They’ve got the whole world in their hands

And the Clueless Ones in Washington just can’t figure out why struggling American small business owners, uncertain about how the rules will be changed next, are reluctant to hire new employees.

“Fresh off passage of a sweeping health care overhaul, the Obama administration is supporting legislation to provide mandatory paid sick leave for more than 30 million additional workers,” McClatchy newspapers reported last week.

The “Healthy Families Act” (does that mean if we oppose it, we’re promoting disease, child-beating, and incest?), sponsored by Sen. Christopher Dodd and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both Democrats from Connecticut, would require companies that have 15 or more employees to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked or up to seven sick days a year for a full-time worker.

Why 15? Why should workers suffer injustice because their firms have only, say, 13 employees? These benign Nutmeggers worry such an edict from Washington might cripple a business with 13 employees, but not 15?

For that matter, what if you’re the person who was about to be hired as a small restaurant’s fifteenth employee? Uh-oh.

Business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Business and the Employment Policies Institute oppose the measure, saying a government mandate on sick leave — especially during the recession — would hurt the very people it’s intended to help, since employers would offset the cost of the benefit by cutting positions and workers’ hours.

“With the labor market still recovering, policymakers should focus on promoting job growth instead of enacting mandates that drive up operating costs and create barriers for entry-level employment,” said Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis disagrees.

“Yes, economic times are hard, but right now we have never seen so much productivity on behalf of our work force, so I don’t buy that argument,” Ms. Solis said this week. “I think there’s something unreasonable about that. In my experience, I know that people will actually be more productive in the workplace when they know that their employer is actually sensitive to what their current needs are.”

Really? “In her experience”?

What, precisely, is Ms. Solis’ “experience” working in or managing private-sector workplaces, where somebody has to count the receipts and struggle to cover payroll each week?

Ms Solis’ biography indicates she took degrees from Cal Poly Pomona and USC, and promptly went to work for two federal agencies in Washington, D.C. Returning to her home state, she was elected to the Rio Hondo Community College Board of Trustees in 1985, the California State Assembly in 1992, the California State Senate in 1994, and the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, where she served four terms.

Somehow, in all those government jobs, I doubt she ever had to wait outside her employers’ office door as they decided who would be laid off that week so the rest of the paychecks wouldn’t bounce.

Besides which, in all her studies, where did Ms. Soltis pick up her current definition of worker “productivity”? The largest factor in increasing worker productivity is the ability of free-market capitalism to accumulate and apply the advanced technologies which expand each worker’s … well, productivity. Picture one operator typing specifications onto a computer screen, which computer then directs a whole line of robots to start manufacturing shoes at a rate of thousands per hour … as opposed to one lonely cobbler hammering out footwear, one pair per hour.

Compared to the impact of untrammeled capitalism — which this administration is at pains to trammel at every turn — workers’ “feelings” that the boss is “sensitive to their needs” are fairly small potatoes. How many more shoes can our lonely cobbler produce in a day just because he feels “cared for”?

Yes, it’s nice if employers show reasonable consideration for employees who are legitimately sick, or who stay home to care for sick family members. Smart employers generally do so, rather than risk losing good employees. Workers can put themselves in a better position to expect such treatment if they gain the skills and experience necessary to increase their workplace value, performing a role that’s not easily replaced.

Of course, employers may be less tolerant if they know there are dozens of workers waiting to fill each low-skilled vacancy. The federal government could help American workers who face that situation by expelling illegal aliens, as they’re required to do by law, and by generally allowing the economy to grow, increasing job opportunities. The way to stimulate economic growth is to reduce taxes and job-killing regulations.

Like this one.

A bunch of folks in far-off Washington who have never run so much as a lunch counter will now wave a magic wand and dictate sick-time policy to virtually every mom-and-pop shop in America?

Philip Derrow, president of the Ohio Transmission Corp. in Columbus, Ohio, says he didn’t like the one-size-fits-all nature of the federal proposal. Derrow got rid of vacation and sick days for his 315 employees and instead provides two weeks of “paid time off” that they can use for vacations, sick leave or other personal reasons. He said most employers would prefer the same flexibility.

“We treat our employees as adults. The very thought that the federal government would force me to ask my adult employees to tell me when they’re sick is offensive at every level,” Derrow says. “It’s none of my business.”

Aw. But like the tiny little babies, the lord Obama and his Democratic archangels holds us all in their hands, and are determined to protect us from the greedy capitalists, even if it means they have to banish them from the kingdom, entirely.

Let us give thanks.

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