As the next Congressional fight over payroll tax extensions and unemployment benefits and pipelines gets set up in the next few weeks for either its final chapter or to be kicked down the road a bit farther, one or the other, you're going to hear a lot from our Republican friends about how much they value work and workers; most especially, they'll tell you, they value American jobs for American workers.
After all, they'll say, creating American jobs is the most important thing of all.
But if we were to look back over just the last few months, some would tell us, we could quickly find examples of how Republicans promote ideas that don't seem to value work or workers at all, much less American jobs.
Well as it turns out, "some" seem to be right; to illustrate one of those examples we'll look back a month or two or three to a time some Republicans might wish was long, long, ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
A successful comedian usually becomes more megalomaniacal as the success barometer rises. Initial success might be achieved from stand-up but then the comedian envisions a sitcom, then Broadway, albums, extended tours, Europe, and then his or her own production company. These things are all fine. Don't do dinner theater. Don't open stuff, like shopping centers or bowling alleys. Don't do fairs, especially if you follow the pig contest.
--From the book "How To Be A Stand-Up Comic", by Richard Belzer
So...the House Republicans went and promoted and passed out their payroll tax cut plan, and within that plan was a demand that the Junkie XL Pipeline - sorry, that should be Keystone XL Pipeline - get special "expedited" approvals, despite the objections of those who are worried about their water supply, and we have to do this, right now, those same House Republicans tell us, in order to put more or less 6500 folks to work getting the thing built.
And as we mentioned above, this is because the House Republicans care about American jobs and American workers.
So it may strike you as a bit odd that the exact same House Republicans sent to the Senate in September the "Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act" (HR 2587), which has only one purpose: it tells the National Labor Relations Board (the "NLRB") that if workers at a company decide to form a union, or the company even thinks a union might be coming, and the company, in retaliation, decides to move work from that plant - or, for that matter, decides to move the entire plant - then neither the NLRB nor the United States courts shall have the authority to do anything about it.
All of this stems from an effort by Boeing to move work from Washington state to South Carolina in retaliation for union activity by the Puget Sound workforce; the NLRB has ruled that Boeing cannot move the work, and the company and its friends in Congress have joined forces with other anti-union members of congress to move this legislation.
Need a third-party expert opinion to help make sense of the NLRB's involvement and remedies? Consider this comment from University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Ellen Dannin, via Dennis Kucinich:
The NLRB has decades of experience with cases of this sort, and the National Labor Relations Act is clear that employer actions like Boeing's violate the law. If this were a murder case, it would be a case in which the police found a person saying : "I did it," while standing over a fresh corpse with smoking gun in hand.
Decades of experience, did she say? Yes she did - and she was right. In 1964, the Supreme Court ruled that the NLRB had the power to order remedies that include making companies "bring work back", the relevant case being Fibreboard Paper Products Corp. v. Labor Board, 379 U.S. 203.
The 250 law professors who wrote a letter explaining why HR 2587 is such a bad idea point out that it's not just about Boeing: companies will no longer have any reason to even bargain with unionized workers (or those who wish they were) before closing plants and moving work overseas, as they have to do now under the law; again, that's because no one will have the power of enforcement in these cases anymore.
As you might imagine, that's going to accelerate the departure of jobs overseas, and it won't take very long to get to 6500, which makes all that Republican fussin' and fightin' and sanctimoneoussin' about Keystone look a bit hollow, eh?
Let's jump to the side track, as it were, and take a moment to talk about why the question of which party controls Congress matters: HR 2587 was introduced into the House, and if the Democrats controlled the chamber it would have died in committee, and that would have been that. But they don't, and it didn't, so the bill made it to the House floor, where it passed with no Democratic "aye" votes and six Republicans voting "nay".
Then it went to the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Sometimes Frustrating) has a bit more power than a Speaker of the House to kill any bill before his chamber, if he's so inclined; in this case the bill sits on the Senate Legislative Calendar, and unless he says otherwise, that's where it'll stay. Of course if Mitch McConnell (R-Hates Obama With The Fire Of A Thousand Suns) were majority leader, he would have that bill on the Senate floor in a heartbeat - and it would pass with a Republican majority, unless Democrats were willing to stand firm and filibuster the thing or the President was willing to use the veto pen, neither of which seems particularly certain.
A companion bill, S 1523, was introduced by Lindsey Graham; it was referred to committee, possibly to never be seen again - which is also thanks to Harry Reid, with an assist from Tom Harkin, who is the relevant chair.
At this point I was going to move on to the "what have we learned today" part of the deal, but before I do, I want to take a moment to show you just what kind of legislation our GOP friends will bring to the table, given the chance:
S 1720, the "Put All Your Crazy Eggs In One Basket Act" (not the real bill title, but close enough), was introduced by John McCain just before Halloween (it's now on the legislative calendar, not doing much), and it's a classic.
This one single bill calls for a balanced budget amendment vote, a semi-flat income tax, repeals "ObamaCare", repeals Dodd-Frank (Wall Street reform), says you basically can't sue for medical malpractice anymore, says that if Congress fails to approve any federal agency regulation in 90 days, it's invalid, and then says no agency can pass any regulation, of any kind, until unemployment hits 7.7% - and there's a lot more, including, I kid you not, forbidding the EPA from regulating the discharge of pesticides into water.
So now let's get to "what have we learned?"
How about this:
We are going to hear a lot over the next 60 days about how the GOP loves you, the American worker, but at the exact same time they are looking to, well, put all the crazy eggs in one basket if they can get away with it. At the same time they're looking to make it easier and easier to send more jobs to more countries than ever before, even to the point of trying to tell courts and regulators that they can no longer enforce laws Republicans can't get repealed.
As our GOP friends stand before you professing their undying love these next couple of months, remind them of this conversation today and HR 2587, and S 1720, McCain's "Crazy Egg Basket" bill. Ask them if they think the GOP really cares about American jobs, or if they're just getting hustled by slightly-slicker versions of used-car dealership credit managers?
Then you lean in close, look 'em in the eye, smile just a bit, and you say to 'em: "And hey, while you're here... What do I gotta do to get you into a slightly used 1993 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon...today?"
Then you can both have a little laugh - while you take their money and run.