I’m sorry to report that overtime standards have not been universally heralded. According to the opposition, this “crackpot legislation…is utterly impractical…[and] would be much more destructive than constructive to the very purposes which it is designed to serve.”
One particularly indignant opponent asked, “[how could business] find any time left to provide jobs if we are to persist in loading upon it these everlastingly multiplying governmental mandates and delivering it to the mercies of multiplying and hampering federal bureaucracy?”
If this sounds to you like the same trickle-down fear-mongering that you’ve become accustomed to, you’re correct. In fact, every quote you just read was said in 1938.
That’s right. 75 years ago.
The above quotes were in response to the Fair Labor Standards Act which (among other important provisions) implemented federal overtime rules. They were not in response to Obama’s recent expansion of overtime eligibility.
Such is the timeless and unchanging rhetoric of the “chicken little economics” crowd. They merely insert the latest labor standard of the day into their formulaic responses and hope no one will notice the fact they’ve been employing the exact same talking points since gas cost 10 cents per gallon.
You have to hand it to them: fear works. They’ve repeatedly convinced Americans that pursuing any advancement in labor standards will actually hurt the people they’re intended to help. They are perpetual defenders of the status quo. And their points remain immutable throughout time and changing circumstances in our nation.
Here are some of the most recent quotes on Obama’s overtime expansion from the business lobby opposition. Do you see any similarities with the arguments of their ideological forefathers?
- “It seems as if these proposed rules have the potential to radically change industry standards and negatively impact our workforce.” – National Restaurant Association
- “[Overtime] will not guarantee more income, but instead will negatively impact small businesses and drastically limit employment opportunities.” – US Chamber of Commerce
- “Supporters of these regulations say they want to increase Americans’ take home pay, but these sweeping changes to the rules could mean anything but. If these regulations stand, that mobility and adaptability of employee schedules, which make our industry appealing, will be severely diminished.” – National Restaurant Association
It’s time we unveil chicken little economists’ talking points for what they are: blatant scare tactics, not grounded in economics or a concern for the welfare of workers.
Every time the government attempts to help the middle class and implement overtime benefits, business responds with the same portentous squawks. And yet, every time these overtime standards are established, businesses somehow manage to endure. The sky doesn’t, in fact, fall. And so they’ll go silent for awhile. But rest assured, when the time comes for another overtime reboot they’ll be back with their usual doom-laden arguments.