a welcome change from the anti-drilling policies first imposed by the Obama administration one year ago. On May 6, 2010, the first moratorium on Gulf drilling took effect, followed by a longer ban that lasted until October. But even after it was lifted, few deepwater permits have been issued.

The long-term implications are disastrous for America. That prompted House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) to pursue a remedy through legislation. Today’s vote would ensure that companies continue energy development by requiring lease sales. Two other bills would speed up the permitting process and craft a long-term plan for offshore lease sales.

“What we’re proposing is to lower gas prices, create American jobs, which ironically will help drive up government revenues, and ultimately, in the wake of all the turmoil we’ve seen in the world, create an environment in which we are energy independent or on a path to energy independence,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) explained yesterday.

Even without the president’s signature, the legislation has already had a positive impact. After it passed in committee, the Obama administration promised to hold one lease sale in 2011. (Ever since 1958, there has been at least one lease sale every year.)

But while one lease sale is better than none, Hastings isn’t satisfied. He wants the Obama administration to hold four lease sales before June 2012  – including one off the coast of Virginia.

Aside from creating new jobs and discovering new sources of energy, the lease sales contribute a substantial sum of revenue for the federal treasury. In 2008, the offshore industry paid $9.4 billion for bids on new leases. Last year, that figure dropped to $979 million in lease bids.

The drop in revenue is a reflection of the Obama administration’s anti-energy policies. And lease sales are only part of the equation. According to the government’s own Energy Information Administration, production in the Gulf of Mexico will drop by 190,000 barrels per day. That means less money from royalty payments on offshore rigs as well.

Faced with mounting criticism, the Obama administration has defended its policies as a safety precaution following last year’s oil spill. But one year later, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement is issuing drilling permits at such a slow pace that it’s hard to swallow the explanation.

At the same time, the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are seeking new ways to penalize energy businesses. As Curtis Dubay and Nick Loris write on The Foundry, a proposal from Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) would significantly increase taxes paid by U.S. oil and gas companies competing abroad — exactly the wrong approach with gas prices on the rise.

Meanwhile, job creators like Leslie Bertucci and Randall Stilley continue to bear the brunt of the Obama administration’s misguided policies. Bertucci, who told us last month about her company’s struggle to survive, has dipped into personal savings to avoid layoffs.

Stilley didn’t have that option at Seahawk. And he’s not optimistic about what the future holds under this administration.

“As an American,” he told us, “you never want to look at your own government and say they’re hurting you personally, they’re hurting your business and they’re doing it in a way that’s irresponsible. I’m not very proud of our government right now and the way they handled this.”

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