NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 22, 2010

The home "weatherization" jobs in the stimulus bill were subjected to Davis-Bacon wage regulations -- a favorite of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department -- under which federal Labor Department officials establish "prevailing wage" rates that must be paid.  Why do unions like this system?  Because the "prevailing wages" are determined in a way that guarantees they are usually more than the actual market wage, sometimes by large margins.  All that finagling takes a certain amount of bureaucracy, however -- and time, says Slate. 

According to the GAO report: 

  • The Department of Labor spent most of last year trying to determine the prevailing wage is for weatherization work, a determination that had to be made for each of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States.
  • As a result, the Department of Energy apparently weatherized only 22,000 homes under the program.
  • Another pre-existing program, which doesn't have to comply with Davis-Bacon, appears to have weatherized about 100,000 homes. 

That's OK.  It's not as if speed was important last year in terms of putting people to work.  Oh wait, it was, says Slate. 

"If you allocate money to weatherize homes, the homeowner gets the benefit of lower energy bills.  You right away put people back to work, many of whom in the construction industry and in the housing industry are out of work right now.  They are immediately put to work doing something," President Obama told attendees at a recent Town Hall meeting in Elkhart, Indiana. 

Instead, a year was wasted on mindless, union-demanded bureaucratic attempts to disingenuously replicate the labor market.  Did Obama not know this would happen when he allowed the stimulus to be Davis-Baconized, or did he not care?  He knows and cares, but is too weak to stand up to the unions, says Slate. 

Source: Mickey Kaus, "Unions Are Crippling Obama -- Exhibit A," Slate, February 18, 2010.


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