When is a presidential recess appointment less than an appointment? It would seem when Congress isn't in recess. This Friday morning, January 25, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia unanimously invalidated President Obama's three appointments - Sharon Block, Richard Griffin and Terence Flynn - to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) of January 4, 2012. The Obama administration is expected to appeal the case, known as Noel Canning v. NLRB, to the U.S. Supreme Court. As Flynn stepped down last summer and another member left in December, the normally five-member NLRB now has only one legitimate member, Mark Pearce.
The increasing overlap of labor and political activism is an insidious form of public corruption in this country. It enables union officials to deemphasize their role of representing workers at the bargaining table in favor of advocating policies to socialize the economy, building incestuous relationships with politicians, and fattening their bank accounts. This tendency was heavily felt in 2012, a presidential election year. Union leaders recognized the need to re-elect their ally and benefactor, President Barack Obama, over someone who was a wealthy Republican with a strong business background; i.e., someone they truly could despise. They got what they wanted. In the process, they further built a political infrastructure. Yet union leaders also experienced reversals of fortune at the state level - most of all, in Michigan - where they had been used to getting their way.
A presidential re-election typically triggers a cabinet reshuffling. The U.S. Department of Labor now can be considered part of the process. Yesterday afternoon, January 9, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her resignation. Solis, previously a four-term Democratic congresswoman from California, had won the job on the strength of her aggressive championing of union interests. In a statement issued shortly thereafter, President Obama lauded Solis as "a tireless champion for working families," adding that "her efforts have helped train workers for the jobs of the future, protect workers' health and safety and put millions of Americans back to work."
The more the media covers the "fiscal cliff" fiasco, the more perspective is lost. It is really quite simple. Because the Republicans unilaterally jettisoned their trademark anti-tax stance, they will get nothing in return. The Democrats are not going to cut spending. In fact, the new tax revenues will fuel new spending, that will be leveraged into even more debt.
The pre-emptive Republican capitulation decoupled the tax issue from the spending issue, precluding any "Grand Bargain'" or even token spending cuts. The Democrats trademark stance of protecting social programs like Medicare and Social Security from cuts is intact. Thus, Obama is off the hook. He will pay no political price with his own base, nor will he feel any pressure to provide leadership in averting national bankruptcy.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), normally with five members, now has three. And not long from now, it may have just one. President Obama's apparent desire to circumvent Senate intent is part of the problem. On Wednesday, December 5, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard oral arguments in a case concerning Obama's filling of three vacant NLRB slots nearly a year ago. The case, Noel Canning v. NLRB, originated in a complaint filed by a Washington State business that the president had usurped the Senate's constitutional powers of appointment because lawmakers were not in recess. And since these were not actual recess appointments, the president lacked the authority to make them. The eventual outcome will have implications for the board's ability to operate over the long term.
And now there are two dozen. This Tuesday, December 11, the Michigan House of Representatives passed, and Governor Rick Snyder signed, a pair of laws designed to protect employees from having to pay dues (or "agency fees" in lieu of joining) to a union in order to keep their jobs. The measures, one each applying to the private and public sector, make Michigan the nation's 24th state with "Right to Work" legislation. "We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality," stated Gov. Snyder during an evening press conference following passage. Unions are taking the opposite view. About 12,500 opponents showed up at the State Capitol Building in Lansing to protest, with about 2,500, many of them shouting slogans, jamming the interior.
The new, improved Reverend Al Sharpton has been establishing a Washington, D.C. presence ever since President Obama took office nearly four years ago. But apparently, the New York City-based minister, politician and media personality hasn't evolved from his attitude about the need to pay bills on time. Last week the Washington Post reported that Sharpton's nonprofit vehicle, National Action Network (NAN), is seven months behind on its rent for downtown Washington building space it sublets from the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials, or COMTO. The overall debt now exceeds $28,000. His top aide, Rachel Noerdlinger, insists NAN has made good on all past due balances. Yet given Sharpton's history of leaving creditors out in the cold, COMTO would do well to be skeptical.
The transformation of the American economy and polity into a racial spoils system has been a defining goal of President Obama's first term in office. It is set to become more defining in his second term, especially in light of a federal appeals court ruling two weeks ago. Obama, by various accounts, wants to be more aggressive about suing banks, employers, schools and other institutions whose practices, however unintentionally, adversely affect "disadvantaged" (read: nonwhite) populations. This is the doctrine of "disparate impact."
"The unbridled growth of crony unionism and government corruption will destroy the United States as we know it." This statement may strike many as sheer hyperbole. But its author, Mallory Factor, a political scientist at The Citadel, knows whereof he writes. His new book, "Shadowbosses: Government Unions Control America and Rob Taxpayers Blind" (New York: Center Street), makes a credible case, and a well-sourced one, that our country may be in the early stages of a ruinous dystopia, courtesy of public-sector unions. In pursuing their interests, argues the author, these labor organizations hold taxpaying citizens hostage to unsustainable wage/salary, pension, health care and other contractual commitments. Municipal bankruptcy filings this year by San Bernardino and Stockton, Calif. may be a mere taste of things to come.