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On his CNN show this morning, GPS, Fareed Zakaria repeated his proposal to fast track public infrastructure projects but speeding up environmental readiness requirements and "suspend" the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931.

President Obama should announce a national jobs emergency. Infrastructure projects listed under this rubric should be fast-tracked through the environmental review process, with approvals granted within 60 days. Additionally, the requirement that people have to be paid union wages should be suspended, so that skilled and unskilled workers can be hired.
Congress created incentives not to use low-wage migrant workers by guaranteeing projects pay local prevailing wages in the Davis–Bacon Act
The Davis–Bacon Act of 1931 is a United States federal law which established the requirement for paying local prevailing wages on public works projects. All federal government construction contracts, and most contracts for federally assisted construction over $2,000, must include provisions for paying workers on-site no less than the locally prevailing wages and benefits paid on similar projects.

The act is named after its sponsors, James J. Davis, a Senator from Pennsylvania and a former Secretary of Labor under three presidents, and Representative Robert L. Bacon of Long Island, New York. The Davis-Bacon act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Herbert Hoover on March 3, 1931.[1]

Zakaria's suggestion that the President declare a "national jobs emergency" is key because the DBA can be suspended during national emergencies as has happened 4 times, twice by a Bush.

In 1934 President Franklin Roosevelt suspended the Act for three weeks in order to manage administrative adjustments in light of the New Deal.

The Davis–Bacon Act was suspended by President Richard Nixon for 28 days in February 1971 in an effort to reduce inflation pressures. Labor Secretary Peter J. Brennan accused the Nixon administration of treating construction workers as patsies. Shortly afterward, Nixon reinstated Davis-Bacon enforcement and ordered the establishment of the Construction Industry Stabilization Committee.

In September 1992 President George H. W. Bush indefinitely suspended the Davis–Bacon Act during the recovery from Hurricane Andrew in 1992. After Bill Clinton became president, he reinstated the Act in March 1993.

On September 7, 2005, President George W. Bush, citing a national emergency, again suspended the Act in the areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. He reinstated it on October 26, 2005.

Just to put this union busting corporate power grab into perspective, the prevailing wage in New Orleans was $9/hour. Bush thought that $9/hour was too high a wage to rebuild New Orleans!
President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.

In a letter to Congress, Bush said he has the power to suspend the law because of the national emergency caused by the hurricane: "I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a 'national emergency.' "

Bush wrote that his decision is justified because Davis-Bacon increases construction costs, and suspension "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the Bush announcement as "outrageous."

"Employers are all too eager to exploit workers," he said. "This is no time to make that easier. What a double tragedy it would be to allow the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further."

Zakaria has been rightly focused on jobs and the US is clearly facing a national jobs emergency but reducing wages is not the way to satisfy Americans hunger for jobs. If this outrageous idea is a carrot to entice Republicans to pass jobs legislation then Americans need to object loudly. Let's not quietly let it pass that the call to reduce wages even more was eased into Americans' minds on CNN this Sunday morning, all made to sound so logical and patriotic.
Fareed Zakaria, CNN Obama should declare a jobs emergency

America's jobs crisis persists and there often seems to be little we can do about it. But there is one one area where government can create jobs - even if consumers are spending and businesses aren't hiring - and in a way that is productive for long-term growth: Rebuilding America. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that America's crumbling infrastructure needs $2 trillion worth of repairs, upgrades and expansions. With needs on that scale, President Obama's infrastructure proposals are at one-20th the size of the problem. We need a big plan and a grand bargain between left and right to get it.

The first element of the bargain would be funding. Already, there are several good proposals for infrastructure banks. Relatively small public investments can be leveraged to attract much larger sums of private capital. Compared with other nations, the United States has astonishingly little private-sector involvement in the building of infrastructure such as roads, bridges and highways. With interest rates at historic lows, borrowing $200 billion by issuing 30 or 50 year bonds to rebuild America would add just a few billion a year to the deficit.

Then you need to actually build it. Obama said he was surprised that there are so few shovel-ready projects. Well, the regulations, reviews and permits required to approve infrastructure ensures that any major project takes years, often decades, to be shovel-ready. In fact, one study of a set of infrastructure projects found that, of all countries examined, the United States has the highest proportion of projects stuck at the "pre-approval stage" - announced but still 3 to 10 years from construction. This is more than 3.5 times the number of such projects, by value, in Europe.

President Obama should announce a national jobs emergency. Infrastructure projects listed under this rubric should be fast-tracked through the environmental review process, with approvals granted within 60 days. Additionally, the requirement that people have to be paid union wages should be suspended, so that skilled and unskilled workers can be hired. In return for these exemptions, Democrats should seek $200 billion in capital for the new infrastructure banks, which could easily attract private capital of hundreds of billions within weeks.

Let's leverage the experience in the recovery act to fast track readiness for construction projects without lowering standards. Reduce administrivia without reducing quality. Davis-Bacon, like environmental standards, protect the quality of these projects. Otherwise, public works work against the public.
Poll

Congress should consider suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act as part of Infrastructure investments.

14%10 votes
77%53 votes
1%1 votes
5%4 votes

| 68 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 10:55:03 AM PDT

  •  Fareed Zakaria is a member of the elite... (6+ / 0-)

    He's never worked for 9 dollars in his entire life.  I doubt he's even touched cash with his fingers either.

    It's all part of the scam.  People are fighting back now against injustice and now he wants to take people with Masters and Ph.D.'s and put a fucking shovel in their hand and make them dig holes for 5 dollars an hour to keep them busy.

    Fuck the elite.  Shake em' down.

    •  Not necessarily (0+ / 0-)

      I've seen him get really pissed at the elite many times.  He was very angry with Repubs during the debt crisis.  I usually find him to be quite middle of the road.

      •  You might want to research Zakaria from '08-10. (5+ / 0-)

        I think you'll hear a Zakaria who's yet to recalibrate for his  wider CNN, Bill Maher and Daily Show audiences.

        He's a smart enough guy. But he was a sharp voice framing the banking/debt crisis as a result of wildly extravagant, lazy US consumers trying to run from their credit card and home equity loans. Now he's singing a different tune? Probably not. We need to be careful what we accept as middle of the road becasue defining the middle is an industry of big money, virtual reality management, and long term strategy.

        Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

        by kck on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 11:17:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Please feel welcome to explain "Yes" votes in poll (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chuckvw, David Kroning II

    Make the case. Surely President Obama is getting advice today that tries to make the case so it's important for everyone to hear.

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 11:22:27 AM PDT

    •  Cancel Davis-Bacon (0+ / 0-)

      Cancel or correct Davis-Bacon.

      It is widely abused.  If anyone supports it, please provide the actual costs.  Here in my little town, most government contract construction jobs require hourly wages over $50 per hour.  We taxpayers get screwed.  

      I certainly do not want lowest cost, poorly trained, poorly housed, unsafe labor on the job.  I want well trained labor that gets paid the same whether or not it is a private job or a government contract.  There is no good reason why the same workers get twice as much pay doing a government contract job than a private job.  Or, twice what union city or county employees get paid.  

      For example, as a volunteer, I was talking with heating contractors about upgrading the heating plant at our animal shelter as the humane society takes over from the country.  The contractor needed to know who would pay the bill, because if the county paid, the labor charge, same people, same job, must be about double what they would charge the humane society or any other private customer.

      I'm not anti-union.  I'm a retired 32-year union member.  I want fairness for taxpayers as well as workers.

      •  What you're proposing would mean lower wages (3+ / 0-)

        ...without corresponding lower taxes, probably. The issue is important though and goes to union strength and value.

        the same workers get twice as much pay doing a government contract job than a private job
        Why are union workers working in nonunion jobs?

        Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

        by kck on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:15:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  And where (3+ / 0-)
        Here in my little town, most government contract construction jobs require hourly wages over $50 per hour.
        might that be, pray tell?

        My bags are packed, and I can be on the next bus.

        I'm not anti-union.  I'm a retired 32-year union member.  I want fairness for taxpayers as well as workers.
        Your union leaders should have done a better job of teaching you that fairness means higher wages for private sector jobs, not lower ones for public sector employees.

        Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

        by drewfromct on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 01:25:54 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That's (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        alizard

        interesting.

        I'd really like to here the job classification and city this is in.

        I've looked through the Davis-Bacon rates, and I've never seen one this high.

        http://www.economicpopulist.org

        by ManfromMiddletown on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 03:15:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  That would be for the whole package, most likely. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PrahaPartizan, alizard

        Benefits, pension, etc. Not hourly wage for the worker. Makes more sense that the contractor is over charging gov't. Some non-union employees don't realize that they should get the whole amount, not just the more $ per hour in their pocket, the difference goes into the contractors pocket.

        Equal sacrifice, not equal giving

        by 4mygirls on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 04:19:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Fareed is smart, but it seems like he goes with (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chuckvw, PrahaPartizan

    the elite one week, and stands up for what makes sense the next week.

  •  One thing is sure, you can tell Fareed never got (6+ / 0-)

    his fingernails dirty doing any physical labor.

  •  Just another villager (7+ / 0-)

    Iraq War cheerleader until it became unfashionable...
    Kissinger BFF...
    And a member of AFTRA... Will he suspend his contract and work for minimum wage during this time of crisis?

    48forEastAfrica - Donate to Oxfam - Washington isn't broken -- it's fixed.

    by chuckvw on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 12:07:51 PM PDT

  •  The cost tagged to the contracts is not going to (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kck, drewfromct, PrahaPartizan, Ivan, alizard

    go down.  If the person putting together the bid thinks they can get 20 million to do the work of fixing a bridge, then they are going to ask for 20 million.  All that the DBA does is ensure that less of that 20 million is captured as profits for the firm managing the project.

    Suspending the act makes no sense, since the entire purpose of the Jobs Act is to get people working and therefore get more money pumped into the economy.  A hundred people making nine dollars an hour is a hundred people paying rent, buying gas and groceries, clothing their kids and maybe, just maybe, having enough left over for a movie rental.  The upper ten percent of the managing organization capturing an additional 500k each means that more money gets put into bank accounts and withheld from the economy.

    Suspending DBA would, therefore, run counter to the entire purpose of the Jobs Act.

    Democracy is often an indictment of the voting populace.

    by electricgrendel on Sun Oct 02, 2011 at 12:32:26 PM PDT

  •  Even smart people can be dumb sometimes. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PrahaPartizan, alizard

    The question presented is not DBA, but how the local prevailing wage is determined, as relevant for any particular project in any particular place.

    One would expect in a high demand market with a need for particular skill for skyscrapers in an area like NYC a higher average wage, union and not, than in NO, or some smaller place with lesser demand and less complex construction to begin with.

    The question for me that is presented is whether the average for the place is being computed accurately. I suspect that conservatives who think this don't for example realize that the minimum wage for my state is higher than the national minimum, and nothing in the local nature of wages is going to make relying on my state's law on the subject become a smaller number.

    And there is nothing that prohibits  or should prohibit paying skilled people what they skills command  in a given placeand something different for unskilled folk.  Nothing in that differentiation is a hindrance to hiring people for the jobs they know how to do.  

    DBA also has nothing to do with the usually local permitting process for construction projects.

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