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Free Market Project

3/1/2006 7:39:39 PM

Updated 02/24/06

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Dobbs Bashes Pro-Growth Katrina Rebuilding Policies
CNN business anchor uses race in wrongheaded criticism of administration’s efforts to help workers.

By Charles Simpson
September 22, 2005

Send this page to a friend! (click here)     If there were a Saffir-Simpson scale for newscasts, CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” would have been downgraded long ago from “news” to “rant.” A September 20 report on the Labor Department’s suspension of policies, like affirmative action paperwork, to aid the Gulf Coast clean-up effort was an anti-business rant replete with racial clichés and economic misstatements.

     Dobbs has not stopped injecting his opinion on the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, a racist wage policy implemented to discourage the hiring of cheap minority labor from the South. He led into Christine Romans’s report, “Some in the Bush administration appear to believe that paying prevailing wages, maintaining nondiscrimination standards and documenting workers’ identities are examples of what they term bureaucratic inefficiency or red tape.”

     Actually, paying “prevailing wages” is a bureaucratic inefficiency. Because the term is not specifically defined in the Davis-Bacon Act, “prevailing wage” is interpreted to mean “union-mandated wage.” Artificially high wages raise the cost of doing business and discriminate against unskilled workers. Yet, Dobbs ignored this fact in favor of hyping critics of the Bush administration and the free market: “Critics say this adds to the victimization of workers who have already suffered as a result of Hurricane Katrina.”

     Christine Romans opened her report with a similar sentiment, “Critics say the administration is using the hurricane to dial back worker rights.” To buffer that meme, she interviewed Ross Eisenbrey with the left-leaning, union-funded Economic Policy Institute. Eisenbrey commented on the relaxing of affirmative action filing standards, “Affirmative action programs are the way you make sure that people take the requirements seriously… that they reach out into the minority community to hire people who they otherwise would overlook.”

     Of course, according to the 2000 census, the minority population in New Orleans is Caucasian – a fact Dobbs and Romans overlooked. Romans solicited even more criticism from Hilary Shelton of the NAACP, who claimed: “The same people we saw held up in the Superdome … these are the people that are going to be victimized by this awful move on behalf of our federal government.”

     It’s curious that Dobbs, Romans, and others would flog such a wage law not just because of the economic consequences of an artificially high wage, but in light of the racial make-up of New Orleans. When artificially high wages are implemented, traditionally impoverished individuals are usually the first to suffer, because they cannot compete for the higher-paying jobs. Unfortunately, in the “Big Easy” most of those individuals are black. To criticize the administration for opening the labor market up to competition, by suspending a racist statute, is obtuse on both a racial and an economic level.

     Yet Christine Romans, ignorant of Davis-Bacon’s past, closed with this: “With the billions of dollars of hurricane relief, many wonder why contractors and companies need incentives at all to get that business in the Gulf Coast.” Later in the broadcast, Dobbs agreed, “We should point out that many of these firms who will be doing the hiring are receiving very lucrative, no-bid contracts. The concern seems to be split as between companies and the people they employ.”

     These attacks on big business and free market principles, like free trade, are part and parcel with the findings of an August 2005 Free Market Project study: “
Trade Secrets: Lou Dobbs Tonight’ Hides Good News Behind Negative View of Free Market.


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