Labor Law Guy

Coming Soon to a Stimulus Project Near You: Endless Waste

Posted in Federal Labor Law, State Labor Law by laborlawguy on March 16, 2009

If you thought that four years late and $350 million over budget for the largely unneeded U.S. Capitol Visitor Center was bad, wait till you see what the projects flowing from the recent $787 billion stimulus package will cost.

The 1931 David-Bacon Act (which obviously did nothing to shorten or alleviate the Great Depression) provides that contractors for government construction projects pay a “prevailing wage” to all employees. The prevailing wage–natch–is set by the government itself, and with the Obama people running things, only Karl Marx himself knows how high that can go.

Davis-Bacon was enshrined and expanded to cover virtually everything in the recent stimulus package, so the sewer next to you might end up costing 300 percent of what it would normally cost on the open market.

Wait, it gets better. Not only is Davis-Bacon being married to stimulus projects, but Obama has issued an executive order requiring project labor agreements (PLAs)  for major construction projects, currently those costing $25 million or more, but surely and shortly to be lowered by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, who has authority over such matters.

PLAs require contractors to accede to all union demands regarding work rules, working conditions, pay, hiring (which must be done in union hiring halls), and union dues (which must be paid even by non-union members). A PLA was and is  in place for the infamous Big Dig in Boston, which the Boston Globe projects will cost at least $22 billion, after being budgeted at $6 billion, and not be paid off until at least 2038.

Now, the irony here is that it’s Massachusetts’ Commonwealth Care medical program that the Obamaites are hoping to copy for the rest of us, and that plan makes the cost overruns of the Big Big pale in comparison.

Why does this seem like deja Great Depression all over again?

Tom Daschle Lives On in the Stimulus Package

Posted in Federal Labor Law, Random Musings, State Labor Law by laborlawguy on February 10, 2009

Those who were fretting that the extinction of Tom Daschle as potential secretary of Health and Human Services might delay health care reform needn’t worry.

The inclusion of several stealth provisions in the stimulus package now sailing through Congress will implement, mostly unnoticed, provisions from Daschle’s government-heavy idea of reform in his book, Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.

His idea to prescribe which treatments and medications can and cannot be used by individual doctors lives on through the electronic health records (EHRs) initiative, which would be overseen by a National Coordinator of Health Care Technology. This latter person/office would monitor everything going on in the EHRs to make sure every doctor is following government guidelines and giving cost-effective care. And every doctor means your doctor.

Not only that, but the stimulus package includes the creation of a Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research to define and dictate cost-effective care: What physicians and hospitals can and cannot do.

In other words, this is the stealth implementation of Daschle’s plan to create a board similar to the one in Great Britain that dictates every medicine and every procedure for every known medical problem so that they are both efficient and cost-effective (but most of all cheap). Now, on the surface, this sounds reasonable until you face the actual results as a patient.

The British agency Daschle fell in love with (with the totally disingenuous acronym of NICE) has done things like, well, forbidding treatment of macular degeneration because the medicine was too expensive until the patient went blind in one eye. (This policy was reversed finally after three years of public outrage.)

Betsy McCaughey, former lieutenant governor of New York and now an adjunct senior fellow at the Hudson Institute,  calls this “Ruin Your Health With the Stimulus Plan.” She explains:

The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept “hopeless diagnoses” and “forgo experimental treatments,” and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.

There’s little wonder, then, that President Obama continually and frantically insists that the stimulus package be hurried through Congress–he doesn’t want anyone actually reading it. As his chief of staff quipped, this is “no time to waste a good crisis.”

As these pages have been predicting since the git-go, the only way anybody in government–using government solutions–can make health care both “accessible and affordable” is by restricting and rationing what’s available.

Hey, if you successfully lower health care expectations, maybe enough people will start kicking off before they reach 65, and the government won’t have to pay Social Security or Medicare.

Nice plan.