The dysfunction of American government is on parade this Labor Day, as Republican President Donald Trump reverses labor advances instituted by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama.
Trump, ostensibly to eliminate job-killing regulations, has overturned a bevy of Obama-era policies that represented a step forward for women and minority workers. Many of these rules were promulgated by Obama in the form of an executive order, which lacks the imprimatur of Congress and the assurance of permanence. Obama said he was forced to act unilaterally because Republicans wouldn’t cooperate with him.
Government by fiat causes cynicism, wastes government resources and leads to the suffering of vulnerable people
Here are some of the Obama initiatives that Trump has reversed;
- Trump revoked Obama’s executive order to narrow the wage gap by requiring large employers to report pay data by race, ethnicity and gender (age was not included) to the EEOC. The Council of Economic Advisers states the male/female wage gap in the U.S. is 2.5 percentage points larger than the average among industrialized countries. Women in full-time jobs earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes.
- Trump revoked Obama’s executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose violations of 14 federal labor laws pertaining to workplace safety, wages and discrimination. A 2010 Government Accountability Office investigation showed that companies with rampant violations were being awarded millions in federal contracts.
- Trump revoked Obama’s executive order prohibiting federal contractors from taking adverse employment actions against employees who disclose compensation information to other employees.
Executive orders may be a necessary evil. They have been around for many decades and some undoubtedly are very valuable. But they should be used with extreme caution.
Undocumented “Dreamers” will pay the price of two-party gridlock
The repeal of an executive order does not just lead to cynicism and waste taxpayer dollars, it can cause real suffering to vulnerable people. It is, after all, like rolling the dice. There is no assurance that the next office holder will agree. Trump is expected to announce this week that he is overturning Obama’s executive order granting work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children. Reportedly, Trump will give Congress six months to enact legislation before the program ends. Regardless of who is right, it is cruel and indefensible to subject young people to this kind of needless anguish.
Of course, all of Trump’s executive orders will have the force of law just as long as he is president.